Steroid Glycosides

2.3 Steroid Glycosides
Steroid glycosides are also referred to as ‘Cardiac glycosides’ in many available books on phytochemistry. In fact, there exists enough evidence in literatures to reveal that a host of medicinal plants comprise of cardiac or cardiotonic glycosides, collectively known as ‘steriod glycosides’, and they have since been employed as arrow poisons or cardiac drugs. Interestingly, from a therapeutic perspective this particular group of compounds may be regarded as one of the most important of all naturally occurring plant products.
The cardiac glycosides are basically steroids with an inherent ability to afford a very specific and poweful action mainly on the cardiac muscle when administered through injection into man or animal. As a word of caution, a small amount would exhibit a much needed stimulation on a diseased heart, whereas an excessive dose may cause even death.
Generally, the steroid glycosides are invariably employed in the therapeutic domain primarily for two vital reasons, namely: (a) to enhance the tone, excitability and above all the contractibility of the cardiac muscle; and (b) to increase the diuretic action, due principally to the enhanced renal circulation (an inherent secondary action).
A few important plant products belonging to this category are discussed in the sections that follows, namely:

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