Botany of Celastrus paniculatus

Botany of Celastrus paniculatus

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Celastrus paniculatus Wild.
SYNONYMS: Celastrus dependens Wall.
FAMILY: Celastraceae
ENGLISH: Black-oil tree, Climbing staff plant, Oriental bittersweet, Intellect tree.
BENGALI: Malkanjri.
GUJARATI: Malkangana, Velo.
HINDI: Kondgaidh, Malkakni, Malkamni, Malkangni, Sankhu.
KANNADA: Kangli, Kangodi, Kariganne.
MALAYALAM: Polulavam.
MARATHI: Kangani, Malkangoni.
SANSKRIT: Jyotishka, Jyotishmati, Kanguni, , Katabhi, Sphutabandhani, Svarnalota
TAMIL: Vluluvai.
TELUGU: Teegapalleru, Malaria teega. [1]

Botanical Description

Celastrus paniculata is a member of the Celastraceae family and is a large, woody climber (called a climbing shrub), with yellow corky bark. It grows throughout India, and trees as tall as 2,000 meters have been reported. The leaves are oblong-elliptic and the flowers are unisexual. The seeds, which grow inside capsules, number from anywhere between 1-6 seeds per capsule, and yield dark brown oil, known as Celastrus oil or Malkanguni oil. [2] Celastrus is a hardy plant and in the proper conditions is easy to grow, with a high yield of seeds. There is not much commercial growing of this plant, but as its popularity grows, especially in the West, we expect to see an increase in farming and harvesting in the near-future for the alkaloids Celastrine and Paniculatin that the plant contains.

Most-Used Parts: Oil from the seeds, which contain the alkaloids Celastrine and Paniculatin in varying amounts, is the most commonly used plant part. Tests are presently being done to see if there are active alkaloids in the leaves and the roots, since leaves traditionally have been used for decoctions and teas.

Medicinal Uses

Celastrus paniculatus L. (Celastraceae) (CP), Picrorhiza kurroa L. (Scrophulariaceae) (PK) and Withania somnifera L. (Solanaceae) (WS) are Indian medicinal plants having a remarkable reputation, as a factor of health care, among the indigenous medical practitioners. The plants exhibit varying degrees of therapeutic value some of which useful in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction, epilepsy, insomnia, rheumatism, gout, dyspepsia. These antioxidant effects of active principle of CP, PK and WS may explain, at least in part, the reported anti-stress, cognition-facilitating, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects produced by them in experimental animal and in clinical situations and may justify the further investigation of their other beneficial biological properties. [3]

The effects of Celastrus oil on learning and memory in a two compartment passive avoidance task in albino rats has been studied. The effects on quantities of norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) in the brain and on the levels of their metabolites both in the brain and urine were also assessed. Significant improvement was observed in the retention ability of the Celastrus treated rats compared with the saline administered controls.

The contents of NE, DA and 5-HT and their metabolites in the brain were significantly decreased in the Celastrus treated group. The urinary metabolite levels were also significantly decreased except for total 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl glycol. This data indicates that Celastrus oil causes an overall decrease in the turnover of all the three central monoamines and implicates the involvement of these aminergic systems in the learning and memory process. [4]


[1] Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 – 2020, Sorting Celastrus Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database – A Work in Progress. Institute of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia. (2004).

[2] Himalaya Healthcare: HerbFinder – Celastrus

[3] Entrez PubMed PMID: 7500635 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[4] Entrez PubMed PMID: 11315755 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[5] Gaitonde et. al. Current Medical Practice, 1957, 1, 619

[6] Bidwai, P.P. et. al. Fitoterapia, 1990, v. 61(5), 417-424