Brucea javanica (L.) Merr.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Brucea javanica (L.) Merr.


Ailanthus gracilis Salisb., Brucea amarissima Desv. ex Gomes, Brucea glabrata Decne., Brucea gracilis (Salisb.) DC., Brucea sumatrana Roxb., Brucea sumatrensis Spreng., Gonus amarissimus Lour., Rhus javanica L., Tetradium amarissimum Poir [Unresolved]. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Abelor, bidara pahit, cherek jantan, embalau, embalau padang, hempedu beruang, kosam, kosum, kusum, lada barau, lada pahit, melada pahit, pedada, suntang hutan [2]
English Java brucea, kosam, kosam seed, Macassar kernels [2]
China Ya dan zi [2]
India Heining, khawm ham, tamo, tsomhu [2]
Indonesia Kuwalot, kwalot, malur, tambara marica, tambara maritja [2]
Thailand Dee khon, ka chaplak, ratchadat [2]
Laos Ich kone, kom roi, phia fan [2]
Philippines Bago-bago, balaniog, bogobogo, magkapayas, magkapayos, manongao-bobi, paraiso, selte [2]
Cambodia Damli thnang, pramat monus [2]
Vietnam C[aa]y su[oos]t, c[uws]t chu[ooj]t, kho sam, kho sâm nam, sau dau, s[aaf]u d[aa]u, sau dâu cút chuot, sau dâu rung, xoan rung [2]
Nepal Muruk, rusi, thaksing, tibro [2].

Geographical Distributions

Brucea javanica is widespread and occurs from Sri Lanka and India towards Indo-China, southern China, Taiwan, Thailand and quite rare in the Moluccas and New Guinea throughout the Malesian region to northern Australia. Its patchy distribution in eastern Malesia suggests that man introduced it here long ago. It has certainly been introduced in Micronesia (Ponape) and Fiji. [3]

Botanical Description

B. javanica comes from the family of Simaroubaceae. It is a monoecious or dioecious shrub or small tree that can grow up to 10 m tall with soft-haired twigs and leaves. [3]

The leaves are arranged spirally with an unpaired terminal leaflet, which is 20-50 cm long and without stipules. There are 3-15 leaflets. The petiole is short and opposite. It is egg-shaped-oblong to egg-shaped-lance-shaped. Its margin is bluntly serrate or crenate. The secondary veins are unbranched and terminate in a marginal gland. [3]

The inflorescence arises from the axil, hairy and composed of small cymes that are united into bracteate. [3]

The flowers are unisexual, 4-merous, small, and greenish-white to greenish-red or purple. The sepals are joined at the base while petals are free. The disk is intrastaminal, thick and 4-lobed. The stamens are short, vestigial or absent in female flowers. The ovaries are superior, free, each with a single, pendent ovule, with free styles or coherent at base, awl-shaped and bent outwards over the top of the ovary. [3]

The fruit consists of 1-4 hard fleshy drupelets. The drupe is 2-ribbed, dry, purplish-black and measures 4-5(-7) mm long when mature. The nutlet is a wrinkled endocarp. [3]

The seed is ovoid, with thin testa and very thin endosperm. Seedling is with epigeal germination. The cotyledons are emergent and leafy. The hypocotyl is elongated with first two leaves being opposite while subsequent ones are arranged spirally. The first few leaves are 3-foliolate while later ones have increasing number of leaflets. [3]


It is very common and prefers open localities such as light secondary forests and thickets, forest edges, ridges, and even occurring in sunny places on sandy dunes and on limestone. It grows under both per-humid and seasonal conditions from sea level up to 900 m altitude. [3]

Chemical Constituent

B. javanica has been reported to contain 4-ethoxycarbonyl-2-quinolone, bruceine I, vanillic acid, quercetin-3-O-beta-D-galactoside, luteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucoside. [4] There is also flavin, bruceine D, ysaziolide B, bruceoside A, yadanziole S, yadanzigan, glycerol 1,3-bisoleate, azelaic acid, (+/-)-8-hydroxyhexadecanoic acid and vanillin. [5] Among other isolates found are bruceajaanin C, bruceosides A bruceosides B, (20R)-O-(3)-alpha-L-arabinopyranosylpregn-5-ene-3beta,20-diol, and alpha-D-glucopyranoside, (3beta, 20R)-3-hydroxypregn-5-en-20-yl from the aerial part of B. javanica. [6]

Plant Part Used

Fruit, seed [3]

Traditional Use

B. javanica is generally used in the treatment of a variety of problems especially diarrhoea and dysentery [7][8]. The various parts of B. javanica have been advocated to use as a remedy for malaria in countries ranging from India to China and down south to the Indonesia Archipelago. Commonly, the fruits or seeds are used [7][9]. However, in Malaysia other parts which are leaves or roots have been used when the fruits are not available [8].

A poultice made from the crushed leaves is used in the treatment of ringworm, whipworm, roundworm, tapeworm, piles, boils, enlarged spleen, scurf, and centipede bites [10][11].

The fresh fruit is given to people suffering from stomachache. Chinese and Indonesians used the fruits as antimalarial. [12]

The seeds are generally used to treat gastrointestinal motility problems and are considered a stomachic tonic. The crushed seeds are taken as remedy for piles, diarrhoea, and amoebic dysentery. A decoction of the seeds is used to kill head lice and other skin and scalp parasites as well as to treat tumour. It is drank as antiparasites and to stop bleeding in gastrointestinal tract [11]. The seed and seed oil of B. javanica are applied over warts and corns to treat this viral condition [10].

A decoction of the roots is used to treat high fever, abdominal pain, after childbirth and food or other poisonings. [11]

Preclinical Data


Antimalarial activity

A number of screening studies of medicinal plants against malaria has shown that B. javanica contain antimalarial activity [13][14]. A study on the activity of quassinoids isolated from B. javanica showed antimalarial activity against chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum strain [15]. Bruceajavanin A, dihydrobruceajavanin A and bruceacanthinoside was found to inhibit growth of cultured P. falciparum of a chloroquine-resistant strain [16].

Hypoglycaemic Activity

Bruceines E and D extracted by bioactivity-guided fractionation had been found to significantly reduce blood glucose concentration in normoglycaemic mice and streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. The investigators had suggested that these two compounds might act as insulin secretagogue. [17]

Anticancer activity

Few compounds had been isolated from B. javanica with antitumour properties. Compound bruceantin is active against B16 melanoma, colon 38 and leukaemia cell lines L1210 and P388. It favoured apoptosis and exerted no toxic side effects. A study showed that bruceantin and bruceune A were found to be potentiated by (-)-hydnocarpin against the MCF-7 (human breast cancer cell line). While (20R)-O-(3)-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1→2)-α-L-arabinopyranosyl-pregn-5-en-3β,20-diol, brusatol, bruceine B showed activity against HL-60 (human promyelocytic leukemia cells), SMMC-7721 (human hepatoma cells), A-549 (human lung adenocarcinoma epithelial cell) and MCF-7 tumours.  The brutasol activity against HL-60 cell lines was appeared to occur via activation of NK-kappaB and activation and translocation of NF-kappaB into the nucleus. In addition, a number of other quassinoids have shown potent antitumour activity including Bruceoside C against KB, A-549, RPMI, and TE-671 tumour cells while bruceanols was found to be cytotoxic against many human tumour cell lines. [18][19].

Compound brucein D showed inhibitory growth activity in three pancreatic cancer cell lines (PANC-1, SW1990, CAPAN-1) but only exerted moderated cytotoxicity on non-tumourigenic Hs68 cells. The mechanism of action appears to be DNA fragmentation. Brucein D augmented caspase 3, 8, 9 and bak protein levels and attenuated bcl-2 expression. The p38-MAPK signaling pathway was involved in the apoptotic process as evidenced in the increase in phosphorylation of p38-MAPK upon exposure to the compound [20]. Another study found that bruceoside D, E and F showed selective cytotoxicity in the leukaemic and non-small lung cell, colon, CNS, melanoma and ovarian cancer cell lines with log GI50 values in the range of -4.14 to -5.72 [21].

Antimicrobial activity

It appeared that the quassinoid fraction of the fruit extract of B. javanica showed antiamoebic activity. The most active quassinoid was bruceantin. These compounds were also active against Plasmodium falciparum. [22]

The C-20 quassinoids isolated from the fruit of B. javanica showed antitrypanosomal activities against trypanomastigotes of Trypanosoma evansi. These compounds include bruceine A, bruceantinol, bruceine C, brusatol and Bruceine B. A structural-activity relationship study done showed that the following are essential in the antitrypanosomal activity of the C20-quassinoids: free hydroxyl groups at position C-3, C-11, and C-12; the C-11 and C-12 hydroxyl groups are more important that the enolic hydroxyl group at C-3, and; the free hydroxyl group at C-4’ of bruceine C does not have any significant effect on the activity [23][24][25].

The dichloromethane and methanol extract of the fruits of B. javanica was found to be a potent anthelmintic against Blastocystis hominis capable of killing between 82% and 75% and inhibiting between 94%-100% of B. hominis suspension. The anthelmintic activity is attributed to the presence of bruceine A & D [26][27][28].


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

A clinical study showed that patient with brain metastasis secondary to lung cancer receiving a 10% B. javanica emulsion, had better quality of life and prolonged median survival rate than those not receiving the treatment [29]. This effect could be due to the ability to the emulsion to reduce intracranial pressure as evidenced in the study on rabbits [30]. There is also evidence that the emulsion could inhibit cancerous growth, arresting in G1 phase of the cell cycle [31].


No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of B. javanica [3].


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  13. Murnigsih T, Subeki, Matsuura H, et al. Evaluation of the inhibitory activities of the extracts of Indonesian traditional medicinal plants against Plasmodium falciparum and Babesia gibsoni. J Vet Med Sci. 2005;67(8):829-831.
  14. Hout S, Chea A, Bun SS, et al. Screening of selected indigenous plants of Cambodia for antiplasmodial activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(1):12-18.
  15. O'Neill MJ, Bray DH, Boardman P, et al. Plants as sources of antimalarial drugs, Part 4: Activity of Brucea javanica fruits against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and against Plasmodium berghei in vivo. Nat Prod. 1987;50(1):41-48.
  16. Kitagawa I, Mahmud T, Simanjuntak P, et al. Indonesian medicinal plants. VIII. Chemical structures of three new triterpenoids, bruceajavanin A, dihydrobruceajavanin A, and bruceajavanin B, and a new alkaloidal glycoside, bruceacanthinoside, from the stems of Brucea javanica (Simaroubaceae). Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1994;42(7):1416-1421.
  17. NoorShahida A, Wong TW, Choo CY. Hypoglycemic effect of quassinoids from Brucea javanica (L.) Merr (Simaroubaceae) seeds. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;124(3):586-591.
  18. Sakaki T, Yoshimura S, Tsuyuki T, Takahashi T, Honda T. Yadanzioside P, a new antileukemic quassinoid glycoside from Brucea javanica (L.) Merr with the 3-O-(beta-D-glucopyranosyl)bruceantin structure. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1986;34(10):4447-4450.
  19. Lee KH, Hayashi N, Okano M, Nozaki H, Ju-Ichi M. Antitumour agents, 65. Brusatol and cleomiscosin-A, antileukemic principles from Brucea javanica. J Nat Prod. 1984;47(3):550-551.
  20. Lau ST, Lin ZX, Liao Y, et al. Bruceine D induces apoptosis in pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell line PANC-1 through the activation of p38-mitogen activated protein kinase. Cancer Lett. 2009;281(1):42-52.
  21. Ohnishi S, Fukamiya N, Okano M, Tagahara K, Lee KH. Bruceosides D, E, and F, three new cytotoxic quassinoid glucosides from Brucea javanica. J Nat Prod. 1995;58(7):1032-1038.
  22. Wright CW, O'Neill MJ, Phillipson JD, Warhurst DC. Use of microdilution to assess in vitro antiamoebic activities of Brucea javanica fruits, Simarouba amara stem, and a number of quassinoids. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1988;32(11):1725-1729.
  23. Bawm S, Matsuura H, Elkhateeb A, et al. In vitro antitrypanosomal activities of quassinoid compounds from the fruits of a medicinal plant, Brucea javanica. Vet Parasitol. 2008;158(4):288-294.
  24. Bawm S, Tiwananthagorn S, Lin KS, et al. Evaluation of Myanmar medicinal plant extracts for antitrypanosomal and cytotoxic activities. J Vet Med Sci. 2010;72(4):525-528.
  25. Elkhateeb A, Tosa Y, Matsuura H, Nabeta K, Katakura K. Antitrypanosomal activities of acetylated bruceines A and C; a structure-activity relationship study. J Nat Med. 2012;66(1):233-240.
  26. Yang LQ, Singh M, Yap EH, et al. In vitro response of Blastocystis hominis against traditional Chinese medicine. J Ethnopharmacol. 1996;55(1):35-42.
  27. Sawangjaroen N, Sawangjaroen K. The effects of extracts from anti-diarrheic Thai medicinal plants on the in vitro growth of the intestinal protozoa parasite: Blastocystis hominis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;98(1-2):67-72.
  28. Wang Y, Wu ZF, Wang GX, et al. In vivo anthelmintic activity of bruceine A and bruceine D from Brucea javanica against Dactylogyrus intermedius (Monogenea) in goldfish (Carassius auratus). Vet Parasitol. 2011;177(1-2):127-133.
  29. Wang ZQ. [Combined therapy of brain metastasis in lung cancer] Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1992;12(10):609-610, 581.
  30. Lu JB, Shu SY, Cai JQ. Experimental study on effect of Brucea javanica oil emulsion on rabbit intracranial pressure. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1994;14(10):610-611.
  31. Xuan YB, Yasuda S, Shimada K, Nagai S, Ishihama H. Growth inhibition of the emulsion from to Brucea javanica cultured human carcinoma cells. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1994;21(14):2421-2425.