Borassus flabellifer L.

Last updated: 17 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Borassus flabellifer L.


Borassus flabelliformis L., Borassus sundaicus Becc., Borassus tunicatus Lour., Lontarus domestica Gaertn. [Illegitimate], Pholidocarpus tunicatus (Lour.) H.Wendl., Thrinax tunicata (Lour.) Rollisson [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Lontar, tah, tai [2][3][4]
English Toddy palm, wine palm, palmyra palm [2], doub palm, lontar palm [3], African fan palm, Asian palmyra palm, borassus palm, brab tree, Cambodian palm, doleib soub palm, great fan palm, ice-apple, lontar palm, ron palm, sea apple, tal-palm, sugar palm [4]
China Shan ye shu tou zong, shan ye tang zong, guo dan [4]
India Taadi (Andra Pradesh); tal (Assamese); taala, tal (Bengali); tao (Divehi); taad, taada, tadfali (Gujarati); taad, tad, tad mar, tala, tari, tal, taltar, tar, tarkajhar, taduka, tad, tariya, Trinaraaj (Hindu); karatale, kari thaale, karitale, ole, olegari, oleya, panai, panal, pane, pani, tala, tale, tali, talimara, tari, thaale mara, thaatiningu mara, thaathinungu mara, thruna raaja, trinaraja, trynaraja, vole (Kannada); eroal, targula (Konkani); ampana, carim-pana, carimpana, eta, karimapana, karimpana, karrumpana, pana, talam, trinarajan, trynarajan (Malayalam); kona (Manipuri); rotam, taad, tad, tad-mad, tad tamar, tadh, talatmad, tamar, thad, vet (Marathi); s-iallu, sial lu (Mizoram); s-iallu, thaalo gatcho (Oriya); taalah, tal, tala, taladrumah, talah (Sanskrit); acavattiru, acavattirumaram, acavatturu, ailantal, ailantalam, ailantalmaram, ailantar, aintar, aintaram, anbanai, carruppanai, carupanai, catapalam, cattuppanai, cirpaki, civantikkiriyam, civantikkiriyamaram, edagam, etakam, etkai, etakamaram, etkam, kamam, karadalam, karambanai, karampanai, karakalam, karpakam, karatalam, karatalamaram, karimpanai, karumpanai, karumpul, karumpuram, karupuram, karupuramaram, kayinpanai, kaympanai, kayppanai, kirusnakaya, kirusakentam, kuliram, makapattitram, makonnatam, malm, maturacam, maturaca, maturacamaram, narpanai, netini, netumi, netuncevikam, netuncevikamaram, neyam, nilam, nilamani, nilamanimaram, nonkuipanai, nungu, panai, panai maram, panaimaram, pandi, panei, pondai, pondu, pul, purbadi, puttrani, talam, tali, pakarpali, pana, pennai, pennaimaram, pirancutirkkam, ponantai, pontukam, pontukamaram, pullutiyam, purappi, purpati, purrali, puttali, talam, talatalam, talavilacom, tali z, taruviracan, taruvirakam, taruvirakamaram, taruvirakan, tatti, tiranaracan, tirunapati, tirunaracan, turapokam, turarokam, turumacirettam, turumekamaram, ulokapattiram, upatakam, utupatakam, varanikam, varanikamaram (Tamil); karatalamu, karathaalamu, naamathaadu, namadatu, namatody, patootody, penti tadi-female, pentitadi, pentitadu, penthithaati chettu, pentithaadu, pentytody, pathuthaadu, potutadi, potutadi-male, potutadu, taadi, tadi,m tati, tadu, tatichettu, thaati, thaadi chettu, thaadu, thaati kullo, thadi, thati, trinarajamu, trynarajamu (Telugu); munjal, taad (Urdu) [4]
Indonesia Ental, lontar, tal, etal, savalen (Java); pohon siwalan (Sumatera); tarebung, ta’al (Madura), tai (Lombok); tua-hu (Roti); tua-hua, kali (Timor); kepav-duren, duwe (Sayu); tala, tola (Sulawesi) [4]
Thailand Tan, tanta note (General); tan tanot, tan-yai (Central); not (Southern) [2][4]; maktan (Don Dueng); ta-not (Khmer); than (Shan-Mae Hong Son); tho-thu (Karen-Mae Hong Son); tha-nao (Khmer-Phratabong); thang (Karen-Tak, Chiang-Mai); not (Peninsular) [4]
Laos Ta:n [2]
Myanmar Tan bin [2]
Cambodia Thanot, dom thuot, ta-not (Khmer) [4]; thnaôt [2]
Vietnam Th[oos]t n[oos]t, th[oos]t l[oos]t [2] thot lot, cay thot, lot [4]
Japan Parumira yashi, ougi yashi [4]
Sri Lanka Panna-maram, tal-gas [3], tal gaha (Sinhalese) [4]
Tibet Sin ta la [4]
Nepal Taadii, taal [4]
Taiwan Shan ye zi [4]
Japan Ôgi-yashi [3]
Tibet Sin ta la [3][4]
Pakistan Tar [3]
Ivory Coast Keue [4]
Senegal Ronn [4]
Arabic Dôm, tâl, shag el mûql [4]
Turkey Tal [4]
France Palmier à sucre, rônier, rondier [2], borasse, palmier de palmyre [4]
Spain Palmirapalm [1], boraso, palma palmira [4]
Netherlands Lontar, lontarpalm, palmyrapalm, jager-boom, weingeevende palm-boom [4]
Denmark Palmyrapalme [4]
Portugal Brocao, palmira, palmeira de leque, palmeira de palmira, panaguera, palmieira macha bracva, cibes [4]
Germany Borassuspalme, Lontaro, Palmyrapalme, Weinpalme [4]
Italy Palma del ferro, palma del sagu, palma di palmira [4]
Russia Lontarovaia, pal’ma, pal’mira, pal’mirova pal’ma [4]
Brazil Boraco [4].

Geographical Distributions

Borassus flabellifer is distributed from India through Southeast Asia to New Guinea and North Australia. It is particularly abundant in India, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia, where it is frequently planted. It is generally assumed that B. flabellifer is a selection by man from the more diverse B. aethiopum Mart. of Africa. Its distribution probably followed the Indian trade routes in pre-historic times. [2]

Botanical Description

B. flabellifer is a member of the Arecaceae family. It is a dioecious palm that can reach up to 25-40 m tall, robust, solitary and pleonanthic. [2]

The stem is massive, straight and measuring up to 1 m in diametre at the base. The conical measuring up about 4 m high, cylindrical thereafter and measuring 40-50 cm in diametre. It is occasionally branched, covered by leaf bases when young, rough and ringed with the leaf scars when older and fringed at the base with a dense mass of long adventitious roots. [2]

The leaves are (30-)40(-60), which are arranged spirally, leathery, induplicate and with a strongly costapalmate. The sheath opens when young and later with a wide triangular cleft at the petiole base. The petiole is woody, measures 60-120 cm long and furrowed deeply. The margins of sheath and petiole are armed with coarse and irregular teeth. The blade is suborbicular to flabellate, measuring 1-1.5 m in diametre, divided along adaxial folds to about a half its length into 60-80 regular and with stiff single-fold segments that measuring about 3 cm broad at the base. [2]

The inflorescence is interfoliar, stalked and shorter than the leaves while the male and female are dissimilar. The male inflorescence is massive and measures up to 2 m long. It consists of about 8 partial inflorescences of three rachillae each. The rachilla is spike-like, fleshy, measures 30-45 cm long, bearing spirally arranged imbricate bracts, laterally connate and distally to form large pits where each contains about 30 flowers and exserted singly in succession from the pit mouth. The flowers are 3-merous with 6 stamens. The female inflorescence is unbranched or with a single first order branch and covered with the sheath-like bracts. The rachilla is massive, fleshy, and thicker than the male one and bears large cupular bracts. The first few are empty while each subsequent ones subtend a single female flower with several empty bracts above the flowers. The flowers are larger than the male ones with 3-merous and tricarpellate. [2]

The dark purple to black fruit is a spherical to nearly spherical drupe, measuring 15-20 cm in diametre and measures 1.5-2.5(-3) kg in weight. The petals are persistent and brittle but not imbricate. The exocarp is smooth, thin and leathery. The mesocarp is thick, juicy, fibrous, fragrant and yellowish while the endocarp is usually comprises of 3 hard bony pyrenes. The pointed seed is shallowly to deeply bilobed. The endosperm is sweet and gelatinous when immature, hard and ivory-like with a central cavity when mature. [2]


B. flabellifer is mainly cultivated in the drier parts of its geographical range, where the sugar palm (Arenga pinnata (Wurmb) Merrill) and the coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) cannot compete. It is usually grown in the strictly seasonal tropical or subtropical climates on sandy soils. It is a very adaptable palm, however, growing well in dry areas with 500-900 mm average annual rainfall and is quite drought resistant. It is also grows in per-humid areas with up to 5000 mm average annual rainfall and survives water logging quite well. Its optimum mean annual temperature is around 30°C, but it withstands extreme temperatures of 45°C and 0°C as well. It can be found on any kind of soil, preferring soils rich in organic material. It prefers altitudes around sea level, but can be found up to about 800 m altitude. B. flabellifer very often provide shelter to many animals (birds, bats, rats, squirrels, mongooses, monkeys) and plants (orchids, ferns and other epiphytes). [2]

Chemical Constituent

B. flabellifer  has been reported to contain borassosides A-F and dioscin. [5]

Plant Part Used

Roots, barks, shoots, fruits, sap. [4]

Traditional Use

Various parts of B. flabellifera have been used as medicine traditionally in communities. The young root is considered diuretic and anthelmintic effects. A decoction of the roots is used to treat respiratory diseases, while in Eastern Africa the powdered root mixed with shea butter is given for sorethroat and bronchitis. [4][6]

The bark, when boiled and salt added makes a good mouth wash, while charred bark serves as a dentifrice. Ash of the dried spandex acts as an antacid and is used to treat heartburn. The pulp of the matured fruit relieves dermatitis. [4]

The fresh sap form the flower stalk is valuable as a tonic. It is consist of diuretic, cooling, antiphlegmatic, laxative, and anti-inflammatory activities. The diabetic treatment can be advantage from the slightly fermented juice. It is also can be used to treat asthmatic and anaemic patients. The sugar or jaggery made from the sap is an antidote to poisoning, a liver protector, a cough suppressant and laxative. The jaggery solution can relieve hypertension, oedema due to heart and liver disease due to it diuretic property. [4][7]

The wine made from fermented sap called toddy is considered an aphrodisiac and a stimulant effects. It has been used to promote healing the ulcers. [4][6]

Preclinical Data


Antidiabetic activity

The male flower of B. flabellifer was known to the Chinese to have antidiabetic activity. A study done showed that the methanolic extract from the male flower could inhibit hyperglycaemia in sucrose-loaded rats. The six spirostane-type steroid saponins (borassosides A-F) and a steroid saponin (dioscin) were found to be responsible for this effect. [5][8]

Contraceptive activity

The roots of B. flabellifer were one of the components that is being used as contraceptive traditionally in India. The morphological changes from endometrial surface epithelium as a result of administration  the ethanol extract of this compound medicine were observed. The results showed that the extract caused disorganized changes in the surface endometrial epithelium. This structural disparity probably affects the smooth functioning of nidatory preparation in the endometrium. [9]

Immunosuppressive Activity

B. flabellifera flour pellets when fed to inbred mice showed significant reduction in delayed-type hypersensitivity response to sheep red blood cells. It is believed that the flour induced generation of T suppressor cells which suppressed the delayed-type hypersensitivity. A triterpene 1 compound has been isolated from B. flabellifera which exhibited an extremely potent immunosuppressant activity both in vitro and in vivo[10][11]

Clastogenicity and mutagenicity activity

The aqueous extract of the B. flabellifera flour showed significant clastogenicity in human blood lymphocytes. Amongst the changes observed in the cells exposed to the extract include chromatic and chromosome gaps, and chromatic and chromosome breaks with some formation of large and small acentric fragments in group A chromosomes. These effects were dose-dependent and consistently produced by the crude extract but less frequent than those produced by mitomycin C. [12]

Another study showed that the boiled and raw forms from the young shoot of B. flabellifera has a mutagenic activity when test intoSalmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli strains. [13]


The methanol extract of B. flabellifera young shoots contains heat-stable toxin; edible part of young shoot, neurotoxic to rats, but not hepatotoxic. [7]

However, the study showed that the flour from young shoot of B. flabellifer was found to produce chronic hepatic lesions which included intraluminal fibrosis of the centrilobular and portal veins, bile duct proliferation, increase of reticulin and fibrosis in adult rats. These lesions commenced as a subendothelial swelling projecting into the lumen with subsequent deposition of collagen and ending in total obstruction of the lumen. The toxic factors is not known but has been suggested that it in non-pyrrolizidine alkaloids. [14]

There were various reports of neurotoxic development  symptoms in Wistar rats following consumption of feed that were consist of B. flabellifera flour. It was subsequently proven the results could not be conclusive. Furthermore, there has not been any reported cases of neurotoxic symptoms developing amongst humans consuming the flour. [15][16]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation.


No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

Aeroallergenic activity

The pollens of B. flabellifera have been implicated as a cause of respiratory allergic reactions in humans. Studies have showed that the whole pollen extracts could excite allergic reaction in 31.6 % of patients with inherent respiratory allergic activities. The analysis showed that the probable causative agent is a glycoprotein. [17][18][19]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of B. flabellifer [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Borassus flabellifer L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Jun 17]. Available from:
  2. Flach M, Paisooksantivatana Y. Borassus flabellifer L. In: Flach M, Rumawas F, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 9: Plants yielding non-seed carbohydrates. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, 1996; p. 59-63
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume I A-B. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 625-626.
  4. Lim TK. Edible medicinal and non-medicinal plants. Volume 1, fruits. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2012; p. 293-299.
  5. Nakamura S, Matsuda H, Yoshikawa M. [Search for antidiabetic constituents of medicinal food]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2011;131(6):909-915. Japanese.
  6. Traditional food plants: A resource book for promoting the exploitation and consumption of food plants in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid lands of Eastern Africa. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 1988; p.109.
  7. Khare CP. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007; p. 93.
  8. Yoshikawa M, Xu F, Morikawa T, et al. Medicinal flowers. XII.(1) New spirostane-type steroid saponins with antidiabetogenic activity from Borassus flabellifer. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007;55(2):308-316.
  9. Sarma HN, Mahanta HC. Modulation of morphological changes of endometrial surface epithelium by administration of composite root extract in albino rat. Contraception. 2000;62(1):51-54.
  10. Devi S, Arseculeratne SN, Pathmanathan R, McKenzie IF, Pang T. Suppression of cell-mediated immunity following oral feeding of mice with palmyrah (Borassus flabellifer L) flour. Aust J Exp Biol Med Sci. 1985;63(4):371-379.
  11. Révész L, Hiestand P, La Vecchia L, et al. Isolation and synthesis of a novel immunosuppressive 17alpha-substituted dammarane from the flour of the Palmyrah palm (Borassus flabellifer). Bioorg Med Chem Lett.1999;9(11):1521-1526.
  12. Kangwanpong D, Arseculeratne SN, Sirisinha S. Clastogenic effect of aqueous extracts of palmyrah (Borassus flabellifer) flour on human blood lymphocytes. Mutat Res. 1981;89(1):63-68.
  13. Andersen PH, Poulsen E. Mutagenicity of flour from the palmyrah palm (Borassus flabellifer) in Salmonella typhimurium andEscherichia coli. Cancer Lett. 1985 Feb;26(1):113-119.
  14. Panabokke RG, Arseculeratne SN. Veno-occlusive lesions in the liver of rats after prolonged feeding with palmyrah (Borassus flabellifer) flour. Br J Exp Pathol. 1976;57(2):189-199.
  15. Sumudunie KA, Jansz ER, Jayasekera S, Wickramasinghe SM. The neurotoxic effect of palmyrah (Borassus flabellifer) flour re-visited. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2004;55(8):607-614.
  16. Keerthi AA, Ekanayake S, Jansz ER. A review of the neurotoxic effect of palmyrah flour. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 4:306-316.
  17. Chakraborty P, Chowdhury I, Gupta-Bhattacharya S, Roy I, Chatterjee S, Chanda S. Aerobiologic and immunochemical studies on Borassus flabellifer pollen: evidence for a 90-kD allergen. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998;80(4):311-317.
  18. Chowdhury I, Chakraborty P, Gupta-Bhattacharya S, Chanda S. Allergenic relationship among four common and dominant airborne palm pollen grains from Eastern India. Clin Exp Allergy. 1998;28(8):977-983.
  19. Chowdhury I, Chakraborty P, Gupta-Bhattacharya S, Chanda S. Antigenic relationship between four airborne palm pollen grains from Calcutta, India. Ann Agric Environ Med. 1999;6(1):53-56.