Justicia betonica L.

Last updated: 11 May 2016

Scientific Name

Justicia betonica L.


Adhatoda betonica (L.) Nees, Adhatoda cheiranthifolia Nees, Adhatoda lupulina Nees, Adhatoda ramosissima Nees, Adhatoda trinervia (Vahl) Nees, Adhatoda variegata var. pallidior Nees, Betonica frutescens Bontekoe, Dicliptera lupulina C.Presl, Ecbolium betonica (L.) Kuntze, Gendarussa betonica Nees ex Steud [Invalid], Justicia antidote Sm. ex T.Anderson, Justicia betonicoides C.B.Clarke, Justicia cheiranthifolia C.B.Clarke, Justicia lupulina E.Mey., Justicia ochroleuca Blume, Justicia pallidior (Nees) C.B.Clarke, Justicia pseudobetonica Roth, Justicia ramosissima Roxb. ex Hornem., Justicia trinervia Vahl, Justicia uninervis S. Moore, Nicoteba betonica (L.) Lindau, Nicoteba trinervia (Vahl) Lindau, Rhyticalymma ochroleucum (Blume) Bremek. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Daun ekor tupai [2]
English Squirrel’s tail [2], white shrimp plant [3]
India Palage soppu, tellarantu [2], had-paata (Bihar); prameha-harati, mokandar (Madhya Pradesh) [3]
Indonesia Ekor tupai, om rompien (Java); jukut buntut seroh (Sunda) [3]
Sri Lanka Sudupuruk (Singhala) [2]
Tanzania Akech (Luo) [2]
Ethiopia Goppe dhaliyaa [2]
Kenya Kipkesio [2][3]

Geographical Distributions

Justicia betonica is a woody plant of the tropics that often found growing wild as a weedy by roadsides and in wastelands. [4]

Botanical Description

J. betonica L. is a glabrous shrub that can grow up to 2 m high.

The stem is terete, tumid and purple above nodes.

The leaves are oval-oblang-lanceolate, 6-17.5 x 2.2-4 cm, from an acute base tapering into petiole, subacuminate. Spikes are terminal, 6.5-23.5 cm long, simple, ocassionally branched; peduncles 3-8.5 cm; bracts 4-ranked, imbricate, broadly ovate, 1.4-2 x 0.7-1.2 cm, acute at apex, usually scarious at margins, prominently 3-nerved.

The bracteoles are elliptic, 1.2-1.6 x 0.4-0.6 cm; Calyx-lobes linear-lanceolate, 3-5 x 1-1.5 mm, densely bristly without. Corolla infundibular; tube 5-8 mm long, greenish white; limb pinkish mauve; upper lip broadly ovate, 6-7 mm long, faintly hooded; lower one ovate oblong, 4-5.5 x 7-9 mm long, lobes oval-oblong; spur of lower anther-thecae 1–1.25 mm long.

The capsule is ovoidly clavate, 10-16 x 5-6 mm, bristly, with a short, solid base; seeds orbicular, 4-8 mm broad, subcompressed, rugulose-tuberculate. [3]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

J. betonica aerial part has been reported to contain four triterpenoidal glycosides (e.g. olean-12-ene-1β,3β,11α,28-tetraol 28-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranoside, olean-12-ene-1β,3β,11α,28-tetraol 28-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranoside, 11α-methoxy-olean-12-ene-1β,3β,28-triol 28-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranoside, 11α-methoxy-olean-12-ene-1β,3β,28-triol 28-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->2)-β-D-glucopyranoside). [5]

Plant Part Used

Leaves and flowers. [6][7]

Traditional Use

J. betonica is used in the treatment of various gastrointestinal complaints. The Indians make use of the plant in the treatment of diarrhoea while in Kenya they use the leaves and flower ash for it. [3][6] To treat vomiting and constipation the Indian used the inflorescence given orally. [7] A decoction of the whole plant is used by the Lou tribe of Tanzania to provide relieve of stomach ache. [8]

The Indian and Sri Lankan community apply poultice made from crushed leaves of the plant over abscesses to provide relieve of pain and swelling. [3][9] In Ethopia, to treat snakebites in their cattle, they collect fresh roots of J. betonica, crushed them and homogenised in water and give it to the animal orally. [10] The leaves and flower ash are also used in the treatment of orchitis in Kenya. [6]

Another application of the flower ash and leaves combination is as a cough remedy by the Kenyan community. [6] The Indians use the inflorescence as a hair wash. [7]

Preclinical Data

No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Justicia betonica L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; 2016 May 11]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2330408.
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC World dictionary of plant names: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 645-646.
  3. Khare CP. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. Berlin: Springer; 2007, p. 250.
  4. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p.68.
  5. Kanchanapoom T, Noiarsa P, Ruchirawat S, Kasai R, Otsuka H. Triterpenoidal glycosides from Justicia betonica. Phytochem. 2004;65(18):2613-2618.
  6. Jeruto P, Lukhoba C, Ouma G, Otieno D, Mutai C. Herbal treatments in Aldai and Kaptumo divisions in Nandi district, Riff valley province, Kenya. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2007;5(1):103-105.
  7. Rao DM, Bhaskara Rao UVU, Sudharshanam G. Ethno-medico-botanical studies from Rayalaseema region of Southern Eastern Ghats, Andhra Pradesh, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets. 2006;10:198-207.
  8. Kokwaro JO, Johns T. Luo biological dictionary. Nairobi: East African Publishers, 1998; p. 13.
  9. MacMillan HF. Hand book of tropical plants. New Delhi: South Asia Books; 1989.
  10. Bekola TH, Woodmatas SD, Woldemariam ZA. An ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants used by local people in the lowlands of Konta Special Woreda, southern nations, nationalities and peoples regional state, Ethiopia. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009;5:26.