Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz

Last updated: 8 Nov 2016

Scientific Name

Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz


Dianthera paniculata Lour., Ecbolium dichotomum (Blume) Kuntze, Justicia dichotoma Rottler, Justicia macilenta E.Mey., Justicia nasuta L., Justicia rottleriana Wall., Justicia scandens Vahl, Justicia silvatica Nees, Justicia sylvatica Vahl, Pseuderanthemum connatum Lindau, Rhinacanthus communis Nees, Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kuntze, Rhinacanthus osmospermus Bojer ex Nees. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ubat kurap [2]
China Ling zhi cao [2]
India Naaga malli, nagamalli, nagamulla [2]
Indonesia Daun burung, tarebak, tereba jepang [3]
Thailand Thong khan chang, thong phan chang, yaa man kai [3]
Laos Thong kan sang [3]
Myanmar Anitia [3]
Philippines Parajito, ibon-ibonan, tagak-tagak [3]
Vietnam B[aj]ch h[aj]c, ki[ees]n c[of] [3].

Geographical Distributions

Rhinacantus nasutus is probably native to Sri Lanka, India, IndoChina and southern China, but has been intro­duced long ago in Madagascar, tropical East Africa, Thailand and the Malaysian region (Peninsular Malaysia, Java, the Moluccas, the Philippines) where it is now widely naturalised and often common. [3]

Botanical Description

R. nasutus is a member of the family Acanthaceae. It is an erect, branched shrub which can grow up to 2(-3) m tall. The stems are obtusely quadrangular and puberulent when young. [2]

The leaves are arranged opposite, simple, ovate to lance-shaped or elliptical, measuring 3-10 cm x 1-5 cm, acute to attenuate at base, with entire margin, acute at apex and puberulent. The petiole is 0.5-2 cm long while stipules are absent. [3]

The inflorescence is axillary and peduncled. The lax cymes are often combined into a leafy and terminal pani­cle and densely appressed pubescent. The flowers are sub­sessile. The sepal is 5-6 mm long and with 5 narrow lobes which are short­ly connate at the base. The petal is 2-lipped, with narrowly cylindrical tube and green. The upper lip is with 2 teeth, measuring 8-10 mm x 2-3 mm and white while the lower lip is with 3 large lobes where the central one measures 10-14 mm x 9-13 mm, and white with red markings at the base. It has 2 stamens that are in­serted near the petal tube apex. The anther cells are in­serted at unequal level. Disk is present. The ovary is supe­rior, 2-locular with 2 ovules in each cell, with 1 style and with a 2-fid stigma. [3]

The fruit is club-shaped, loculicidal, with hairy capsule, measures 17-25 mm long and with sterile basal part. [3]

The seeds are held up on well-developed hooks (retinacula), orbicular, flat and hairy. [3]


R. nasutus is found in thickets, hedges and waste places up to 750 m altitude. It thrives best on moist, well-drained soils, but it is also found in much drier habitats such as rock crevices. [3]

Chemical Constituent

Isolation from the roots of R. nasutus has been reported to contain rhinacanthin A, rhinacanthin B, lupeol, β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and glucoside [4]. Two lignans isolated from the aerial parts of R. nasutus are known as rhinacanthin E and rhinacanthin F [5].

Plant Part Used

Leaves and roots. [6]

Traditional Use

The roots and leaves of R. nasutus are applied externally as a remedy for certain skin disorders such as ringworm, eczema, scurf and herpes. They are soaked in vinegar or alcohol, pounded with lemon or tamarind, or made into a decoction. In Peninsular Malaysia, they are prepared with sulphur and benzoin or vaseline. [3]

In Thailand, R. nasutus leaves may be pounded with alcohol, lemon and tamarind juice. The resulting extract is applied on the infected skin. In Vietnam, an infusion of R. nasutus has a reputation in folk medicine for the treatment of hypertension. In China, the stem and leaves are also applied to treat ringworm infections, as well as in early stages of tuberculosis. When applied internally the leaf is used as an antipyretic, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory and detoxicant, and against snake venom. R. nasutus is considered to be aphrodisiac. In Thailand, anti-cancer activity has been reported. R. nasutus is also regularly planted as a hedge plant and has been applied for erosion control in road construction. Moreover, in Thailand it is planted for its ornamental value. In Madagascar, the seeds are used for scenting clothes. [3]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

Two naphthoquinone isolated from R. nasutus (rhinacanthin-C and D) exhibit inhibitory activity against cytomegalovirus (CMV). Two other compounds (rhinacanthin E and F) were found to have significant activity against influenza virus type A. [7]

Antibacterial activity

Rhinacanthin-rich R. nasutus extract was prepared and standardized to contain total rhinacanthin not less than 70% (w/w) and was tested for its antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus mutans, Propionibacterium acnes, Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida albicans. It was found that the extract exhibited potent bactericidal activity against Streptococcus mutans and potent baterostatic activity against Staphylococcus epidermidis, Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus. This extract however did not show any activity against Candida albicans. [8]

Anticancer activity

Rhinacanthins were islolated from both leaves and roots of R. nasutus. These compounds showed antiproliferative and anticancer activities. Rhinacanthin-Q a 1,4-naphthoquinone, was isolated from the roots was found to have cytotoxic and antiplatelet effects [9]. Rhinacanthin C was found to have a comparable antiproliferative activity to 5-FU and showed antiproliferative activity against MDR1-overexpressing Hvr100-6 cell [10]. Another compound, rhinacanthone isolated from the roots possesses anticancer effect through induction of apoptosis mediated through the mitochondria-dependent signaling pathway. This is expressed in HeLa cells making rhinacanthone a promising agent for the treatment of human cancer cervix [11][12][13].

Anti-inflammatory activity

The leaves of R. nasutus had been used traditionally to treat various inflammatory related diseases. Three naphthoquinone derivatives (rhinacanthin A, D, & N) isolated from the leaves showed very potent anti-inflammatory activity. They were found to produce this effect through the inhibition of NO and protaglandin E2 releases [14]. Another study showed the the leaves extract could either increase or decrease NO production by macrophages through its effect on the TNF-alpha expression [15]. However, the aqueous root extract was found to be ineffective agains colon carcer [16].

Anti-allergic activity

Three compounds isolated from the leaves of R. nasutus was found to be potent anti-allergic acitivity against antigen-induced beta-hexosamidase release as a marker of degranulation in RBL-2H3 cells. These three naphthoquinone derivatives were identified as rhinacanthin-C,D,and N. Rhinacanthin C was found to be the most potent when tested on antigen-induced release of TNF-alpha and IL-4. [17]


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing




Figure 1: The line drawing of R. nasutus [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Oct 26]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2421087
  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. 30.
  3. Chuakul W, Soonthornchareonnon N, Saralamp P. Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, 1999; p. 431-433.
  4. Wu TS, Tien KJ, Yeh MY, Lee KH. Isolation and cytotoxicity of rhinacanthin-A and –B, two naphthoquinones from Rhinacanthus nasutus. Phytochem.1988;27(12):3787-3788.
  5. Kernan MR, Sendl A, Chen JL et al. Two new lignans with activity against influenza virus from the medicinal plant Rhinacanthus nasutus. J Nat Prod. 1997;60(6):635-637.
  6. Batugal PA, Kanniah J, Sy L, Oliver JT, editors. Medicinal plants research in Asia - Volume I: The framework and project workplan. Serdang, Selangor: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute-Regional Office for Asia, the Pacific and Oceania (IPGRI-APO), 2004; p. 168.
  7. Sendl A, Chen JL, Jolad SD, et. al. Two new naphthoquinones with antiviral activity from Rhinacanthus nasutus. J Nat Prod. 1996;59(8):808-811.
  8. Puttarak P, Charoonratana T, Panichayupakaranant P. Antimicrobial activity and stability of rhinacanthins-rich Rhinacanthus nasutus extract. Phytomed. 2010;17(5):323-327.
  9. Wu TS, Hsu HC, Wu PL, Teng CM, Wu YC. Rhinacanthin-Q, a naphthoquinone from Rhinacanthus nasutus and its biological activity. Phytochem. 1998;49(7):2001-2003.
  10. Gotoh A, Sakaeda T, Kimura T, et. al. Antiproliferative activity of Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz extracts and the active moiety, Rhinacanthin C. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004;27(7):1070-1074.
  11. Siripong P, Hahnvajanawong C, Yahuafai J, et al. Induction of apoptosis by rhinacanthone isolated from Rhinacanthus nasutus roots in human cervical carcinoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2009;32(7):1251-1260.
  12. Siripong P, Yahuafai J, Shimizu K, et al. Induction of apoptosis in tumor cells by three naphthoquinone esters isolated from Thai medicinal plant: Rhinacanthus nasutus Kurz. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006;29(10):2070-2076.
  13. Siripong P, Yahuafai J, Shimizu K, et al. Antitumor activity of liposomal naphthoquinone esters isolated from Thai medicinal plant: Rhinacanthus nasutus KURZ. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006;29(11):2279-2283.
  14. Tewtrakul S, Tansakul P, Panichayupakaranant P. Effects of rhinacanthins from Rhinacanthus nasutus on nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha releases using RAW264.7 macrophage cells. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(6-7):581-585.
  15. Punturee K, Wild CP, Vinitketkumneun U. Thai medicinal plants modulate nitric oxide and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in J774.2 mouse macrophages. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;95(2-3):183-189.
  16. Kupradinun P, Siripong P, Chanpai R, Piyaviriyagul S, Rungsipipat A, Wangnaitham S. Effects of Rhinacanthus nasutus Kurz on colon carcinogenesis in mice. Asian Pac J Cancer. 2009;10(1):103-106.
  17. Tewtrakul S, Tansakul P, Panichayupakaranant P. Anti-allergic principles of Rhinacanthus nasutus leaves. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(10):929-934.