Preliminary phytochemical analysis of Acacia catechu willd Heartwood extract


Anitha Magesh1 and Lakshmi T.2*

1Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, Saveetha Dental College and Hospitals, Chennai.

2Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Saveetha Dental College and Hospitals, Chennai.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:




Acacia catechu willd is an indigenous herb which possesses high medicinal value. The herb is used to treat number of ailments like haemmorage, sore throat, diarrhoea, bleeding of gums, fever, cough and cold etc. the heartwood extract of Acacia catechu exhibits various pharmacological actions. The aim of the study is to investigate the presence of phytochemical constituents present in aqueous, ethanolic and acetone extracts of Acacia catechu heartwood extract by standard method. The result of the study indicates the presence of tannins, phenols, flavonoids, saponins, glycosides and carbohydrates.


KEYWORDS: Acacia catechu heartwood, tannins, phenols, saponins, flavonoids.



Phytochemical screening plays a vital role in the pharmacological and chemical study of the medicinal plants.  Acacia catechu is known as black cutch belongs to the family Leguminosae.  A. catechu is commonly distributed throughout the tract from Punjab to Assam ascending to altitude of 300 m. It is also quite common in drier regions of peninsula such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajastan, Bihar and Tamilnadu.[1]


A. catechu is a medium size deciduous tree with thorns. A. catechu heartwood is light, red, turning brownish red to nearly black with age and attached with whitish sapwood.[2] The fracture is hard, odour, characteristic and taste is astringent.


Cutch is a shining black or brownish mass. A transverse section of A. catechu heartwood shows numerous uniseriate and biseriate medullary rays, with vessels occurring isolated or in small groups of two or four. Xylem fibres with narrow lumen occupy major portion of wood and xylem parenchyma is usually predominantly paratracheal, forming a sheath around vessels. Wood consists of crystal fibres having prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate. A few tracheids with scalariform thickening and some cells including vessels are also present.


Cutch or black catechu resembles pale catechu or gambier in its composition. It contains about 2 % -12 % of catechin and about 25 % to 33 % of phlobatannin catechutannic acid. The principle fraction of cutch has been identified as a mixture of catechin isomers which includes (-) epicatechin, acatechin, d l-acacatechin, l-acacatechin and d-iso acacatechin. It also contains 20 % - 30 % gummy matter, catechin red, quercetin and querecitin. It yields 2 % -3 % of ash.[3]


Cutch is used in medicine as astringent. It cures troubles of mouth, diseases of the throat and diarrhoea. It also increases appetite. In India and eastern countries, it is used in betel leaves for chewing. In dyeing industries, cutch is used for dyeing fabrics brown or black. It is also used in calico printing. The parts used are heartwood, leaf and bark. All the parts of the plant shows good medicinal properties and can be used treat various disease conditions.[4]


The heartwood extract possess various pharmacological actions. It shows antibacterial[5], antioxidant[6], Anti mycotic[7], Iron chelating, DNA Protective[8], hepatoprotective[9], Anti cariogenic,[10]  and Anti diarrhoeal activity [11] .



Plant material

The aqueous, ethanolic and acetone extract of Acacia catechu heartwood is obtained from Green Chem Herbal Extracts and Formulations, Bangalore.


Preliminary Phytochemical analysis

Phytochemicals analysis was carried out according to the methods specified by Siddiqui[12], Edeoga[13], Iyenger (1995)[14] and Trease and Evans (2002)[15]. The phytochemicals analyzed were alkaloids, tannins, saponins, flavonoids, steroids, phenols, cardiac glycoside, carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, terpenoids and phlobatannins.


Screening Procedure

Test for Tannins and Phenols

To 0.5 ml of extract solution 1 ml of water and 1-2 drops of ferric chloride solution was added. Blue color was observed for gallic tannins and green black for catecholic tannins.[14]


Test for Alkaloids

The plant extract produces white yellowish precipitate when a few drops of Mayer’s reagents are added (Siddiqui and Ali, 1997).[16] Most alkaloids are precipitated from neutral or slightly acidic solution by Mayer’s reagent .[15]The alcoholic extract was evaporated to dryness and the residue was heated on a boiling water bath with 2% hydrochloric acid. After cooling, the mixture was filtered and treated with a few drops of Mayer's reagent. The samples were then observed for the presence of turbidity or yellow precipitation


Test for Saponins

About 1 ml of filtrate was stirred with 10 ml distilled water. Frothing indicates the presence of saponins.


Test for Terpenoids and Steroids

Four milligrams of extract was treated with 0.5 ml of acetic anhydride and 0.5 ml of chloroform. Then concentrated solution of sulphuric acid was added slowly and red violet color was observed for terpenoid and green bluish color for steroids .[16]


Test for Flavonoids

About 200 mg of powdered plant material was stirred in 10 ml ethanol and filtered. Few pieces of magnesium ribbon were added in 2 ml filtrate and then few drops of concentrated HCl were carefully added. Red color indicates the presence of flavonoids.


Test for Phlobatannins

About 1 ml of filtrate was boiled with 1% aqueous HCl. Deposition of a red color indicates the phlobatannins are present.and then filtered. 2 ml of FeCl3 was added to the filtrate. Blue-black Precipitate indicates the presence.


Test for Glycosides

Glycosides are compounds which upon hydrolysis give rise to one or more sugars (glycones) and a compound which is not a sugar (aglycone or genine). To the solution of the extract in glacial acetic acid, few drops of ferric chloride and concentrated sulphuric acid are added, and observed for a reddish brown coloration at the junction of two layers and the bluish green color in the upper layer.[16]


Test for Carbohydrates

5-8 drops of Fehling’s (A and B) solution was added to       1 ml of filtrate. The resultant mixture was boiled for 2 minutes; brick red precipitate indicates the presence of carbohydrates.


Test for Amino acids (Ninhydrin test)

5-7 drops of ninhydrin reagent was added in 2 ml of filtrate and heated content in a boiling water bath for about 5 minutes. Purple indicates the presence of amino acid.


Test for Proteins (Biuret test)

5-7 drops of 5% NaOH and 5-7 drops of 1% Cu(SO4)2 was added in 2 ml of filtrate. Violet color indicates the presence of proteins.



The pharmacological properties of medicinal plants are due to the presence of secondary metabolites such as flavonoids, sterols, alkaloids, phenols, glycosides, saponins etc.


The results of phytochemical screening of the aqueous, acetone and ethanolic extracts  of Acacia catechu willd (Heartwood) were screened, because natural products vary at any concentrations and type of phytochemicals in different solvent fractions of the plant extract.


Table 1 indicates the presence of remarkable concentrations of flavonoids, tannins, Phenols, saponins and carbohydrates while cardiac glycosides, amino acids, and phlobatannins were absent.


The acetone heartwood extract (table-2) of Acacia catechu exhibits high concentration of phytochemical activity than aqueous and ethanolic extracts.


Acacia catechu contains high concentration of tannins, flavonoids and phenolic compounds than other phytochemicals due to this Acacia catechu can be used as a strong antioxidant and anti bacterial agent.


The phytochemicals play a role in preventing renal calculi, hyperchloestrolcamia and colorectal carcinoma. The literature survey revealed that saponins can reduce cholesterol and control human cardiovascular disease. Tannins give protection against microbiological degradation of dietary proteins in the semen.[17]


Table 1 Phytochemical analysis of Acacia catechu willd heartwood extract

Phytochemical constituents 

Acacia catechu

Aqueous extract

Acacia catechu

Acetone extract

Acacia catechu

Ethanolic extract





















Amino Acids




















++ =high concentration  + =moderate concentration   - =Absence

Table 2  Phytochemical Actions of Acacia catechu.

Active constituent

Therapeutic application




Acts topically as astringent and possess anti hemorrhagic, anti inflammatory and antacid properties.


Possess antioxidant and antimicrobial effects. It is considered to be the best antioxidant.


It possesses anti diabetic and anti-inflammatory effect.



We wish to thank Mr. Rajendran, Green Chem Herbal Extracts and Formulations, for his valuable support for providing the Acacia catechu heartwood extract as a gift sample to conduct the study.



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Received on 03.03.2012       Modified on 10.08.2012

Accepted on 02.09.2012      © RJPT All right reserved

Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 5(11): Nov. 2012; Page 1393-1395