Pistia stratiotes L.

Last updated: 06 Mar 2017

Scientific Name

Pistia stratiotes L. 


Apiospermum obcordatum (Schleid.) Klotzsch, Limnonesis commutata (Schleid.) Klotzsch, Limnonesis fruiedrichsthaliana Klotzsch, Pistia aegyptiaca Schleid., Pistia aethiopica Fenzl ex Klotzsch, Pistia africana C.Presl, Pistia brasiliensis Klotzsch, Pistia commutata Schleid., Pistia crispata Blume, Pistia cumingii Klotzsch, Pistia gardneri Klotzsch, Pistia horkeliana Miq., Pistia leprieuri Blume, Pistia linguiformis Blume, Pistia minor Blume, Pistia natalensis Klotzsch, Pistia obcordata Schleid., Pistia occidentalis Blume, Pistia schleideniana Klotzsch, Pistia spathulata Michx., Pistia stratiotes var. cuneata Engl., Pistia stratiotes var. linguiformis Engl., Pistia stratiotes var. obcordata (Schleid.) Engl., Pistia stratiotes var. spathulata (Michx.) Engl., Pistia texensis Klotzsch, Pistia turpini K.Koch, Pistia weigeltiana C.Presl, Zala asiatica Lour. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Kambiang, kiambang [2], daraido, darahuo, loloan [3]
English Nile cabbage, Nile lettuce, shell flower, tropical duckweed, water fern, water lettuce [2], water salad [3]
China Da piao [2], zu fu ping, lu ping, hang ping [3]
India Aakaasha thaamare, aakayatamarai, agasatamarai, akasa thamarai, akasatamara, akashamuli, akayat-tamarai, akayat tamarai ilai, akayaddamarai, akayattamarai, antara gange, antara-t-tamarai, antaragange, antarat tamarai, anthara daavare, anthara gange, anthara thaamara, ashakumbhi, bar-iparni, calacarakkuli, calakkan, calakkaran, calaputpam, calaputpalava, calavakaram, calavataram, carata, dalad-haka, hathah, ilatcumiciretar, inattamarai, irecakunakkoti, irecakunam, jala kumbika, jalakumbhi, lajakumbhika, jalavalkala, jalkhumbi, jalkumbhi (jal, water, kumbh, a jar, a water pot), kavutikam, kavutittamarai, khali, khamulika, kodda-pail, koddapail, kumbhika, kumuda, kutrina, paccaikkottai, paccaikkottaittamarai, paniyaprishthaja, pankacakam, pankacakitam, pariparni, parni, pankacakam, pankacakitam, patumacarini, patumapattiri, pauttaratamarai, picacutamarai, prashni, sataraltayutas, shvetaparna, thoodi koora, titcaram, tokapana, untarei-tamara, varapicam, varimuli, varipani, velittamarai [2]
Nepal Kumbhika [2]
Indonesia Kayu apu, pi apu, kiambang [2]
Thailand Chok, kaa kok, phak kok [2]
Philippines Alaluan, apon, dagaylo, darahuo, daraido, darauo, kiupu, loloan [2], kiapo [3]
Vietnam B[ef]o c[as]i, b[ef]o tai t[uw][ow]ng, d[aj]i ph[uf] b[if] nh [2]
Japan Botan-uki-kusa (=tree peony floating herb) [2][3]
Okinawa Uchikusa [2]
South Africa Waterslaai [2]
West Africa Kapwra, mbola [2]
Nigeria Kainuwa, oju oro, ojuolo [2]
N. Rhodesia Lungwe [2]
Tanzania Chantende, ileve, kakomakoma, nyamayingiya, saladi ya majini [2]
Zaire Iloko, maloko [2]
France Laitue d’eau [3]
Spain Lechuga de agua [3]
Congo Okula [2]
Madagascar Azafo, hazafo, raizafy, ranomanfaka, rasanjaka, savamanipaka, tsikafonkafona [2]
Germany Wassersalat [3]

Geographical Distributions

Pistia stratiotes has a pantropical distribution, and occurs throughout South-East Asia. [4]

Botanical Description

P. stratiotes is a member of Araceae family. It is a small perennial, fast-growing, free-floating aquatic herb with unisexual flowers. [4]

The stem is almost absent, present as trailing stem to produce roots and shoots. The roots are adventitious, 20-80 cm long, form a dense tuft and root hairs spread plumosely. [4]

The leaves are clustered in a rosette, nearly overlapping, erect when crowded. It varies in shape and size; either spoon-shaped or tongue-shaped, 2-10 cm x 2-9 cm. The leaf is pale to yellowish-green in colour with whitish velvety hair. The leaf blade is succulent and the veins are flabellate, Leaf stalk is absent. [4]

The inflorescence has a flower spike with fleshy axis surrounded by 2 or more bracts, several with 12-15 mm long peduncle in the upper part of the rosette. The male and female flower is small and located separately on the flower spike with bracts that are narrowly ovate, 7-9(-20) mm x 3 mm that acuminate at the apex.  Its outside is covered with short soft hairs, white colour while the inside is smooth. The lower margins connate with each other and with the ovary wall, free margins folded between stigma and stamens to form a constriction. Just below them are bracts partitioning a thin, green pouch-shaped flap. A flower spike is mostly united to bracts, but free at the apex, with 1 naked male flower. 4-6(-8) stamens united in a cohesion of the anthers of each male flower, subtended at the base by a thin, cup-shaped ring. There are 4 pores in the anthers, in 2 superposed pairs. The base of its bracts holds 1 naked female flower with a 1-celled ovary while the ovules are many and located in 4-6 rows on a convex parietal placenta. The style is free from flower spike, thick with bearded subglobose stigma. [4]

The fruit is a dry, ellipsoid berry and irregularly rupturing. It contains few to numerous seeds. The brown seed is heart-shaped, 2 mm long, wrinkled; tapering towards the base while its apex is truncated and depressed in the centre. [4]

The seedling is germinating under water, emerging with a 2-lobed, cotyledon-like structure, filled with aerenchyma that allows for floating. No primary root is developed, but 2-3 adventitious roots emerge from the base of the cotyledon. It is broadly egg-shaped and densely hairy. The first leaf appears between the 2 lobes. [4]


P. stratiotes floats in stagnant or slowly flowing fresh water, ponds and tidal areas, from sea-level up to 1200 m altitude. It is sensitive to cold weather and thus cannot exist far beyond the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. It can become a part of dense aggregations of free-floating vegetation, called sudds, which are common in wide, slow-flowing rivers and in extensive swampy areas. Sudds are formed by thick, floating mats of P. stratiotes, and/or Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms, which are then colonized by hydrophytes, mainly grasses and sedges, which often invade from the shore. When the raft is large enough, it may be torn away from the shore by wind or flood, to become a floating island. It performs best at pH 4, and cannot grow at pH 3; its range of pH tolerance is much narrower than that of E. crassipes, which has its optimum growth at pH 7. P. stratiotes is a noxious weed like E. crassipes, obstructing navigation in rivers and grills of hydroelectric plants. It interferes with fisheries by hindering the nets and lowering the oxygen content of the water and the pH. [4]

Chemical Constituent

P. stratiotes was found to contain 7β-hydroxy-4,22-stigmastadien-3-one, norisoprenoid [5],  stigmasta-4,22-dien-3-one, stigmasterol, stigmasteryl stearate and palmitic acid [6].

Plant Part Used

Whole plant. [3]

Traditional Use

P. stratiotes is considered antiseptic, antitubercular and antidysenteric. The root is laxative, emollient and diuretic. [7]

The ash of the plant is used to treat ringworm of the scalp while the leaves are used to treat eczema, leprosy, ulcers including those of syphilis. The juice of the leaves boiled in coconut is applied over chronic skin lesions. Pounded fresh roots are applied over burns. [7][8]

The diuretic property of the plant renders its usefulness in the treatment of dropsy, bladder complaints, kidney afflictions and haematuria. In China it is considered an emmenagogue. In New Guinea, when a man is desirous of increasing his lady’s affection, he will feed her with cooked roots. [7][9]

The ash from dried burnt plant is licked to cure cough and mixed with honey to treat tachycardia. In Africa the ash is a source of salt. [3][8]

The juice form the leaves is dropped into the ears to treat ear complaints [7]. The roots are wrapped in a rag and tied around the head of a demented person. The plant is also used to treat fever, diarrheal, dysentery and haemorrhoids [10].

Preclinical Data


Cytotoxic activity

The methanol extract of P. stratiotes exhibited anticancer activity against B16F1 and B16F10 melanoma cell lines. The plant has been found to contain at least three cytotoxic stigmastanes. [5][6]

Antioxidant activity

Extracts of P. stratiotes was found to exhibit in vitro antioxidant activity. Extracts possess significant antioxidant activity compared ascorbic acid. [11][12]

Wound healing activity

Ointment containing 5% and 10% (w/w) extract of P. stratiotes was found to exhibit significant wound healing activity with improvement in wound contraction, epithelisation period and tensile strength. This effect had been attributed in part to its anti-oxidant activity. [11]

Antidiabetic activity

Oral administration of leaf extract of P. stratiotes produced significant antihyperglycaemic action. This had been attributed to the blocking of glucose absorption by the extract. The extract also exhibited diuretic activity. [13]

Diuretic activity

Ethanol extract of P. stratiotes leaves was found to exhibit diuretic activity in male Wistar albino rats. Ethanol extract increased the urine volume and electrolytes balance in a dose dependent manner. [14]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Both the aqueous and ethanol extracts of P. stratiotes showed significant anti-inflammatory activity in two disease models i.e. induced arthritis [15] and uveitis [16] in Sprague-Dawley rats. It was found that the aqueous extract was more potent than the ethanol extract. 


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Its emmenagogue property contraindicates its use in pregnancy. [9]

Adverse reaction

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of P. stratiotes [4].


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Pistia stratiotes L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 Mar 06]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-156674.
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume IV M-Q. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 603-604.
  3. Seidemann J. World spice plants: Economic usage, botany, Taxonomy. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2005; p. 297.
  4. Schmelzer GH, Bunyapraphatsara N. Pistia stratiotes L. In: van Valkenburg JLCH, Bunyapraphatsara N, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 2001; p. 436-438.
  5. Ayyad SN. A new cytotoxic stigmastane steroid from Pistia stratiotes. Pharmazie. 2002;57(3):212-214.
  6. Ling Y, Wan F, He B, Zhang Y, Zheng J. Chemical constituents of Pistia stratiotes L. Zhingguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1999;24(5):289-290. Chinese.
  7. Tripathi P, Kumar R, Sharma AK, Mishra A, Gupta R. Pistia stratiotes (Jalkumbhi). Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(8):153-160.
  8. Kokwaro JO. Medicinal plants of East Africa. Third edition. Nairobi: University of Nairobi Press, 2009; p. 302.
  9. Perry LM, Metzger J. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia: Attributed properties and uses. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1980; p. 39.
  10. Paulus A. The seven books of Paulus Aegineta. Volume 3. London: The Sydenham Society, 1847; p. 358.
  11. Jha M, Sharma V, Ganesh N. Antioxidant and wound healing potential of Pistia stratiotes L. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2012;2(2):579-584.
  12. Jha M, Sharma V, Ganesh N. Chemistry of phytopotentials: Health, Energy and Environmental Perspective. In vitro antioxidant and cytotoxicity assay of Pistia stratiotes L. against B16F1 and B16F10 melanoma cell lines. India: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2012; p. 19–23.
  13. Pallavi T, Sandeep A, Gupta R, Mali Prabha R. Diuretic activity of Pistia stratiotes leaf extract in rats. Int Res J Pharm. 2011;2(3):249-251.
  14. Sahu RK, Roy A, Jha AK, Sharma U. Diuretic activity ethanolic extract of Pistia stratiotes in rats. Biomed Pharmacol J. 2009;2(2):149-152.
  15. Kyei S, Koffuor GA, Boampong JN. Antiarthritic effect of aqueous and ethanolic leaf extracts of Pistia stratiotes in adjuvant-induced arthritis in Sprague-Dawley rats. J Exp Pharmacol. 2012;4:41-51.
  16. Kyei S, Koffuor G, Boampong JN, Owusu-Afriyie O. Ocular anti-inflammatory effect of aqueous and ethanolic leaf extracts of Pistia stratiotes Linn (Araceae) in endotoxin-induced uveitis. J Nat Pharm. 2012;3(2):93-100.