Peganum harmala belongs to the family Zygophyllaceae and is popularly known as "Arruda of Syria". It presents a broad therapeutic potential, highlighting the anti inflammatory, anticancer, analgesic, antiseptic and antibacterial activities. It is used in the preparation of religious rituals beverages with effects on the central nervous system as an inhibitor of the enzyme monoaminoxidase, whose action is due to the presence of harmonic alkaloids of the β–carbolines group, with harmine and harmaline being the most found in P. harmala seeds. The objective of this study was to evaluate the chemical and pharmacognostic characteristics of P. harmala seeds with the aid of gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Pharmacognostic characterization was performed following the 5th edition of the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia. Scanning electron microscopy coupled to X-ray dispersive energy spectroscopy was performed for the seeds elemental identification. The compounds present in the species were identified by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Phytochemical evaluation demonstrated the major secondary metabolites. The scanning electron microscopy coupled to X-ray dispersive energy spectroscopy analysis showed the morphology of the surface and interior of the seeds, as well as the atomic chemical analysis of the structures. By gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, the chemical profile of P. harmala seeds was identified and the β–carbolines (harmaline and harmine) were identified, which are compounds of great pharmacological importance for the species. Therefore, it is concluded that this study is of great contribution to the plant material standardization that will serve as the basis for the future development of a pharmaceutical product.
Key words: Arruda of Syria, characterization, gas chromatography, β-carbolines, Peganum harmala.