Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch.

Last updated: 11 May 2016

Scientific Name

Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch.  


Aplotaxis lappa Decne., Aucklandia costus Falc., Aucklandia lappa Decne., Saussurea lappa (Decne.) Sch.Bip., Theodorea costus Kuntze [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Costus, kut, puchok [2]
English Costus, costus root, kuth [2]
China Yun mu xiang [2]
India Agada, amaya, apya, bhasura, cengala, gadakhiya, gadavhaya, haribhadraka, jarana, kashmirja, kostam, kut, kutsita, pachak, padmaka, post-khai, puskara, qust, qust-shirin, rama, roga, rogavhaya, seppudday, upaleta, uplit, vaniraja, vapya, vyapya [2]
Vietnam M[ooj]c h[uw][ow]ng, qu[ar]ng m[ooj]c h[uw] [ow]ng, v[aa]n m[ooj]c h[uw][ow]ng [2].

Geographical Distributions

Saussurea costus is originated from Northern India and Nepal but since it was exported to the East in the 13th Century, it occurs in the whole of the mountainous Asian region. It is cultivated in Northern India, Vietnam and China, but it is not known to be cultivated in Malesia. [3]

Botanical Description

S. costus is a member of the family Compositae. It is an erect, robust, unbranched, perennial herb, and measure about 1.5-2(-2.3) m tall. The roots measure up to 60 cm long, carrot-like, and with a penetrating odour. [3]

The leaves are simple, basal ones spirally arranged in a rosette, cauline leaves alternate, basal leaves triangular, very large, 30-60 cm x 10-15 cm, base cordate, apex pointed to rounded with irregularly toothed margins, membranous, scaberulous above and almost glabrous beneath, cauline leaves smaller, with an auricled and semi-amplexicaul base. The petiole of rosette leaves is lobately winged while the cauline leaves are shortly petiolate or sessile. [3]

The inflorescence is consisting of heads, in terminal or axillary clusters of 2-5, numerous involucral bracts, ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, rigid, squarrosely recurved, glabrous, and coloured purple. The peduncles measure 1-6 cm long while a very dense and hard heads measure 2.5-3.5 cm across. The flowers are all tubular, about 1 cm long, corolla blue-purple with 5 stamens of glabrous filaments and fimbriate anther-tails and bifid style. [3]

The fruit is a compressed subcylindrical achene, 8 mm long, tip narrowed, margins thickened, and has 1 rib on each face. The pappus is with feathery brown hairs in several rows. [3]

The seedling is with epigeal germination. [3]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

S. costus has been reported to contain palmitic acid, succinic acid, glucose, daucosterol, β-sitosterol; sesquiterpene lactones including cynaropicrin, costunolide, β-cyclocostunolide, dihydro costunolide, dehydro S. lappa lactone, 13-sulfo-dihydrodehydrocostus lactone, sulfocostunolide A, sulfocostunolide B, alkaloid saussurine; syringin, costunolide-15-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, chlorogenic acid, aloe-emodin-8-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, rhein-8-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, chrysophanol, emodin, β-costic acid, reynosin, arbusculin A, α-cyclocostunolide, β-cyclocostunolide, santamarine and magnolialide. [4][5][6][7][8] 

Plant Part Used

Root [3]

Traditional Use

S. costus roots are traditionally used in the whole Asian region since a long time ago as a universal antidote, tonic, for coughs, fever, asthma, dyspepsia, flatulence, constipation, inflammations, skin diseases, and as a fumigant. In Peninsular Malaysia, the root is used by mother after childbirth to restore their health. Indonesian used the roots in the treatment and prevention of affections of the respiratory organs. In China and Korea, it is used to relieve pains in the chest and stomach, as a uterine sedative, for indigestion, nausea, diarrhoea, and dysentery. In Thailand, the root has been used as a carminative and to prevent fainting. [3]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

S. costus root is noted for its antioxidant effects, due in part to the chlorogenic acid content. [9][10]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The anti-inflammatory properties of S. costus are attributed, in part, to the sesquiterpene lactones which seem to stabilize lysosomal membranes, preventing the release of inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha and also producing an antiproliferative effect of lymphocytes. [11][12][13]

Antiulcer activity

There have been a few laboratory studies to support the traditional use of S. costus root in gastrointestinal problems, like constipation, spasms and gastric ulcers. One laboratory study found an alcohol extract of S. costus to be strongly inhibitory of H. pylori. [14]

Anticonstipation and antispasm activity

A laboratory study also found that extracts of S. costus contains stimulatory cholinergic-type compounds and also spasmolytic/smooth muscle relaxing compounds that may explain its use in constipation and GI spasms, respectively. The spasmolytic effect was mediated through calcium channel blocking activity. [15]

Anticancer activity

A laboratory studies suggest extracts of S. costus promote cancer cell apoptosis with increased activation of caspases 8, 9, 7, 3, enhanced PARP cleavage, decreased Bcl-xL expression and increased levels of Bax, Bak, Bok, Bik, Bmf, and t-Bid [17]. Other laboratory studies support the cytotoxic properties of extracts of S. costus [18][19][20]. The effects of S. costus root have been reported to increase leukocyte phagocytic activity in dose-dependent manner, suggesting immune modulating effects [21].

Anticaries activity

A interesting study found that alcohol extracts of S. costus may beneficial against dental caries by inhibiting the growth, acid production, adhesion, and water-insoluble glucan synthesis of Streptococcus mutans. [22]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

A Chinese study of 5 human subjects with chronic superficial gastritis found that after drinking a decoction of S. costus, increases occurred in gastric emptying and also in the release of endogenous motilin, a GI stimulatory hormone released by endocrine M cells in the small intestine. [16]


Due to the potential for increasing gastric emptying time, take extracts of S. lappa either 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking prescription or non-prescription medications or other dietary supplements. [23]

Side effects

S. costus may increase gastric emptying, therefore altering the absorption of foods and nutrients. [24]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Feb 11; cited 2016 May 11]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 170.
  3. Schmelzer GH. Saussurea costus (Falc.) S.J. Lipschitz. In: van Valkenburg JLCH, Bunyapraphatsara N, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, 2001; p. 488
  4. Wang F, Xie ZH, Gao Y, et al. Sulfonated guaianolides from Saussurea lappa. Tokyo:Chem Pharm Bull. 2008;56(6):864-865.
  5. Yin HQ, Hua HM, Fu HW, et al. A new sesquiterpene lactone with sulfonic acid group from Saussurea lappa. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2007;9(6-8):579-582.
  6. Robinson A, Kumar TV, Sreedhar E, et al. A new sesquiterpene lactone from the roots of Saussurea lappa: structure-anticancer activity study. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2008;18(14):4015-4017.
  7. Zhang T, Wang H, Du G, Chen R. Study on chemical constituents from roots of Saussurea lappa. Zhonaguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2009;34(10):1223-1224.
  8. Li S, An TY, Li J, Shen Q, Lou FC, Hu LH. PTP1B inhibitors from Saussrurea lappa. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2006;8(3):281-286.
  9. Pandey MM, Govindarajan R, Rawat AK, Pushpangadan P. Free radical scavenging potential of Saussarea costus. Acta Pharm. 2005;55(3):297-304.
  10. Jin M, Lee HJ, Ryu JH, Chung KS. Inhibition of LPS-induced NO production and NF-kappaB activation by a sesquiterpene from Saussurea lappa. Arch Pharm Res. 2000;23(1):54-58.
  11. Damre Damre AA, Damre AS, Saraf MN. Evaluation of sesquiterpene lactone fraction of Saussurea  lappa on transudative, exudative and proliferative phases of inflammation. Phytother Res. 2003;17(7):722-725.
  12. Cho JY, Baik KU, Jung JH, Park MH. In vitro anti-inflammatory effects of cynaropicrin, a sesquiterpene lactone, from Saussurea lappa. Eur J Pharmacol. 2000;398(3):399-407.
  13. Zhao F, Xu H, He EQ, et al. Inhibitory effects of sesquiterpenes from Saussurea lappa on the overproduction of nitric oxide and TNF-alpha release in LPS-activated macrophages. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2008;10(11-12):1045-1053.
  14. Li Y, Xu C, Zhang Q, Liu JY, Tan RX. In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori action of 30 Chinese herbal medicines used to treat ulcer diseases. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;98(3):329-333.
  15. Gilani AH, Shah AJ, Yaeesh S. Presence of cholinergic and calcium antagonist constituents in Saussurea lappa explains its use in constipation and spasm. Phytother Res. 2007;21(6):541-544.
  16. Chen SF, Li YQ, He FY. Effect of Saussurea lappa on gastric functions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1994;14(7):406-408.
  17. Kim EJ, Lim SS, Park SY, et al. Apoptosis of DU145 human prostate cancer cells induced by dehydrocostus lactone isolated from the root of Saussurea lappa. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(12):3651-3658.
  18. Sun CM, Syu WJ, Don MJ, Lu JJ, Lee GH. Cytotoxic sesquiterpene lactones from the root of Saussurea lappa. J Nat Prod. 2003;66(9):1175-1180.
  19. Ko SG, Kim HP, Jin DH, et al. Saussurea lappa induces G2-growth arrest and apoptosis in AGS gastric cancer cells. Cancer Lett. 2005;220(1):11-19.
  20. Oh GS, Pae HO, Chung HT, et al. Dehydrocostus lactone enhances tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis of human leukemia HL-60 cells. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2004;26(2):163-175.
  21. Sarwar A, Enbergs H. Effects of Saussurea lappa roots extract in ethanol on leukocyte phagocytic activity, lymphocyte proliferation and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). Pak J Pharm Sci. 2007;20(3):175-179.
  22. Yu HH, Lee JS, Lee KH, Kim KY, You YO. Saussurea lappa inhibits the growth, acid production, adhesion, and water-insoluble glucan synthesis of Streptococcus mutans. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;111(2):413-417.
  23. Pandey MM, Rastogi S, Rawat AK. Saussurea costus: botanical, chemical and pharmacological review of an ayurvedic medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;110(3):379-390.
  24. Chen SF, Li YQ, He FY. Effect of Saussurea lappa on gastric functions. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1994;14(7):406-408.