Protium heptaphyllum (Aub) March

Nota de alcance

PARTE UTILIZADA= Used part: Corteza, hojas, goma.

ACCIÓN FARMACOLÓGICA= Pharmacological action: Contra tumores, depurativa, astringente, anticatarral.

COMPOSICIÓN QUÍMICA= Chemical composition: Coumarins, coumarinolignoids, terpenes.

ZONA GEOGRÁFICA= Geografical zone: Paraguay. 

Nota de alcance

ÚLTIMOS AVANCES EN LA QUÍMICA Y ACTIVIDADES BACTERIOLÓGICAS EN LAS PLANTAS MEDICINALES= Medicinal plants, last advances on chemistry and bacteria activities on the medicinal herbs

1) A review.  All natural resins are an important source of bioactive substances.  This paper is a review of the recent findings on the bioactivity of Protium heptaphyllum resin, its essential oil and major triterpenoid (a, a-amyrin) and where known the mechanisms were discussed.  The essential oil as well as a, a-amyrin manifests significant antinociceptive activity in tests of chem. nociception induced by capsaicin and formalin as well as in the models of visceral nociception induced by mustard oil or cyclophosphamide.  Both resin and the triterpenoid mixt. offers gastroprotection against acute gastric injury induced by abs. ethanol or ethanol/HCl in mice.  Further, the triterpenoid mixt. exhibits' antipruritus effect in the exptl. models of pruritus induced by compd. 48/80 or dextran.  The resin showed no significant influence on carrageenan-induced acute paw edema in mice but significantly inhibited the cotton pellets-induced granuloma.  The a,a-amyrin is able to suppress exptl. pruritus as evidenced from suppression of scratching behavior induced by dextran T40 or compd. 48/80 in mice.  Significant hepatoprotective effect of alpha, beta-amyrin was also evidenced against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice.  The resin and the triterpene mixt. are devoid of overt toxicity and showed no sedation or motor impairment in mice.  These findings indicate the potential gastroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of P. heptaphyllum resin, which may have clin. significance.

2) Essential oils from leaves and fruits of Protium heptaphyllum collected in Tamandare beach - Pernambuco/Brazil were analyzed by GC/MS and tested for toxicity and repellent effect against the two spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae).  The major constituent identified in the fruits was alpha-terpinene (47.6 %) whereas oil from leaf contained mainly sesquiterpenes such as 9-epi-caryophyllene (21.4 %), trans-isolongifolanone (10.7 %) and 14-hydroxi-9-epi-caryophyllene (16.7 %).  The fruit oil was found to be more effective against the mite when compared to the leaf oil.  Both showed mortality properties and oviposition deterrence in higher concn. (10 ml.l-1 air), but only the essential oil from fruits induced repellency on T. urticae.

3) A mixt. of triterpenes named alpha- and beta-amyrin (AMI), isolated from the Brazilian medicinal herb Protium heptaphyllum (Aubl) March (Burseraceae), was evaluated for the ability to inhibit aggregation of human platelets induced by ADP (ADP, 1.5 and 3 mM), collagen, and arachidonic acid (AA) in vitro.  The results showed that AMI significantly inhibited platelet aggregation (40, 64, and 60%) in the assay carried out with ADP (3 mM) as agonist, at the doses of 100, 150, and 200 mM, resp.  In the presence of a lower ADP concn. (1.5 mM), a 3-time higher percentage of inhibition (32%) was obsd. with AMI 50 mM, as compared to that seen with 3.0 mM ADP.  In the test using collagen (10 mg/mL) as agonist, AMI (50, 100, and 150 mM) inhibited aggregation by 26, 47, and 39%, resp., while in the presence of the arachidonic acid (150 mM) at the doses of 50, 100, 150, and 200 mM, it inhibited platelet aggregation by 20, 21, 25, and 27%, resp.  The lowest IC50 value for the AMI inhibitory effect was obsd. with collagen (90.0 mM), followed by ADP (117.9 mM) and arachidonic acid (181.4 mM).  With ADP as agonist, the anti-aggregant effect of the acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was potentiated by AMI but not by dipyridamole.  No potentiation was obsd. after the combination of ASA and AMI with collagen or arachidonic acid as agonists.  Our results indicated that AMI possesses a platelet anti-aggregant activity in a concn.-dependent manner and probably acts on a biochem. pathway common to all the agonists tested.

Nota de alcance (en)


Tropical South America


Protium heptaphyllum is the most widely distributed South American species of the genus (RECORD & HESS 1943) and is frequently found in Venezuela (SCHNEE 1960).

Ethnobotanical and general use
Nutritional use

In Colombia and Panama, the fleshy pulp of the fruit is eaten. In the argentine Chaco, a refreshing drink is prPpared from the fruits.

Economical utilization
The tree emanates a pleasant scent due to the incense-like resin that drops from any wound in the bark and collects abundantly on the ground around the tree. In the northern parts of South America, the Indians use the resin to scent the oil with which they anoint themselves. In Para, Brazil, the resin is collected and enters the world market under the name 'elemi', a term applied also to other burseraceous gums (RECORD & HESS 1943). The bark particularly has an aromatic fragrance reminiscent of turpentine. It exudates a transparent semiviscous resin. The resin is used for varnishes and as an incense. Indians add clay to the resin for making pots.

Medical use

Name of the drug: cortex, fructus.

The resin extracted from the plant is known as almaciga, anime, tacamahaca, tey and more commonly as elemi of Brazil. It is applied in many ways in pharmacy, e. g. as an antiinflammatory.

Leaf An infusion of the leaves is helpful against catarrh.

Bark. The bark of the stems and twigs, as well as the fruit, contain an abundance of a perfumed oleoresin which is soluble in alcohol (PITTIER 1926). This is localized in the large secretory canals. A decoction of the bark is helpful as a purifyer and an astringent. The exudate mixed with tallow of cows and applied in the form of a cataplasm, cures catarrhal affections. In Brazil and Colombia, the decoction of the gum-resin of the bark is used to cure tumors. The essential oil obtained from Protium heptaphyllum shows a cercaricidal activity (FRISCHKORN ET AL. 1978). A similar essential oil can be extracted form P. marginatum which kills 90 - 96 o/o of the cercarias within the first 15 minutes. This natural substance provides an attractive alternative to prevent schistosomiasis and to keep the natural waters healthy.

The essential oil of Protium heptaphyllum has some molluscicidal activity against Biomphalaria glabrata.

Fruit. The fruit produces a yellow, liquid and oily resin which is called oil of sassafras and is applied in popular medicine to cure syphilis, ulcers, acne, swellings and headache.
All species of the genus Protium could be useful in industry, not only for their perfumed durable wood, but also for their edible fruits and their oily seeds which could be used like olives (CORREA & BERNAL 1990).

Method of use

The leaves are used in an infusion.

From the bark, a decoction is prepared. The resin is extracted from the bark and is used pure or mixed with talcum and applied as a cataplasm.

Healing properties

Purifying and astringent. Used against headache catarrh, swellings, tumor, acne, ulcers and syphilis.


Uses: calmative.                                                 

Origin: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, 

Nota bibliográfica

1) 270 (doscientos setenta) plantas medicinales iberoamericanas. Santiago de Bogotá : CYTED-SECAB, 1995, p.214-215.

2) RAO, Vietla S. N., et al. Pharmacological and bioactivity studies on the natural resin from traditional medicinal plant, Protium heptaphyllum March.  Recent Progress in Medicinal Plants. 2007, vol.17: 273-282.       

3) PONTES, Wendel Jose Teles, et al. Chemical composition and acaricidal activity of the leaf and fruit essential oils of Protium heptaphyllum (Aubl.) Marchand (Burseraceae). Acta Amazonica. 2007, vol.37, nº, 103-109.       

4) ARAGAO, Gislei F., et al. Antiplatelet Activity of a - and b -Amyrin, Isomeric Mixture from Protium heptaphyllum. Pharmaceutical Biology (Philadelphia, PA, United States). 2007, vol.45, nº5, p.343-349.     

5) South American medicinal plants : botany, remedial properties, and general use / I. Roth, H. Lindorf. Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2002. -- p. 492.

6) Geraldini , Isanete, Journal of Ethnopharmacology v. 173, 2015 . -- p. 383-423

Protium heptaphyllum (Aub) March
Término aceptado: 10-Sep-2007