Why Aspidosperma is called as Digitalis of Lungs

Why Aspidosperma is called as Digitalis of Lungs

Why Aspidosperma is called as Digitalis of Lungs


Aspidosperma is a highly effective remedy in stimulation of respiratory centers and use in cardiac asthma. This article is about the action of alkaloids of aspidosperma in the body. Aspidosperma is why it is called as digitalis of lungs. Action of aspidosperma in various advanced respiratory conditions.

Aspidosperma Plant:

Commonly known as quebracho blanco. Aspidosperma quebrachoblanco is an evergreen tree. It reaches 20 to 30 meters in height in the humid Chaco, and 8 to 12 meters in the dry Chaco.

Species:A. Quebracho-blanco
binomial name
Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco

Pharmacological Action of Aspidosperma:

Aspidosperma contains various kinds of alkaloids in which “yohimbine” is the main alkaloid of aspidosperma. Yohimbine is also known as quebrachine.it is an indole alkaloid derived from the bark of the African trees and also from bark.

Yohimbine is an alpha 2 adrenoceptors antagonist and that has use for erectile dysfunction. These alpha 2 receptors are found in both the brain and periphery. In the brain stem they modulate sympathetic outflow.

Yohimbine is an alpha 2 blocking agent and its peripheral autonomic effect is to decrease sympathetic activity and to increase parasympathetic activity.

Alpha-adrenergic receptors play an important role in the regulation of blood pressure (BP). There are 2 principal types of alpha receptors, alpha 1 and alpha 2, and both participate in circulatory control. Alpha 1 receptors are the classic postsynaptic alpha receptors and are found on vascular smooth muscle. They determine both arteriolar resistance and venous capacitance, and thus BP. Alpha 2 receptors are found both in the brain and in the periphery. In the brain stem, they modulate sympathetic outflow. Their function in the periphery is not yet fully understood, but they may contribute both to control of sympathetic tone and to local and regional blood flow. 

The indication for the use of an alpha-adrenergic receptor modifying medication depends on which receptor is the target: the alpha-1 receptor or the alpha-2 receptor. Alpha-1 receptors bind catecholamine’s including, both epinephrine and norepinephrine. In instances in which there is hypo perfusion secondary to decreased cardiac output or decreased systemic vascular resistance, alpha-1 receptors become stimulated.  It is worth noting that these compounds are not purely selective for the alpha receptor, and often engage beta-adrenergic receptors as well. The use of alpha-1 agonists is common in all types of shock, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and heart failure decompensation. Alpha-1 agonists, such as phenylephrine, are also used to treat upper airway congestion as stimulating the receptor leads to a decreased mucus secretion. Alpha-antagonists, colloquially known as alpha-blockers, work in the peripheral vasculature and inhibit the uptake of catecholamine in smooth muscle cells resulting in vasodilation and blood pressure lowering.

The alpha-2 receptor acts as an allosteric inhibitor through gi function, leading to an inhibition of adenylyl cyclase, decreasing the formation of intracellular camp.  It also leads to a reduced amount of cytoplasmic calcium, which decreases neurotransmitter release and central vasodilation. Epinephrine and norepinephrine have relatively equal affinities for both types of alpha-receptors, with other drugs used in shock having a higher selectivity for the alpha-1 receptor.  

The increase in cholinergic activity and the decrease in adrenergic activity both can cause increase in mucus secretion and bronchoconstriction.

The respiratory center is located in the medulla oblongata and is involved in the minute-to-minute control of breathing. Unlike the cardiac system, respiratory rhythm is not produced by a homogeneous population of pacemaker cells.

But when this aspidosperma medicine potentised and it will activate respiration centers which are present in the brain stem and prevent bronchospasm, that’s why its use in cardiac asthma, ARDS, and other respiratory diseases.

As per Boericke Materia Medica Says:

1. The digitalis of the lungs. (Hale.)

2. Removes temporary obstruction to the oxidation of the blood by stimulating respiratory centers, increasing oxidation and excretion of carbonic acid.

3. Pulmonary stenosis.

4. Thrombosis of pulmonary artery.

5. Uremic dyspnea.

6. An effective remedy in many cases of asthma.

7. It stimulates the respiratory centers and increases the oxygen in the blood.

8.”Want of breath” during exertion is the guiding symptom.

9. Cardiac asthma.


  1. Boericke’s materia medica
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/s0012369216393539#:~:text=yohimbine%20is%20an%20alpha%2d2%20blocking%20agent.,and%20to%20increase%20parasympathetic%20activity.&text=the%20increase%20in%20cholinergic%20activity,in%20mucus%20secretion%20and%20bronchoconstriction.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/aspidosperma_quebracho-blanco
  4. https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/db01392
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk539830/#:~:text=%5b19%5d%20the%20alpha%2d2,neurotransmitter%20release%20and%20central%20vasodilation.
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2869681/#:~:text=alpha%202%20receptors%20are%20found,local%20and%20regional%20blood%20flow.


About the author

Dr. Akash Chudasama

Dr Akash Chudasama - Md Scholar Part 1 in Practice Medicine