Cheilocostus speciosus (J.Koenig) C.D.Specht

Last updated: 02 August 2016

Scientific Name

Cheilocostus speciosus (J.Koenig) C.D.Specht 


Amomum arboretum Lour., Amomum hirsutum Lam., Banksea speciosa J. Koenig, Cardamomum arboretum (Lour.) Kuntze, Costus angustifolius Ker Gawl., Costus argyrophyllus Wall. [Invalid], Costus crispiflorus Stokes, Costus foeniculaceus Noronha, Costus formosanus Nakai, Costus formosanus (Nakai) S.S. Ying, Costus glaber (K. Schum.) Merr., Costus glabratus Rchb. [Illegitimate], Costus hirsutus Blume, Costus lamingtonii F.M. Bailey, Costus loureiroi Horan., Costus nipalensis Roscoe, Costus potierae F. Muell., Costus sericeus Blume, Costus speciosus (J.Koenig) Sm., Costus vaginalis Salisb., Hellenia grandiflora Retz., Kaempferia speciosa (J.Koenig) Thunb., Planera speciosa (J.Koenig) Giseke, Pyxa speciosa (J.Koenig) M.R.Almeida [Invalid], Tsiana speciosa (J.Koenig) J.F.Gmel, Costus speciosus var. angustifolius Ker Gawl., Costus speciosus var. argyrophyllus Wall. ex. Baker, Costus speciosus var. dilnavaziae M.R.Almeida & S.M.Almeida, Costus speciosus var. formosanus (Nakai) S.S.Ying, Costus specious var. hirsutus Blume, Costus speciosus var. leocalyx Nakai, Costus speciosus var. sericeus (Blume) K.Schum., Costus spicatus var. pubescens Griseb. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Setawar, setawar hutan, tabar [2]
English Canereed, crepe ginger, elegant costus, insulin plant, Malay ginger, spiral ginger, wild ginger [2]
China Bi qiao jiang, zhang liu tou [2]
India Aarathi kundige, achouba, adavi pasupu, akotanarong, alor naro, alarnaro, anakkuva, anappu, arrod, bao ada, batelahari, benne kundige, betlauree, betlauree, betlauri, beylauri,cancamancam, canda, gaigobra, gimisiriya, hullikabbu, itapavanati, jamiakkunti, jamlakhuti, kaashmeeremu, kacumiram, mahalakri, malai vasambu, naagaali, nariccanna, oli, onapoovu, paaribhavyamu, padmakarna, quste talkh, roo-pa-tong, sagara, sarapgandha, tattan, tatti, ubariyavi, upariyavi, vamananitam, vana vaasa; ruk laop (Lepcha) [2]
Indonesia Bekar, pe luan [2]
Philippines Baston de San José, lunas, setawar, tambak, tubong-usa, tutubungiau [2]
Vietnam Cat loi, dot dang, mia do, oi pha, se vong, tau chom [2].
Papua New Guinea Malamalai, mangmang, saiwaha, tomtom, tomtomele, totomuho [2]

Geographical Distributions

Cheilocostus speciosus is widely grown in Himalayas, New Guinea and Malaysia country. It is suitable under humid condition, shadowed places up to 1,200 metres above sea level. [3]

Botanical Description

C. speciosus is a member of the Costaceae family. It is an aromatic herb with fleshy branched underground rhizomes. [4]

The stem can reach up to 2 m tall. It is stout, red and leafy. [4]

The leaves are oblong or oblanceolate, acute or acuminate, often cuspidate, glabrous above and silky pubescent beneath and sheathing at the base. They are subsessile and arranged in spiral.  It measures 15-30 cm long. [4]

The flowers are 4 cm across, white, funnel-shaped, with contrasting large bright red ovate bracts measuring 1.4-4 cm long, numerous in a very dense cylindrical spike of 5-10 cm long. [4]

The calyx with 3 oval lobes; corolla tube shorter than the calys with unequal petals measuring 2.5-4cm. The lip is white and the center is orange red, rounded, measures 5-8 cm, forming a funnel with margins incurved and meeting. The capsule red, crowned with persistent calyx. [4]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

C. speciosus rhizomes has been reported to contain diosgenin, prosapogenin B of dioscin, diosgenone, cycloartanol, 25-en-cycloartenol and octacosanoic acid. [5]

C. speciosus has been reported to contain 3-O-[a-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1à2)-b-D-glyopyranosyl]-26-O-[b-D-glucopyranosyl]-22-a-methoxy-(25R); methyl triacontanoate; methyl-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2E-propenoate; b-sitosterol-b-D-glucopyranoside; b-sitosterol glucoside; furost-5-n-3b,26-diol; gracillin; ligogenin; methyl protodioscin; protodioscin; tigogenin. [4][6]

Plant Part Used

Leaf, rhizome, stem and root [2][3]

Traditional Use

The leaf used as liniment to relieve soreness and irritation. They possess a cooling action but can also act as a sudorific. [2][3] The leaves are used topically over wounds and ulcers and the stem is recommended for treatment of burns. [4][6][7][8]

The rhizome has diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects and commonly used to treat dropsy, carbunacles and gonorrhoea. In Malays, the fresh rhizomes are usually consumed as a laxative. The Nepalese and Indian used it to stop hiccoughs, asthma, bronchitis, and colds. In Indonesia and China the rhizome forms part of the remedy for liver cirrhosis, and the accompanying jaundice and ascites. However, overdose of the rhizome or consuming fresh rhizome can lead to toxic symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract namely vomiting, diarrhea and giddiness. Thus, it had been recommended that the rhizomes should be detoxified by steaming it before drying and using in as medicine. The rhizome is considered an antidote and had been advocated for use especially in snakebites and other venomous bites. It is also used in cases of dog bites and the accompanying rabies. [4][6][7][8]

The stem extract of C. speciosus can used to treat dysentery. Stem crushed and stem sap used to relieve constipation, catarrh as well as toothache. The poultice made up from the stalks mixed with young leaf is used as hair wash to promote hair growth.

The root of C. speciosus is bitter and astringent and is considered a stimulant, digestive, anthelmintic, depurative and aphrodisiac. In addition, the roots also are used to treat catarrhal fever, cough, dyspepsia, skin problems, syphilis, tuberculosis, and menstrual problems. In India, the roots are used in postnatal care and also considered a galactagogue. In Nepals the roots are used to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatism, lumbago and pain in the marrow. It is also useful for infectious conditions like otitis externa, conjunctivitis, leprosy and other skin infections. It diuretic effects had been used effectively in cases of dropsy, oliguria and dysuria. [2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Preclinical Data


Antidiabetic activity

Extract of C. speciosus rhizomes has been demonstrated to exhibit as a potent hypoglycaemic agent. The results indicated that in diabetic rat, C. speciosus significantly (p<0.002) showed hypoglycaemic effect when the juice was fed with simultaneous glucose load. [9]

Ethanol extract of C. speciosus root extract (150, 300 and 450 mg/kg bw) was administrated orally to four groups of alloxan-induced diabetic male (Charles Foster) rats for 4 weeks. Results indicated that the administration of both 300 and 450 mg/kg bw doses significantly reduced blood glucose concentration (26.76%, 34.68%), reduced plasma total lipid (12.87%, 178.24%), cholesterol (21.92%, 30.77%) and triglyceride (25.32%, 33.99%), respectively. [10]

Costunolide and eremanthin isolated from hexane extract of C. speciosus root was administrated to streptozotocin (STZ) (50 mg/kg bw) induced diabetic male Wistar rats at different doses (5, 10, 20 mg/kg bw) for 30 and 60 days, respectively. The results has been found that the level of plasma glucose was significantly (p<0.05) reduced in a dose dependent manner when compared to the control. In addition, oral administration of costunolide (20 mg/kg bw) also was significantly reduced glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA(1c)), serum total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol level, as well as elevated plasma insulin, tissue glycogen, HDL cholesterol and serum protein. [11][12]

Antimicrobial activity

The hexane extract of C. speciosus showed significant antibacterial and antifungal activities. The most potent compound isolated in this extract was costunolide. It is active against Trichophyton mentagrophytes, T. simii, T. rubrum 296, Epidermophyton floccosum, Scopulariopsis sp., Aspergillus niger, Curvulari lunata and Magnaporthe grisea. The other compound isolated was eremanthin which has lesser antifungal activity. [13]

Methanol extract of C. speciosus stem and flower has been reported to demonstrate antituberculosis activity with MIC of 800 µg/mL. [14]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Costunolide isolated from C. speciosus root extract was found to inhibit the expression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1,6, induceible nitric oxide synthase, monocyte chemotactic protein 1 and cyclooxygenase 2 in activated microglia. There was a corresponding stimulation of NFkappaB and suppression of MAPK pathway activation by inducing MKP-1 production. In total, Costunolide shows an ability to inhibit expression of multiple neuroinflammatory mediators through inhibition of NFkappa B and activation of MAKP. [15]

Oxytocic activity

The ethanol extract of C. speciosus rhizomes (10 mg/100 mL) was significantly increased phasic contraction of isolated rat uterine muscle. This contraction effect was abolished by inhibition of I-type calcium channels or myosin light chain kinase (MLCK). This was not blocked by estrogen receptor blocker which proves that this effect was not due to the presence of diosgenin. Thus, the extract increases contraction of isolated rat uterine muscles by calcium entry on I-type calcium channels and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) calcium release. [16]

Antioxidant activity

The administration of either costunolide (20 mg/kg) or eremanthin (20 mg/kg) isolated from             C. speciosus was found to be able to reduce the oxidative damage seen in STZ induced diabetic rats. They seem to cause significant reduction in TBARS level and a significant increase in GSH content along with increased enzymatic activities of SOD, CAT and GPx. [17]

Antinociceptive activity

Aqueous and ethanol extracts of C. speciosus rhizomes were assessed for their antinociceptive activity. Both extracts were found to have significant peripheral anti-nociceptive actions but only the ethanol extract showed significant central analgesic activity. [18]


Raw/fresh rhizome is poisonous. The rhizome upon harvesting need to be washed sliced and steamed before being dried for use. [6][8] Costunolide and eremanthin did not show any toxic effects in acute toxic study in rats. [14]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

Overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness. [8]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.

Interaction with drug

There is a possible cumulative effect when used with antidiabetic drugs due to the proven antidiabetic activities of two components of the extracts of the rhizome i.e. costunolide and eremanthin. [8][9]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


Contraindicated in pregnancy. [6][8][13]

Case Report

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Cheilocostus speciosus (J.Koenig) C.D. Specht. 2013 ver1.1 [updated 2013, cited 2016 April 05] Available from
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology; Volume II C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2012. p.215-216
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Center, Institute for Medical Research. Compedium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC-IMR: 2002. p.220
  4. Joshi KK, Joshi SD. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Used in Nepal, Tibet and Trans-Himalayan Region. Bloomington: Authorhouse; 2006. p.50-51
  5. Qiao CF, Li QW, Dong H, Xu LS, Wang ZT. [Studies on Chemical Constituents of Two Plants From Costus]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2002;27(2):123-125
  6. Kimura T. International Collation of Traditional and Fork Medicine. Volume 2. Singapore: Northeast Asia World Scientific Publishing Inc; 1997. p.205
  7. Panda H. Medicinal Plants Cultivation & Their Uses. New Delhi: National Institute of Industrial Research; 2002. p.528
  8. Hembing HM. Tumpas Hepatitis dengan Ramuan Herba. Jakarta: Niaga Swadaya; 2008. p.65
  9. Mosihuzzaman M, Nahar N, Ali, L et al. Hypoglycemic Effects of Three Plants From Eastern Himalayan Belt. Diabetes Res. 1994;26(3):127-138
  10. Bavarva JH, Narasimhacharya AV. Antihyperglycemic and Hypilipidemic Effects of Costos speciosus in Alloxan Induced Diabetoc Rats. Phytother Res. 2008;22(5):620-626
  11. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S, Duraipandiyan V. Normo-Glycemic and Hypolipidemic Effect of Costunolide Isolated From Costus speciosus (Koen ex. Retz.)Sm. In Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats. Chem Biol Interact. 2009;179(2-3):329-334
  12. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S, Duraipandiyan V. Antidiabetic and Antilipidmic Effect of Eremanthin from Costus Speciosus (Koen.)Sm., in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats. Chem Biol Interact. 2009;182(1):67-72
  13. Duraipandiyan V, Al-Harbi NA, Ignacimuthu S, Muthukumar C. Antimicrobial Activity of Sesquiterpene Lactones Isolated From Traditional Medicinal Plant, Costus speciosus (Koen ex. Retz.) Sm. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12(1):13
  14. Mohamad S, Zin NM, Wahab HA, et al. Antituberculosis Potential of Some Ethnobotanically Selected Malaysian Plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;133(3):1021-1026
  15. Rayan NA, Baby N, Pitchai D, et al. Costunolide Inhibits Proinflammatory Cytokines and iNOS in Activated Murine BV2 Microglia. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2011;1(3):1079-1091
  16. Lijuan W, Kupittayanant P, Chudapongse N, Wray S, Kupittayanant S. The Effects of Wild Ginger (Costus speciosus (Koen) Smith) Rhizome Extract and Diosgenin on Rat Uterine Contractions. Reprod Sci. 2011;18(6):516-524
  17. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S. Antioxidant Activity of Costunolide and Eremanthin Isolated from Costus speciosus (Koen ex. Retz) Sm. Chem Biol Interact. 2010;188(3):467-472
  18. Bhattacharya S, Nagaich U. Assessment of Anti-Nociceptive Efficacy of Costus speciosis Rhizome in Swiss Albino Mice. J Adv Pharm technol Res. 2010;1(1):34-40