Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit

Last updated: 28 April 2016

Scientific Name

Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit


Acacia frondosa Willd., Acacia glauca (L.) Willd., Acacia leucocephala (Lam.) Link, Leucaena glabra Benth.,      Leucaena glauca Benth., Mimosa glauca sensu L., Mimosa leucocephala Lam. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ipil-ipil [2], petai belalang, petai Jawa [3], petai Belanda, petai tiga bulan [4]
English Leucaena [2], cowbush, hedge acacia, horse tamarind, jumbie bean, jump-and-go, lead tree, mock acacia, West India lead tree, West Indian lead tree, white popinac, wild tamarind [4]
India Agho, kak-babul-daru, kaniti, koo babul, lasobaval, nattuccavundal, pardeshibaval, rossokodombo, su babul, tagarai, tagaranniram, takaranniram, tentola, torakdam, vilayatibal [4]
Indonesia Lamtoro (Javanese); pelending (Sundanese); petai Cina (Sumatran) [2]; kalandingan, kamalandingan, kemelandingan, klandingan, lamtara, lamtorogung, lenglengan, lingko-lingkoan, metir, nlenglengan, paci-paci, pelending, petai belanda, petai Jawa, petai tiga bulan, pete cina, pete selong, peuteuy Cina, peuteuy selong, plengan, salamtara, serap nornor [4]
Thailand Krathin (General); to-bao (Southern) [2]
Laos Kathin, kan thin, kh’o:ng ko:ng kha:w [2], kh’oonz koong khaaw [4]
Philippines Ipil-ipil, elena (Tagalog); palo-maria (Bikol); kariskis (Ilokano) [2]
Cambodia Khtum te:hs, krathum’ the:t [2], ka-thum’théét [4]
Vietnam Keo d[aaj]u, bo ch[es]t [3], bo chét, cay bo-chet, keo dâu, nang dung diang, tao nhan [4]
Nepal Ipil, seto babul [4]
Japan Gin-nemu, gingoukan [4]
Papua New Guinea Lamandro [2], kunai [4]
South Africa Stuipboom [4]
East Africa Lusia (Luo); mlusina, lusina (Swahili) [4]
West Africa Ogun bere (Yoruba) [4]
France Leucaene, faux mimosa [2]
Hawaii Ekoa, koa haole, lilikoa [4]
United States of America White leadtree [2]
Mexico Uaxim (Mayan) [5][6]
South America Aroma blanca, aroma boba, aroma mansa, granadillo bobo, granadino, granolino, guash, guashe, hediondilla, huash de castilla, jamacuabo, lino criollo, macata, macata blanca, monval, panelo, pata de vaca, shashib, tamarindillo, tan-tan, uaxim, zarcilla [4].

Geographical Distributions

No documentation.

Botanical Description

Leucaena leucocephala is a member of the Fabaceae family. It is a shrub or tree up to 20m tall, with greyish bark and prominent lenticels; branchlets are terete, at the top densely grey pubescent. [2]

The leaves are bipinnate with 3-10 pairs of pinnae, variable in length up to 35cm with an orbicular gland (up to 5mm) below the proximal pair of pinnae. The stipules are small while the pinnae measures 10cm long. The leaflets are opposite with 5-20 pairs per pinna, linear or linear-oblong in shape, measuring (6-)8-16(-21)mm x 1-2(-5)mm, base slightly asymmetrically cuneate, apex acute or short-apic-ulate, both surfaces glabrous, margins ciliate, lower surface glaucous. [2]

The inflorescence consisting of pedunculate glomerules aggregated up to 3 in leaf axils or in terminal raceme. The peduncle measures 2-5cm long and densely grey pubescent. The glomerule measures 2-5cm in diametre and white in colour. The flowers numerous, in globose heads with a diametre of 2-5cm, white in clour; calyx tubular-campanulate measuring about 2.5mm long, puberulous at apex, teeth triangular and acute. The petals spathulate measure 4.5-5mm long, puberulous; stamens 10, free, creamy-white to greenish-white; filaments 8-10mm long; anthers pilose, dehiscing at dawn; pistil 10mm long, ovary stipitate, velutinous at apex. [2]

The pod is membranous, straight, and dehiscent. [2]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

L. leucocephala  has been reported to contain calcium, cellulose, galactomannan, hemicelluloses, lignin, magnesium, mimosine, nitrogen, phosphorus, polyphenols, potassium. [6][7]

Plant Part Used

Young shoots, leaves, fruits, seeds and roots [5][6][7]

Traditional Use

The L. leucocephala  young shoots are taken internally to relieve insect bites. [5]

A pounded leaves can be applied on the stings and bites. Decoction of the leaves is used to calm nerves, treat fever, flatulence, menstrual cramps, severe backache and typhoid fever [6]. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat a disease characterized by headache and pain in the heart [5].

A decoction of the L. leucocephala fruit peel is used as water bath or topically applied to skin to soften the skin and treat skin diseases such as rough skin problems and rashes. [7]

The powdered roasted seeds are mixed with water and applied to the skin to relieve itching, smoothen and soften the skin. A decoction of the seeds is drinks for expelling worms and to treat high blood sugar level. [7]

The L. leucocephala roots is considered an emmenagogue [6][7]. A decoction of the roots is taken to treat chest congestion, fever, severe backache and used to treat menstrual cramps [6].

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

Antifungal activity

Chitinase cDNAs from L. leucocephala seedlings cloned and recombined showed antifungal activity in 13 out of 14 fungal strains tested. [8]

Antiviral activity

Study on the antiviral activity of the galactomannan (LLS) isolated from seeds of L. leucocephala against yellow fever virus (YFV; BeH111 strain) and dengue 1 virus (DEN-1; Hawaii strain). In vivo studies with young mice infected with YFV intraperitoneally, it was found that the LLS could protect the mice against death up to 96.5%. When challaged with 37.5 LD50 of YFV, mice previously inoculated with LLS+virus showed 100% resistance. In vitro studies with YFV and DEN-1 in C6/36 cell culture assays in 24-well microplates showed that concentrations that produced a 100-fold decrease in virus titer of YFV was 385 mg/L and for DEN-1 at 37 mg/L. [9]

Acaricidal activity

L. leucocephala showed acaricidal activity in the larval stage of Rhipicephalus microplus but did not affect the adult ticks. [10]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Chemically modified polysaccharides extract derived from L. leucocephala seeds showed potent anti-inflammatory activity. The C-glycosidic 2-propanol derivative was an effective radical scavenger to hydroxyl, peroxyl and superoxide anion radicals and could enhance the macrophage proliferation and phagocytosis of FITC-zymosan. It also inhibited nitric oxide generation and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated (LPS) Raw macrophage 264.7 and strongly inhibited the binding affinity of FITC-LPS to Raw 264.7 cells. The sulphated derivative on the other hand over induced NO generation and TNF-alpha secretion while enhancing the macrophage proliferation and phagocytosis [11]. The serine proteinase inhibitor isolated from the seeds of L. leucocephala was found to decrease paw oedema induced by carrageenin of heat in male Wistar rats. There was also a lower concentration of bradykinin in perfusion fluid of LITI-treated rats [12].

Blood coagulation activity

A study has been done isolating a serine proteinase inhibitor (LITI) from the seeds of L. leucocephala and found to prolong activated partial thromboplastin time and also inhibit fibrinolytic activity of plasmin. [12]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


In Mexico it was observed that when horses eat the leaves they tend to lose their tail hairs [5]. Even it is injurious to horses, L. leucocephala is innocuous to cattle and goats [13].

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

The roots is considered an emmenagogue and pregnant women are advised against its use for whatever purpose for fear of abortion. [6]

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Leaves and mature seeds [14]


The leaves and mature seeds contain the toxic amino acid mimosine, which inhibits DNA synthesis and thus has particular influence on the rapidly dividing cells producing hair growth. The mimosine content is highest in rapidly growing leaf tips. In ruminant animals, the mimosine is converted to 3,4-dihydroxypyridene, which impairs the incorporation of iodine into the thyroid, thus producing goiter-like symptoms. [14]

Risk management

The toxic properties are mostly inactivated by cooking the plant in an iron or aluminum pot or roasting the seeds. [14]

Poisonous clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of L. leucocephala flowering and fruiting branch [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2016 Apr 26]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/ild-105
  2. Jones RJ, Brewbaker JL, Sorensson CT. Leucaena leucocephala (Lamk) de Wit 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. 175-180
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 94.
  4. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 757-758.
  5. Kunow MA. Maya medicine: Traditional healing in Yucatan. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 2003; p. 126.
  6. Ong HC. Vegetables for health and healing. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications; 2008. p. 122-123.
  7. Ong HC. Sayuran: Khasiat makanan & ubatan. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications; 2003. p. 82-83.
  8. Kaomek M, Mizuno K, Fujimura T, Sriyotha P, Cairns JR. Cloning, expression, and characterization of an antifungal chitinase from Leucaena leucocephala de Wit. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2003;67(4):667-76.
  9. Ono L, Wollinger W, Rocco IM, Coimbra TL, Gorin PA, Sierakowski MR. In vitro and in vivo antiviral properties of sulfated galactomannans against yellow fever virus (BeH111 strain) and dengue 1 virus (Hawaii strain). Antiviral Res. 2003;60(3):201-8.
  10. Fernández-Salas A, Alonso-Díaz MA, Acosta-Rodríguez R, Torres-Acosta JF, Sandoval-Castro CA, Rodríguez-Vivas RI. In vitro acaricidal effect of tannin-rich plants against the cattle tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Vet Parasitol. 2011;175(1-2):113-8. Epub 2010 Sep 22.
  11. Gamal-Eldeen AM, Amer H, Helmy WA, Talaat RM, Ragab H. Chemically-modified polysaccharide extract derived from Leucaena leucocephala alters Raw 264.7 murine macrophage functions. Int Immunopharmacol. 2007;7(6):871-8. Epub 2007 Mar 5.
  12. Oliva ML, Souza-Pinto JC, Batista IF, et al. Leucaena leucocephala serine proteinase inhibitor: primary structure and action on blood coagulation, kinin release and rat paw edema. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000;1477(1-2):64-74.
  13. Burkill IH. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Volume 2. London: Published on behalf of the governments of the Straits settlements and Federated Malay states by the Crown agents for the colonies, 1935; p. 1336.
  14. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, 1997; p. 202.