Uncaria gambir (Hunter) Roxb.

Last updated: 09 Mar 2017

Scientific Name

Uncaria gambir (Hunter) Roxb.


Nauclea gambir Hunter, Ourouparia gambir (Hunter) Baill., Uncaria gambir var. latifolia S.Moore, Uruparia gambir (Hunter) Kuntze. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Gambier, gambir, kancu [2]
English Gambir, kath, pale catechu, white cutch [2]
China Gou teng, kou teng, tiao teng [2]
India Ankudu-karra, ankudu-kurra, ankudukurra, gambier, ganbir, kampirceti, kath, kath guda, kaththak-kambu, kathkutha, kaththakkaambu, kattak-kampu, kattakkampu, kattampucceti, khadir, khadira, kutha, otalai maram, otalaimaram [2], gambir, pal catechu (Bengal) [3]
Tibetan Gadur khyung-sder dkar-po, khyung-sder, byi-tsher khyung-sder smug-po [2]
Indonesia Gambir, kacu [2]
France Gambier [3]
Germany Gambirpflanze [3].

Geographical Distributions

The origin of Uncaria gambir is uncertain. Rumphius reported its cultivation in the Moluccas in the middle of the 18th Century. It is cultivated in Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali, Kalimantan and Moluccas). Its plants which are probably truly wild have been collected in Sumatra and Borneo. [4]

Botanical Description

U. gambir is a member of Rubiaceae family. It is a liana that is often cultivated as a straggling shrub, with square young stems and erect main stems which bear horizontal branches with recurved hooks (modified peduncles of inflorescences). [4]

The leaves are arranged opposite, subcoriaceous, and entire, ovate to (broadly) elliptic, measuring (6-)9-12(-15) cm x (3.5-)5-7(-8) cm, rounded to subcordate at the base, acute at the apex, hairless, with 5-6 pairs of lateral nerves that are raised below and with hairy domatia. [4]

The flowers are in heads on the horizontal plagiotropic branches. The heads are (3.5-)4-5 cm in diameter (across petals), with densely hairy receptacle and without interfloral bracteoles. The pedicel is up to 3 mm long, with hypanthium measuring 1—2 mm in diameter and densely yellow-brown hairy. The sepal is 3-4.5 mm long, with 5 trigonal lobes 1-2 mm long, finely pubescent and persistent. The petal is salver-shaped with tube 8-10(-12) mm long , with sparsely to densely pubescent exterior, and with 5 oblong lobes 2-3 mm long while the exterior is densely yellow-brown sericeous and quickly falls off from the heads. The 5stamens are adnate to the petal. The ovary is inferior, with exserted style 5-7 mm long, with obovoid to clavate stigma and measuring about 2 mm. [4]

The fruit head is (50-)60-80 mm in diameter while the fruitlets (capsules) are 14-18 mm long, which are sparsely pubescent and crowned by the sepal and many-seeded. The fruit stalks are up to 20 mm long. The silvery-grey seeds are very tiny. [4]


U. gambir can be cultivated in areas with high rainfall throughout the year. Usually, it grows well at altitudes of 0-200 m, but cultivation up to 1000 m is possible. The plant does not tolerate water logging. Gambier has no special soil requirements, but it is usually cultivated in soils with a rich humus layer, or containing much clay. Wild U. gambir is most commonly found in secondary forests. It does not occur in dry regions or at higher altitudes. [4]

Chemical Constituent

U. gambir leaves and stems were found to contain d- and dl-catechin, catechutannic acid, quercitin, gambir-fluorescein, catechu red, gallic acid, ellagic acid, catechol, indole alkaloids (e.g. gambirtannine, dihydrogambirtannine, and oxygambirtannine), gambirine, and gambirdine. [5]

U. gambir was found to contain catechin, catechutannic acid, catechu red, quercetin, and gambier fluorescein [6], alkaloids (e.g. gambirdine and isogambirdine) [7]

Aqueous extract of leaves and young twigs of U. gambir was found to contain catechin, epicatechin, procyanidin B1, procyanidin B3, and gambiriin A1. [8]

Plant Part Used

Leaves. [5][6]

Traditional Use

U. gambir is an astringent very useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions. U. gambir forms part of the ingredient of the betel quid a masticator enjoyed by villagers east of Arabia. [5][6] It is an excellent immediate remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery in villages where the culture of betel leaf chewing is still being practised. It is also a stomachic good for dyspeptic complaints especially those accompanied with pyrosis. The drug is best taken just before food for this purpose. It has been used to treat jaundice and aphthous ulcers of the mouth. [5][6] It is used to arrest epistaxis and bleeding haemorrhoids by applying locally. Some had advocated its use in treating cough, boils, sores, ulcers and sore-throat. [5][6]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

In a screening exercise of 38 medicinal plants for their antibacterial activity, U. gambir was one of those with activity against E. coli O157:H7. [9]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of U. gambir [4].


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Uncaria gambir (Hunter) Roxb. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 Mar 09]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-209796.
  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. 671.
  3. Hanelt P, Buttner R. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural Crops. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2001; p. 1768.
  4. Ridsdale CE. Uncaria gambir (Hunter) Roxb. In: Lemmens RHMJ, Wulijarni-Soetjipto N, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 3: Dye and tannin-producing plants. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc, 1991; p. 125-128.
  5. Khan IA, Abourashed EA. Leung’s encyclopedia of common natural ingredients: Used in food, drugs and cosmetics. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2010; p. 38.
  6. Kokate CK, Purohit AP, Gokhale SB. Pharmacognosy. Pune, india: Nirali Prakashan, 2008; p. 9-16.
  7. Chan KC. Gambirdine and isogambirdine, the alkaloids from Uncaria gambir (Hunt) Roxb. Tetrahedron. 1968;(30):3403-3406.
  8. Taniguchi S, Kuroda K, Doi K, et al. [Evaluation of gambir quality based on quantitative analysis of polyphenolic constituents]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2007;127(8):1291-1300. Japanese.
  9. Voravuthikunchai S, Lortheeranuwat A, Jeeju W, Sririrak T, Phongpaichit S, Supawita T. Effective medicinal plants against enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;94(1):49-54.