The preliminary phytochemical analysis of Swertia chirata reveals that the major chemical constituents are terpenoids. The major chemical components of Swertia chirata are known to be xanthone and triterpenoids. Swertiamarin found in Swertia chirata might be responsible for the antipyretic activity. (1) The plant mainly contains a triterpene swertanone, a dimeric xanthone chiratanin. Seco-hopene lactones, swertiamarin swertia lactone – C and swertain – D are also present.
The plant contains the two bitter principles, ophelic acid and chiratin. The latter occurs in the larger proportion, and yields, by boiling with hydrochloric acid, chiratogenin and ophelic acid, but no sugar. Neither ophelic acid nor chiratin has been obtained in crystals. The ash of chirata yields carbonates and phosphates of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. A crystalline, yellow, waxy body in small amount, as well as the ordinary plant constituents, abound. These bodies are ophelic acid, and chiratin, the former being in largest amount. Ophelic acid is a hygroscopic, non-crystalline, yellow, viscid body, having an odor faintly suggestive of gentian, and an acidulous, bitter taste which is persistent. Chiratin forms an insoluble compound with tannic acid. It is a pale-yellow, indistinctly crystalline powder. Its taste is extremely bitter, and its behavior to litmus neutral.