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Senega Roots

Botanical Name(s): Polygala Senega, Polygala Vulgaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Polygalaceae
Genus: Polygala
Species: P. amarella
Popular Name(s): Seneca snakeroot
Parts Used: Roots
Habitat: Cultivated in India

Polygala Senega has a perennial branching root, from which several erect, simple, smooth, round, and leafy stems annually rise, around nine inches to a foot in height. The stems are occasionally tinged with red or purple at the end, but are green near the top. The leaves are alternate or scattered, lanceolate, pointed, smooth, and bright green on the upper surface. The outer three sepals in the flower of the plant are generally green and small in shape. In contrast, the inner two sepals are bigger in size and bright blue in color. They can also be in white, mauve or pink in color. Fresh senega root has a pleasant smell, similar to that of wintergreen. This fragrance is so because it contains approximately 0.1 % methyl salicylate. However, the active ingredient in the herb is a complex mixture of triterpenoid saponins. The concentration of triterpenoid saponins may range from 8 to 16%. Northern senega, which grows in the northwestern states of United States, is considerably larger than the regular variety. It is also darker in color.

Plant chemicals
Seneca snakeroot contains a series of saponins, constructed from the 2, 3, 27-trihydroxy-oleanane 23, 28-dioic acid triterpene skeleton (presenegenin). A variety of methoxy-cinnamate esters are attached at the internal sugar of the C-28 chain. These saponins have been named senegins ?-?V and senegasaponins A-C, which can be analyzed by HPLC. Several other species of Polygala contain distinct, but very similar saponins based on the same sapogenin. An extensive series of ester oligosaccharides, senegoses A-O, have been isolated from P. senega var. latifolia.

Uses & Benefits of Senega Roots