Acanthus ilicifolius L.

Last updated: 29 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Acanthus ilicifolius L.


Acanthus doloarin Blanco, Acanthus neoguineensis Engl., Dilivaria ilicifolia (L.) Juss. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Jeruju, jeruju puteh (Peninsular) [2]; jeruju putih, neruju [3]
English Sea holly [2]
China Lao shu le [3]
India Alasyakampa, alchi, alisi, arrumulli, attumulli, chakkaramulli, etichilla, harakancha, harikusa, holesulli, kalutaimulli, kiliciri, kolimulli, koshimullu, marandi, maruvakankapattiram, mendli, moranna, mulli chulli, paina schlli, payinachhulli, phaina-schelli, thude chulli, tudeculli, uppukkarinimulli, etc [3]
Indonesia Jeruju (Sumatra); daruju (Javanese) [2]; jeruju (Java & Bali); gali-gali (Makasar) [4]
Thailand Kaem mo (Peninsular); cha kreng (Central); ngueak plaamo namn­goen (General) [2]; nguak pla maw [4]
Philippines Da­guari, diluariu (Tagalog); kasumba (Iloko) [2]
Vietnam [oo] r[oo], n[uw] [ows]c, l[ax]o th[uwr] c[aa]n [2]
Papua New Guinea Kikia [2].

Geographical Distributions

Acanthus ilicifolius is distributed from South India and Sri Lanka to Indo-China, Indonesia, the Philippines and northern Australia, but rather scarce in Malaysia. [2]

Botanical Description

A. ilicifolius is a member of the Acanthaceae family. It is a stout, erect or reclining shrub, up to 1.5 m tall, which is scarcely branched, smooth and with adventitious aerial roots. [2]

The leaves are oblong measuring 6.5-11 cm x 4-6 cm. [2]

The spike is up to 16.5 cm long, dense or interrupted, and with lance-shaped bracts which are 10 mm long while the bracteoles are in 2 pairs, oblong-Iance-shaped and up to 1.5 cm long. The sepal lobes are obovate-oblong and fringed with small hairs while the petal lobe is obovate, measures 3 cm x 2.5 cm and pale to bright blue. The petal tube is white. [2]


A. ilicifolius is gregarious and very common along banks of the estuaries, lagoons, and in marshy land and mangroves close to the seashore. It is rarely found inland. [2]

Chemical Constituent

Methanol extract of A. illicifolius leaves has been reported to contain acancifoliuside, acteoside, isoacteroside, acanthaminoside, (+)-lyoniresinol 3a-o-b-glucopyranoside, (-)-lyoniresinol and a-amyrin. [5]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, fruit and roots. [6]

Traditional Use

The dwellers of the mangrove region used this plant to treat various inflammatory conditions including infected wounds, abscesses and rheumatism. The leaves are used in most cases whether in the form of a poultice or fomentation and at times in decoction. Amongst the Malays of Peninsular Malaysia, the fruit pulp is considered as a blood purifier and for the treatment of abscesses. [4]

Fomentation of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism and neuralgia as well as allied pain due to poisoned arrow. The fruit pulp, shoots or roots has been used to treat snakebites by various societies living in the vicinity of mangrove swamps. The young leaves are boiled with the bark of Cinnamomum culilawan as a remedy for flatulence. The juice of the leaves is used as hair preserver. [4][6]

Preclinical Data


Anticancer activity

A study on evaluated tumour reducing and anticarcinogenic activity of extracts of A. ilicifolius reported that the alcoholic extract of A. ilicifoliuswas effective in controlling tumour progression and inhibiting carcinogenisis of induced papilloma formation in mice. The extract showed cytotoxic activity against lung fibroblast cells and Ehrlich’s ascites carcinoma (EAC) cells. [7][8]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The methanolic fraction of A. illicifolius leaf was found to significantly inhibit oedema of rat paw induced by carrageenan when given before and after carrageenan. It also reduced protein exudation and leucocyte migration in the peritoneal fluid effectively inhibiting peritoneal inflammation, inhibit COX (1 and 2) and 5-LOX activity, and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF alpha and IL-6). [9]

Antioxidant activity

It was found that the alcoholic extract of A. illicifolius leaves inhibited the formation of oxygen derived free radicals (ODFR) in vitro. The methanolic fraction of A. ilicifolius leaf extract was found to have significant free radical scavenging activity (DPPH, ABTS, superoxide and hydroxyl radical). Upon intraperitoneal administration it was found that it augmented the endogenous antioxidant status. [9][10]

Hepatoprotective activity

Oral administration of alcoholic extract of A. illicifolius leaves was seen to significantly reduce carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced hepatotoxicity in rats, as judged from the serum and tissue activity of marker enzymes: glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT), glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). [10]

Osteoblastic activity

Acteoside, isoacteoside and (+)-lyoniresinol 3a-O-β-glucopyranoside isolated from the methanolic extract of A. illicifolius  leaves was found to increase the growth and differentiation of osteoblasts significantly. [5]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of A. ilicifolius [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Acanthus ilicifolius L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Jun 28]. Available from:
  2. Ong HC. Acanthus ilicifolius 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. 38.
  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. 43.
  4. Burkill IH. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Volume 1. London: Published on behalf of the governments of the Straits settlements and Federated Malay states by the Crown agents for the colonies, 1935; p. 27-28.
  5. Van Kiem P, Quang TH, Huong TT, et al. Chemical constituents of Acanthus ilicifolius L. and effect on osteoblastic MC3T3E1 cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2008 Jul;31(7): 823-829.
  6. MacKinnon K, Hatta G, Halim H, Mangalik A. The ecology of Kalimantan. Volume 3. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions (HK.) Ltd, 1996; p. 512.
  7. Babu BH, Shylesh BS, Padikkala J. Tumour reducing and anticarcinogenic activity of Acanthus ilicifolius in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;79(1):27-33.
  8. Chakraborty T, Bhuniya D, Chatterjee M, et al. Acanthus ilicifolius plant extract prevents DNA alterations in a transplantable Ehrlich ascites carcinoma-bearing murine model. World J Gastroenterol. 2007;13(48):6538-6548.
  9. Kumar KTMS, Gorain B, Roy DK, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Acanthus ilicifolius. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;120(1):7-12. Epub 2008 Jul 25.
  10. Babu BH, Shylesh BS, Padikkala J. Antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect of Acanthus ilicifolius. Fitoterapia. 2001; 72(3):272-277.