Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of ijayurvedaLink to Publisher's site
Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Oct-Dec; 1(4): 237–242.
PMCID: PMC3059447

Pharmacognostic study of Chlorophytum tuberosum Baker


Chlorophytum tuberosum Baker belongs to family Liliaceae and is being used in the indigenous systems of medicine as a galactogogue and aphrodisiac. It is being sold in the market under the common name safed musali. The white tuberous roots of this plant are the medicinally useful parts. The tuberous roots of other species of Chlorophytum, Asparagus, Bombax and Orchids are also sometimes called safed musali leading to confusion. In order to ensure correct botanical standardization to remove the controversy, a detailed pharmacognostic study on tuberous roots of Chlorophytum has been carried out in this study .

Keywords: Chlorophytum tuberosum, High Performance thin layer chromatography, pharmacognostic standardization, phytochemical analysis


Chlorophytum tuberosum Baker belongs to family Liliaceae. In India, it is found in rainfed areas. The plant generally grows along the forest margins, grassy slopes and rocky places along valleys (between 1300 and 2800 m).[1] This is an erect plant growing up to a height of 1.5–2 ft with sheathing leaf base acute to acuminate with entire margin. The roots are tuberous with ellipsoid tubers hanging from them, 10-12 cm long and 1–1.9 cm in diameter.[2] The tuberous roots are medicinally important and are known commonly as safed musali. Safed musali is used as an aphrodisiac and galactogogue[35] as well as for its nutritive, health promoting properties and immunoenhancing, hepatoprotective and antioxidants activities.[610] The tubers are also used in fever, leucorrhoea and also as an aphrodisiac.[10]

The species Asparagus, Bombax and Orchids are also known as safed musali in literature.[3,4] It is therefore important to define specifications that will allow correct identification of the plant that is being sold as ‘safed musali’. In addition there are 17 species of Chlorophytum recorded in India of which 11 species of Chlorophytum are found to be growing in Maharashtra.[11]

We choose Chlorophytum tuberosum for the present investigation as it is being sold widely in the market under the common name safed musali because of its white tuberous roots.


Collection and identification of plant materials

The plant materials were collected from in and around Pune district of Maharashtra during the rainy season for correct botanical identification. Efforts were made to collect the plants in flowering and fruiting condition for the correct botanical identification. It was identified with the help of Flora of The Presidency of Bombay.[2] Herbarium specimens were prepared and authenticated from Botanical Survey of India, Western Circle, Pune (India). It is housed in Botanical Garden of Botany Department, Pune. The voucher specimen number is PAVICH2/2009.[12]

Microscopic and macroscopic evaluation

Thin (25μ) hand cut sections were taken from the fresh tuberous roots, permanently double-stained and finally mounted in Canada balsam as per the plant microtechniques method of Johansen.[13] The macroscopic evaluation was studied by the method of Trease and Evans[14] and Wallis.[15]

Histochemical study

The thin transverse sections of fresh root were taken (about 25μ). It was treated with respective reagent for the detection and localization of chemicals in the tissues as per the method of Krishnamurthy.[16]

Phytochemical evaluation

Some roots were dried under the shade so as to avoid the decomposition of chemical constituents, powdered in a blender and finally stored in dry air tied containers for phytochemical screening. Ash and percentage extractive content was measured by following the standard pharmacopoeial techniques.[17] Fluorescence analysis was carried out as per Chase and Pratt.[18] Qualitative phytochemical tests were carried out by standard methods of Harborne[19] and Trease and Evans.[14] Quantitative phytochemical analysis were determined for proteins, carbohydrates and saponins by the methods of Lowry et al.,[20] Nelson[21] and Obadoni and Ochuko,[22] respectively. The phytochemical screening was also done by the High Performance-Thin Layer Chromatography (HPTLC). HPTLC study was carried out on Linomat 5 for application using Densitometer-TLC Scanner 3 with “WINCATS” software (Camag, Switzerland). These studies were carried out on pre-coated aluminum fluorescent plates (E. Merck). For HPTLC studies, an extract of methanol (25% GR) solvent system was used and after development, plate was scanned at 254 and 366 nm.[23,24]


Macroscopic evaluation

The details of the macroscopic examination are mentioned in Table 1 and illustrated in Figures Figures11 and and22.

Table 1
Macroscopic examination of safed musali
Figure 1
Habit of Chlorophytum tuberosum
Figure 2
Tuberous roots of Chlorophytum tuberosum

Microscopic characters

The transverse section of the root had a circular outline. The outermost layer is the epidermis consisting of uniseriate trichomes followed by a very large zone of the cortex. The outermost layer of the cortex just below the epidermis consists of cells which are mostly rectangular, appearing longer than wide. The rest of the cortex are rounded to polygonal parenchymatous cells and have no intercellular spaces. The innermost layer of the cortex is a single-layered endodermis. The stellar structure shows that the endodermis is followed by the pericycle layer. The xylem is exarch variety and the phloem is in between the xylem along with the parenchyma. The central region is occupied by large pith mostly polygonal in shape [Figure 3].

Figure 3
Transverse section of root of Chlorophytum tuberosum (10× × 3.3×)

Histochemical screening

Histochemical screening showed the presence of starch, protein, fat, saponins, tannin, sugars and alkaloids [Table 2].

Table 2
Histochemical study of C. tuberosum Baker

Phytochemical studies

The tuber had a total ash content of 12.6%, the acid insoluble ash being 5.6% [Table 3]. The values of percentage extractives were higher in chloroform and lower in benzene solvent [Table 4]. Fluorescence analysis was carried out to check the purity of the drug. The powder drug was observed in visible light as yellowish brown in color. The powder was treated with nitrocellulose, 1 N sodium hydroxide, 1 N sodium hydroxide in nitrocellulose and dried for 30 min. After this it was observed under ultraviolet light and it emits the color as shown in [Table 5].

Table 3
Ash and acid insoluble ash of C. tuberosum Baker
Table 4
Percentage extractives of C. tuberosum Baker
Table 5
Fluorescence analysis of C. tuberosum Baker at 230 nm

Qualitative analysis of the root indicated the presence of proteins, reducing and non-reducing sugars, saponins, fats, tannin, glycoside and alkaloids [Table 6]. The quantity of proteins is higher than saponins and carbohydrates [Table 7]. Saponins are the important chemical and justify the use of tubers of this plant and are used as a well-known health tonic, aphrodisiac and galactogogue.[3,4,6,25] In HPTLC study, the methanolic extract is ultrasonic for 15 min and filtered. The filtrate is used as an application for saponins and stegmasteroids. For each application 20 μl, 10 μl and 5 μl extracts were used and loaded on instrument comprising of Linomat 5 for application using Densitometer-TLC Scanner 3 with “WINCATS” software (Camag, Switzerland). These studies were carried out on pre-coated aluminum fluorescent plates (E. Merck). The plates were scanned at 254 and at 366 nm.[23,24]

Table 6
Phytochemical study of C. tuberosum Baker
Table 7
Quantitative estimation of C. tuberosum Baker

Analytical studies (Saponins)

The HPTLC analysis showed that the saponins from the C. tuberosum root samples gave light yellow bands in visible light and blue bands after derivatization in fluorescence light. The plates were scanned at 254 and 366 nm. When images were compared with the graph and table values, it showed maximum area 31.38% at 366 nm after derivatization. The table also indicates the starting Rf values and end Rf values [Figure 4;Graph 13;Table 810].

Figure 4
Detection of saponins by high performance thin layer chromatography techniques
Graph 1
Peak for saponins for 20 μl plant extract
Graph 3
Peak for saponins for 5 μl plant extract
Table 8
Peak values for saponins for 20 μl plant extract
Table 10
Peak values for saponins for 5 μl plant extract
Graph 2
Peak for saponins for 10 μl plant extract
Table 9
Peak values for saponins for 10 μl plant extract

Analytical studies (Stegmasteroids)

In HPTLC analysis, stegmasteroids revealed white bands in visible light. After derivatization in fluorescence light it showed the dark blue bands. The plates were scanned at 254 and 366 nm. It covered the area 31.27% at 254 nm. The tables also indicate the Rf values for all the peaks scanned by "WINCATS" software [Figure 5;Graph 4Graph 6 Tables Tables1111 and Table 13].

Figure 5
Detection of stegmasteroids by HPTLC techniques
Graph 4
Peak for stegmasteroids for 20 μl plant extract
Graph 6
Peak for stegmasteroids for 5 μl plant extract
Table 11
Peak values for stegmasteroids for 20 μl plant extract
Table 13
Peak values for stegmasteroids for 5 μl plant extract
Graph 5
Peak for stegmasteroids for 10 μl plant extract
Table 12
Peak values for stegmasteroids for 10 μl plant extract


The plant C. tuberosum showed the correct taxonomy which is helpful for the standardization of drug; the morphological characters and histochemical study with double staining of the root, percentage extractives, fluorescence and ash analysis and the phytochemical screening of the plant. As in case of saponins and stegmasteroids, the peaks are denoted by the Rf values. These investigations will be useful for the correct botanical identification and authentication of the drug. After getting the overall results of C. tuberosum and if data is comparable with the above mentioned species of safed musali, it can be used as a substitute for them.


Both the authors would like to express a sincere thank to Head, Department of Botany, University of Pune, for encouragement and necessary laboratory facilities and V.N. Patil is grateful to authorities of Pune University for providing financial support in the form of research stipend.


Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None declared


1. Hara H. Japan: Tokyo University Press; 1966. The Flora of Eastern Himalaya; p. 407.
2. Cooke T. Vol. 3. Calcutta: B.S.I; 1958. Flora of Presidency of Bombay; pp. 280–9.
3. Nadkarni AK. 3rd ed. Bombay: Popular Prakashan Ltd; 1927. K.M. Nadkarni's Indian Materia Medica; pp. 208–9.
4. Chopra RN, Nayer SL, Chopra IC. New Delhi: CSIR; 1956. Glossary of Indian medicinal Plants; p. 218.
5. Marais W, Reilly J. Chlorophytum and its related Genera (Liliaceae) Kew Bulletin. 1978;32:653–63.
6. Govindarajan R, Vijayakumar M, Pushpangadan P. Antioxidant approach to disease management and the role of ′Rasayana′ herbs of Ayurveda. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;99:165–78. [PubMed]
7. Medicinal Plants more on Safed Musali.Georgia: Agriculture and Industry Survey; 2001. Anonymous. 2001:38–9.
8. Dhuley JN. Effect of some Indian herbs on macrophase functions in Ochratoxin A treated mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 1997;58:15–20. [PubMed]
9. Nergard CS, Diallo D, Michaelsen TE, Malterud KE, Kiyohara H, Matsumoto T, et al. Isolation, Partial characterization and immunostimulation activity of polysaccharides from Verninia kotschyana Sch. Bip. Ex. Walp. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;91:141–25. [PubMed]
10. Kirtikar KR, Basu BD. Indian Medicinal Plants. In: Kirtikar KR, Basu BD, editors. Liliaceae: Chlorophytum. Allahabad, India: L.M. Basu Publishers; 1975. pp. 2508–9.
11. Sreevidya N, Kumar V, Kumar S, Sikarwar RL. Utilization, depletion and conservation of Safed Musali (Chlorophytum spp.) J Non- Timber Forest Prod. 2003;10:155–7.
12. CSIR. Revised Edition. New Delhi: Publication and Information Directorate; 1992. The Wealth of India- A dictionary of Indian raw materials and industrial products; pp. 482–3.
13. Johansen DA. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co; 1940. Plant Microtechnique; pp. 151-4–182-203.
14. Trease GE, Evans WC. 15th ed. W. B. Saunders Edinburgh London, New York: Philadelphia St. Louis Sydney Toronto; 2002. Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy; p. 3-4, 528-33, 538-547.
15. Wallis TE. Reprinted edition. London: Churchill, Livingstone; 1997. A Text Book of Pharmacognosy; pp. 578–617.
16. Krishnamurthy KV. Madras: Viswanadhan Pvt. Limited; 1988. Methods in the Plant Histochemistry; pp. 1–77.
17. Anonymous. 1st ed. Delhi: Ministry of Health Manager Publications; 1955. Pharmacopoeia of India, Government of India; pp. 370–864.
18. Chase CR, Pratt R. Fluorescence of powdered vegetable drugs with particular reference to development of a system of identification. J Am Pharm Asso Am Pharm Assoc. 1949;38:324–30. [PubMed]
19. Harborne JB. 2nd ed. London: Chapman and Hall International Edition; 1973. Phytochemical Methods; pp. 5–8.
20. Lowry OH, Rosebrough NJ, Farr AL, Randall RJ. Protein measurement with the Folin-Phenol reagent. J Biol Chem. 1951;193:265–75. [PubMed]
21. Nelson N. A photometric adaptation of the Somogyi method for the determination of Glucose. J Biol Chem. 1944;153:375–80.
22. Obadoni BO, Ochuko PO. Phytochemical studies and comparative efficacy of crude extracts of some homeostatic plants in Edo and Delta state of Nigeria. Global J Pure Appl Sci. 2001;8:203–8.
23. Wagner H, Baldt S. Berlin: Springer - Verlag; 1996. Plant Drug Analysis: A Thin Layer Chromatography Atlas; p. 129, 144, 155, 157, 176, 178, 206.
24. Reich E, Schibii A. Germany: Thieme medical publishers; 2007. High Performance- Thin Layer Chromatography for the analysis of medicinal plants; p. 129, 144, 155, 157, 176, 178, 206.
25. Oudhia P. Problem perceived by Safed Musali (Chlorophytum borivilianum) growers of Chhattisgarh (India) region: A study. J Med Aromatic Plant Sci. 2001;22/4A and 23/ 1A:396–9.

Articles from International Journal of Ayurveda Research are provided here courtesy of Wolters Kluwer -- Medknow Publications