Qualitative identification of the active principles in Citrullus colocynthis and evaluation of its teratogenic effects in albino rats

Amer Abdalla Elgerwi, Zuhira Benzekri, Abdelrazzag El-Magdoub, Abubakr El-Mahmoudy


Background: This study was designed to identify the active contents of Citrullus colocynthis plant and to examine their teratogenicity in rats. The fruit pulp of the poisonous plant was collected randomly from Suq-Alkhamis district, Tripoli, Libya.

Methods: The glucoside colocynthin was isolated by lead acetate method while the alkaloids and saponins were isolated by maceration method. These active principles were then identified by chemical tests, color reactions and thin layer chromatography. Possible teratogenic effects of the fruit pulp extract was investigated by its administration to twelve pregnant rats on the 7th day of gestation at a dose of 40.6 mg/kg body weight that is equivalent to one fourth of the LD50 of the extract.

Results: Gross anatomical observation on the 20th day of gestation revealed a high percentage of resorbed fetuses, smaller size and weight fetuses as well as absence of coccygeal vertebrae, metacarpal and metatarsal bones, and carpal and tarsal bones.

Conclusions: It could be concluded that the extract of fruit pulp of Citrullus colocynthis, obtained from Libya, contain glucosidal as well as other principles that may cause teratogenic effects if given during at the early stage of pregnancy.


Citrullus colocynthis, Glucosides, Alkaloids, Saponins, Fetuses, Malformations

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