Home Herbal Monograph Swallow-Wort,Sodom Apple, Dead Sea Apple

The leaves were used in Vedic times in sun worship. The plants were considered sacred. Maruts worshipped on Saturdays with garland of its flowers. Ancient Arab tribes also had notions rooted in superstition about Calotropies probably in relation to sun worship.

Hindu physicians used the secretions from the root bark to treat skin diseases, enlargements of abdominal viscera, intestinal worms, cough, ascites, anasarca etc. The milky juice was regarded as a drastic purgative and caustic. Flowers were considered to improve digestion, catarrh and increase appetite. The leaf ash was given with whey to treat ascites and enlargements of abdominal viscera. The root bark with latex was smoked for cough. The root bark was also used to treat elephantiasis in South India. Its milky juice was applied for toothache.

In Cancon the flowering tops were used to treat asthma. The plant was also used in the treatment of leprosy, hepatic and splenic enlargements. Oil in which the leaves were boiled, was used in treating paralysis. Leaf powder was used in wound healing. It was considered as a substitute for Ipecacuanha and also possess the properties of Gutta-persica. The juice was used for the purpose of infanticide and was sometimes taken by women to induce abortion. Tanners used the milky juice to remove hair from hides.


It is found in most parts of the world in dry, sandy and alkaline soils and warm climate. In India it is found from Punjab and Rajasthan to Assam and Kanyakumari. Up to an altitude of 1050 m. It grows abundantly in Rajasthan. It is found in its waste lands and grows as a weed in agricultural lands. It grows well on rubbish heaps, waste and fallow lands, roadsides and sand dunes.

Morphology Description (Habit)

Erect, tall, large, much branched and perennial shrubs or small trees that grow to a height of 5.4 m., with milky latex throughout. Bark is soft and corky. Branches stout, terete with fine appressed cottony pubescence (especially on young). Leaves sub-sessile, opposite, decusate, broadly ovate-oblong, elliptic or obovate, acute, thick, glaucous, green, covered with fine cottony pubescent hair on young but glabrous later and base cordate. Flowers in umbellate-cymes and tomentose on young. Calyx glabrous, ovate and acute. Corolla glabrous, lobes errect, ovate, acute, coronal scales 5-6, latterly compressed and equally of exceeding the staminal column. Folicles are sub-globose or ellipsoid or ovoid. Seeds broadly ovate, acute, flattened, minutely tomentose, brown coloured and silky coma is 3.2 cm long.

Principal Constituents

In leaves mudarine is isolated as principal active constituent. Besides a yellow bitter acid, resin and 3 toxic glycosides calotropin, uscharin and calotoxin1. In latex a powerful bacteriolytic enzyme2, a very toxic glycoside calactin (which concentration is increased on insect or grass hopper attack as defense mechanism), calotropin D I, calotrapin D II, calotropin F I, calotropin F II and a non toxic protealytic enzyme calotopin (2-3%) had been identified This calotopin is more proteolytic than papain, and bromelain and coagulates milk, digests meat, gelatin and casein. whole plant contains a- and b-amyrin, b-amyrin, teraxasterol, gigantin, giganteol, isogiganteol, b-sitosterol and a wax.


The crude extract of C.procera and its protein fraction were found to possess high fibrinolytic and anticoagulant activity in rabbit and human plasma3.The alcoholic extract of leaves and roots were found to have anticancer activity against human epidermal carcinoma of the nasopharynx in tissue culture4. The aqueous and alcoholic extract has slight depression followed by stimulation of the rate and force of myocaedial contraction of isolated frog's heart. It also induce increase in blood pressure in dog, marked contractions in rabbit duodenum, rat's ileum and uterine horn of virgin rat. Aqueous extract has mild diuretic effect on rat5. Latex has anti-inflammatory properties. Petroleum ether extract of flowers showed abortifacient activity.


In higher doses root bark causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Prolonged higher doses cause head ache, burning micturition and leucorrhoea. The latex contains some poisonous constituents due to which it has a caustic effect on mucous membrane and tender skin. It increases heartbeat and respiration in animals leading to distress and death. Accidental splashing of latex in to the eye causes congestion of the eye with tear and local anaesthesia, followed by deeper effect due to absorption. Caloropin is one of the most violent poisons substances known. It is 15-20 times more toxic than strychnine6.

The medicinal properties are similar to C.gigantea. It has bitter, healing, laxative and anthemintic properties that relieves strangury, cures ulcers, acts as an expectorant. Its leaves are used to relieve stomach pain. Its flower is a tonic, appetiser, stomachic, that cures piles, asthma and wounds. Its milky juice is a blistering agent. Its flowers are useful in cholera.

  1. Chaudhri, Bull Bot Sur India, 3,171, 1961.
  2. Shukla, J Sci Indst Res, 20C, 109, 1961.
  3. Srivastava, Indian J Med Sci, 16, 873, 1962.
  4. Dhar, Indian J Exptl Biol, 6, 232, 1968; Bhakuni, Indian J Exptl Biol, 7, 250, 1969.
  5. Devasari, Indian J Pharm, 27, 272, 1965.
  6. Perry, Medicinal Plants of East and South East Asia.