Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex Corrêa

Last updated: 14 Dec 2016

Scientific Name

Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex Corrêa


Abelmoschus acuminatus (Alef.) Müll.Berol, Azanza acuminata Alef., Bupariti populnea (L.) Rothm., Hibiscus bacciferus G.Forst. [Unresolved], Hibiscus blumei Kuntze, Hibiscus litoreus J.Presl [Unresolved], Hibiscus macrophyllus (Blume) Oken [Illegitimate], Hibiscus populifolius Salisb. [Illegitimate], Hibisucs populneus L., Malvaviscus populneus (L.) Gaertn., Thespesia macrophylla Blume. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Baru, baru baru, baru laut, bebaru, buah keras laut, waru, [2] tebawan [3]
English Portia tree, pacific rose wood [3]
India Arasi bhendi, chandamaram, dumbla, gajadanda, gangaravi, gangareni, gangarenu, gangarevi, gangu-ranichettu, gardha-bhanda, habali, habeli, habor, kallal, kan-darola-mara, kandral, kapi cheet, munigangaravi, najadanda, nandi, paras, paras pipal, paras piplo, parash, paraspital, pardesh bhindi, parisa, parisha, parsipu, parushamaram, pilo, pipal, poopparuthy, poorvarasam, poorvarasu, poovar-asu, porush, poursunghai, puarasu, purashamaram, pursung, purvarasam, puvarasu, puvvarashah, rammo, sooparshavaka, suparashvaka, tebokala [2]
Borneo Daun tabawan [2]
Indonesia Baru laut, salimuli, waru laut, [2] waru lot (Java) [3]
Thailand Pho-thale, po kamat phrai, [2] po tale, baku [3]
Philippines Balu, banalo, tuba-tuba [2]
Cambodia Baëhs sâmutr, chréi sâmutr [2]
Japan Sakishima-hamabô, shima-aoi, toyûma [2]
Dominica Maho lamé [2]
Rodrigues Island Mahoe, Ste. Marie [2]
Tanzania Mtakawa [2]
Pacific ‘amae, badrirt, banalo, bang-beng, kilulo, mi’o, milo, miro, mulomulo, panu, polo, pone, purau [2]
Papua New Guinea Banar, kunakunaba [2]
Hawaii Milo. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Thespesia populnea is found all around tropical Asia, Africa and West Indies. Besides, it is common in the coastal forests of peninsular Malaysia. [3]

Botanical Description

T. populnea is a member of Malvaceae family. [1] It is an evergreen shrub or small or rarely medium-sized trees, which can reach up to 30 m tall. Its bole is short and twisted or longer, up to 60 cm in diametre and without buttresses. [4]

The bark surface is becoming rough and fissured in older trees, pale grey, very fibrous inner bark and pink. The crown is broad and dense. [4]

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple, entire or palmately lobed, palmately veined and stipulate. [4]

The 5-merous flowers are axillary, solitary but often seemingly in a raceme by reduction of the upper leaves. The epicalyx is with 3-6 free segments. Sepal is cupular and entire or minutely toothed. The petal is large and usually yellow with a dark purple centre.  The ovary is 5-or 10-locular with 3-many ovules per cell, 1 style and club-shaped stigma or rarely 5-lobed. [4]

The fruit is a capsule and sometimes dehiscent. Seeds are (1-)2-many per cell, smooth to densely hairy. Seedling is with epigeal germination. The cotyledons are emergent and leafy. The hypocotyl is elongated with all leaves are arranged spirally. [4]


The species endemic to New Guinea are all found in lowland primary or secondary rain forest, up to 1000 m altitude. T. populnea is scattered or rarely gregarious on sandy and rocky coasts, in beach forest (e.g. the Barringtonia formation), preferring light sandy soils. [4]

Chemical Constituent

T. populnea heartwood has been reported to contain four naturally occurring quinones namely mansonone D, mansonone H, thespone, and thespesone. [5]

T. populnea red heartwood has been been reported to contain sesquiterpene quinones namely thespesenone and dehydrooxoperezinone-6-methyl ether for the first time in nature. Other constituents isolated are 7-hydroxycadalene, and the sesquiterpene quinones, (e.g. mansonone D, mansonone E, mansonone F, mansonone G, mansonone M, and thespesone). [6]

Other chemical constituents extracted from T. populnea include: β-sitosterol, ceryl alcohol, epoxyoleic acid, gossypetin, gossypol, herbacetin, kaempferol, kaempferol-3-monoglucoside, kaempferol-7-glucoside, linoleic acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, populneol, populnin, quercetin, stearic acid, thespesin, saponins and tannins. [7]

Plant Part Used

Fruit, seed, leaf, peduncle, bark, flower, and wood. [3]

Traditional Use

Malays use the mixture of the extracted fruit with pounded leaves of T. populnea as a poultice to relieve headache and pruritus. In the Philippine Islands, the extract of the fruit is used to relieve pruritus while the Indians use the fruit itself. The yellowish extract from the young fruit is used to treat insect bites, gonorrhoea, migraine, headache, fistula, psoriasis, scabies, tinea and warts. [3]

The seeds of T. populnea are used to treat scabies and other skin disorders. In India, the seeds are used as a laxative. An application of the seeds or leaves is rubbed onto swollen joints. [3]

The extract from the peduncles of T. populnea is used to treat centipede stings as well as to address various skin disorders. [3]

The bark of T. populnea is used to treat dysentery and haemorrhoids. A decoction of the bark and perhaps an application of the flowers are used to relieve pruritus. [3]

The wood of T. populnea is used to treat cholera and pleurisy. [3]

Preclinical Data


Anti-implantation activity

A preliminary study reports a significant anti-implantation activity of two different groups of fatty acids present in the petroleum-ether (C-1) and ethyl acetate (C-2) extracts of seeds of T. populnea. The autopsy on day 10 revealed that all the control rats were pregnant and had a normal number of implantations. On treatment with C-1, it was found that the number of implants on uteri horns decreased as the doses increased from 50 to 110 mg/kg (60% inhibition). The similar inhibitory activity occurred in the case of C-2 (48.6% inhibition) in a dose dependent pattern. Further work is needed for establishing the mechanism of antifertility action. [8]

Antioxidant activity

A study has been undertaken to investigate the antioxidant activity of aqueous and methanolic extracts of T. populnea bark in CCl4-intoxicated liver injury in rats. The extracts exhibited significant activity showing increased levels of glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase, glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase and catalase, and decreased level of lipid peroxidation. [9]

Wound healing activity

The effects of the treatment with an aqueous extract of T. populnea fruits on the open wounds and restructured incision wounds in rats were studied. The results show that the topical administration of 50 mg/rat extract possesses a good wound healing activity, with healing process accelerated by 79.17% at day 8, and the epithelization time reduced from 24.33 to 19.17 days. Furthermore, the scar area was reduced from 55.83 to 37.51 mm2. When treated orally with a dose of 200 mg/kg, daily for 10 days, the tensile strength of the wounds was significantly increased from 279.52 to 467.43 g. [10]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The ethanolic extract of T. populnea bark (TPE) was investigated for its potential as an anti-inflammatory at doses of 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg body weight.   For evaluation of inflammation carrageenan-, histamine- and serotonin-induced paw edema served as acute models and formaldehyde-induced arthritis served as a chronic model in rats. [11]

Analgesic activity

The ethanolic extract of T. populnea bark (TPE) also was studied for its analgesic properties. The acetic acid-induced writhing response and formalin-induced paw licking time in mice were used to assess analgesic activity. The result indicates that TPE (200 and 400 mg/kg, p.o.) and indomethacin could protect against the carrageenan-induced acute inflammation. The treatment with TPE (200 and 400 mg/kg, p.o.) produced a significant and dose-dependent inhibition in abdominal writhes produced by acetic acid. [11]

Pharmacological activity

The ethanolic extract of T. populnea (TPE) bark has been demonstrated to exhibit pharmacological effects on cognitive functions, total cholesterol levels and cholinesterase activity that have a connection with high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). TPE was used in the experiments involving 312 male, albino mice made up of young mice (3-4 months old) and the aged mice (12-15 months old). The plant extract TPE was suspended in gum acacia and administered orally in mice. It was observed that T. populnea extract lowered serum cholesterol in mice, inhibited acetylcholinesterase enzyme, thereby increasing acetylcholine concentration in brain homogenate, and ultimately improved memory of both young and aged mice. This combination of anticholinesterase, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering effects and memory improving property of the T. populnea bark, it appears to have the potential in the management of AD. [12]


Acute toxicity activity

T. populnea extract did not produce any mortality even when administered orally at the highest dose of 2000 mg/kg in Swiss mice. [11]

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of T. populnea [4]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex Corrêa. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Dec 14]. 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: Taylor & Francis, 2012; p. 559-560.
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 386-387.
  4. Latiff A, Hanum IF. Thespesia populnea (L.) Soland. ex Correa. In: Faridah Hanum I, van der Maesen LJG, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 11: Auxiliary plants. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1997; p. 251-252.
  5. Johnson J, Gandhidasan IR, Muragesan R. Cytotoxicity and superoxide anion generation by some naturally occurring quinones. Free Radic Biol Med. 1999;26(9-10):1072-1078.
  6. Puchhaber LS, Stipanovic RD. Thespesenone and dehydrooxoperezinone-6-methyl ether, new sesquiterpene quinones from Thespesia populnea. J Nat Prod. 2004;67(9):1571-1573.
  7. Dr Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Thespesia populnea (Malvaceae). [homepage on the Internet]. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; c1992-2016 [updated 2016 Jun 02; cited 2016 Dec 14]. Available from:
  8. Ghosh K, Bhattacharya TK. Preliminary study on the antiimplantation activity of compounds from the extracts of seeds of Thespesia populnea. Indian J Pharmacol. 2004;36(5):288-291.
  9. Ilavarasan R, Vasudevan M, Anbazhaqan S, Venkataraman S. Antioxidant activity of Thespesia populnea bark extracts against carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003;87(2-3):227-230.
  10. Nagappa AN, Cheriyan B. Wound healing activity of the aqueous extract of Thespesia populnea fruit. Fitoterpia. 2001;72(5):503-506.
  11. Vasudevan M, Gunnam KK, Parle M. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Thespesia populnea bark extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;109(2):264-270.
  12. Vasudevan M, Parle M. Pharmacological actions of Thespesia populnea relevant to Alzheimer’s disease. Phytomedicine. 2006;13(9-10):677-687.