Detection and confirmation of various varieties of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Retz.) in North-Western Ghats of North Karnataka
Manjunath N Ajanal1, I B Kotturshetty1, V S Ullegaddi1
1.RGES’s Ayurvedic Medical College, Ron, Gadag, Karnataka, India
Address for Correspondence:
Dr. Manjunath Ajanal, RGES’s Ayurvedic Medical College, Hospital and PG Research Center, Ron-582209, Gadag, Karnataka, India.
Source of support: RGUHS Conflict of Interest: None
Background: The fruit of Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula Retz.) is considered as Amruta (Nectar) and ‘King of Medicines’ in Ayurveda as it has wide range of therapeutic benefits. Ayurveda has explained 7-varieties of it with botanical and pharmacological characters. Actual identification of these varieties and botanical correlation was not done. Thus, present study was done to identify these varieties with available species of Terminalia in North-Western Ghats of North Karnataka.
Methods: A prospective survey study was conducted in 10 localities of north-western Ghats of north Karnataka along with GPS system. Each identified plant and fruit was further analyzed with botanist for confirmation and collected after its maturity. The fruit was analyzed on Shape, Size, Dimension, Weight per fruit, color, mesocarp contents, seed character and size in relation with Ayurvedic classification. Further each classified fruit was analyzed on its microscopic and Powder characters etc.
Results: The study identified the collected samples as Vijaya (Terminalia chebula Var. 2 (typica)), Rohini (Terminalia chebula Var. 3 (citrina)), Pootana (Terminalia chebula Var. Tomentella), Amirtha (Terminalia chebula Var. Gangitica) and Abhaya (Terminalia chebula Var. Parviflora, Thewaites Enum). Further, each variety has shown difference on its botanical, organoleptic, physicochemical analysis.
Conclusion: The study potentially demonstrated the availability of varieties of Myrobalan in North-Western Ghats of North Karnataka and there is prominent disparity on physical and phytochemicals. Thus, it would certainly open the new pathway of research on its clinical efficacy.
Key words: Haritaki, Myrobalan, Ayurveda, North-Western Ghats, Morphology
How to cite this article: Ajanal M, Kotturshetty I B, Ullegaddi V S. Detection and confirmation of various varieties of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Retz) in North-Western Ghats of North Karnataka. Indian J Ayurveda Res 2018;1:30-38.
Myrobalan (Haritaki) or Terminalia chebula is a member of the Combretaceae family, is used widely in Asian countries as a traditional medicine or in Ayurveda. Moreover, this plant is considered as Amruta (Nectar) in Ayurveda because of it’s wide range of therapeutic benefits from mild purgative to immune modulation. Because of its huge beneficial effects this plant has gained special attention in Ayurveda by providing details about its botanical and pharmacological characters.
The Bhavaprakash lexicon has described 7 varieties of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) along with some morphological features, and therapeutic uses (table no 1).  Hooker’s flora of British India has identified this plant in to 6-different varieties as  Terminalia chebula (Variety chebula proper), Terminalia chebula (var. typica), Terminalia chebula (Var. citrina), Terminalia chebula (Var. tomentella Kurz.), Terminalia chebula (Var. gangetica Roxb) and Terminalia chebula (Var. parviflora Thwaitos Enum.). In spite of vast therapeutic use of T. chebula, the identification and correlation with botanical sources and variation in chemo-profile is yet to be clearly understood.
Terminalia chebula Retz. is a medium sized deciduous tree grows up to 25 m tall with broadly elliptic leaves clustered at the ends of branches. The leaves are alternate or opposite, thin-coriaceous, ovate or elliptic-obovate. Flowers in axillary long spikes, simple or sometime branched, about 4 mm across, yellowish-white and unpleasantly scented. The fruits of this plant are spherical to ovoid, 1.2 to 3.5 cm in diameter and tapering towards both the ends. The dry fruits are grayish brown in colour, pubescent and slightly ridged. [3-5]
Table 1 Varieties of Haritaki with properties as per Bhavaprakasha
|1.||Vijaya||Having Alabu (Fruit of Lagenaria vulgaris Ser.) shape||Used in all diseases|
|2.||Rohini||Round in shape||Used in vrana (ulcer)|
|3.||Pootana||Size is small, with stony mesocarp and big seed||External purpose|
|4.||Amirtha||Mesocarp is more and fleshy||Used for shodhana karma (Purification)|
|5.||Abhya||Fruit having five ridges||Used for eye diseases|
|6.||Jivanti||Fruit is golden yellow||Used for all diseases|
|7.||Chetaki||Fruit having three ridges||Used as purgative|
These fruits of T. chebula are rich in tannins (about 32%-34%), [6,7] of which 14 components are of hydrolysable tannins (gallic acid, chebulagic acid, punicalagin, chebulanin, corilagin, neochebulinic acid, ellagic acid, chebulinic acid, 1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-galloyl-β-D-glucose, 1,6-di-o-galloyl-D-glucose, casuarinin, 3,4,6-tri-o-glloyl-D-glucose, terchebulin).  Other constituents include phenolics such as chebulinic acid, ellagic acid and anthraquinones. Some of the other minor constituents were polyphenols such as corilagin, galloyl glucose, punicalagin, terflavin A, maslinic acid.  Besides, fructose, amino acids, succinic acid, betasitosterol, resin and purgative principle of anthraquinone are also present. [10,11] Flavonol, glycosides, triterpenoids, coumarin conjugated with gallic acids called chebulin as well as other phenolic compounds were also isolated. [12-14] Fatty acids include palmitic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid.  Triterpenoid glycosides such as chebulosides I and II, arjunin, arjunglucoside, 2α-hydroxyursolic acid and 2α-hydroxymicromiric acid also have been reported. 
- chebula is found in the Sub Himalayan tracks from Ravi eastwards to West Bengal and Assam, ascending upto the altitude of 1500 m in the Himalayas. The tree is wild in forests of Northern India, central provinces and Bengal, common in Madras, Mysore and in the southern part of the rainy and moderate temperate region of Bombay presidency. 
Western ghat is one of the biological hot spot situated in India. It has wide range of plant and animal kingdom. One such popular plant available here is T. chebula. The primary report published by National institute of Traditional Medicine (NITM a unit of ICMR) suggested that different shapes of fruits of T. chebula are available in Western Ghats of North Karnataka. Thus present area was selected. Pharmacognostic study of drug is one of the tool for the quality assessment, which includes Macroscopic, microscopic physicochemical and phytochemical study. Fruits of T. chebula have different therapeutic actions with respect to different types. Hence, present study was thus planned with the objective of identify the different available types of fruit of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula Retz.) in North-Western Ghats of North Karnataka and to evaluate the physico-profile variation of identified varieties of fruit of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula).
A prospective survey study was conducted across north-western Ghats of north Karnataka to identify and collect the fruits and Terminalia chebula.
Survey localities and effort: During the study period investigator has visited 10 localities across north-western Ghats of North Karnataka (From 14° 46′ N – 75° 12′ E to 15° 52′ N – 74° 34′ E): which includes 7 reserved forests as Jamboti and Kanakumbi, Dandeli, Ganesh Gudi, Gungargatti, Kappatgudda and Tadasa and 3 plantations landscape are Karnataka University Herbal Garden Dharwad, Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary Jamboti, Belgaum and Bakala herbal Garden Sirsi. Karawar of North Karnataka with GPS system. Each area was primarily visited to locate plant of Terminalia chebula and noted in GPS system. Thus identified plants of area were further visited three times to note plant morphological and botanical identification in details.
Plant identification: A team including Principal investigator (PI), co-investigator (Co-PI) and Field collector were locate tree of Terminalia chebula in their first field visit then plant identification done and confirmed by preparing voucher specimen along with herbarium in coordination with Scientist of Regional Medical Research centre (RMRC) a unit of ICMR Belgaum and preserved at Dept of Dravyaguna RGES AMC Ron. In successive three field visit identified plant were studied on its morphology and fruit etc.
Fruit collection: Thus identified plants from 10 localities fruits were collected after full maturity and analyze according specified assessment criteria. All the collected varieties are carefully photographed and preserved.
Table 2 Analysis of fruits based on physical parameter
|Sl. No||Characters||Will grouped under|
|1.||Elongated shape without ridges and <8gm||Vijaya (VJ)|
|2.||Circular, without ridges yellow color||Rohini (R)|
|3.||Very small size with <4gm weight with stony mesocarp and big seed||Pootana (P)|
|4.||Mesocarp is more and fleshy with small seed <7gm||Amirtha (AR)|
|5.||Fruit having five ridges and weighs 7-9gm||Abhya (AB)|
|6.||Fruit is golden yellow||Jivanti (J)|
|7.||Fruit having three ridges and weighs 5-7gm||Chetaki (C)|
Assessment of fruit: Shape, Size, Dimension, Weight per fruit, color, mesocarp contents, seed character and seed size etc. were assessed and compare with Table no 2 of Ayurvedic classification of fruit.
Further each classified fruit was further analyzed on its microscopic histology and Powder characters, Physico-chemical and Phytochemical study. All these examinations were done at Research Analytical Lab (Government of Karnataka Supported Laboratory) Rajiv Gandhi education Society’s Ayurvedic Medical College, Hospital and PG Research Centre, Ron.
Table 3 Relative morphological study of Terminalia chebula Retz.
|Sl. No||Variety||Ayurvedic textual Characters||Flora of British India||Observation|
Terminalia chebula Var. 2
|Having Alabu (Fruit of Lagenaria vulgaris Ser.) shape||Elongated shape without ridges and <8gm||Leaves nearly glabrous beneath or the interstices of the ultimate nerves with minute sunk white tomentum with young ovary quite glabrous with ovate fruit and round based leaves||Flask or Bottle shape with dark yellow colour with less prominent ridges. Size: 3.5 to 5CM L, 1.5 to 2.5cm Breadth with 4.8 to 5.6gm weight per fruit. Mesocarp is light yellow color with 0.4 to 0.8cm thickness. Seed is stony hard with oval shape and Cream color with size of 1.7 to 2.3cm Length and 1 to 1.2cm Breadth. Centre of seed, Brown color two cotyledon with radical and plumule seen. The endosperm is varies from 0.3 to 0.4cm circumference|
Terminalia chebula Var. 3
|Round in shape||Circular, without ridges yellow color||Adult leaves very shaggy beneath, fruit much smaller often ¾ inch with small tree||Spherical to Ovular shape and dark yellow colored with slender hairs on its surface. Size is of 2.5 to 2.4cm L, 1.5 to 2cm Breadth and 3.01 to 3.31gm weight per fruit. Mesocarp is dark yellow with 0.2 to 0.3cm thickness
Seed: Big stony hard, cream colored Oval to spherical shape with 1.5 to 1.9cm Length and 1.3 to 1.5cm Breadth. Endosperm is white color varies from 1 to 1.2cm L and 0.4 to 0.5cm breadth which is covered by brown inter cotyledon membrane.
Terminalia chebula Var. tomentella
|Size is small, with stony mesocarp and big seed||Very small size with <4gm weight with stony mesocarp and big seed||Leaves when young densely coppery-pubescent beneath, when adult pubescent or glabrous. Fruits ovoid hardly 1inch||Spherical to Ovular shape and dark yellow colored with with slender hairs on its surface. Size: 2 to 3cm L and 1.5 to 2.5cm Breadth with 4.5 to 5.3gm weight per fruit. mesocarp is light yellow hard with 0.3 to 0.4cm thickness Seed is big Stony hard with spherical shape and cream color with size of 1.5 to 2.2cm Length and 1.3 to 1.5cm Breadth. Endosperm is white with 0.5 to 0.7cm L and 0.3 to 0.5cm breadth.|
Terminalia chebula Var. gangetica
|Mesocarp is more and fleshy||Mesocarp is more and fleshy with small seed <7gm||Adult leaves with brown red silky hairs on the both surfaces (some time extends to stems also)||Ovular to quadrangular in shape with dark yellow to brown in colour. The hairs are prominent with reddish colored during in young stage and have a 3-4 prominent ridges. Size: 3.5 to 4.8cm L and 3.5 to 4cm Breadth with 7.3 to 8.5gm weight per fruit. The mesocarp is brown color with 0.5 to 1.2cm thickness. The seed is stony hard with Oval to spherical shape and light reddish color with size of 1.9 to 2.5cm Length and 1.5 to 2.5cm Breadth. Endosperm is white with 1.3 to 2cm L and 0.5 to 0.7cm breadth.|
Terminalia chebula Var. parviflora, Thewaites Enum.
|Fruit having five ridges||Fruit having five ridges and weighs 7-9gm||Calyx teeth pubescent, flowers and fruits are not smaller. Fruits more acutely ribbed||Spindle shape with wide in the middle then tapering ends and Dark yellow colour with Glabrous/Shiny surface with 5- Prominent ridges. Size is of 3 to 4 cm L and 2 to 2.5cm Breadth with 5 to 7.8gm weight per fruit. The mesocarp is slight pinkish to light yellow color with 0.3 to 0.5cm thickness with 5 hallow scattered across diagonal mesocarp. Seed is big Stony hard with Oval shape and Cream color with size of 1.5 to 2.5cm Length and 1 to 1.5cm Breadth. The endosperm is of white color with 0.5 to 0.7cm L and 0.4 to 0.5cm breadth.|
The study has reported 5 varieties Terminalia chebula and preserved. The collected samples of voucher specimen and herbarium were prepared and discussed with Scientist of NITM Belgaum and preserved at Dept. of Dravyaguna RGES Ayurvedic Medical College & Hospital Ron with specimen no RGES/CRC/AUT/20A/16. These plants are identified as Terminalia chebula Var. 2 (typica), Terminalia chebula Var. 3 (citrina), Terminalia chebula Var. tomentella, Terminalia chebula Var. gangetica and Terminalia chebula Var. parviflora, Thewaites Enum. Further, each variety of Terminalia chebula was analyzed based on external features and organoleptic qualities are presented in table no 3 and images 1 to 5. Plant wise analysis showed that the Amrita variety has bigger leaf with 7–9cm length and 5–8 cm breadth compare to Rohini of 3–6cm in length and 3–5 cm breadth with variations in color and shape and hairy nature. Flower color is varies from white and yellow in Abhaya, Pootana and Vijaya, Rohini and Amrita respectively. The biggest among the fruit is Amrita with 3.5-4.8X3.5-4CM dimension compare to Pootana 2-3X1.5-2.5CM, the shape varies from spherical to spindle and ridges were prominent in Abhaya, Vijaya, Rohini and Amrita (Table 4). Physicochemical study of different fruits suggests there is no much difference was seen among the varieties (Table 5).
Table 4 Terminalia chebula Retz Plant morphology
|1||Size||5–7cm L & 4–6 cm B||3–6cm L & 3–5 cm B||5–7cm L & 4–6 cm B||7–9cm L & 5–8 cm B||5–7cm L & 3–5 cm B|
|2||color||Green||Green||Young: Reddish Adult: Green||Greenish||Yellowish green|
|3||Shape||Elliptic with round base||Ovate with round base||Lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate||Ovate-lanceolate||Lanceolate with round base|
|4||Hairy Nature||Slightly glabrous||Slight hairs on both surfaces||Adult: Pubescent||Brown silky hairs on both surfaces||Glabrous or shiny|
|5||Color||Yellowish||Yellowish||Whitish||Yellowish with pink stalk||Whitish|
|6||Inflorescence||Terminal spike with panicles||Terminal spike with panicles||Terminal spike with panicles||Terminal spike with panicles||Terminal spike with panicles|
|7||Size of flower||0.5 to 0.7CM||0.4 to 0.6CM||0.5 to 0.7CM||0.5 to 0.6CM||0.5 to 0.6CM|
|8||Ovary nature||Ovary glabrous||Ovary glabrous||Pubescent ovary||Ovary glabrous||Pubescent calyx and ovary|
|2||Shape||Bottle or flask||Round||Spherical to ovular||Ovular to quadrangular||Spindle shape|
|3||Color||Dark Yellow||Dark Yellow||Dark Yellow||Dark Yellow to brown||Light Yellow|
|4||Weight per fruit||4.8-5.6GM||3-3.3GM||4.5-5.3GM||7.3-8.5GM||5-7.8GM|
|5||Hairy nature||Nil||Slight hairs||Slight hairs||Reddish hairs when it is young||Glabrous/Shiny|
|6||Ridge||Ridges not prominent||No ridges||No ridges||3-4 prominent ridges||5- Prominent ridges|
Table no 5. Physicochemical study
|Acid in insoluble ash||0.3%||0.3%||0.4%||0.4%||0.5%|
|Water soluble ash||6%||5%||5%||6%||7%|
|Alcoholic extractive value||46%||49%||48%||35%||42.5%|
The microscopic study of fruits showed that the pericarp having epidermis with single layered made of cells having a swollen base and hair like prolongation with dimension of 168 µm -91 µm length and breadth of 14-7 µm. The cortex is wide made up of parenchyma cells without intercellular spaces some of which contain rosette like crystals of calcium oxalate. It is intermingled with stone cells of diverse shapes. The stone cells found towards the periphery are tangentially elongated with narrow lumen. The diameter of the stone cells become lesser and the size of the lumen increases towards the inside. The central region is occupied by round or oval stone cells found in groups, having broad lumen. Most of the cells of the cortex contain simple or compound starch grains; the vascular bundles are conjoint, collateral and endarch. The powder examination indicates it is smooth, light yellow to brownish, astringent with characteristic odour. The fluorescence study has shown the different color in different variety of fruit as presented in Table no 6. Preliminary phytochemical analysis of the aqueous and alcoholic extract revealed the presence of glycosides, flavonoids, tannins, phenols, saponins, diterpenes, carbohydrates and proteins etc. (Table 7).
The current study is first of its kind in identification and possible co-relation of available sources of Terminalia chebula thus identified only 5-varieties as the study was restricted in north-western ghats of north Karnataka. Moreover Ayurvedic literature suggested that few varieties of Terminalia chebula are known to available only in sub Himalayan region.  Distribution of Terminalia chebula plants in different altitude depicts that Amrita variety with 2716F alt has less % of phytochemicals compare to Rohini with 2656F, it potentiated the similar study conducted in different altitude of same plant with variability in phytochemicals suggested the higher altitude plants are rich source of phytochemicals than in lower altitude.  This could be the rationality of selecting higher altitude plants for clinical purpose in Ayurveda. 
Study Limitations and scope:
The current study merely provided the existence of difference varieties of Terminalia chebula and these verities have shown actual variations in there morphological and phytochemicals. This variation could be because of distribution of plants, age of plant, genetical and time of collection etc. thus, actual gene variations and molecular identification of these plants can be assessed by RAPD (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA) study. Thus confirmed varieties can further verified based on their clinical efficacy. This study has made initial efforts on identifying source plants for types of Haritaki, Further studies collecting samples from all over India might be helpful in better understanding.
The study potentially demonstrated the availability of varieties of Myrobalan explained according to Ayurveda. Among the 7 varieties, 5-different varieties are identified in North-western Ghats of north Karnataka as Vijaya, Rohini, Pootana, Amirtha and Abhaya these can be correlated to Terminalia chebula Var. 2 (typica/citrina), Terminalia chebula Var. 3, Terminalia chebula Var. tomentella, Terminalia chebula Var. gangetica and Terminalia chebula Var. parviflora, Thewaites Enum respectively. There was gross phyto-chemical variation existed among these and this would certainly open the new research question on its genetical identity and efficacy.
Table no 6: Fluorescence and behavior of powdered fruits under UV light and white light on treatment with chemical reagents
|Plane powder||Light yellow||+||Light yellow||+||Yellow||+||Brownish||+||Light brown||+|
|Water||Yellowish||–||Light brown||–||light yellow||–||Deep brown||–||Brown||–|
|Aq Iodine||Light brown||–||Dark||–||Deep brown||–||Brown||–||Light dark||–|
|Nitric acid||Orange||+||Orange||+||Orange||+||Orange||+||light orange||+|
|Picric acid||Dark yellow||+||Yellow||+||Light yellow||+||Yellow||+||Light yellow||+|
|20% NaOH||Dark Brown||–||Dark Brown||–||Dark Brown||–||Dark Brown||–||Light red||–|
|# WL: White light and F : Fluorescence|
Table no 7. Preliminary phytochemical analysis
|Test||Alcohol/Water Extract Samples|
|-/ Slightly present||-/ Slightly present||-/ Slightly present||-/ Slightly present||-/ Slightly present|
|Tannins & Phenolic compounds||+/+||+/+||+/+||+/+||+/+|
Authors wish to acknowledge Rajiv Gandhi University of Health sciences Bangalore for financial support in conduction of this study and VGST Govt. Karnataka for upgrading research lab and smooth conduction of this research at Rajiv Gandhi Education Society’s Ayurvedic Medical College Hospital and PG Research Centre Ron, Gadag, Karnataka.
Financial Support and Sponsorship
Rajiv Gandhi University of Health sciences Bangalore
Conflicts of Interest
Authors have no competing interests.
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