Basella alba L.

Last updated: 24 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Basella alba L.


Basella cananifolia Buch.-Ham. ex Wall. [Invalid], Basella cordifolia Lam., Basella crassifolia Salisb., Basella japonica Burm.f., Basella lucida L., Basella nigra Lour., Basella ramosa J.Jacq. ex Spreng., Basella rubra L., Basella volubilis Salisb., Gandola nigra (Lour.) Raf. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Gendola, remayong, tembayung [2], remayong, gendola, gandola [3]
English Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, Malabar nightshade [2], Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, Malabar nightshade, Malabar spinach, vine spinach [3]
China La kui, yan zhi dou, teng cai, hong teng cai, hua cai, ruan jin cai [3]
India Allabachhalla, ,allu-batchalla, apodika, baayi basale, borpuroi, cekkai, civappukkotippacalai, dodda basale, erraalubachhali, hire basale, kaarubachhali, kodip-pasalai-kkirai, lal-baclu, maayaalachivel, malava, pacalai, por, putikam, rukhtopuri, shivappupupaslak-kirai, upodaka, uroksumbam, vali, velgond, vicatam, wahlea [4]
Indonesia Lembayung (Sundanese); jingga, genjerot, gendolak, gendurek, uchi-uchi [3], gandola, genjerot [2]
Thailand Phakpang (Northern); phakplang, phakplang-yai (Central) [2]; pak prang [3]
Laos Pang [2]
Philippines Alugbati, dundula, libato [2], grana, libato (Tagalog) [3]
Cambodia Chralong [2]
Vietnam M[oof]ng t[ow]i, m[uf]ng t[ow]I [2]
Kenya Demra, deremiat, endelema, enderema, eshivetso, kieema, lemoldongu, lemoldong’o, ltaai, ltani, lubchan, murerema, ndelema, nderemek, ndremia, ndremiat, nderma, osoiyai, osoyao, rachan, rerema, tsinderema, yindelema [4]
Uganda Enderema, nderema [4]
Tanzania Lelema, mboga buterezi, mjogo, ndelema, ndema, nderema [4]
France Baselle, brede de Malabar [2].

Geographical Distributions

Basella alba is usually considered native of Southern Asia (India), but its exact origin is not known. In Southeast Asia and China, it has been grown since ancient times. It is now widely cultivated in tropical Asia and America, and is even grown in temperate zones as an annual. In Southeast Asia, it is particularly popular in Malaysia and the Philippines. [2]

Botanical Description

B. alba is a member of the Basellaceae family. It is a short-lived perennial herb, measures 2-6 m long and succulent. It is stem-twining, slender, smooth, green or purplish. [2]

The leaves are arranged alternate, ovate to heart-shaped with short fleshy petiole, measuring 5-15 cm x 4-10 cm, fleshy and dark green or purplish. [2]

The inflorescence is a spike, hanging, axillary and measures 3-21 cm long. The flowers are conspicuous, bisexual, sessile, measure 3-4 mm long, white, pink or purple. The ovary is rounded with 3 styles and it is united at the base. There are 5 stamens. [2]

The fruit is a depressed-spherical pseudo-berry measuring 4-7 mm x 5-10 mm, purplish-black, with fleshy perianth, which encloses the ovary after flowering, and contains a violet juice. The seed is single. [2]


B. alba does well in tropical lowlands at elevations up to 500 m, but it survives even at 3000 m altitude and in temperate regions. It is a short-day plant and flowering is precluded at a day length of more than 13 hours. It has a C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway similar to that of amaranth. Water stress promotes early flowering. B. alba is tolerant of many soils, but sandy loam appears to be most suitable. [2]

Chemical Constituent

B. alba  leaves has been reported to contain betacyanins, oxalic acid, flavonoids such as acacetin,7,4-dimethoxy kaempferol and 4’-methoxy isovitexin and phenolic acids like vanilla, syringic and ferulic acids. [5]

B. alba  fruits contain betacyanins, gomphrenin I, II & III. [5]

Plant Part Used

Entire plant, leaves, young stems, fruits, roots. [3][6][7]

Traditional Use

B. alba has been known to be a demulcent, a diuretic and an emollient and is thus used to treat wounds. The entire plant is used in Chinese medicine where it has been claimed to reduce fever and neutralise poison. [3]

The pulped or bruised leaves are used as a poultice for ulcers and to hasten the maturation of abscesses. A decoction of the leaves is believed to have laxative properties, and is used to treat constipation in pregnant women and children. The extract mixed with Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is given to pregnant women as a safe aperient. The decoction is believed to alleviate labour pains. [3]

In Java, the extract of the fruit is used to treat conjunctivitis. [3]

In the Philippines, the roots are used for its rubefacient properties. The roots are also used as a poultice to reduce swellings. [3]

An ethnomedicine survey in southern India revealed that Basella alba is one of the plants used for the treatment of apthae. This is considered a new claim for the treatment of oral ailments not previously reported in the ethnomedicinal literature of India. [3]

Preclinical Data


Androgenic activity

A group of researchers studied the androgenic effects of methanol extracts of the leaves of Hibiscus macranthus (Malvaceae) and B. alba on adult rat and bull Leydig cells. The in vitro cell culture results showed that only the methanol extract of B. alba caused a significant increase in production of testosterone after 12 h exposure to rat Leydig cells. Phytochemical analysis demonstrated the presence of terpenoid or steroid compounds in the methanol fractions which has to be further studied to elucidate the structure of compounds responsible for androgenic activity. [9][10]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Nutritional activity

A study to assess quantitative changes in total body stores of vitamin A by using the paired deuterated-retinol dilution (DRD) technique before and after 60 days of supplementation with an orange tuber (sweet potatoes), a green leafy vegetable B. alba (local name: pui sak), or an equivalent amount of synthetic vitamin A, which was provided as either retinyl palmitate or b-carotene in oil, to determine the relative efficacy of plant sources of vitamin A for improving vitamin A status in Bangladeshi men. [11]

To optimise the bioavailability of b-carotene, the sweet potatoes and Basella alba were prepared by following standardised recipes. The results of the study showed that estimates of vitamin A equivalency factors based on relative changes in plasma b-carotene concentration between the synthetic b-carotene group and the vegetable groups were similar to those based on relative changes in vitamin A pool size between the retinyl palmitate group and the vegetable groups. This suggests that absorption and bioconversion of b-carotene to retinol are directly related within the range of pool sizes in populations with low to adequate initial vitamin A pool sizes; however, this requires further investigation. The study concluded that daily consumption of cooked, pureed green leafy vegetables or sweet potatoes has a positive effect on vitamin A stores in population at risk of vitamin A deficiency. Further research is needed to assess the effects of food preparation techniques, intestinal parasites, and initial vitamin A status on the efficacy of plant sources of vitamin A for improving vitamin A status. [11]


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of B. alba [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Basella alba L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Jun 17]. Available from:
  2. Basella alba L. In: Siemonsma JS, Piluek K, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc Scientific Publishers; 1993.
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p.103-104.
  4. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume I A-B. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 544-545.
  5. Daniel M. Medicinal plants: Chemistry and properties. Enfield, New Hampshire: Science Publishers, 2006; p. 198.
  6. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Alugbati. Basella alba Linn. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2015 Dec; cited 2016 Jun 24] Available from:
  7. Plants For A Future. Basella alba L. [homepage on the Internet]. c1996-2012 [cited 2007 Nov 21]. Available from:
  8. Hebbar SS, Harsha VH, Shripathi V, Hegde GR. Ethnomedicine of Dharwad district in Karnataka, India—plants used in oral health care. J Pharmacol. 2004;94(2-3):261-266.
  9. Moundipa PF, Beboy NS, Zelefack F, et al. Effects of Basella alba and Hibiscus macranthus extracts on testosterone production of adult rat and bull Leydig cells. Asian J Androl. 2005;7(4):411-417.
  10. Moundipa PF, Ngouela S, Kamtchouing P, Tsamo E, Tchouanguep FM, Carreau S. Effects of extracts from Hibiscus macranthus and Basella alba mixture on testosterone production in vitro in adult rat testes slices. Asian J Androl. 2006; 8(1):111-114.
  11. Haskell MJ, Jamil KM, Hassan F, et al. Daily consumption of Indian spinach (Basella alba) or sweet potatoes has a positive effect on total-body vitamin A stores in Bangladeshi men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:705-714.