A Systematic Review on Neuro-Psychopharmacological effects of Celastrus paniculatus (Malkangani) Oil


Bharat Mishra, Elezabeth John

Department of Pharmacology, Nirmala College of Pharmacy, Muvattupuzha, Kerala, India, 686661.

*Corresponding Author E-mail: bharatekansh@gmail.com



Herbal drugs are conventionally employed to treat various human ailments. Mental and nervous disorders are the serious public health challenge globally, particularly in developing countries. Psychotherapy does not meet proper therapeutic possibilities for most of the patients with neurological and psychological disorders but natural remedies are ultimate relief and therapeutic hope for such patients. Many synthetic medications for nervous disorders although helpful lead to poor patient compliance because of many unpleasant but unavoidable side effects. Therefore herbal therapy is being preferred over modern medical treatments. Much contemplation and so scope is drawn towards herbal panacea of many mental disorders. This session deals with a herbal drug, Malkangani whose seeds and seed oil are being used traditionally as a therapeutic regimen for various nervous disorders like anxiety, depression and as neuroprotective agent and memory enhancer. This topic also discusses about the pharmacognostic characters, phytochemistry and neuro-psychopharmacological effects of Malkangani oil. Malkangani oil or Jyothishmati oil obtained from Celastrus paniculatus, mentioned in Ayurveda as Tree of Life or Elixir of Life is one such drug which has been extensively used to treat various central nervous system disorders. The current review is an endeavor to summarize the information based on the utility of malkangani oil to treat various neurological and psychological disorders. Malkangani oil obtained from the dried seeds of Celastrus paniculatus belonging to Celastraceae family possess neuromodulating, anti-oxidant and neuroprotective, sedative, tranquilizing effect, anti-convulsant, anti-amnesic effect, anti-aging, antianxiety, antidepressant, learning and memory enhancing, nootropic, anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects. The studies on various laboratory animals like mice, rats, rabbits, monkeys revealed the excellent effects of malkangani oil on the brain. Malkangani oil contain sesquiterpene alkaloids, evoninoate sesquiterpene alkaloids, polyalcohols and fatty acids as the major phytoconstituents including some mineral elements. The exact constituent responsible for CNS effects of malkangani oil is not yet found which can be explored in future researches.


KEYWORDS: Celastrus paniculatus, nervine tonic, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-aging, anti-nociceptive, anti-inflammatory.




Celastrus paniculatus is a woody vine generally named as the black oil plant or Malkangani or Jyotishmati. It is mentioned in Ayurveda as ‘Tree of life or Elixir of life'. Celastrus paniculatus, a tremendous, woody, perennial plant, spaced almost all over India elevated to a height of 1800 m belonging to family Celastraceae was adopted from time out of mind to treat nervous sickness and to improve cognitive functions. The malkangani oil distilled from the seeds of C. paniculatus is recognized to have action on the Central Nervous System.[1,2] Celastrus paniculatus is a classical plant which is being used in different tribal regions of India. It is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent but is found to grow wildly in Australia, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,  Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, SriLanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam including many of the Pacific islands.[3]Celastrus paniculatus seed oil is a powerful brain tonic employed to improve IQ in mentally retarded children and also for brain fog and ADD (Attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder).


Description of Malkangani:

Vernacular names:

 Malkangani- Hindi, staff tree, intellect tree, climbing staff tree- English, Kilitheenipanji, Cherupunnari, Polulavam – Malayalam, Kariganne - Kannada, Valuluvai - Tamil, Jyothishmati - Sanskrit, Deng you teng - Chinese, Skanguni- Marathi, Malkangni - Gujrati, Korsana - Oriya, Habbe kilkil - Urdu.  


Taxonomical classification:

Botanical name: Celastrus paniculatus, Kingdom: Plantae, Subkingdom: Angiosperms, Class: Magnoliopsida, Subclass: Rosidae, Division: Tracheophyta, Order: Celastrales, Family: Celastraceace, Genus: Celastrus, Species: paniculatus [4]



Fig.1 Unriped malkangani fruits



Fig.2 and 3 Partially ripened Malkangani fruits



Fig.4 Fully ripened Malkangani fruits



Fig.5 Dried Malkangani seeds


Pharmacognostic characters:

Malkangani is a great, deciduous, climbing unarmed shrub appearing an altitude of 10 m, with lengthy twiggy elongating branches which are reddish brown with stem up to 23 cm in diameter and covered with an elongate stoma.[1,5] Capsules are 1-1.3cm in diameter, depressed, globose, tri-lobed, vibrant yellow, obliquely wrinkled, 3-valved, the valves spreading after yawning, remaining collective at the base baring nuts.[1,6] Seedlings are 3-6 in number per capsule, generally solitary, fully enclosed in a crimson, rotund pod.[1,6] Seed pod contains a reddish specialized outgrowth that completely covers it.[7] Malkangani seeds are small and ovoid growing on globular arils that progressively changes from a blonde to a cherry red color on maturation or complete development. The seed oil is known to cause yellow-stains. The seeds, which grow inside capsules yield dark brown oil, known as Celastrus oil or Malkangani oil.[3]


Traditional Uses:

It is one of the best nervine tonic used in the indigenous system of medicine, and its seed oil is administered along with clarified butter (prepared from cow's milk) to instigate intellect and to boost mental performance, two drops of seed oil, when used as nasal drops for 7 days, boost memory power. A mixture of one spoonful of seed oil and 8 spoonfuls of buffalo's ghee when applied on the head for an hour is a well-known intellect enhancer.[8]


The mixed powder of flowers, fruits leaves, and seeds is taken routinely to cure mental illness and improve braininess. Seed powder of C. paniculatus, mixed with water, is taken orally to treat nervous disorders. The seed essence, prescribed as a nervine tonic, is utilized in headache, melancholia and somnolence. Jyotishmati oil is prescribed in neurasthenia. Seed oil possesses anti-oxidant, sedative, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties.[1,9]



The isolation, identification, and characterization of phytoconstituents present in Makangani oil have been carried out by previous researchers, but the pharmacological evaluation of Malkangani oil to find its effect on CNS is not yet reported completely. About 60 phytoconstituents have been detected from Malkangani oil through different scientific techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography (LC), LC-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), gas chromatography-MS and tandem MS (MS/MS).[10]


C. paniculatus oil (brownish-yellow) is cold-pressed raw herbal oil obtained from the seeds. The phytoconstituents of the oil include alkaloids, carbohydrates, glycosides, sterols, polyhydric alcohols, triterpenoids, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin C, flavonoids, tri-terpenoid phenolic compounds, tannins, saponins, sesquiterpenes polyol esters.[4,6]


Sesquiterpene alkaloids: Celapanin, celapanigin, celapagin, paniculatine

Evoninoate sesquiterpene alkaloids: Celastrine

Polyhydric alcohol: Malangunin, malkanginnol, malkanguniol, and paniculatadiol

Steroidal alcohol: β-amyrin and β-sitosterol

Crystalline substances: Tetracasanol, sterol


Malangunin is a sesquiterpene tetra-ol of the β-dihydroagarofurane type two of whose hydroxyls being esterified with acetic and benzoic acids.[11]


Sesquiterpenoid polyol esters: 1α, 8β, 14- triacetoxy - 9β - furoyloxydihydro - β - agarofuran, 1α, β, 8β, 14 - tetraacetoxy - 9 β - benzoyloxydihydro-β - agarofuran and 1 α, 8β-diacetoxy-9 β-benzoyloxydihydro -β-agarofuran.[7]


Fatty acids: Oleic acid (54.42%), linoleic acid (15.51%), palmitic acid (20.0%) and stearic acid (4.18%).


The alkaloids which belongs to sesquiterpene are derived from a new sesquiterpene tetra-ol (celapanol), alternately esterified with nicotinic, acetic, benzoic and β- furoic acids.[11]


The aqueous extract of Malkangani seeds contain traces of reducing sugars and tannins, but devoid of starch. Methanolic extract exhibits free- radical scavenging properties and antioxidant effects in human non-immortalized fibroblasts.[4] The petroleum ether extract of the hull from Malkangani seeds on saponification yield stearic and palmitic acids. An untitled sterol was derived from unsaponifiable fraction.


Various sesquiterpene polyalcohols were noted to be present in the saponified fraction of 80% methanolic extract of Malkangani seed oil, and malkanguniol is one of the chief constituents. Also, four related alcohols like polyalcohol A, B, C, and D were isolated from the extract along with malkanguniol.[12]


Paraffinic hydrocarbons, β-amyrin β-sitosterol and a pentacyclic triterpene-diol like paniculatadiol were isolated from the non-sapanifiable fraction of the CP seed oil. The triterpene diol was designated structure as olean-12-ene-3β, 29 diol.[12]


The fatty acid constitution of four lipid fractions of CP seeds is: polar triglycerides (44.4%), polar non-glyceridic ester (23.5%), normal triglycerides (20.2%) and non-polar non-glyceridic ester (11%). The components constituting the normal triglycerides were identified as palmito-oleopalmitin (6.8%), palmito-oleostearin (5.6%), palmitodiolein (14.7%), palmito-oleolinolein (7.0%), stearodiolein (6.1%), triolein (8.0%) and dioleolinolein (7.6%).[12]


A new sesquiterpene polyol ester designated as 1α, 6β, 8β-triacetoxy-9β-benzoyloxydihydro-beta-agarofuran, along with the three known compounds: angulatueoid C, 1α, 6β, 8α-triacetoxy-9α-benzoyloxydihydro-beta-agarofuran and 1α, 6β, 8β, 14-tetraacetoxy-9α-benzoyloxydihydro-beta-agarofuran, were extracted from the carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-soluble fraction of methanolic extract of Malkangani seeds.[12]


The succulent husk of Malkangani seeds on extraction with petroleum ether yields a phytosterol having pentacyclic triterpenoid nucleus assigned as celastrol (0.15%), waxy coloring matter and a semi-solid fat. The various mineral elements in the Malkangani plant was noted as aluminum, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, sodium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, potassium, silver, vanadium, zinc devoid of cerium and strontium.[7,10,12]


Various neuro-psychopharmacological effects of Malkangani oil:


Fig.6 Neuro-psychopharmacological effects of Malkangani oil


1.     Neuromodulating effect:

Sumathi et al., 2013 reported that the alcoholic seed extract of Celastrus paniculatus (200mg/kg and 400mg/kg) prevents aluminum-induced neurotoxicity in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and cerebellum in the brain of the albino rats. Administration of aluminum significantly decreased the level of antioxidant, glutathione (GSH) and activities of the various antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase ( GPx), glutathione reductase (GR), Na+/K+ ATPase and Mg2+ ATPase and increased the level of oxidative stress including lipid peroxidation (LPO) and the activities of liver marker enzymes such as alkaline phosphatase (ALP), acid phosphatase (ACP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) in all the brain regions when compared with the control rats.

Alcoholic extract of Malkangani oil increased the antioxidant effect and activities of membrane-bound enzymes and also decreased the level of lipid peroxidation and the activities of marker enzymes significantly when compared with aluminum exposed rats. [2,13]


2.     Anti-oxidant and neuroprotective effect:

Russo et al., 2001, Godkar et al., 2006 and Bhagya et al., 2016 observed that malkangani oil exhibited a dose-dependent (400mg/kg, 600mg/kg) protective effect on DNA cleavage and free radical scavenging activity, authenticated by a notable neuroprotective effect on hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and glutamate-induced cytotoxicity and DNA cleavage in human non-immortalized fibroblast cells. It is found that malkangani oil shows a protective effect on neuronal cells against H2O2 in part under their antioxidant properties, and their ability to induce antioxidant enzymes like catalase and decreasing lipid peroxidation and protective effect on nerve cells.[14,15,16] Neuroprotective effect of malkangani oil against glutamate invoked toxicity is by modulating glutamate receptor function specifically by inhibiting NMDA receptors.[1] Jai Malik et al., 2017 reported that malkangani ethanolic extract (100mg/kg,200mg/kg) ameliorates 3-nitropropionic acid-induced neuronal damage in Wistar rats.[17]


3.     Sedative:

Sheth et al., 1963 reported that the crude Malkangani seed oil administered intramuscularly (i.m.) orally, and intraperitoneal (i.p.) at a dose of 1g/kg created sedation in rats. Malkangani oil administered orally at a dose of 100mg/kg as an emulsion exhibited no sedative effect in rabbits.[8,18] Malkangani seed oil when given intramuscularly at a dose of 1g/kg resulted in sedation in the rats. The same emulsion (1g/kg i.p.) to mice produced mild sedation which was not so marked. It has shown relaxing effect in injected rats, enhance pentobarbitone-induced sedation.[1] Administration of oil (1g/kg) via the intramuscular route to mice exhibited a marked decrease in movement. Malkangani seed extract pretreatment significantly prolonged the duration of sleep in phenobarbitone-induced mice and reduced the sleep induction time.


4.     Tranquilizing effect:

Sheth et al., 1963 reported that the Malkangani seed oil exhibited a tranquilizing effect in cats, mice, monkeys, and rats at a dose of 200mg/kg. It exalted the effect of hexobarbitone and generated hypothermia in mice.[2,18] Malkangani seed oil when administered as emulsion showed a tranquilizing effect on amphetamine and adrenaline-induced excitement in mice.[8] Malkangani oil also decreased oxygen consumption, amphetamine-induced excitement, spontaneous motor activity and orientation hyper excitement in mice.[2]

5.     Anti-convulsant:

The anticonvulsant activity of seed oil was explored against picrotoxin, strychnine and leptazole-induced convulsions in rats. It augmented strychnine convulsions and decreased leptazole toxicity.[1,2]


6.     Anti-amnesic effect:

Sanket B. Raut et al., 2015 reported that the oil from the plant produced an overall decrease in the turnover of the three central biogenic amines such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. It shows that these aminergic neurotransmitters are involved in the learning and memory process; the memory retention ability of the drug-treated rats was notably ameliorated when compared with the saline administered control group.[3] The effect of Malkangani seed oil in improving navigational memory task was investigated in young adult rats using Morris water maze. Chronic oral (gavage) daily treatment for 14 days with Malkangani oil at dose levels of 50, 200 or 400 mg/kg revealed that scopolamine (0.5mg/kg)-induced task performance deficit is completely reversed. It is found that malkangani oil has no effect on scopolamine-induced augmentation in locomotor activity.[19,20]


7.     Anti-aging:

Significant variation was observed in the concentration of trace elements in aged rats. Upon aging, there was a decrease in the copper, iron and cobalt content, increase in zinc and manganese content in the cerebellum of albino rats. When these aged rats were treated with malkangani oil, it is reported that significant increase in copper, iron and cobalt content, decrease in zinc and manganese content in the cerebellum of albino rats.[21]


8.     Antianxiety effect:

Ramamoorthy Rajkumar et al., 2007 evaluated antianxiety activity of malkangani oil using behavioral disinhibition model of anxiety in rats. It exhibited notable inhibition of reward and punishment related suppression of operative behavior in a rat model at a dose level of 3.2g/kg/day for 5 days. Malkangani oil extracted from seeds of Celastrus paniculatus when administered at two dose levels of 1 and 1.5g/kg in rats displayed substantial anxiolytic activity and without producing tolerance. The non-sedating and reversing the effect of anxiolytic activity of 5-HT1A partial agonist, buspirone in the open field test point explains the serotonergic mechanism underlying the anxiolysis.[3,8] Malkangani oil exhibited anxiolysis by the overall reduction in the turnover of central biogenic amines such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain of rats and also by producing a decrease in metabolite levels of these monoamines in the urine. Malkangani oil also elevates the protein content and phospholipids in the brain of albino rats due to an increase in, which is observed in the histochemical analysis.[22]

9.     Anti-depressant:

Rekha Valecha et al., 2014 investigated the immobility period of both stressed and unstressed mice and found that the immobility period was greatly reduced by using seed oil of Celastrus paniculatus in forced swim test due to inhibition of MAO-A activity in brain and reduction of nitrite levels in the plasma. It also restored the sucrose preference in stress-induced mice by decreasing the corticosterone levels in the plasma, which indicates a significant antidepressant-like activity.[5,23]


Malkangani seed oil at dose levels of 50, 100, and 200 mg/kg and fluoxetine at a dose of 20mg/kg when administered via peroral route for 14 consecutive days to mice produce significant reduction in the immobility periods in both TST(Tail Suspension Test) and FST(Forced Swim Test), indicate notable antidepressant-like activity. The efficacy of the oil is comparable to that of fluoxetine.


Malkangani seed oil exhibit antidepressant effect probably by interaction with GABAB,  serotonergic and dopaminergic D2-receptors, thereby decreasing the levels of GABA as well as elevating the levels of brain serotonin and dopamine.


Levels of biogenic amines like dopamine and serotonin deplete in depression, so antidepressant drugs augment the levels of these biogenic amines. The malkangani seed oil also produces significant inhibition of monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) activity compared to control group, revealing that reduction in metabolism of monoamines like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline also might contribute to its antidepressant-like activity.[23,24]


10. Learning and memory:

Celastrus paniculatus oil improves memorizing and learning capacity in laboratory rats by selectively reversing the cognitive impairment produced by blockade of acute central muscarinic receptor. Anticholinesterase action is not seen. The seed oil extract have exhibited a significant increase in the cognitive or retention ability of the treated rats when compared with control groups, which were administered saline.[7]


Nalini K et al., 1995 reported that malkangani oil has a valuable effect on the memory and learning process in intellectually disabled children. The contents of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and their metabolites in the brain were significantly decreased in the drug-treated group suggesting that the central monoamines are involved in learning and memory, improving the process. The urinary metabolite levels were also significantly reduced except for total 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl glycol. This reveals that malkangani oil causes an overall reduction in the turnover of all the three central biogenic amines.[25]


11.    Nootropic effect:

Vishnu P. V et al., 2017 found that malkangani extract exhibited statistically significant enhancement in cognitive ability when compared to piracetam. The nootropic potential of malkangani oil is investigated in colchicine-induced cognitively impaired rats using spatial Radial Arm Maze, Morris Water Maze. In spatial Radial Arm Maze, C. paniculatus 2g/kg showed the least number of wrong entries and maximum reduction in the number of wrong entries throughout treatment compared to C. paniculatus 1g/kg. In Morris Water Maze, the maximum reduction in escape latency was exhibited by malkangani oil 2g/kg compared to C. paniculatus 1g/kg and colchicine. In-vivo screening methods like, Morris Water Maze and Radial Arm Maze, C.paniculatus seed oil 2g/kg exhibits a significant rise in spatial learning and spatial working memory, which are crucial parameters for cognitive analysis.[26]


George Lekha et al., 2010 reported that normal (cognitively unimpaired) rats, when treated with drug for 14 days at the dose levels of 100, 200, 400mg/kg, showed that at the higher dose (400mg/kg/day) produced slightly improved performance than 100 and 200mg/kg doses in radial arm maze. Chronic administration of malkangani oil was associated with no detectable side effects in rats even with the 400mg/kg dose regimen. A decrease in acetylcholine esterase (AChE) activity was observed in the treated animals leading to enhanced cholinergic activity in the brain. A significant decrease in the AChE activity is also observed in the hippocampus, hypothalamus and frontal cortex of the rat brain. The mechanism by which C.paniculatus improves cognitive function may be due to elevated levels of acetylcholine in the brain.[27]


12.Anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory:

Yogesh A. Kulkarni et al., 2015 examined alcoholic extract of malkangani seeds found the notable anti-nociceptive effect in Swiss albino mice by hot plate and tail immersion tests, which showed the opioid mechanisms involvement. It also inhibited writhing, which was induced by acetic acid, by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase and inflammatory mediators. The alkali and methanolic seed extract are reported for anti-inflammatory activity by carrageenan- induced hind paw edema method on the albino rats, which is comparable with diclofenac sodium.[5,28]


The above information reveals that Malkangani oil is truly an ‘Elixir of Life' which has great demand in Ayurveda and also in the pharmaceutical market. The investigation to find the active constituents responsible for the neurological and psychopharmacological activities are yet to be done. Identification and further studies on those constituents will be a novel approach to develop therapeutically potential herbal formulations for neurological and psychiatric illnesses related therapies. The drug is also contained in many preparations as one ingredient which is available in market employed for brain related disorders.[29,30]


13. Miscellaneous effects:

Vijay Yadav et al., 2011 evaluated the anticonvulsant activity of ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts from the seeds of Malkangani when administered via intraperitoneally with increasing doses of 200mg/kg, 400mg/kg, 600mg/kg on maximal electroshock and pentylenetetrazole invoked convulsions in mice. The results of the study indicates the  probable efficacy of the herbal extract of Malkangani in seizures.[31] Similar kind of findings have been reported by various researchers on other plants as Santhosh Kumar Panda et al., 2018 have evaluated the neuroprotective and anticonvulsant effects of methanolic extract from the leaves of Ziziphus jujuba against pentylenetetrazole-invoked kindling model in mice.[32] P. Thamarai Selvi et al., 2012 investigated the effects of acetone extract of Azadirachta indica and the results revealed that acetone extract of Azadirachta indica exhibited significant enhancement of phenobarbitone invoked sleeping time compared to control.[33] Thamarai Selvi et al., have evaluated in the anticonvulsant and anxiolytic effects of Benincasa hispida in Swiss albino mice in 2010 by supramaximal electric shock invoked convulsions, Anxiolytic activity by Elevated plus maze model and skeletal muscles relaxant activity was examined by Rota-Rod  Apparatus.[34]


Nizamudeen.T et al., 2015 conducted a study on the antidepressant activity of Medha gulika-a polyherbal formulation in experimental animal models. Medhagulika exhibited a significant reduction in their immobility times in forced swimming test and tail suspension test which was notable when compared with control group.[35] P. Thamarai Selvi et al., 2012 investigated the antidepressant activity of ethanolic extract of leaves of Centella asiatica. Linn against forced swimming test in rodents against imipramine as reference standard. A dose dependent reduction in immobility period was observed.[36] C.A. Sureshkumar et al., 2010 evaluated the chloroform extract of the leaves of Coriandrum sativum Linn (Umbelliferae) for the probable antinociceptive activity in mice and anti-inflammatory effect in rats and reported similar results as by the Malkangani seed oil.[37] Anitha Kumari et al. 2011 inquired the anti-inflammatory effect of the leaves of P. zeylanica at doses of 50, 100 and 200mg/kg employing carrageenan invoked paw edema and cotton pellet invoked granuloma in rat models. Analgesic activity was examined by hot plate and acetic acid induced abdominal constriction assay.[38]


All of these plants which are reported exhibiting strong evidence of neurological interventions along with the Malkangani seed oil are the strong candidates for safe, effective and cost effective treatment of various neurological disorders. It is also been observed that many of these plants along with the Malkangani seed oil have been effectively used in various Ayurvedic preparations for the treatment of various neurological disorders and memory enhancement.



The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.



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Received on 09.07.2019          Modified on 24.08.2019

Accepted on 10.10.2019         © RJPT All right reserved

Research J. Pharm. and Tech 2020; 13(5):2452-2458.

DOI: 10.5958/0974-360X.2020.00439.4