Mesua ferrea L.

Last updated: 5 June 2017

Scientific Name

Mesua ferrea L.


Mesua nagassarium (Burm. f.) Kosterm. , Calophyllum nagassarium Burm.f. (Unresolved). [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Penaga, penaga lilin, lenggapus (Peninsular). [2][3]
English Ceylon ironwood, Indian rose chestnut. [2]
China Thiet Lucmoc [3]
India Nagkashore, nagassur, nagesar, nag kesar (Bengali); n ga gesar (Bhutanese); nag kesar (Hindi); nagesuri (Nepalese); kesara, campeya, hema (Sankrit); narmishka (Urdu) [2]
Indonesia Nagasari (Javanese); nagasari gede (Sundanese). [2][3]
Thailand Bunnak (General); saaraphi-doi (Chiang Mai). [2][3]
Laos Ka thang, may lek. [2]
Myanmar Ngaw, gangaw. [2]
Cambodia Bos neak. [2]
Vietnam v[aas]p. [2]
Japan Tagayasan [3]
Saudi Arabia Nar-e-misk [3]
German Nagassamen [4][5][6]
Arbe de fer, Bois d’anis, Bois de fer [2]

Geographical Distributions

Mesua ferrea is distributed throughout India, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore; planted as an ornamental or shade tree elsewhere in the Malesian region. [3]

Botanical Description

M. ferrea is a member of Calophyllaceae family. M. ferrea is a medium-sized tree up to measure 30 m tall, with straight hole, branchless for up to measure 20 m, up to measure 65 cm in diameter and fluted or with small buttresses at the base. The bark surface is elongated, adherent scaly, irregularly fissured and dull brown to grey with a purplish tinge while the inner bark is brownish-red to red or pinkish in colour, with sparse drops of clear whitish to pale yellow exudates and darkening upon exposure. [3]

The leaves are elliptical in shape, with a size of measure about 4.5-12.5 cm x 1-4 cm, acute base and glaucous white below. The secondary and tertiary venation is indistinct on both surfaces. The petiole is measure 4-8 mm long. [3]

The flowers are solitary or in pairs and up to 9 cm across. [3]

The fruit is an ellipsoid in shape, with a size measure about 3.5 cm long and seated on the persistent sepals. [3]


M. ferrea is common in evergreen forest on level or undulating land, also on ridges with shallow soils, from sea-level up to 500 m altitude, but planted up to 1300 m. The density of the wood is 940-1195 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. [3]

Chemical Constituent

M. ferrea has been reported to contain a-amyrin, b-amyrin, b-sitosterol, dehydrocycloguanadin, euxanthone, jacareubin, linoleic acid, mammeigin, mammeisin, mesuabixanthone A and B, mesuaferrone A and B, mesuagin, mesuanic acid, mesuaxanthone A and B, mesuol, mesuone, oleic acid, palmatic acid, stearic acid. [7][8]

Plant Part Used

Flowers, seeds and leaves [5][9]

Traditional Use

The flowers are useful in the treatment of acidity in the stomach, vomiting, loss of appetite, heartburns, haematemesis, gastritis, peptic ulcer and pain in the intestine. It is also good for diarrhoea and dysentery, liver disorders and bleeding piles. For chronic dysentery and bleeding diarrhoea Sushruta specifically used the stamens. Paste of the flower with butter and sugar seems to be the universal treatment for bleeding haemorrhoids. [4][5][9][10][11]

The flower of M. ferrea is used to treat cough, bronchitis and asthma. Stamen is taken orally for cases of haemoptysis. [5][11]

The hardwood of M. ferrea is known to have anti-inflammatory activities. Traditionally it is used to treat rheumatism and gout. Gout is also treated by using the stamens and flowers. Another remedy for gout is the oil from the seeds which helps to ease the pain. [7][9]

M. ferrea had been prescribed for heavy menstrual flows. The flowers have been advocated for this especially the stamen which is known to be of use in arresting bleeding. A teaspoon of the powdered flower mixed with buttermilk is another remedy for metrorrhagia. To cure leukorrhoea, the flower is prescribed with buttermilk. For the promotion of conception Sushruta prescribe the powder of the flower together with that of Areca catechu nut or the powdered flower with Cow’s Ghee. [7][9][11]

The flowers and leaves of M. ferrea is an antidote to snake poison. [4] Oil expressed from the seed kernel is a good remedy for itching, scabies, ulcers and eczema. [4][5] The essential oil from the stamens are antibacterial and antifungal. [7] The plant is also used in the treatment of headache, sore throat, hiccups, heart diseases, and excessive menstrual bleeding. [5] For burning sensation of the feet the powdered dried flowers are mixed with old clarified butter and applied locally. [10]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

Antibacterial activity

Extracts of the flowers of M. ferrea had been found to be effective against multidrug resistant bacteria. Verotta et al [12] found that 9 compounds of the 4-alkyl and 4-phenyl 5,7-dihydrocoumarin series extracted using Supercritical CO2 technique showed potent antibacterial activity against resistant Gram-positive strains. The methanol extracts of Mazumder et al [13] was found to be able to inhibit a large number of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial at concentration ranging from 100 to 50 µg/mL or even lover as against Virios and Escherichia coli. In in vivo studies showed that at the dose of 100 and 200 µg/g of body weight the extract could protect Swiss strain albino mice against the virulent strain of Salmonella typhimurium ATCC 6539. They further studied the antimicrobial efficacy against 5 different strains of Salmonella spp. and found that all strains were highly sensitive to the extract with MIC of 50 µg/mL. The mode of action of the extract was bactericidal. [14]

Antiprotozoal activity

Nine compounds of 4-alkyl and 4-phenyl 5,7-dihydrocoumarins series extracted using Supercritical CO2 extraction technique, from flowers of M. ferrea were found to have weak antiprotozoal activity against Plasmodium falciparum. [12]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Xanthones isolated from M. ferrea (dehydrocycloguanandin, alophyllin-B, jacareubin, 6-desoxy jacareubin, mesuaxantbone-A, mesuaxanthone-B and euxanthone) were screened for various pharmacological effects in experimental animals. All these xanthones showed anti-inflammatory activity both by intraperitoneal and oral routes in rats tested by carrageenin induced hind paw oedema, cotton pellet granuloma and granuloma pouch techniques in normal and adrenalectominsed rats. The xanthones did not show any mast cell membrane stabilizing effecta nor do they prevent the degranulating effects of compound 48/80, diazoxide and Won-X-100 on rat peritoneal mast cells in vitro. [15]

CNS depression activity

The xanthoses, dehydrocycloguanandin, alophyllin B, jacareubin, 6-desoxy jacareubin, mesuaxanthone-A, mesuaxanthone B and euxanthone, were found to produce varying degree of central nervous system (CNS) depression characterized by ptosis, sedation, decreased spontaneous motor activity, loss of muscle tone, potentiation of pentobarbitone sleeping time and ether anaesthesia in mice and rats. They however did not show any analgesic, antipyretic and anticonvulsant activities. [15]

Antiulcer activity

Gopalakrishnan et al found that jacareubin and 6-desoxy jacareubin they isolated from M. ferrea exhibited anti-ulcer activity in rats. [15]

Antivenom activity

In the screening 64 species of plants as animal or insect bite antidoes Uawonggul et alfound that M. ferrea extracts exhibited more than 40% efficiency activity against fibroblast cell lysis after Heterometrus laoticus (scorpion) venom treatment. [16]

Antioxidant Activity

Yadav et al found that M. ferrea had amongst the highest antioxidant activity amongst the spices used in Indian food. This is evidenced by the fact that it could inhibit the propagation phase of lipid peroxidation and by the fact that it has higher polyphenol contents as compared to other test samples (Illicium verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Acacia catechu). [17]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of M. ferrea [3]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Mesua ferrea L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 June 5]. Available from:
  2. CABI. Invasive Species Compendium. Mesua ferrea (Ceylon iron wood). [homepage on the internet] c2017. [updated 2014 Sept 25; cited 2016 June 5]. Available from:
  3. Lemmens RHMJ, Soerianegara I, Wong WC, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.5(2): Timber trees: Minor Commercial Timbers. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers; 1995.
  4. Kanny Lall Dey The indigenous drugs of India Thacker, Spink and Co. Calcutta 1867 pg. 73
  5. Bhagwan VD. Herbal treatment for peptic ulcer and gastritis. New Delhi: Health and Harmony, 2002; p. 89
  6. Kapoor LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic medicinal plants. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 1990; p. 228
  7. Khare CP, editor. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007; p. 441
  8. Caldecott T. Āyurveda: The divine science of life. Philadelphia: Elservier, 2006; p. 249–250
  9. Babu SS, Madhavi M. Green Remedies. Delhi: Pustak Mahal, 2003; p. 128–129
  10. Dutt UC. The materia medica of the Hindus. New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1995; p. 119
  11. Khare CP. Indian herbal remedies: Rational western therapy, ayurvedic, and other traditional usage, botany. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2004; p. 311
  12. Verotta L, Lovaglio E, Vidari G, et al. 4-Alkyl- and 4-phenylcoumarins from Mesua ferrea as promising multidrug resistant antibacterials. Phytochemistry. 2004;65(21):2867-2879
  13. Mazumder R, Dastidar SG, Basu SP, Mazumder A, Singh SK. Antibacterial potentiality of Mesua ferrea Linn. flowers. Phytother Res. 2004;18(10):824-826.
  14. Mazumder R, Dastidar SG, Basu SP, Mazumder A. Effect of Mesua ferrea Linn. flower extract on Salmonella. Indian J Exp Biol. 2005;43(6):566-568.
  15. Gopalakrishnan, Shankaranarayanan D, Nazimudeen SK, Viswanathan S, Kameswaran L. Anti-inflammatory and C.N.S. depressant activities of xanthones from Calophyllum inophyllum and Mesua ferrea. Indian J Pharmacol. 1980;12(3):181-191
  16. Uawonggul N, Chaveerach A, Thammasirirak S, Arkaravichien T, Chuachan C, Daduang S. Screening of plants acting against Heterometrus laoticus scorpion venom activity on fibroblast cell lysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(2):201-207.
  17. Yadav AS, Bhatnagar D. Inhibition of iron induced lipid peroxidation and antioxidant activity of Indian spices and Acacia in vitro. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010;65(1):18-20