Medicinal properties of Fructus Ammi Majoris | Umbelliferous fruit

Medicinal properties of Fructus Ammi Majoris | Umbelliferous fruit

Medicinal properties of Fructus Ammi Majoris | Umbelliferous fruit

Synonyms: Apium ammi Crantz, Selinum ammoides E.H.L. Krause. Apiaceae are also known as Umbelliferae.

Selected vernacular names: Aatrilal, ammi commun, bishop’s weed, bullwort, crow’s foot, cumin royal, devil’s carrot, gazar el-shitan, greater ammi, habab, herb william, hirz al-shayateen, khella shaitani, khellah shitany, mayweed, nounkha, qciba, rejl el-ghorab, rijl al-tair, zfenderi el maiz

 Characteristic features:

Usually herbs, leaves alternate with sheathing bases; internodes usually hollow.

Plants aromatic with ethereal oils, terpenoids, saponins and other compounds.

Inflorescences usually involucrate compound umbels (sometimes simple or condensed into a head).

Flowers: small, inconspicuous. 5 sepals, distinct, much reduced; 5 petals distinct but developing from a ring-like primordium, usually inflexed; 5 stamens, filaments distinct; 2 connate carpels in an inferior ovary.

Styles are basally swollen to form a nectar-secreting structure (stylopodium) atop the ovary.

Fruit: a schizocarp, the 2 dry segments (mericarps) attached to an entire to deeply forked central stalk (carpophores).

Seeds with oil glands.

Major chemical constituents

The major constituents are furanocoumarins, the principal compounds being xanthotoxin (methoxsalen, 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP) ammoidin; up to 1.15%), imperatorin (ammidin; up to 0.75%) and bergapten (heraclin, majudin, 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP), up to 1.88%). Other coumarins of signifi cance are marmesin (up to 0.25%), isoimperatorin (0.01%), heraclenin (0.07%) and isopimpinellin (0.01%). Other constituents of interest are acetylated flavonoids.

Medicinal uses

Uses supported by clinical data: Treatment of skin disorders such as psoriasis and vitiligo (acquired leukoderma)

Uses described in pharmacopoeias and well established documents: Treatment of vitiligo

Uses described in traditional medicine: As an emmenagogue to regulate menstruation, as a diuretic, and for treatment of leprosy, kidney stones and urinary tract infections


Experimental pharmacology

Antimicrobial and antischistosomal activities

A 50% dilution of an acetone or 95% ethanol extract of Fructus Ammi Majoris inhibited the growth of the fungus Neurospora crassa

in vitro. Intragastric administration of 400.0 mg/kg body weight (bw) of a hot aqueous extract or 15.0 mg/kg bw of a petroleum ether extract of the fruits per day for 6 days reduced the Schistosoma mansoni worm burden in mice by 49.3–72.3%.

Miscellaneous effects

Intragastric administration of 500.0 mg/kg bw of the powdered fruits per day to rats for 4 weeks did not reduce the incidence of glycolic acid induced kidney stones

Photosensitizing effects

Xanthotoxin is available in synthetic form and is a known photosensitizing agent and ant psoriatic. The augmented sunburn reaction involves excitation of the drug molecule by radiation in the long-wave ultraviolet (UV) A range. The transfer of energy to the drug molecule produces a triplet electronic state. The excited molecule then binds covalently with cutaneous DNA, forming a cyclobutane ring with the DNA pyrimidine bases, within the epidermal cells of the skin. In this manner, xanthotoxin inhibits nuclear division and cell proliferation


Intoxication due to the simultaneous ingestion of ergot alkaloids from Claviceps purpurea sclerotia and furanocoumarins from Ammi majus seeds was reported in pigs after ingestion of contaminated feed. Nervous system intoxication was fi rst observed 5–7 days after the initiation of feeding of the suspect rations. This was followed by cutaneous irritation, including snout ulcers, eyelid oedema and conjunctivitis. Ten days after the feeding, eight abortions were observed and, in nursing sows, udder oedema and teat cracking were observed. Examination of the adulterated feed indicated that it contained 2.2% A. majus seeds and 0.14% C. purpurea sclerotia. Quantitative analysis showed the presence of 3.2 g of xanthotoxin and 0.65 g of imperatorin per 100 g of A. majus seeds, and 0.73 g of ergot alkaloids per 100 g of C. purpurea sclerotia.

The median lethal doses (LD50) of xanthotoxin, imperatorin and bergapten injected into the ventral lymph sac of toads were 13.8 mg/100 g bw, 14.0 mg/100 g bw and 32.0 mg/100 g bw, respectively. In rats, the intramuscular LD50 values were 16.0 mg/kg bw, 33.5 mg/kg bw and 94.5 mg/ kg bw, respectively.

After 4–8 days of administration of 2 g of A. majus seeds per day to 3- to 5-week-old goslings in the diet, the animals became photosensitive. Photosensitivity appeared after 4–5 hours of exposure to sunlight and was characterized by erythema, haematomas and blisters on the upper side of the beak. The photoirritant effects of fi ve constituents of A. majus seeds, xanthotoxin, imperatorin, isopimpinellin, bergapten and isoimperatorin, were evaluated in the mouse-ear assay. Isoimperatorin was the most irritant compound (median irritant dose (ID50) 0.0072 mg after 5 days of treatment), while imperatorin was the least irritant (ID50 0.3823 mg after 6 days of treatment). The three other compounds showed minimal photo irritant activity.

Chronic toxicity in the form of decreases in the red blood cell count and haemoglobin A concentration was observed in mice after administration of 100.0 mg/kg bw of a 95% ethanol extract of the fruits in drinking water. Administration of 6.2–18.9 g/kg bw of the fruits per day in the diet to cattle and sheep for 49 days caused photosensitization in both species. Ingestion of A. majus seeds together with exposure to sunlight caused mydriasis in geese and ducks. Chronic 7-week exposure of ducks and geese to the fruits (dose not specified) caused severe deformities of the beak and foot webs, mydriasis and ventral displacement of the pupils. Ophthalmological examination of the animals revealed dense pigmentation in the fundus (pigmentary retinopathy) and hyperplasia of the retinal pigment epithelium. The iris showed varying degrees of atrophy of the sphincter pupillae

Intragastric administration of a single dose of 8.0 g/kg bw of the fruits to sheep produced cloudy cornea, conjunctivokeratitis, photophobia and oedema of the muzzle, ears and vulva. Intragastric administration of 2.0 g/kg or 4.0 g/kg bw per day produced similar symptoms after 72–96 hours

Adverse reactions

One case of phototoxic dermatitis was reported in a patient with vitiligo after ingestion of Fructus Ammi Majoris. One case of allergic rhinitis and contact urticaria due to exposure to the fruits was reported. Phototoxic reactions were reported in subjects who handled the fruits and were subsequently exposed to sunlight.

Erythema developed within 48–72 hours and persisted for several days. Skin that had been protected from sunlight for 30 days after exposure still had many erythematous areas and became irritated again when re-exposed to the sun. Small areas of darker pigmentation developed in the skin of some subjects. Prolonged use or overdose may cause nausea, vertigo, constipation, lack of appetite, headache, allergic symptoms and sleeplessness

Photochemotherapy combining administration or application of xanthotoxin with UV-light treatment can be repeated many times (four times a week), and after about 14 days of therapy, a clear dilution of the epidermis results, cornifi cation normalizes and the infl ammation fades away. However, overdosage may result in severe erythema and blistering. This can partly be prevented through the application of β-carotene


A 5-year prospective study of ophthalmological findings in 1299 patients treated with oral xanthotoxin plus UV photo chemotherapy for psoriasis failed to demonstrate a significant dose-dependent increase in the risk of developing cataracts

Other adverse reactions reported after treatment with xanthotoxin include itching, nausea, oedema, hypotension, nervousness, vertigo, depression, painful blistering, burning and peeling of the skin, pruritus, freckling, hypopigmentation, rash, cheilitis and erythema


Fructus Ammi Majoris is contraindicated in diseases associated with photosensitivity, cataract, invasive squamous-cell cancer, known sensitivity to xanthotoxin (psoralens), and in children under the age of 12 years. The fruits are also contraindicated in pregnancy, nursing, tuberculosis, liver and kidney diseases, human immunodefi ciency virus (HIV) infections and other autoimmune diseases

Drug interactions

The toxicity of Fructus Ammi Majoris may be increased when the fruits are administered with other photosensitizing agents such as coal tar, dithranol, griseofulvin, nalidixic acid, phenothiazines, sulfanilamides, tetracyclines and thiazides



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