Spring Adonis

Spring Adonis

Spring Adonis

Specification & Spread

Spring Adonis herb – herba adonidis vernalis
Adonis vernalis l.
Ranunculaceous family — ranunculaceae
Other names: steamed herb, black herb, ontenegrin, Siberian adonis, pyrethrum, big-mouthed sculpin.
It is a perennial herbaceous plant with 3-4 stems 5-20 cm tall at the beginning of flowering and then it grows up to 40 cm and more.
The rhizome is short, dark brown, almost black in colour with numerous shiny black roots. At the base the stems are covered with a brown palea. The renewal buds of this plant develop in the sinuses.
The leaves are alternate, sessile, broadly ovate in shape, palmately parted into 5 segments, which are pinnatisected or  bipinnatisected into linear, bare, sibulate and acuminate segments 0.5-2 cm long and 0.5-1 mm wide.
At the apex of the stems the flowers are solitary, yellow and large. This flowers have 5-8 sepals. It is green and slightly hairy. There are 15-20 petals, many stamens and pistils. The fruit is a multinucula.
The presence of a downward aduncate stab at the top of each nut-fruit is a characteristic feature.
It blooms in April – May, the fruits ripen in June – July. The whole plant is poisonous.
Spreading. It grows in steppe and forest-steppe zones of the European part of the country and Western Siberia. The herb harvesting is mainly carried out in Western Siberia (Kemerovo and Novosibirsk regions, Altai Territory), in the Southern Urals, in the Middle Volga region and in the Central Black Earth regions of the European part of Russia. In traditional harvesting areas spring Adonis thickets are severely depleted due to its intensive use, non-compliance with harvesting rules and human economic activities. Due to the fact that spring Adonis could not be introduced into the agriculture, the need for the raw materials is satisfied only by harvesting the raw materials from wild plants.
Habitat. It grows in deciduous forests, along forest edges, among bushes, on open slopes, on steppe meadows and steppe beams. It prefers black soil that is rich in lime.


The herb of this plant contains 0.13-0.80% of cardiac (cardiotonic) glycosides. The ripe fruits and leaves are the richest in it.
In total, in this plant there were discovered 25 individual cardiotonic glycosides – derivatives of strophanthidine and adonitoxigenin.
The herb of spring Adonis contains K-strophanthin-beta and cymarin, the roots contain K-strophanthin-beta.
Adonitoxin is a specific cardenolide of spring Adonis. Also, upon hydrolysis, it decomposes into adonitoxigenin and L-rhamnose. In addition to glycosides, 2.6-dimethoxyquinone,
phytosterols, flavonoids (adonivernit, orientin, vitexin, etc.), steroid saponins (6.8-9.4%), organic acids,
carotenoids (1.3-2.6 mg%), as well as choline, coumarins, alcohol adonite are also extracted from the herb.
Depending on the stage of the plant development, the content of cardiac (cardiotonic) glycosides varies in some way. Its greatest content and pharmacological activity are noted in the flowering and fruiting stages.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. From the beginning of the flowering stage until the abscission of fruits the above-ground part of the plant (herb) is harvested. It is necessary to cut off the herb above the brown palea at a height of 7-10 cm from the soil surface with a sickle, shears, scissors or scythe, and then choose the shoots of Adonis from the mowed mass.
It is forbidden to break off, pull out the shoots, as this leads to damage of the renewal buds.
Security measures. For the renewal of thickets, some of the plants are left uncut. The plants from seeds grow very slowly. It takes years to make full-grown plants suitable for the harvesting. In old and traditional areas the periodicity of harvesting should be in 4-5 years. It is necessary to organize forest reserves, stop plowing the lands occupied by Adonis thickets.
Drying. It is dried in open air, in the shade, without access to direct sunlight. It is spreaded out in a thin layer and occasionally turned over. Besides, it is dried in artificial dryers at a temperature of 50-60 °C. It is forbidden to dry the herb tied in bunches, as it turns black.
Storage. It is stored in a dry, dark place with precaution per the list B, at a temperature not higher than 15 ºС and relative humidity of 30-50%. The biological activity of the raw materials is annually monitored.

Whole raw materials
There are whole or partially milled leafy stems with or without flowers, less often with buds or fruits of different development degrees and sometimes partially shattered.
The stems are cut above the brown lower cataphyll. It is 10-35 cm long, up to 0.4 cm thick, simple or less subramous. The leaves are alternate, sessile, half-stem-embracing, rounded or broadly elliptical in shape, palmatisected into 5 segments. The two  lower ones are palmatisected, three upper ones are bipalmatisected. The leaf segments are linear. On the tip it is acuminate and subulate, plain, 0.5–2 cm long and  0.5–1 mm wide. During the blossom it is hard.
The solitary flowers are on the crowns of the stems, regular, about 3.5 cm in diameter, choripetalous, with 5-8 sepals, 15-20 petals and numerous stamens and pistils.
The sepals are ovate and obtuse at the top, with rare dentate. Also it is hairy, and easily deciduous.
The petals are oblong-elliptical, narrowed at the top and denticulated. The fruit is an oval multinucula, consisting of numerous dry nuts, sitting on a cylindrical brown anthoclinium. The nuts are 3.5-5.5 mm long, about 3 mm wide, oval, with a short hamate stab, savoyed cellular and hairy. The colour of the stems and leaves is green. The flowers are golden yellow, and the fruits are greyish- green. The smell is weak. The taste is not determined!
Milled raw materials
There are the pieces of stems, leaves, parts of flowers and fruits passing through a sieve with holes of 7 mm in diameter. The colour of the pieces of stems and leaves is green, the flowers are golden yellow. The smell is weak. The taste is not determined.
Other types of Adonis
Turkestani Adonis – Adonis turkestanica (Korsh.) Adolf
It is a perennial herbaceous plant. It grows in mountain meadows of Central Asia. It is an endemic. The leaves are bipinnatisected, triply pinnatisected and sessil. The leaf segments are lanceolate. While drying the large yellow flowers are flat and become bluish. In terms of biological activity, it is somewhat inferior to spring Adonis. It can be used in a similar way.
Golden Adonis – Adonis chrysocyathus Hook. fil. et Thoms.
It is a perennial herbaceous plant. It grows in the highland meadows of Pamir-Alai and Tien Shan. The raw material base is limited. It is included in the Red Book. The leaves are long-petiolate and triply pinnatisected. The leaf segments are rhombic or lanceolate. The flowers are large and golden. The outer petals are with a lilac shade. The rhizomes with roots can be used to obtain K-strophanthin-beta.
Siberian Adonis – Adonis sibiricus Patrin ex Ledeb.
It is a perennial herbaceous herb 60-70 cm tall. It grows in Western and Eastern Siberia, in the Western Urals. The leaves are bipinnatisected. The leaf segments are lanceolate and serrated. The flowers are smaller than those of spring Adonis. It is bright yellow with an orange shade. The biological activity is low. It contains the same cardenolides as spring Adonis. It can be used in a similar way.
Amur Adonis – Adonis amurensis (Regel et Radde)
It is a perennial herbaceous herb. It grows in Sakhalin, the south of the Kuriles, Primorsky Krai. The leaves are macropodous, pinnatisected into lanceolate. The leaf segments are toothed. The biological activity is higher than that of spring Adonis. It contains similar cardenolides.
Volgian Adonis – Adonis wolgensis Stev.
It is a perennial up to 20-30 cm tall. The regions are the same as those of spring Adonis. The thickets has a spherical shape. The leaves are pinnatisected. The leaf segments are wider and hairy. The flowers are small and pale yellow. The nut-fruits are with the stab which is straight, unaduncate and pressed to the fruit. The biological activity is low. It contains the same cardiotonic glycosides.
Annual Adonis – Adonis aestivalis L.
It is an annual plant. It grows in the steppe regions of Ukraine. It is an official plant in Italy. It is good for agriculture. The flowers are small and red. It contains the same cardiotonic glycosides. Previously it is used in a similar way  as spring Adonis.
Flammeous Adonis – Adonis flammea Jacq.
It is an annual plant. It grows in the southern regions of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasus. It has the high biological activity, the action is similar to the action of spring Adonis.

Properties and application

Pharmacotherapeutic group. Cardiotonic agent (cardiac glycosides).
Adonis preparations belong to the group of cardiac glycosides.
It slows the rhythm of the heart, increases systole, prolongs diastole, increases stroke volume of the heart and moderately inhibits intracardiac conduction.
Spring Adonis preparations have more pronounced diuretic properties compared with other cardiac agents, which are associated with the glycoside cymarin.
In experimental myocarditis, cymarin promotes elimination of acute heart failure,
weakens inflammatory and subsequent sclerotic changes in the heart.
The systematic application of cymarin markedly reduces hypotension which is usually observed in experimental myocarditis. Also it slows pulse and increases blood flow velocity.
The characteristic feature of Adonis preparations is a sedative effect noted in the last century.
There was isolated the cardiotonic glycoside adonitoxin, which, along with cymarin, determines the pharmacological characteristics of Adonis preparations: moderate systolic and diastolic effects, less than digitalis preparations that effect on the tone of the vagus nerve and a small cumulative effect.
In the 60’s of XX century at the Institute of Chemistry of Plant Substances of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR, N.K.Abubakirov, R.Sh.Yamatova and co-authors proved the possibility of the transition of cymarin monoside to K-strophanthin-beta biozide under conditions of delayed drying of Adonis herb.
Application of spring Adonis
Spring Adonis is used in relatively mild forms of chronic circulatory failure.
The indications for the application of Adonis preparations are heart neurosis, vascular dystonia, infectious diseases occurring with symptoms of cardiac function weakening, kidney disease with the signs of cardiovascular failure.