Swietenia macrophylla King

Last updated: 04 Oct 2016

Scientific Name

Swietenia macrophylla King


Swietenia belizensis Lundell, Swietenia candollei Pittier, Swietenia macrophylla var. marabaensis Ledoux & Lobato, Swietenia tessmannii Harms [1]

Vernacular Name

English Big-leaf mahogany, broad-leafed mahogany, Honduras mahogany, large leaf mahogany [2]; mahogany [3]
Japan Ôba-mahogani [2]
Peru Aguano, caoba, mahogany, pasich, tuxw [2]
Brazil Aguano, araputanga, caóba, mogno, mogno-brasileiro, cedro-í [3]
Bolivia Mara [3].

Geographical Distributions

Swietenia macrophylla is native to the mainland of tropical Central and South America from Mexico to Peru and Brazil but absent from the central Amazon. It is planted throughout the tropics in reforestation projects and plantations, for instance in Java, Sarawak and especially the Philippines, and planted as a lawn tree in Peninsular Malaysia. [4]

Botanical Description

S. macrophylla is a member of the family Meliaceae. It is a medium-sized to large tree that can reach up to 40(-60) m tall. The bole is branchless for up to 18(-25) m with diameter up to 150(-200) cm. The buttresses are broad and plank-like and up to 5 m high. [4]

The leaves are with (2-)3-6(-8) pairs of leaflets measuring (8-)9-13(-18) cm x 3-4(-5.5) cm but sometimes they are larger on young trees. [4]

The inflorescence is 10-18(-20) cm. The sepals and petals are with fringe hairs. [4]

The seed capsule is 10-15(-22) cm long while the seed is 7.5-12 cm long. [4]


Under natural conditions, S. macrophylla thrives in both deciduous and evergreen rainforests and occurs scattered or in small groups, but more than 4-8 trees/ha are rarely encountered. The optimum annual rainfall is 1400-2500(-3500) mm with a dry period of 0-4 months. S. macrophylla grows from sea level to 1500 m altitude, in areas with a mean annual temperature of 20-28°C, the range of the coldest and warmest month being 11-22°C and 22-30°C respectively. [4]

S. macrophylla is largely unspecific as to soil requirements. Within its natural range, it has been found on alluvial soils, volcanic soils, heavy clays, lateritic soils, soils derived from limestone, granite and other sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic rock formations and even on shallow rendzinas. In plantations in Java, it grows on very poor soils but performs best on deep, fertile, well-drained soils with a pH of 6.5-7.5. It does not tolerate waterlogging. In tropical America, S. macrophylla is among the pioneer species reoccupying degraded agricultural land. It has been shown that Tectona is outcompeted by mahogany in a mixed stand. S. macrophylla is reported to be very wind-firm (resistant to cyclones) in the Philippines. [4]

Chemical Constituent

S. macrophylla has been reported to contain tetranortriterpenoids, swietenine, swietenine acetate, swietenolide (a bitter principle), swietenolide tiglate, swietenolide diacetate, augustineolide, 8, 30-epoxy swietenine acetate, 3β-6-dihydroxydihydrocarapin. [5][6][7][8][9]

Ethyl acetate extract of S. macrophylla seeds has been reported to contain 3,6-Di-O-acetylswietenolide 0.25-hydrate [10], while unspecified S. macrophylla seeds have been reported to contain tetranortriterpenoids (e.g. methyl 3β-tigloyloxy-2,6-dihydroxy-1-oxo-meliac-8(30)-enate, methyl 3β-tigloyloxy-2-hydroxy-1-oxo-meliac-8(30)-enate, methyl 3β-tigloyloxy-2-hydroxy-8α,30α-epoxy-1-oxo-meliacate, methyl 3β-acetoxy-2,6-dihydroxy-8α,30α-epoxy-1-oxo-meliacate, methyl 3β-isobutyryloxy-2,6-dihydroxy-8α,30α-epoxy-1-oxo-meliacate [6], 3β,14-dihydroxymexicanolide, 3-O-tigloylswitenolide, febrifugina, and 3,6-di-O,O-acetylswietenolide [11]).

The terminal shoots, and mature and senescent leaves of the S. macrophylla has been reported to contain essential oils which largely consisted of sesquiterpenes. The compounds that have been identified were α-copaene, β-bourbonene, β-cubebene, β-elemene, β-caryophyllene, β-gurjunene, allo-aromadendrene, g-himachalene, germacrene D, germacrene A, β-ionone, bicyclogermacrene, α-bisabolene, β- bisabolene, γ-bisabolene, 7-epi-α-selinene, cadina-1,4-diene, hexadecanoic acid and ethyl hexadecanoate. All samples contained germacrene D as the major constituent (58.5–66.5%). The oils all contained γ-himachalene, germacrene A, cadina-1,4-diene, hexadecanoic acid, and ethyl hexadecanoate, although in different proportions. [12]

Plant Part Used

Seed, barks. [13][14]

Traditional Use

A most valued tropical hardwood as its timber is easily worked, durable and has a rich red colour. [13]

The seeds are chewed or pounded and swallowed by the natives and the common people of Malaysia to treat high blood pressure [5]. The seeds are traditionally used by the local healers of East Midnapore, West-Bengal, India to cure diarrhoea [15].

The Mosetene Indians of Andean Piedmont, Bolivia, drink a decoction of the crushed seeds to induce abortion. To heal wounds and skin problems including skin allergy in children, the crushed seeds are mixed with Attalea phalerata seed oil and applied onto the skin as a poultice. The Mosetenes also used the bark as a dying agent. Previous research showed a strong correlation between the dying properties of species and its antimalarial activity.   It is also used to dye cotton thread, brown. A decoction of the seeds is used to treat malaria in Indonesia [14] and in India, where it is also used to treat diabetes and hypertension [9].

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

The antimicrobial activity of a methanol extract of S. macrophylla bark was examined against selected gram positive and gram negative bacteria (20 strains) and fungi (4 strains). The methanol extract of S. macrophylla bark showed high sensitivity against Escherichia coli strains while all Shigella strains showed resistance. The extract was effective against Candida albicans but least effective against Penicillium sp. [16]

Antiprotozoan activity

A lectin isolated from the leaves of S. macrophylla (molecular weight=295 kDa) was cytotoxic against Acanthamoeba sp. (a corneal keratitis-causing amoeba) and Tetrahymena pyriformis (a ciliate) indicating its potential as an antiparasitic agent. S. macrophylla lectin showed cytotoxicity against Acanthamoeba sp. and against Tetrahymena pyriformis at concentrations as low as 25 ppm and 10 ppm, respectively. The mechanism could involve interaction of the lectin with sugars present in the protozoans. [17]

Antimalarial activity

The bark extract of S. macrophylla showed good in vivo activity (73% inhibition of the rodent malaria Plasmodium vinckei petteri at 250 mg/kg) and in vitro activity (78% inhibition of chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains (Indo) at 100 µg/mL against malarial. The standard antimalarial drugs for the in vitro assay were Cinchona calisaya stem bark extract (0.4 µg/mL produced 100% inhibition) and chloroquine (100% inhibition at 148 ng/mL). For the in vivo assay, Cinchona calisaya bark extract produced 91% inhibition at 250 mg/kg/day while chloroquine (5 mg/kg/day) inhibited 100% of the parasite growth. [14]

The water extract of S. macrophylla seeds strongly inhibited the growth of Plasmodium falciparum and Babesia gibsoni with inhibition rates of almost 100% and more than 85%, respectively. Babesia gibsoni is a canine intra-erythrocytic parasite that causes anemia. Its life cyle is similar to that P. falciparum and both produce similar disease symptoms. [18]

Anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and antitumor-promoting activity

The crude ethanol extract of the seeds S. macrophylla (1 mg/g body weight] showed anti-inflammatory activity as it reduced carrageenan-induced inflammation in mice by 79%. The solvent fractions of the ethanol extract, i.e. hexane, CCl4 and methanol fractions showed less anti-inflammatory activity. The methanol fraction elicited the highest inhibition (60%) while the hexane fraction produced a low inhibition of 23%. The ethanol extract (0.02 mg/g body weight) showed antimutagenic effects by the micronucleus test as it reduced the number of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes induced by the mutagen mitomycin C, by almost 50%. The ethanol crude extract and its solvent fractions showed significant antitumor-promoting activity as they inhibited Epstein-Barr early-antigen (EBV-EA) activation using 12-0 tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) as the tumor promoter. [19]

Antidiarrhoeal activity

The petroleum ether extract of S. macrophylla seeds (25, 50 & 100 mg/kg body weight, p.o.) showed antidiarrhoeal activity in castor oil-induced diarrhoea in rats, indicating its potential for development as an antidiarrhoeal drug. The extract of S. macrophylla produced a reduction in the rate of defecation and improved the consistency of faeces, effects that were comparable to those produced by the standard anti-diarrhoeal drug, diphenoxylate (50 mg/kg). The maximum effects were seen with 100 mg/kg body weight of S. macrophylla seed extract. The mechanism may involve increased reabsorption of water due to decreased intestinal motility as the petroleum ether seed extract elicited a profound decrease in intestinal transit and significantly inhibited castor oil-induced entero-pooling (intestinal fluid accumulation), effects which were comparable to those produced by atropine sulphate and a drug that produced gastrointestinal hypomotility. The extract was equally effective at preventing or curing diarrhoea. [15]


The antifeedant property of the seed extracts of S. macrophylla were investigated using the fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) and the striped cucumber beetle (SCB), Acalymma vittatum (F.). The seed extracts were highly deterrent (feeding ratios of 0.02 and 0.18 for the ethanol and hexane extracts, respectively) in the FAW bioassay. The feeding ratio was defined as the percentage of an extract-treated leaf disk consumed/percentage of control disk consumed. The feeding ratio of 1.0 indicated no deterrency as equal quantities of treated and control leaf disks were eaten. The extracts were non-lethal since 20 % mortality was seen with the ethanol extract while no mortality occurred with the hexane extract. However, none of the insects pupated while the larvae were all small. The antifeedant activity was also exhibited against SCB although S. macrophylla seed extract was not as potent as the other plant extracts that were also screened. [20]

In the 24 h brine shrimp (Artemia salina Leach) bioassay, the ethanol and hexane extracts of S. macrophylla seeds elicited 22 and 44% mortality, respectively while at 48 h, the mortality were 48 and 76%, respectively. [20]

The crude methanol extracts of the stem barks and leaves of S. macrophylla elicited LC50 values of >1000 and 704.83 µg/mL, respectively, in the brine shrimp lethality bioassay. The positive control for this assay was the crude extract of the stem bark of Annona squamosa which showed an LC50 value of 6.5 µg/mL. [21]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation

Adverse reaction

There is report on allergic contact dermatitis, rhinitis and conjunctivitis in joiners who were exposed to S. macrophylla dust. [22] The contact dermatitis due to S. macrophylla has also been described elsewhere 2, 6-Dimethoxy-p-benzoquinone, is a relatively good sensitizer in guinea pigs. It was isolated in small amounts from S. macrophylla. It is recommended that 2,6-dimethoxy-p-benzoquinone be used in patch tests in in cases of suspected contact dermatitis to S. macrophylla. [21]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

Two men, a 45- and a 54-year-old, who have been working for a long time in their occupations as joiners experienced occupational allergic contact dermatitis and reacted to Honduras mahogany dust on patch testing. They also presented with rhinitis, conjunctivitis. The allergen of S. macrophylla is not known. [22]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing




Figure 1: The line drawing of S. macrophylla. [4]


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Swietenia macrophylla King. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited on 2016 Oct 4]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2601504
  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. 451.
  3. US National Plant Germplasm System. Swietenia macrophylla King. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited on 2016 Oct 4]. Available from: https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?35955
  4. Soerianegara I, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 5(1): Timber trees: Major commercial timbers. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc Scientific Publishers; 1993.
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  17. Endriga MA, Mojica ERC, Merca FE, Lacsamana MS, Deocaris CC. Evaluation of some lectins as anti-protozoal agents. J Med Sci. 2005;5(1):31-34.
  18. Murnigsih T, Subeki, Matsuura H, Takahashi K, Yamasaki, M, Yamato O, maaede Y, Katakura K, Suzuki M, Kobayashi S, Chairul, Yoshihara T. Evaluation of the inhibitory activities of the extracts of Indonesian traditional medicinal plants against Plasmodium falciparum and Babesia gibsoni. J Vet Med Sci. 2005;67(8):829-831.
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