Plumbago zeylanica L.

Last updated: 23 May 2016

Scientific Name

Plumbago zeylanica L. 


Findlaya alba Bowdich, Molubda scandens (L.) Raf., Plumbagidium scandens (L.) Spach, Plumbago scandens L., Plumbago viscose Blanco, Plumbago zeylanica var. zeylanica, Thela alba Lour. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Cheraka, cheraka merah, daun jarak, jarak [2], pokok celaka [3], ceraka [4], celaka, celaka bukit, celaka putih [5]
English Doctorbush, white-flowered leadwort, whiteflower leadwort [2], wild plumbago [5], white leadwort [6], white leadwort [7], Ceylon leadwort [8]
China Bai hua dan shu [2], bai hua dan [5]
India Adigarradi, agea, agia, barhi, bhali, bilay-chitramula, cataveta, cata-vetai, catti, dahaka, dahana, daruna, eluna, elunacceti, eri, han-jaring, himarati, hiranyareta, ilataivanni, jataveda, jvalanakhya, jyoti, kal, kalchita, kalchitta, lech-kuro, lohitanga, makaratacetti, makaratam, makaratum, mulike, natakkaiyarival, nekili, neruppumuli, nirdahana, nirdahani, oli, olikaicceti, olikam, paandaraa chithra, pachi, pakappati, palaka, pali, pathi, pathina, patinam, pavaka, rakta, sadaveda, safed-buti, safed chitrak, saptarshi, schetti-codiveli, seetrok, shitaraj, shambara, shardula, shikhavana, shikhi, shitarak, shitirah, shura, shushma, shwetachitraka, sikhi, sikhin, sitaparu, sitawel, sitraval, sittragam, sufaid, sweta chitaapaaru, swetchita, takam, talal, talarkoti, ukkan, umilnirpperukki, ushana, utacanam, utacanan, utakavan, utalveticci, utankan, vaahini, vacakam, vacankam [2], chitrak (Hindi) [5], chita, chitra, chitrakmula [9]
Indonesia Daun entjok [2], ki encok (Sunda), daun encok (Jakarta), godong encok (Jawa) [4], cekara (Sumatera); poksor (Jawa); kareka (Madura); bama (Bali); oporie (Timor) [10]
Thailand Chettamun phloeng khaao, pit piu khaao [2]
Laos Pit pi’khao [2]
Philippines Bangbang, sampaga, sandikit, sangdidikit, sangdikit, talangkau, talankan [2], bambang, talankaw [9]
Vietnam Du[oo]i c[oo]ng tr[aws]ng, b[aj]ch hoa x[af], du[oo]i c[oo]ng hoa tr[aws]ng
Tibet Tsi tra, kru trug tres, kru tug tres, tsa gran ka [2], tsi tra ka (Wylie) [5][7]
Bengal Safaid-sitarak [5]
Nepal Abjjale kuro, kalamnath [2], chitu [5]
Japan Seiron-matsuri [2]
Pacific Ilieo, kahauta, kenikeni, lau tafifi, natuna, tutuna [2]
Kenya Mukya [2]
Nigeria Inabii, inabiri (Yoruba) [2]
Zambia Sikalutenta [2]
Hawaii Hilie’e, ‘ilie’e, ‘ilihe’e, lauhihi [2][5].

Geographical Distributions

Plumbago zeylanica is a half-woody plant found throughout tropical Africa and Asia, and the Pacific [11]. It is found wild grown in the Peninsular India and West Bengal, and cultivated in gardens throughout India. In Himachal Pradesh, it is found growing sporadically near field borders, often in shrubberies in Mandi, Hamirpur, Kangra, Chamba, Bilaspur, Solan, Sirmour upto 1400 m elevation and has been collected from Sitla-Mandir, Shivbari, Dada Siba, Hamirpur, Nalagarh, Jogindernagar, Solan-Nauni [9].

Botanical Description

P. zeylanica is a member of the Plumbaginaceae family. It has a straggling shrub up to 3 m tall. [12]

The stems erect, trailing or climbing, wiry, diffusely branched, glabrous, with prominent longitudinal ridges and often with white waxy dots. [12]

The leaves alternate, simple and entire. The stipules are absent. The petiole measures 0.5 mm long with small auricles present in young leaves; blade ovate, ovate-lanceolate, elliptical or oblong in shape, meauring 2.5-13 cm x 1-6 cm, base cuneate, apex acute, acuminate or obtuse, with white waxy dots underneath. [12]

The inflorescence a terminal raceme, measures 6-30cm long, sometimes paniculate, many-flowered. The bracts are ovate to lanceolate in shape, measure 3-7 mm long. The peduncle measures 1-1.5 cm long, with prominent sessile glands. [12]

The flowers are bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweets scented. The pedicel measures 1-2 mm long while the calyx tubular measures 7-11 mm long, 5-ribbed, with stalked glands along ribs. [12]

The lobes measure up to 1.5 mm long while the corolla tube measures 15-30 mm long, lobes oblong to ovate in shape, measuring 5-12 mm long, spreading, mucronate, white; stamens free, included; ovary superior, 1-celled, style filiform, with 5 elongated stigma lobes. [12]

The fruit is an oblong capsule measuring 7.5-8 mm long, apex acute with 5 furrows, 1-seeded. [12]  

The seed is oblong in shape, measures 5-6 mm long, reddish brown to dark brown in colour. [12]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

The root of P. zeylanica has been reported to contain naphthaquinone derivatives (e.g. plumbagin, plumbagol, 3-chloroplumbagin, slliptinone, 2-methyl-5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone). [8][9]

The leaves of P. zeylanica has been reported to contain 3-3’-biplumbagin, chitranone (e.g. 3-6’ biplumbagin), and droserone (e.g. 2- hidroxy plumbagin). [4]

P. zeylanica has been reported to contain 2, 5-dimethyl-7-hydroxychromone, 3’-O-β-glucopyranosyl plumbagic acid, 3’- O-β-glucopyranosyl plumbagic acid methylester, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, 5-methoxyseselin, beta-sitosterol, beta-sitosteryl-3beta-glucopyranoside, beta-sitosteryl-3beta-glucopyranoside-6'-O-palmitate, chitranone, dihydroserone, elliptinone, indole-3-carboxaldehyde, isoshinanolone 2-methylnaphthazarin, lupenone, lupenyl, lupeol, lupeol acetate, maritinone, napthoquinonemethylene3’ 3-diplumbagin, nisoshinanolone, plumbagic acid, plumbazeylanone isozeylinone, plumbazeylone, sesellin, suberosin, trans-cinnamic acid, trilinolein, vanillic acid, xanthyletin, xanthoxyletin, zeylinon, and zeylone. [6][13]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant, roots, root-bark, leaves and fruits. [3][4][5][7][9][11][13]

Traditional Use

The Chinese believes that P. zeylanica has the ability to increase digestive heat with fire-like power. [7]

In Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands, the inhabitants recognized the roots as a remedy for diarrhoea and dyspepsia. [12]

In Africa and Asia, the roots of P. zeylanica is used as remedy for skin diseases, infections and intestinal worms, especially leprosy, scabies, ringworm, dermatitis, acne, sores, ulcers of the leg, haemorrhoids and hookworm. [12]

The Ayurvedic practitioners sometimes use the plant to treat cough and breathing difficulties. In Zimbabwe, an infusion of the roots is used for shortness of breath. [12]

Illicit induction of abortion is done by giving a decoction of the roots or aerial parts, a practice which should be frowned upon by the society. [5][9][12]

In Indonesia the leaves is applied over the pubic region to help ease dysuria. The barks, roots or leaves are used to treat gonorrhea and syphilis. [10]

In Ethopia the powdered bark, root or leaves is used to treat gonorrhoea, syphilis, and tuberculosis, rheumatic pain, swellings and wounds. [12]

The Zambians make use of the roots boiled in milk as a remedy for inflammation of the mouth, throat and chest. [12]

In Himachal Pradesh the native use a paste of the roots to induce drainage of abscesses. [9]

In Indonesia and Nigeria, the roots are used as an anti rheumatism remedy by local application over the affected site. However, it has to be used with great caution because of its vesicant effects on the skin. [10][12]

In southern Africa a paste of the root in vinegar, milk and water is used to treat influenza and black water fever in Africa. [12]

Extracts of the roots is used to treat hypertension in a Malay community. A paste of the roots is applied behind the ear to help relieve headache. [3]

Another way of relieving headache is by applying the root paste in the palate. Tincture of the root bark is an antiperiodic and a sudorific. [9]

The root cooked with meat in a soup is considered an aphrodisiac, and helps digestion amongst the Zimbabwe people. [12]

Preclinical Data


Coagulation activity

P. zeylanica extract (2 mg/kg/body weight) has showed significant activity on blood coagulation profile in albino rats after 31 days. It was found that P. zeylanica extract did not change the platelet count but significantly decreased the platelet adhesion. Chronic administration of the extract prolonged the bleeding time by altering platelet adhesiveness and the coagulation. Since these finding were similar to the group treated with naphthoquinone it is believed that the changes observed in the P. zeylanica extracts may be due to this component. [14]

Anti allergic activity

70% ethanol extract of P. zeylanica stems show ability to inhibit mast cell-dependent immediate allergic reaction. This is evidenced by the fact that the extract could inhibit systemic anaphylactic shock induced by compound 48/80 in mice, reduce homologous passive cutaneous anaphylaxis and skin reactions induced by histamine or serotonin in rats. In vitro, the extract could reduce histamine release from rat peritoneal mast cells caused by compound 48/80 and antigen. It also markedly increased intracellular cAMP content of rat mast cells. [15]

CNS stimulation activity

50% ethanol extract of the root of P. zeylanica showed significantly increase of spontaneous motility in rats with higher ambulatory and rotatory behaviour which is dose dependent. The extract specifically enhanced the spontaneous ambulatory activity without inducing stereotypic behaviour. Neurochemical estimations revealed elevated levels of dopamine and homovanillic acid in striatum the levels being highest at dose of 200mg/kb but begins to decline as the dose is increased. These behavioural and biochemical results is indicative of stimulatory properties of the extract being mediated by dopaminergic mechanisms in the rat brain. [16]

Hyperglycaemic activity

Ethanol extract of P. zeylanica roots has been demonstrated to reduce key glycolysis enzymes (hexokinase, phospofructokinase, pyruvate kinase and lactate dehydrogenase) activities in the thigh muscles of rats. Serum pyruvate and lactate were significantly lowered. This result suggests that there is a reduction in flux across the glycolytic pathway, a result of impaired delivery to, and utilization of, glucose by the peripheral tissues. This substantiates the reported hyperglycemia in the extract-treated rats. [17]

Anticarcinogenic activity

Plumbagin isolated from P. zeylanica, when administrated orally, at a dosage of 4 mg/kg body weight induces tumour regression in 3MeDAB induced hepatoma in Wistar male rats. Results showed that the levels of glycolytic enzymes namely, hexokinase, phosphoglucoisomerase, and aldolase levels increased (p<0.001) in hepatoma bearing rats, whereas they decreased in plumbagin administrated rats to near normal levels. [18]

Genotoxicity activity

Plumbagin, the most active compound in P. zeylanica root extract was found to induce micronuclei at all doses studied (4 mg/kg, 8 mg/kg and 16 mg/kg) and proved to be toxic to bone marrow cells of Swiss albino mice. Glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity was significantly inhibited by higher doses of plumbagin (8 mg and 16 mg/kg b.w., respectively). [19]

The alcoholic extract of P. zeylanica roots has been demonstrated to protect the Swiss albino mice from the genotoxic effects of cyclophosphamide. The extract instead significantly reduced the frequency of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes, increased the PCE/NCE ratio in the bone marrow, and decreased the levels of lipid peroxidation products with concomitant changes in the status of antioxidant. [20]

Demma et al [21] proved that when in low dose (non-DNA damaging dose) in combination with NQNO or catechol, plumbagin isolated from P. zeylanica root could significantly reduce the catechol-induce DNA damage. This proves tha the non-DNA damaging concentration of plumbagin diminished the DNA damage induced by catechol by an antioxidative action.

Hydroalcoholic extract of P. zeylanica root has been demonstrated a potential in vitro genotoxicity effect in mouse lymphoma cells. Result showed that the P. zeylanica extract was significantly induce DNA damage without affecting the cell viability. [22]

Antioxidant activity

Tilak et al [23] found that the boiled ethanol extract of the roots of P. zeylanica has the most effective antioxidant activity. This extract was found to have high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids. They also found that plumbagin was another component of the extract that has strong antioxidant activity.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Various extracts of the leaves of P. zeylanica were tested for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Sheeja et al [24] found that the acetone extract has a significant anti-inflammatory activity while the acetone and petroleum ether extracts significantly decrease pain stimulus only in the late phase of formalin tgest indicating that it is a peripheral action. The bio-assay-guided fractionation of the acetone extracts lead to the isolation and identification of plumbagin.

Immunomodulatory activity

It has been reported that plubagin from the roots of P. zeylanica could suppress the activation of NF-kappa B in tumour cells. Consequently it has been found that it affect the biological functions of leukocytes participating in various immune responses. This is evidenced by the following: 1) inhibit T-cell proliferation in response to polyclonal mitogen Concanavalin A (ConA) by blocking cell cycle progression; 2) suppressed expression of early and late activation markers CD69 and CD25 respectively in activated T-cells; 3) decreased in levels of Con A induced IL-2, IL-4, IL-6 and IFN-gamma cytokines; 4) completely inhibit ConA induced IkappaB-alpha degradation and NF-kappaB activation [25] . Tsai et al [26] isolated another compound (seselin) from P. zeylanica which seem to have almost similar effects on human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

Antifertility activity

The acetone and ethanol extracts of leaves of P. zeylanica showed effective interruption in oestrous cycle of rats. There was prolonged dioestrous stage of the oestrous cycle corresponding to a temporary inhibition of ovulation. This antiovulatory activity is reversible upon discontinuation of the treatment. [27]

Abortifacient activity

Treatment with powdered root of P. zeylanica during the first 7 days of pregnancy resulted in perimplantationary loss together with loss of uterine proteins of 13,000; 19,000 and 26,000 and 75,000 Da molecular weights. For those given the root from day 6 to day 17 of pregnancy proteins of molecular weights 55,000 and 65,000 Da were absent. This shows that proteins of 13,000; 19,000; 26,000 and 75,000 Da influence implantations while those of 55,000 and 65,000 Da are required for maintenance of pregnancy. [28]

Lipid metabolism activity

Plumbagin isolated from the roots of P. zeylanica was reported to have the following effects on lipid metabolism of rabbits: 1. reduce serum cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol by 53% - 86% and 61% - 91 % respectively; 2. lower cholesterol/phospholipid ration by 45.8%; 3. elevates decreased HDL-cholesterol significantly. It was also observed that it could prevent accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides in liver and aorta and regressed atheroma plaques of thoracic and abdominal aorta. The treated rabbits excreted more faecal cholesterol and phospholipids. [29]

Antimicrobial activity

Various researchers have found that P. zeylanica extracts showed potentials of antimicrobial activities. They found that P. zeylanica extracts are active against multidrug resistant bacteria including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). [30][31][32]

Plumbagin isolated from the roots of P. zeylanica could enhance the effects of antibiotics (streptomycin and rifampicin) against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus). [33] Plumbagin was also found to have antimycobacterial activity [34]. Jetty et al isolated two more antibacterial compounds from the roots i.e. neoisoshinanolone and 1-epineo-isoshinanolone [35].

Antiplasmodial activity

Simonsen et al found that P. zeylanica was amongst the five species out of 47 species of plants they studied, to have antiplasmodial activity. [36]

Antiviral activity

Chen et al found that water soluble extract of P. zeylanica (a component of Ganduqing) has the ability to inhibit HBeAg and HBsAg expressed by 2.2.15 cells [37] . Gebre-Mariam et al found 80% methanol extract of P. zeylanica could inhibit Influenza A virus and Coxsakie virus B3 [38].

Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity

In a preliminary study of 50 Taiwanese folk medicinal plants for their anti-Helicobacter pylori activity, Wang et al found that the 95% ethanol extract of P. zeylanica possess the highest anti-Helicobacter pylori activity. They went to further study the activity to find that the organic solvent (ethyl acetate, acetone, and ethanol) extracts were more effective than the aqueous extract. Ethyl acetate extract showed the lowest MIC against 5 strains of H. pylori ranging from 0.32 to 1.28 mg/mL. This is followed, in ascending order, by acetone, ethanol and water analogs. Bactericidal activity again was seen highest in ethyl acetate (MIC of 5.12-20.48 mg/mL) followed by acetone, and ethanol. The ethyl acetate extract showed high stability within pH range of 1-7. They finally identified plumbagin to be one of the compounds responsible for this activity. [39][40][41]

Cytotoxic activity

P. zeylanica showed significant cytotoxic activity. Various researchers had isolated a number of compounds and determined their range of effects on cancer cells. Plumbagin isolated from the roots of P. zeylanica was significant to suppress the growth of Raji, Calu-1, HeLa, wish tumour, MCF7, Bowes, APL (human acute promyelocytic leukemia), NB4, human prostatic cancer and human pancreatic cancer cell lines. [42][[43][44][45][46][47][48][49]

Methanol extract of P. zeylanica has been demonstrated to exhibit cytotoxic activity against MDA-MB-231 cell line. Active ingredient, 3β-hydroxylup-20(29)-ene-27,28-dioic acid dimethyl ester isolated from P. zeylanica was observed to suppress MDA-MB-231 cells adhesion to the fibronectin-coated substrate and also inhibited the wound healing migration and invasion of MDA-MB-231 cells through the reconstituted extracellular matrix. [50]

Plumbagin isolated from P. zeylanica was found to have cell growth modulatory, anticarcinogenic and radiosensitizing effects due to its ability to inhibit NF-kappaB activation and NF-kappaB-regulated gene products via modulation of p65 and IkappaB-alpha kinase activation. Nazeem et al [52] and Powolny et al [53] suggested the possibility of an important role played by ROS in plumbagin-induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells. The ROS factor was also suggested by Xu et al [54] in their study on human promeyelocytic leukemia cells. Aziz et al [55] found that plumbagin could inhibit the growth and invasiveness of prostatic cancer, inhibits multiple molecular targets including PKC-epsilon, a predictive biomarker of prostatic cancer aggressiveness.


Acute toxicity

80% methanol crude extract of P. zeylanica roots was investigated in animals for irritation, sensitization, acute toxicity and repeated toxicity tests. Results showed that the primary irritant index to be 2.00 in rabbits, sensitization test in mice showed it to be non-sensitizer in the dose range of 4 – 10 mg/mL, and acute dermal toxicity test on rats did not produce any overt signs of toxicity except for a weight gain difference between the test and control groups of female rats. Repeated dose toxicity test was associated with increased relative testes weight as well as higher values for Blood Urea Nitrogen and K+, an observation not supported by histopathological analyses. [55]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

Can causes vesication of the skin in human. [4][9][12][56]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


It is absolutely contraindicated in cases of pregnancy due to its wide used in traditional medicine to induce abortion. [4][5][9][12][56]

Case Report

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


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