Home Herbal Monograph The Caper Bush

The Caper bark does not appear to have been used as a medicine by the Hindus until introduced by the Mohameddans. Its fruits were mentioned in Sanskrit works. It also appeared in Greek and Latin works. The author of the Makhzan-el-Adwiya gave a good description of the plant and mentioned the root bark as the most active part. He considered it to be hot and dry that acted as a detergent and astringent, expelling cold humors. It was recommended in dropsy, gouty and rheumatic affections. All parts of the plant was said to have a stimulating and astringent effect when applied externally. The fresh plant yielded a volatile oil having the properties of garlic oil.


It grows in Afghanistan, West Asia, Europe, North Africa and Australia. In India it grows from Punjab and Rajasthan to the Deccan Peninsula.

Morphology Description (Habit)

A prostrate, glabroscent, polymorph shrub or climber armed with divaricate light yellow thorns, occurring in dry rocky and stony soils. Branches terete and glabrous or pubescent. Leaves are variable in texture, orbicular to elliptic, base rounded and apex mucronate. Flowers are white, solitary, axillary. Sepals are sub equal, petals are white, and its anther filaments are purple and are longer than the petals. The berry is ellipsoid, ovoid or obovoid and pericarp thin. The seeds are 3-4 mm in diam., globose, smooth and brown.

Principal Constituents

The cortex and leaves contain stachydrine and 3-hydroxystachydrine. The root contains, glucobrassicin, neoglucobrassicin and 4-methoxy-glucobrassicin. The crude extract of the flowerbuds contains 162 volatile constituents of which isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, sulphides and their oxidative products have been identified as the major components1. The seeds and leaves contain glucocapparin and glucocleomin. The root bark contains stachydrine, rutic acid and a volatile substance with garlic odour.


Liv.52, a Ayurvedic preparation is reported to protect albino rats against toxic effects of beryllium compounds, and mice against Semiliki Forest Virus (SFV) 2.


The plant is credited with anti-tubercular property. The root bark is extensively used in Ayurvedic system of medicine. The bark is bitter, diuretic and expectorant. It is given in spleen, renal and hepatic complaints. The bruised leaves are applied as a poultice in gout. An extract of the plant is one of the constituents of the Ayurvedic preparation `Liv.52' administered to treat preliminary cases of acute viral hepatitis and cirrhosis of liver; and has shown encouraging results against viral infection in man. The plant extract is also a constituent of another drug `Geriforte' useful in treating senile pruritis, itching and other ailments associated with old age and anxiety neurosis.

  1. Schraudolf, Phytochemistry, 1989, 28, 259; Brevard et. al., Flav Fraqr J, 1992, 7, 313.
  2. Mathur et. al., Curr Sci, 1986, 55, 899; Handa et. al., Fitoterapia, 1986, 57, 347; Sama et. al., Indian J med Res, 1976, 64, 738; Bhargava & Soni, Rajasthan med J, 1980, 19, 23; Gupta et. al., Probe, 1979-80, 19, 99; Khandeparker & Kulkarni, Indian Drugs , 1980-81, 18, 346.