Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC.

Last updated: 18 Aug 2016

Scientific Name

Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC.


Charlwoodia ensata (Thunb.) Göpp., Conanthera forsteri Spreng., Cordyline ensifolia (L.) Planch., Dianella albiflora Hallier f., Dianella carinata Hallier f., Dianella ensata (Thunb.) R.J.F.Hend., Dianella ensata (Thunb. & Dallm.) R. Henderson, Dianella ensifolia f. albiflora T.S.Liu & S.S.Ying, Dianella ensifolia f. racemulifera (Schlittler) T.S.Liu & S.S.Ying, Dianella ensifolia f. straminea (Yatabe) Kitam., Dianella flabellata Hallier f., Dianella forsteri (Spreng.) Endl., Dianella humilis Lodd. ex Steud., Dianella ledermannii K.Krause, Dianella mauritiana Blume, Dianella montana Blume, Dianella monticola K.Krause, Dianella nemorosa Lam. [Illegitimate], Dianella nemorosa f. aspera Schlittler, Dianella nemorosa f. caeruloides Schlittler, Dianella nemorosa f. gracilis Schlittler, Dianella nemorosa f. pallescens Schlittler, Dianella nemorosa f. racemulifera Schlittler, Dianella nemorosa f. robusta (Elmer) Schlittler, Dianella obscura Kunth, Dianella odorata f. racemulifera Schlittler, Dianella parviflora Zipp. ex Hallier f., Dianella parviflora Ridl., Dianella philippensis Perrier, Dianella pullei K.Krause, Dianella robusta Elmer, Dianella sparsiflora Schlittler [Illegitimate], Dianella sparsiflora var. albiflora (Hallier f.) Schlittler, Dianella sparsiflora var. flabellata (Hallier f.) Schlittler, Dianella sparsiflora var. ledermannii (K.Krause) Schlittler, Dianella sparsiflora var. monticola (K.Krause) Schlittler, Dianella sparsiflora var. parviflora (Zipp. ex hallier f.) Schlittler, Dianella sparsiflora var. pullei (K.Krause) Schlittler, Dianella straminea Yatabe, Dracaena ensata Thunb., Dracaena ensifolia L., Dracaena nemorosa (Lam.) Steud., Eustrephus javanicus D.Dietr., Walleria paniculata Fritsch. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Akar siak, benjuang, chi-chiak, meroyan bangkai, meroyan bungkus, senjuang, setagit [2], siak-siak, siak-siak jantan, siak-siak basha, chi-chiak, lenjuang benar [3], siak-siak basya [4]; maneng padi (Borneo) [2]
English Sword-leaf flax-lily, umbrella dracaena [2], dianella, cerulean flax-lily, sword leaf dianella, umbrella dracaena, New Zealand lilyplant [4]
China Shan jian, shan mao er [2], shan jian lan [4]
India Charlang, milam [2]
Indonesia Bete [2], tegari (Java); jamaka, jambaka, suliga (Sunda); tengari (Bangka) [3]; labeh-labeh, menuntil, tegar, tengar, rumput siak-siak [4]
Thailand Ya nu ton [4]
Vietnam Cay huong lau [4]
Japan Biibii (Okinawa) [2]; kikyô-ran [2][4]
Fiji Varavara [2]
Madagascar Betratra, rangazaha, rangazaha ala, ran-gazaka, voamason’omby, voamasonomby [2].

Geographical Distributions

Dianella ensifolia occurs from tropical Africa through Madagascar, India and Sri Lanka to the Himalayas, tropical Asia, southern China, Taiwan, Japan, Malesia and the Pacific Islands. [5]

Botanical Description

D. ensifolia is a member of the Phormiaceae family. It is a rhizomatous tufted herb that can reach up to 1 m high, which compressed stems, rigid,a nd unbranched. [5][6]

The rhizomes are branched, white, measuring 6-10 mm thick, with scales 2-8 cm long, with fibrous roots, long, profusely branched, with a particular smell and brown. [5]

The leaves are grass-like, coriaceous, green, rosulate at the base, smooth on the keel and edges, in 2 rows, measuring 20-60 cm long, sheathed below clasping the stem at the base, narrowly elliptical to narrowly lance-shaped, rigid, compressed, with sheathing, acute at apex, with rough margins and parallel-veined. [5][6][7]

The inflorescence is a terminal, loosely cymose panicle, and measures 30-60 cm long exceeding the leaves. The peduncle is 30-75 cm long, ribbed, flexible when young, with ovate-lance-shaped bracts, measuring 5-10 mm long and with sheaths at the base. The bracteoles are 2-5 mm long and deltoid. [5]

The flowers are bisexual, actinomorphic, bluish or white in a terminal panicle. The pedicels measuring 1-2 cm long, articulated at the tip, joined just beneath the flower, and decurved or not; bracts small and linear. The perianth measures 1-1.5 cm long, segments free, in 2 groups of 3, subequal, narrowly ovate, shortly apiculate, pale purplish-blue, sometimes white or yellowish, 5-7-veined, outer segments greenish beneath, spreading at anthesis. It has 6 stamens, filaments of 2 mm long, white, dilated at apex into an irregularly lobed structure, 1-2 mm long, bright yellow to orange, topped by the basifixed anther, oblong, 3 mm long, yellowish brown, opening by longitudinal slits. [5][7]

The ovary is superior, 3-locular, style filiform, 2-4 mm long, stigma minutely papillose. The fruit consist of a fleshy berry, 9-15 mm in diameter, blue-purple and shiny when ripe, 3-4-seeded. The seed is ovoid, 5 mm long, shortly beaked, smooth, black, shiny.[4]


D. ensifolia occurs in a wide range of habitats, from open grasslands to primary forests, from sea level up to 3000 m altitude. [5]

Chemical Constituent

D. ensifolia has been reported to contain benzoid compounds (e.g. musizin (dianellidin), methyl 2,4-dihydroxt-3,5,6-trimethylbenzoate, methyl 2.4-dihydroxy-3,6-dimethylbenzoate, methyl 2,4-dihydroxy-6-methylbenzoate (methyl orsellinate), and 2,4-dihydroxy-6-methoxy-3-methylacetophenone. [4]

Plant Part Used

Rhizome, roots, and leaves. [4]

Traditional Use

In Indonesia the roots of D. ensifolia are used deworming, while in Malaysia a poultice applied to the abdomen is believed to help the process of deworming. The plant is also used to treat dysentery. [4][5]

The sliced roots of D. ensifolia are sundried, pulverised and used as topical application locally on lesions like furunculosis, abscesses, lymphangitis, tuberculous lymphadenitis and tinea. It is also used on traumitic injuries and wounds. Ashes of the roots and leaves are used for herpes. [4][5]

The roots of D. ensifolia are considered a general tonic for women. It is given in a decoction to women in the immediate post-partum period (meroyan). It is also used in the treatment of leucorrhoea and dysuria. [4][5]

This plant also used in cosmetic as an ingredient in skin cream preparations as an antioxidant and to reduce hyperpigmentation as well as skin whitening agent. [4][5]

Preclinical Data


Thyrosinase inhibitor activity

Within the plant substance of D. ensifolia is the most potent thyrosinase inhibitor i.e. 1-(2,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-3-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl)propane. It is 22 times more potent than Kojic acid in inhibiting murine tyrosinase. This compound was found to inhibit melanin formation both in mouse melanoma cells B16F1 and human primary melanocytes without any cytotoxic activity. In a reconstructed skin model (MelanoDerm) topical application of 0.1% UP302 resulted in significant skin lightening and decrease of melanin production without effects on cell viabilty, melanocyte morphology and overall tissue histology. [8]

The efficacy of formulated cosmetic cream containing 1-(2,4-dihydrophenyl)-3-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl) propane extracted from Dianella ensifolia produced an increase in the rate of fading compared to two pharmaceutical formulae containing 4% hydroquinone. [9]

Antioxidant activity

Extracts of D. ensifolia containing 1-(2,4-dihydrophenyl)-3-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl) propane (DP), which was found to inhibit the free radical 1-1-diphenyl-2-picryl-hydrazyl (DPPH) with an EC50 value of 78μm. DP was also found to inhibit Ultraviolet (UV)C-induced lipid oxidation with an EC50 of about 30μm. [9]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of D. ensifolia [5]


  1. The plant List. Ver1.1. Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mac 26, cited 2016 Aug 18]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-304105.
  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.682-683.
  3. Burkill IH. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Volume 1. London: Published on behalf of the governments of the Straits settlements and Federated Malay states by the Crown agents for the colonies, 1935; p. 801.
  4. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Sword leaf dianella. Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2013 Mac; cited 2016 Aug 18]. Available from: http://www.stuartxchange.com/SwordLeafDianella.html.
  5. Thin NN, Thanh NT. Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC. In: van Valkenburg JLCH, Bunyapraphatsara N, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Leiden, The Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 2001; p. 223-224.
  6. Keng H, Chin SC, Tan HTW. The concise flora of Singapore: Monocotyledons. Singapore: NUS Press, 1998; p. 6.
  7. Baker JG. Flora of Mauritius and the Seychelles: A description of the flowering plants. New Delhi: Asian Education Services, 1999; p. 377.
  8. Nesterov A, Zhao J, Minter D, et al. 1-2,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-3-(2,4-dimethoxy-3-methylphenyl)propane, a novel tyrosinase inhibitor with strong depigmenting effects. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2008;56(9):1292-1296.
  9. Mammone T, Muizzuddin N, Declercg L, et al. Modification of skin discoloration by a topical treatment containing an extract of Dianella ensifolia: A potent antioxidant. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(2):89-95.