Cassytha filiformis L.

Last updated: 11 May 2016

Scientific Name

Cassytha filiformis L.


Calodium cochinchinense Lour., Calodium cochinchinensis Lour., Cassytha americana Nees, Cassytha aphylla Raeusch., Cassytha archboldiana C.K.Allen, Cassytha brasiliensis Mart. ex Nees, Cassytha corniculata Burm.f., Cassytha cuscutiformis F. Muell., Cassytha dissitiflora Meisn., Cassytha guineensis Schumach. & Thonn., Cassytha lifuensis Guillaumin, Cassytha macrocarpa Guillaumin, Cassytha novoguineensis Kaneh. & Hatus., Cassytha paradoxae Proctor, Cassytha senegalensis A.Chev., Cassytha timoriensis Gand., Cassytha zeylanica Gaertn., Volutella aphylla Forssk. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Chemar hantu [2], chemar batu [2][3], rumput puteri, tali puteri [3]
English Dodder-laurel, false dodder, love vine, seashore dodder, woe vine [2]
China Wu gen teng, wu ye teng [2]
India Aakaasha balli, acatagabulli, acatsja-valli, aiyapala, akasa balli, akasavela, amaravalli, bangaru teega, beelu balli, calantirati, amanatanki, haadaragithi balli, inci, karukkutaiyalmuli, nandei, nattai, paachithige, seethammapogunoolu, tumpi, vacaki, viranakkopini, viti [2]
Indonesia Akar pengalasan, sangga langit (Sundanese); tali puteri, tali putri [2]
Thailand Chong naang khlee, khiang kham, khueang kham khok [2]
Brunei Akar janjang (Sengkurong) [4]
Philippines Barutbarut, kaduad-kawaran, malabohok [2]
Vietnam D[aa]y t[ow] xanh, t[ow] h[oof]ng xanh [2]
Japan Suna-zuru, niinashi-kanda (Okinawa) [2]
Hawaii Kauna’oa pehu, kauna’oa malolo, kauna’oa uka, kaunoa, malolo, pololo [2]
Brazil Cipó-de-chumbo [2]
Southern Africa Nooienshaar, vrouehaar, luangalala (Venda) [2]

Geographical Distributions

Cassytha filiformis is widespread in the tropics of both hemispheres; in the Old World it is distributed from Africa to Asia, central and southern China, Japan, through South-East Asia and northern Australia. [4]

Botanical Description

C. filifomis comes from the family of Lauraceae. A type of perennial, twining parasitic or hemiparasitic plant. [4]

The stems are filiform and can grow up to 3-8 m long, much branched, often matted together, glabrous or pubescent, dark green, brown, yellow or orange; haustoria small. [4]

The leaves reduced to tiny scales, spirally arranged, early caducous. [4]

The inflorescence is an axillary, short, lax spike, 1.5-4 cm long, rachis rather thick. [4]

The flowers are small, bisexual, sessile, protogynous, bracts 3, small, ciliate, perianth persistent; sepals 3, triangular-ovate, about 2 mm large, apex obtuse, not fleshy; petals 3, ovate-oblong, about 3 mm x 2 mm, concave, valvate, somewhat fleshy, white or yellowish; stamens in 4 whorls of 3, fertile stamens 9, anthers basifixed, 2-celled, dehiscent by uplifting valves, white, filaments laterally expanded, 2 outer whorls almost equal, eglandular, anthers introrse, third whorl with 2 glands at base, anthers extrorse, fourth whorl staminodal, small, yellow; ovary superior, hairy, style short, erect, stigma capitate or slightly 3-parted. [4]

The fruit is a globose drupe, 6-9 mm in diameter, surrounded by fleshy perianth, slimy, black when ripe, narrow orifice at apex. [4]

Each drupe contain one seed, with hard seed coat; endosperm absent, embryo well differentiated, straight. [4]


C. filiformis occurs especially on the seashore and areas immediately behind the shore, often forming a dense blanket over thickets. Occasionally, it is found in the interior, but not higher than 600 m altitude. It is found both in moist and dry regions. [4]

Chemical Constituent

C. filiformis is known to contain (-)-O-methylflavinatine; (-)-salutarine; (+/-)nornuciferine; 1,2,-methylene dioxy-3,10,11-trimethoxyaporphine, actinodaphnine; boldine; bulbocapnine; cathafiline; cathaformine; cassythic acid; cassythine (cassyfiline); cassythidine; cassameridine; cassamedine; dicentrine; isoboldine; isofiliformine; launobine; lysicamine; N-methylactinodaphnine; neolitsine; ocoteine; O-methylcassifiline; predicentrine; iso-hamnetin-3-o-b-glucoside; iso-hamnetin-3-o-rutinoside; dulcitol; 4-O-methyl-balanophonin and cassyformin. [5][6]

Plant Part Used

Stem. [4]

Traditional Use

All traditional systems consider this plant to be bitter, sweet in taste; cold in constituency and astringent. The Chinese considers this plant as having the ability to remove pathogenic heat from the blood, detoxifying and inducing diuresis. [7]

Fijians use the whole plant fresh which is pounded and a little water is added to it. The mixture is given to relieve stomachache. In South America the dried and powdered plant is mixed with nutmeg and used to relieve stomachache and dyspepsia.The Ayurvedic treatment for biliousness includes the use of this plant. In the Indonesia it is used to treat hepatitis. Due to its worm-like appearance there are communities that use the plant to treat worm manifestations. In Jamaica and Guyana they crushed the plant and consume it as a deworming medicine. [7][8]

To ease childbirth the people of Marshall Island take a length of the plant prepared in a special manner using the green coconut water and this is given to the mother when labour pains begin. In Hawaii the plant is pounded and water is added to it and given to the mother during labour to help remove blood from the uterus. The South Americans use the plant in post partum treatment either by itself or in combination with Pluchea carolinensis as a drink or bath for the first 9 days. The Malays use this plant in cases of difficult labour. In Ayurvedic practices the plant is used to suppress lactation. In Langkawi, it forms part of a concoction used in treatment of male impotency. The people of Marshall Islands use the plant as a simple in the treatment of male impotency and sexual asthenia. [9]

Decoction of the C. filiformis whole plant has been used to treat head lice as recommended by the Vaidyas of India. In Malaysia and Indonesia, to treat the same juice of the plant is applied instead. A decoction of the stem is universally used to promote hair growth. In India the plant is dried, pulverized and mixed with sesame oil instead and applied on the head to strengthen the hair. [7][8]

C. filiformis with its diuretic effects had been recommended by the Vaidyas for the treatment of oedema. As haemostatics, the Indians use it to treat haemoptysis, the Malays use it treat haematemesis and haematuria too. The Brazilians use small bundles of it as tea to help purify blood and treat external or internal bleeding. It anti-inflammatory effects is taken advantage of in Jabalpur to treat severe pain due to arthritis. The natives of New Zealand made use of the fruits to treat various eye ailments including conjunctivitis. [7][8][9]

Preclinical Data


Vaso-relaxing activity

Aporphine alkaloids were isolated from C. filiformis by a number of researchers. Of these ocoteine, actinodaphnine and N-methylactinodaphnine, Cassythic acid, cassythine, neolitsine, and dicentrine showed potent vasorelaxing effects on precontracted rat aortic preparation. [10] [11] [12]

Anti platelet-activating factor (PAF) activity

The methanol extract of the fresh C. filiformis contains aporphinoid alkaloids which showed potent inhibitory activity of rabbit platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate (ADP), arachidonic acid, collagen and platelet-activating factor. These alkaloids were identified as actinodaphnine, N-methylactinodaphnine, cathafiline, cathaformine, predicentrine and ocoteine. [11]

Antitrypanosomal activity

Three aporphine alkaloids (actinodaphnine, cassythine and dicentrine) isolated from C. filiformis proved to be active against the trypanosomes Trypanosoma brucei. They seem to act by binding to DNA and behaving like intercalating agents. They were found to also interfere with the catalytic activity of the topoisomerases. [13]

Cytotoxic activity

The ability of aporphine alkaloids isolated from C. filiformis to inhibit cellular growth was demonstrated in a study using HeLa cells. The mechanism of action of these compounds on cellular activity were cited above. [13] Stevigny et al did further studies and found that Neolitsine to be most active against HeLa and 3T3 cells and cassythine and actinodaphnine showed highest activity against Mel-5 and HL-60 cells. [14]


A sub-chronic toxicity study of the aqueous extract of C. filiformis was done and it was found that the oral LD50 value was greater than 500 mg/kg body weight of Wistar Albino rats. When administered at normal therapeutic doses it is not likely to produce severe toxic effects on the liver nor the haematological and biochemical indices in rats. [14]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


This herb should not be used with heparin or wafarin because of its potent anti-platelet activating factor property. It is also contraindicated in patients already on a1-adrenoceptor antagonists. [11]


Dosage Range

No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Cassytha filiformis. L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated on 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Apr 7]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume II. C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2012. p.Compendium page 153
  3. Wardini TH. Cassytha filiformis 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 Publishers, 2001; p. 142-144.
  4. Aniszewski T. Alkaloids – secrets of life: Alkaloid chemistry, biological significance. Amsterdam: Elservier, 2007; p. 151.
  5. Gutierrez RMP. Handbook of compounds with cytotoxic activity isolated from plants. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2007; p. 90.
  6. Couplan F. The encyclopedia of edible plants of North America. New York: McGraw Hill Professional, 1998; p. 40
  7. Jansen AAJ, Parkinson S, Robertson AFS, editors. Food and Nutrition in Fiji. Suva, Fiji: University of South Pacific, 1991; p. 648.
  8. Taafaki IJ, Fowler MK, Thaman RR. Traditional medicine of the Marshall Islands: the women, the plants, the treatments. Suva, Fiji: IPS Publication, 2006; p. 104-106
  9. Chang CW, Ko FN, Su MJ, Wu YC, Teng CM. Pharmacological Evaluation of Ocoteine, Isolated from Cassytha filiformis, as an. ALPHA. 1-Adrenoceptor Antagonist in Rat Thoracic Aorta. Jpn J Pharmacol. 1997;73(3):207-214.
  10. Wu YC, Chang FR, Chao YC, Teng CM. Antiplatelet and vasorelaxing actions of aporphinoids from Cassytha filiformis. Phytother Res. 1998;12(S1):S39-41.
  11. Tsai TH, Wang GJ, Lin LC. Vasorelaxing alkaloids and flavonoids from Cassytha filiformis. J Nat Prod. 2008;71(2):289-291.
  12. Opperdoes F. Alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis and related aporphines: antitrypanosomal activity, cytotoxicity, and interaction with DNA and topoisomerases. Planta Med. 2004;70:407-413.
  13. Stevigny C, Block S, De Pauw-Gillet MC, et al. Cytotoxic aporphine alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis. Planta medica. 2002;68(11):1042-1044.
  14. Babayi HM, Joseph JI, Abalaka JA, et al. Effect of oral administration of aqueous whole extract of Cassytha filiformis on haematograms and plasma biochemical parameters in rats. J Medic Toxicol. 2007;3(4):146-151.