Cassia fistula L.

Last updated: 27 Oct 2016

Scientific Name

Cassia fistula L.


Bactyrilobium fistula Willd., Cassia bonplandiana DC., Cassia excelsa Kunth, Cassia fistuloides Collad., Cassia rhombifolia Roxb., Cathartocarpus excelsus G.Don, Cathartocarpus fistula Pers., Cathartocarpus fistuloides (Collad) G.Don, Cathartocarpus rhombifolius G. Don [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Bereksa, tengguli, rajah kayu, dulang [2]
English Golden shower, Indian laburnum, pudding pipe tree, purging tree, canafistola, casse, midas tree, purging fistula, golden rain [3]
China A po le, chang kuo tzu shu, huai hua ching, la chang shu, po luo men zao jia [4]
India Aehaela-gaha, badar lauri, campurukam, dhanba, dhodri, ekela, funnel mara, garmala, icankoti, kazom kakkaemara, ngai-ngaw, raelachettu, sarakkonnai, vakkam [4]
Indonesia Keyok, klohur, peyok, piyok, tangguli, tengguli, trengguli (Java); bobondelan, bubundelan, bumbungdelan, bondel, tanggoli, tranggoli (Sundan) [2]
Thailand Kun, raja pruk, chaiya pruk [2]
Laos Khoun (General) [5]
Philippines Fistula (Tagalog, Cebu Bisaya); kana-pistula (Tagalog); bitsula (Cebu Bisaya) [5]
Cambodia Reach, reach speu, reach chhpoeus [5]
Vietnam C[aa]y b[of] c[aj]p n[uw][ows]c, mu[oof]ng ho[af]ng y[ees]n [5]
France Caneficier [5].

Geographical Distributions

Cassia fistula is native of India and is distributed in tropical Central and South America, Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. It has been introduced into North America as ornamentals. [6]

Botanical Description

C. fistula is a member of the family Leguminosae family. Cassia fistula is a small to medium-sized tree, measures 10-15 m tall or sometimes more, deciduous or semi-deciduous. It is with spreading branches while the young twigs are smooth. [5]

The leaves are with 3-7 pairs of leaflets, with petiole 5-8 cm long, terete, with ovate-oblong leaflets, measuring 7-12 cm x 4-8 cm, subcoriaceous, broadly wedge-shaped at base, acute at apex, with shiny upper surface and smooth when mature. [5]

The inflorescence is an axillary, pendulous, lax raceme, measures 20-40(-60) cm long and many-flowered. The flowers are fragrant, with sepals 7-10 mm long, with broadly ovate petals and golden-yellow. There are 10 stamens where 3 of them are with filaments 3-4 cm long, while the other 4 are shorter with filaments 6-10 mm long and the last 3 are reduced with filaments 3-4 mm long. The anthers are minute. [5]

The fruit is 20-60 cm long, pendent, terete, measures 1.5-2 cm in diameter, black, hairless and indehiscent. The seeds are numerous, separated by papery septa and embedded in black glutinous pulp. [5]


C. fistula occurs in Java in light forests below 400 m altitude, and in the Philippines in open grasslands at low and medium altitudes. It seems to favour calcareous and red, volcanic soils, but in Thailand, it is also found on sandy and loamy soils. [5]

Chemical Constituent

C. fistula seeds have been reported to contain glycerides with linoleic, oleic, stearic and palmitic acids, trace amounts of caprylic and myristic acids, cephalin and lecithin phospholipids and carbohydrates. [7][8]

C. fistula bark has been reported to contain lupeol, β-sitosterol and hexacosanol [5]. Its fruit tissue has been reported to contain a substantial amount of potassium, calcium, iron and manganese [6]. In addition, the in vivo and in vitro extracts of C. fistula are rich in polyphenolics and the secondary metabolites which are consisted of anthraquinones, flavonoids and flavan-3-ol derivatives, sennoside A, sennoside B and many others. [9]

C. fistula bark has been reported to contain long-chain hydrocarbons (e.g. 1-hexacosanol, 1-octacosanol, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, heptacosyl eicosanate, and glyceryl-1-tetraeicosanoate), sterols (e.g. β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and β-sitosteryl-3-O-D-glucopyranoside), triterpene (e.g. lupeol), anthraquinones (e.g. chrysophanol, emodin, physcion, citreorosein, rhein, rhein methyl ester, ziganein, and 1,4,5-trihydroxyanthraquinone), coumarins (e.g. isoscopoletin and scopoletin), chromones (e.g. 2,5-dimethyl-7-hydroxychromone and 2,5-dimethyl-7-methoxychromone), and aromatic compounds (e.g. isovanillic acid, vanillic acid, and 2,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde). [10]

C. fistula bark and hardwood have been reported to contain fistucacidin, an optically inactive leucoanthocyanidin, 3,4,7,8,4′-pentahydroxyflavan (I), barbaloin (II) and rhein (III). [11]

C. fistula fruits have been reported to contain potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, and manganese. The pulp and seeds are high with amino acid aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and lysine. [12]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, wood [5], bark, fruits, seeds, roots [13]

Traditional Use

The bark had been used for fractures and tropical ulcers. The heartwood is an anthelmintic. [13]

The fruit pulp is a remedy for renal stones and a vermifuge. [13]

The seeds and ripe pod are used as laxative, as a remedy for malaria, blood poisoning, anthrax and dysentery. [13]

The root helps in purifying wounds and ulcers. [13]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity


The crude extract of C. fistula fruit at a concentration of 1000 μg/mL showed antibacterial activity against 10 bacteria using the agar dilution-streak method. The complete inhibition was showed against Bacillus cereus var mycoides, Bacillus pumilus, Bacillus subtilis, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus faecalis, Saccharomyces cerevisiae after compared to positive control ciprofloxacin (3g/mL) [9]. In addition the redissolved dried leaf extract of C. fistula was tested using disk diffusion method and was found to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [14].


The crude extract of C. fistula fruit at a concentration of 1000 μg/mL showed antifungal activity against 2 fungi using the agar dilution-streak method. The complete inhibition was showed against Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger after compared to positive control amphotericin-B (3 g/mL). [15]

Wound healing activity

A hydrocarbon ointment containing 10% w/w of C. fistula leaf extract was topically applied onto infected albino rat wounds. It showed improved healing through wound closure and tissue regeneration. [14]

Hepatoprotective activity

n-heptane extract of C. fistula leaves was tested in hepatotoxicity-induced rats using tetrachloride:liquid paraffin.  At a dose of 400 mg/kg, the extract showed significant hepatoprotective activity by lowering the serum levels of transaminases, bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase which was comparable to the standard drug which is a liver tonic Neutrosec administered at a dose of 5 mL/kg (p.o). [16]

Antioxidant activity

The preliminary antioxidant assessment was performed using ethanol extract of the leaves and methanol extracts of the bark, pulp and flowers of C. fistula. The antioxidant activity was found to correlate with the total polyphenolic content of the extracts and was in the descending order of bark, leaves, flowers then pulp. [17]

The antioxidant activity of the aqueous extract of C. fistula flowers (ACF) was later investigated in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. For rats that were treated with ACF, there was a significant reduction in peroxidation products (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, conjugated dienes and hydroperoxides) and a prominent increase in the activities of the antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase and glutathione. [18]

Aqueous and methanol extracts of C. fistula bark were also investigated for their antioxidant activity. Both extracts exhibited antioxidant activity in DPPH, nitric oxide and hydroxyl radical-induced in vitro assay methods.  The extracts also showed a dose-dependent protective effect against lipid peroxidation and free radical generation in liver and kidney homogenates. [19]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The anti-inflammatory activity of the aqueous (CFA) and methanol (CFM) extracts of C. fistula bark was assayed in Wistar albino rats. Both the extracts exhibited significant (P < 0.01) reduction in carrageenan-induced oedema at 250 and 500 mg/kg. It also significantly (P < 0.001) reduced the weight of the cotton pellet-induced granuloma with the percentage inhibition was 42.69% for CFA, 22.31% for CFM and 50.42% for the reference standard Diclofenac. [19]

Antitumour activity

Methanol extract of C. fistula seeds exhibited some promising antitumour activity in Ehrlich ascites carcinoma tumour mice especially at a dose 100 mg/kg. This extract had increased the life span and decreased the tumour volume and viable tumour cell count of the mice. [20]

Ni(II) biosorption activity

The dried biomass of C. fistula was tested as a biosorbent for Ni(II), a known environmental pollutant. The sorption ability of C. fistula biomass for Ni(II) removal tends to be in the order: leaves<stem bark<pods bark. When the initial Ni(II) concentration was 25 mg/L, 100% pollutant removal was achieved with the herbal biomass. [21]

Other activities

Other documented activities of C. fistula include antifertility [22], effects on central nervous systems [23] and inhibitory action on leukotriene biosynthesis [24].


The aqueous extract of C. fistula fruit was tested in vitro on isolated guinea pig ileum. The acute and sub-chronic toxicity of the extract was compared with the reference Senokot tablet. LD50 of the extract was found to be 6600 mg/kg and the extract showed no pathological changes on the organs examined microscopically. It was concluded that the aqueous extract of C. fistula was safe to be used as a laxative and as a substitute for the official Senna. [25]

In another acute toxicity study using both the aqueous and methanol extracts of C. fistula bark, there was no sign of toxicity up to a dose level of 2000 mg p.o. [19]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


In certain condition.

Side effects

C. fistula is a stimulant laxative and may cause diarrhoea and loose stool after ingestion. [26]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Pregnant women or nursing mothers should consult a health care provider prior to using any dietary supplement containing C. fistula. [26]

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Additive effects are seen with preparations containing senna or any other laxatives. [26]

Interaction with other Herbs

People should exercise caution when taking C. fistula together with other herbal preparations that also possess laxative effects e.g. Aloe spp., Frangula alnusGrangula purshiana, Rhamnus cathartica, Rheum officinale, Rheum palmatum, and Senna spp.. [26]


C. fistula should be avoided by patients experiencing abdominal pain or diarrhoea or hypersensitivity to it or to members of the Leguminosae family. [26]

Case Report

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Fruits and seeds. [3][6]


The fruit pulp of C. fistula contains emodin glycoside which is an anthraquinone. This is known to cause digestive tract irritation. [3][6]

Risk management

No documentation

Poisonous clinical findings

Clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, colic and dehydration. C. fistula causes only digestive tract and does not cause muscular weakness. Emodin can also cause a change in the colour of urine test which is yellowish brown in acid urine or violet in basic urine. [3][6]


Treatment is directed towards alleviating the digestive tract effects. This may necessitate the administration of intravenous rehydration therapy, antiemetics and electrolyte replacement in severe cases especially in children. [3][6]

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of C. fistula [5]


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  8. Niranjan GS, Katiyar SK.  Chemical analysis of some wild leguminous seeds. J Indian Chem Soc. 1979;56:722-725.
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  10. Lee CK, Lee PH, Kuo YH. The chemical constituents from the aril of Cassia fistula L. J Chin Chem Soc. 2001;48(6A):1053-1058.
  11. Murty VK, Rao TVP, Venkateswarlu V. Chemical examination of Cassia fistula. Tetrahedron. 1967;23(1):515-518.
  12. Barthakur NN, Arnold NP, Alli I. The Indian laburnum (Cassia fistula L.) fruit: An analysis of its chemical constituents. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands). 1995;47(1):55-62.
  13. Schmelzer GH, Gurib-Fakim A. plant resources of Tropical Africa Volume 11– Medicinal Plants. Wageningen: PROTA, 2008; p. 146-148.
  14. Kumar MS, Sripriya R, Raghavan HV, Sehgal PK. Wound healing potential of Cassia fistula on infected albino rat model. J Surgical Res. 2006;13(2):283-289.
  15. Kumar VP, Chauhan NS, Padh H, Rajani M. Search for antibacterial and antifungal agents from selected Indian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(2): 182-188.
  16. Bhakta T, Mukherjee PK, Mukherjee K. Evaluation of hepatoprotective activity of Cassia fistula leaf extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;66(3):277-282.
  17. Siddhuraju P, Mohan PS, Becker K. Studies on the antioxidant activity of Indian laburnum (Cassia fistula L.): A preliminary assessment of crude extracts from stem bark, leaves, flowers and fruit pulp. Food Chem. 2002;79(1):61-67.
  18. Manonmani G, Bhavapriya V, Kalpana S, Govindasamy S, Apparanantham T. Antioxidant activity of Cassia fistula (Linn.) flowers in alloxan induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Feb;97(1):39-42.
  19. Ilavarasan R, Mallika M, Venkataraman S. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of Cassia fistula Linn bark extracts. Afr J Trad CAM. 2005;2(1):70-85.
  20. Gupta M, Mazumder UK, Rath N, Mukhopadhyay DK. Antitumor activity of methanolic extract of Cassia fistula L. seed against Ehrlich ascites carcinoma. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;72(1-2):151-156.
  21. Hanif MA, Nadeem R, Bhatti HN, Ahmad NR, Ansari TM. Ni(II) biosorption by Cassia fistula (Golden Shower) biomass. J Hazard Mater. 2007;139(2):345-355.
  22. Yadav R, Jain GC. Antifertility effect of aqueous extract of seeds of Cassia fistula in female rats. Adv Contracept. 1999;15(4):293-301.
  23. Mazumdar UK, Gupta M, Rath N. CNS activities of Cassia fistula in mice. Phytother Res. 1998;12(7):520-522.
  24. Sunil Kumar KC, Muller K. Inhibition of leukotriene biosynthesis and lipid peroxidation in biological models by the extract of Cassia fistula. Phytother Res. 1998;12(7):526-528.
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