The arjuna, scientific name Terminalia arjuna, is a lofty evergreen tree that is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. This tree often grows to a height of about 100 feet or 30 meters and bears yellow blooms and tapering leaves. The bark of the arjuna tree possesses therapeutic properties and has been used by people for centuries to treat different conditions.
Arjuna is an exceptional herb that aids in facilitating a hale and hearty heart and diminishes the results of the anxiety and apprehension. In addition, using the bark of the tree endorses effectual functioning of the cardiac muscles. As a result, arjuna has been a preferred herb in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical science, for treating as well as maintaining the health of the cardiovascular system. Primarily, the ingestion of medications prepared with bark of arjuna ensures usual functioning of the heart, provides energy to the heart muscles, promotes the functioning of platelets as well as helps in sustaining a steady blood pressure level. The chemical analysis of the arjuna bark has revealed that the main elements enclosed by this herb include ellagic acid, arjunic acid and Beta-sitosterol.
As mentioned above the Terminalia arjuna tree possesses wide-ranging therapeutic properties and has the potential to treat numerous medical conditions, especially those pertaining to the heart and circulation system. By tradition, people of the Indian subcontinent have used this herb for treating several ailments. This tree is considered to be an excellent hypolipidemic, anticoagulant, hypocholsteremic, antihypertensive, antiviral, antithrombotic, antifungal and antibacterial mean. While the bark of the tree is of utmost important from the therapeutic point of view, researchers have examined other parts of arjuna to ascertain if the herb possesses phytoconstituents as well as pharmacological actions. Thus far, scientists have been able to isolate several valuable phytoconstituents from the tree. The therapeutic properties of the tree regarding cardiovascular health are basically attributed to triterpenoids enclosed by the arjuna tree. Similarly, flavonoids and tannins naturally present in the herb possess anticancer properties. In this article we shall primarily discuss about the traditional use, pharmacological actions of the extracts obtained from the herb and the phytoconstituents of Terminalia arjuna during the last nine decades.
Precisely speaking, the Terminalia arjuna is a herb belonging to the Terminalia genus and is extensively used by ayurvedic medicinal practitioners. Ayurvedic physicians utilize the remedial properties of the herb in the intrinsic or functional heart problems, such as angina (chest pains owing to the absence of blood to the heart), deposits in arteries and hypertension or high blood pressure. The ayurvedic texts also assert that medications prepared with the herb are also effective in treating any kind of pain owing to a fall, ecchymosis (bleeding from broken vessels into the adjoining tissues), spermatorrhoea (ejaculation with no pleasure of orgasm) as well as sexually transmitted diseases (STD) like gonorrhoea (a genital disease caused by a gonococcus bacterium). As discussed above, the bark of this herb also possesses numerous therapeutic properties and is considered to be especially effective in treating cardiovascular ailments. A study conducted on this subject has confirmed this remedial property of the Terminalia arjuna bark. The study also found that ingestion of the dried and powdered bark of the tree has proved to be effective in improving the conditions of patients enduring coronary heart ailments.
Several studies have hinted that using the herb is highly effective in providing relief from the excruciating pain due to angina pectoris as well as for the treatment of heart failure and coronary artery ailment. In addition, medications prepared with different parts of the herb are also beneficial for treating conditions like hypercholesterolemia (excessively high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream). The herb's utility in protecting the cardiovascular system as well as promoting its functioning is attributed to the antioxidant features of a number of its constituents - oligomeric proanthocyanidins and flavonoids. At the same time, it is believed that the helpful inotropic (having an influence on the force of muscular contraction) consequences are likely to be a result of the saponin glycosides enclosed by the herb. Apart from being an effective medication for different cardiovascular conditions, Terminalia arjuna may also be used as a protective agent against gastric ulcers, for instance ulcers caused by the use of NSAIDs or pain killers.
The leaves of arjuna tree are also useful as the Antheraea paphia moths feed on them. This species of moths produces tassar silk (Tussah), a raw form of silk that has great commercial value as a fabric.
In ayurvedic medicine, Terminalia arjuna is one of the most widely prescribed herbs for treating cardiovascular problems. It has been found that the bark of arjuna tree encloses valuable substances, including tannins, calcium salts, magnesium salts and glucosides. The bark of the tree is considered to be an energizer, a tonic and an astringent and is extensively used to heal hemorrhages, dysentery, diarrhea, edema, and skin disorders as well as bone fractures. Apart from the above mentioned remedial properties of the arjuna bark, studies have found it to possess antimutagenic and antibacterial properties.
The medical condition specific benefits of using herbal medications are discussed in brief below.
Angina, Congestive Heart Failure and Heart Attack: The basic advantage of using Terminalia arjuna is enhancement of the functioning of the cardiac muscles as well as augmented pumping actions of the heart. It is generally thought that saponin glycosides contained in the herb are responsible for the positive impacts caused by administering medications prepared with arjuna in treatment of several conditions, especially those related to the cardiovascular system. Arjuna encloses oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) and flavonoids, which facilitate reinforcement of the blood vessels and simultaneously possess antioxidant actions. In fact, the herb is extensively used in the treatment of heart failure and edema (extreme build-up of serous fluid in tissue spaces or a body cavity), especially in the ankles and legs as the heart is unable to circulate adequate amount of blood to these body parts.
During a study conducted over three months on angina patients taking arjuna, Indian medical practitioners pursued several health indicators, such as high density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good' cholesterol) cholesterol, blood pressure as well as the rate of angina attacks endured by the subjects. In general, these physicians found that the patients experienced around 50 per cent decrease in the rate of angina attacks having lesser systolic blood pressure and somewhat enhanced levels of HDL cholesterol. It was also found that during the initial three months of treatment with arjuna, the herb provided comparatively lesser relief from the condition when angina was unstable in the patients. Nevertheless, a double-blind research conducted with arjuna on angina patients for the duration of more that 24 months resulted in decreased symptoms, enhanced movements by the patients, who asserted that they experienced an improvement in their quality of life. It has been confirmed that the habitual use of Terminalia arjuna for a minimum period of one year will fortify as well as maintain the heart in its best health.
Gonorrhea: Studies undertaken by scientists at the Arizona State University have ascertained that a bio-available compound present in Terminalia arjuna - luteolin, is effective in combating Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium responsible for developing this sexually transmitted disease (STD). The influence of luteolin may also aid in explicating the effectiveness of the herb in the treatment of heart ailments, as an associated microorganism known as Chlamydia is likely to be associated in the development of atherosclerosis (a widespread ailment of the arteries wherein raised areas of deterioration and cholesterol deposits plaques form on the internal surfaces of the arteries hindering blood circulation).
In fact, Terminalia arjuna functions as a biological maintenance agent for the heart. The herb endorses the usual functioning of the heart, provides energy to the heart muscles, sustains the functioning of platelet as well as maintains the normal blood pressure level. That the herb possesses properties that can regulate cholesterol levels in the blood stream is evident from the fact that arjuna has the aptitude to encourage the lipid absorption by the blood. Overall, the herb is effective in sustaining the health of the heart and thereby, diminishes the consequences of anxiety and uneasiness on the heart.
Herbal medicine practitioners in ancient India utilized the dried and pulverized bark of arjuna tree to provide relief from the excruciating chest pain caused by ‘hristshool' or angina as well as other cardiovascular problems. The bark of Terminalia arjuna encloses vast amounts of flavonoids, glycosides, tannins and other valuable minerals. It has been established that flavonoids are responsible for anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and lipid lessening effects. Similarly, glycosides present in the arjuna bark serve as a tonic or stimulant for the heart. Hence, these therapeutic properties possessed by Terminalia arjuna makes it an exceptional medicinal plant among all the herbs used by physicians currently. This review of the remedial properties of Terminalia arjuna endeavours to deliberate on different characteristics of the herb's pharmacognostical, ethnomedical, pharmacological, phytochemical and clinical significance or consequences vis-à-vis the different cardiovascular conditions.
Several investigational researches undertaken with Terminalia arjuna have shown that the bark of the tree wielded noteworthy inotropic and hypotensive influence enhancing the flow of blood in the coronary artery and simultaneously protecting the heart muscles or the myocardium against ischemic discharges or secretions caused by poor blood supply to the heart muscles. In addition, the arjuna bark has also been found to possess moderate diuretic, prostaglandin E2 augmenting, antithrombotic (protecting against thrombosis) and hypolipidaemic (disorders caused owing to poor levels of lipids in blood stream) actions. In fact, researchers have several clinical verifications of the fact that the bark of arjuna alone possesses valuable remedial properties that are effective for treating coronary artery disease.
In addition, this herb may also be used effectively in combination with statins to cure coronary heart problems. Many scientists are of the view that taking into account the herb's anti-ischemic actions and its capability to improve dyslipidemia (a medical condition distinguished by abnormal concentrations of lipids or lipoproteins in the blood), decrease left ventricular mass and augment left ventricular ejection fraction, there is a need to undertake further in-depth investigative studies regarding the actions of arjuna when taken in combination with statins. Substantiating their view, these scientists assert that this is essential to ascertain the precise role of arjuna in the general administration as well as prevention of coronary artery disease.
Side effects and cautions
Arjuna is available commercially in the form of capsules. In fact, ayurvedic medications containing Terminalia arjuna are prepared by combining approximately more than 30 herbs that are also known to be effective for the health of the cardiovascular system. It is important to note that arjuna has a very potent effect on the muscles of the heart and, hence, it should be taken to treat angina or congestive heart failure only after checking with a qualified medical practitioner.