Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich.

Last updated: 16 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich.


Boehmeria candicans Hassk., Boehmeria frutescens var. concolor (Makino) Nakai, Boehmeria frutescens var. viridula (Yamam.) Suzuki, Boehmeria juncea Bedevian [Invalid], Boehmeria nipononivea Koidz., Boehmeria nivea var. candicans Wedd., Boehmeria nivea f. concolor (Makino) Kitam., Boehmeria nivea var. concolor Makino, Boehmeria nivea subsp. nipononivea (Koidz.) Kitam., Boehmeria nivea f. nipononivea (Koidz.) Kitam., Boehmeria nivea var. nipononivea (Koidz.) W.T.Wang, Boehmeria nivea var. nivea, Boehmeria nivea var. tenacissima (Gaudich.) Miq., Boehmeria nivea var. viridula Yamam., Boehmeria tenacissima Gaudich., Boehmeria thailandica Yahara, Boehmeria utilis André, Procris nivea Wedd. [Invalid], Ramium niveum (L.) Kuntze, Urtica nivea L. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Rami, rami rami [2]
English China grass, Chinese grass, Chinese nettle, Chinese silk plant, false nettle, ramie, ramie grass, rhea grass [2]
China Chu ma, zhu ma, zhu ma gen [2]
India Bhyddhingi, chiple, kamle, kithaa naaru [2]
Indonesia Rami, haramay [3]
Thailand Po-paan, po-bo, taan khamoi [3]
Laos Pan [3]
Philippines Amirai, arimai, dami, hasu, labnis, lapnis, rami [2]
Vietnam Bau pan, cay la gai, co pan, chieu du, gai, hac co pan, tru ma [2]
France Ramie [3].

Geographical Distributions

Boehmeria nivea probably originates in western and central China and has been cultivated in China since antiquity. Cultivation spread from China to other Asian countries. B. nivea plants and products were brought to Europe in the 18th Century and experi­mental plantings were established in many tropi­cal, subtropical and temperate countries. With the advent of synthetic fibres, however, the cultiva­tion of B. nivea plummeted, though it is still grown in many tropical and subtropical countries, in­cluding the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It has oc­casionally escaped from cultivation and naturalised. [4]

Botanical Description

B. nivea is a member of the family Urticaceae. It is a monoecious, erect, fast-growing perennial herb or small shrub that can reach 1-2(-3) m tall, with long rhizome and tuberous storage roots. [4]

The stem is usually unbranched and hollow, 8-16 mm in diameter, initially green and hairy, brown­ish and woody. The inner bark layer yields the ramie fibre. [4]

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple and with 3 prominent basal veins. The stipules are axillary, connate at base, linear-lance shaped and measure up to 1.5 cm long. The petiole is 6-12 cm long and pubescent. The blade is broadly ovate, triangular to suborbicular, measuring 7-20 cm x 4-18 cm, with wedge-shaped to subcordate base, with coarsely dentate to dentate-serrate or crenate margin, abruptly long­acuminate at apex, green and scabrid above, hairless and green or white appressed-pubescent below. [4]

The inflorescence is an axillary, racemose and measures 3-8 cm long. Each branch bears several crowded or well-separated clusters of unisexual flowers. The male clusters are small and usually with 3-10 flowers while the fe­male clusters are larger and usually with 10-30 flowers. The male flower is short pedicelled, with 3-5 lobed perianth, with stamens as many as lobes and incurved with persistent rudiment of pistillode. The female flower is sessile, with tubular perianth, 2-4-lobed, green­ish to pinkish, pistil with 1-celled ovary with one ovule, with exserted style, slender and hairy on one side and with slender stigma. [4]

The fruit is a nearly globular to ovoid achene, about 1 mm in diameter, enclosed by the persistent perianth, hairy, crustaceous and brown­ yellow. The seed is nearly globular to ovoid, slightly less than 1 mm in diameter and dark brown. [4]


B. nivea is found in almost equatorial conditions in Indonesia and the Philippines to about 38°N in Japan and South Korea. It is grown at average temperatures ranging from 20°C during the cropping season in temperate regions to 28°C in the tropics. Frost may destroy the rhizomes; this can be prevented by mulching with leaves or compost. To grow properly, B. nivea requires a minimum of 100-140 mm rainfall per month. Short days promote flowering and ramie tolerates partial shade. For optimal fibre production, B. nivea requires rich, well-drained, sandy loams, with a pH of 5.5-6.5 (4.8-5.6 for peat soils). With heavy manuring, it can also be grown on less favourable soil types. B. nivea is extremely sensitive to waterlogging. [4]

In Philippine experiments, it was most sensitive to flooding immediately after cutting and least sensitive during the middle vegetative state (20 days after cutting). The duration of flooding significantly affected the height, stem weight and dry fibre yield, but had no significant effect on the fineness or diameter of the fibre. [4]

Chemical Constituent

B. nivea were isolated by repeated column chromatography and preparative liquid chromatography and have been reported to contain tormentic acid, hederagenin, maslinic acid, 2α-hydroxyursolic acid, trans-p-hydroxycinamic acid, 2,4,4’-trihydroxychalcone, rutin [5]. The isolation of B. nivea also includes β-sitosterol, daucosterol, 19 α-hydroxyursolic acid [6]. Other compound documented are unsaturated fatty acids, (Z)-9,10,11-trihydroxy-12-octadecenoic acid, (Z)-7,8,9-trihydroxy-10-hexadecenoic acid, (Z)-12-keto-7,8,9-trihydroxy-10-hexadecenoic acid and (E)-8,11,12-trihydoxy-9-octadecenoic acid [7]. B. nivea isolated from n-butanol, ethyl acetate and petroleum ether fraction elucidate structures of kiwiionoside, eugenyl β-rutinoside, uracil, β-sitosterol glucoside, 3-hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzoic acid, cholesterol, α-amyrin and nonacosanol [8].

Plant Part Used

Roots, stems, and leaves. [9][10][11]

Traditional Use

B. nivea is traditionally used as antipyretic, detoxificant, haemostatic, febrifuge, demulcent, vulnerary, antiphlogistic, and antiabortifacient.  It also has been used to treat conditions like swelling, bleeding, haematuria, haemoptysis, haematemesis, metrorrhagia, and excessive foetal movements, traumatic injuries, and to improve urination. [10][11]

The fresh leaves are astringent, resolvent, and used in promoting healing of fluxes and wounds in the digestive tract including gastric ulcer. The decoction of the leaves has antipyretic properties which are used to treat high fever (ague) and measles [10]. Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties render it useful in urinary tract infection, traumatic injuries, ulcers, boils and even snakebites [12]

The root is traditionally used by Malays in the treatment of foul ulceration called pekong [9]. The fresh roots are mashed and used as poultice over the lesion [10]. The haemostatic, antiabortifacient and uterosedative properties of the roots have been used to treat leuchorrhoea, vaginal bleeding, threatened abortion or simple dysfunctional uterine bleeding like metrorrhagia and  gastrointestinal tract bleeding (vomiting blood and piles) [10][11][12].

The leaves when combined with roots are tonic for those suffering from dysentery. [9]

Preclinical Data


Hepatoprotective activity

Aqueous extracts of B. nivea showed hepatoprotective and antioxidant activities. The result showed that B. nivea exhibited a hepatoprotective activity against CCl4-induced liver injury while antioxidant effects in FeCl2-ascorbate induced lipid peroxidation in rat liver homogenate. B. nivea also has the active oxygen species scavenging ability evaluated by an electron spin resonance (ESR) spin-trapping technique. These activities were assumed to be related to the free radical scavenging effects of the extract. [13]

Anti-HBV activity

Initial studies on the anti-hepatitis B virus activity of B. nivea root extract were done using HepG2 2.2.15 cell model system. The results showed significant reduction of hepatitis B virus (HBV) production but the causes was not by its cytotoxicity to cells or inhibition of viral DNA replication and RNA expression. [14]

Subsequent to this, another study was done and found out that the inhibition was due to the ability of the root extract of B. nivea to block assembled viron secretion by reducing 78-kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78). [15][16]

Antiglycosidase and anticholinesterase activity

Methanol extracts of B. nivea leaves, stems and roots and their respective n-hexane, methylene chloride, ethylene acetate, n-butanol and aqueous fractions were screened for antiglycosidase and anticholinesterase activities. The n-butanol fraction of the roots showed high-pitched α-glucosidase inhibition while the ethyl acetate fraction exhibited highest beta-glucosidase inhibition. The leaves extract showed highest β-galactosidase inhibitory activity, but none of the extracts showed α-galactosidease inhibition. The whole plant showed notable butyrylcholinesterase enzyme inhibition activity and moderate anti-acetylcholineseterase activity. These results indicated that B. nivea as a potential choice for the treatment of diabetes type II, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. [17]


The study of aqueous extract of B. nivea at up to 16 times (32 g/kg/day) of human daily dose for embryotoxicity and maternal toxicity did not show significant effect and did not induce maternal liver, kidney or heart damage in mice. However, there was evidence of cytotoxicity in cultured embryonic stem cells where B. nivea extract significantly (p<0.05) lower its viability at concentrations 5 mg/mL and above. [18]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


B. nivea pollens have been established as a cause of asthma in Nagasaki, Japan. Miura found that the rate of positive reaction to B. nivea was 11.7% amongst adult asthmatic patients in the Nagasaki area. A cross-reactivity study between B. nivea and Parietaria spp. (both members of Urticaceae) showed there was not cross-reactivity detected. [19]

Side effects

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


Care must be taken when using B. nivea extracts in people with unstable or severe cardiac disease, uncontrolled epilepsy, or active peptic ulcer diseases. The presence of anti-acetylcholinesterase in the plant could aggravate these conditions. [17]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of B. nivea [4].


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 26; cited 2017 Feb 16]. Available from:
  2. 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. 612
  3. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Ramie Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich. [homepage on the Internet]. [updated 2016 Jan; cited 2017 Feb 16]. Available from:
  4. Escobin RP. Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich. In : Brink M, Escobin RP, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No.17: Fibre plants. Leiden, The Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, 2003; p. 86-91.
  5. Xu Q, Chen G, Fan J, et al. [Chemical constituents of roots of Boehmeria nivea]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2009;34(20):2610-2612.
  6. Li W, Ding L, Li B. [Chemical constituents of the root of Boehmeira nivea (L.) Gaud]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1996;21(7):427-428.
  7. Xu QM, Liu YL, Li XR, Li X, Yang SL. Three new fatty acids from the roots of Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich and their antifungal activities. Nat Prod Res. 2011; 25(6):640-647.
  8. Liu C, Zou K, Guo Z, et al. [Chemical constituents from leaves of Boehmeria nivea]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2010;35(11):1432-1434.
  9. Gimlette JD. A dictionary of Malayan medicine. London: Oxford University Press London, 1939; p.195–196.
  10. Yellowdawn TH. The sun, human & food: A self-treatment and practice with natural food.  Bloomington: Author House, 2011; p. 91–92.
  11. Yang XR. Encyclopaedic reference of traditional Chinese medicine. Berlin: Springer, 2003; p. 468.
  12. Kimura T, But PPH. International collation of traditional and folk medicine. Singapore: Northeast Asia World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd, 1998; p.14.
  13. Lin CC, Yen MH, Lo TS, Lin JM. Evaluation of the hepatoprotective and antioxidant activity of Boehmeria nivea var. nivea and B. nivea var. tenacissima. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;60(1):9-17.
  14. Huang KL, Lai YK, Lin CC, Chang JM. Inhibition of hepatitis B virus production by Boehmeria nivea root extract in HepG2 2.2.15 cells. World J Gastroenterol. 2006;12(35):5721-5725.
  15. Chang JM, Huang KL, Yuan TT, Lai YK, Hung LM. The anti-hepatitis B virus activity of Boehmeria nivea extract in HBV-viremia SCID mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010;7(2):189-195.
  16. Lai YK, Lin CC, Chang JM. Involvement of GRP78 in inhibition of HBV secretion by Boehmeria nivea extract in human HepG2 2.2.15 cells. J Viral Hepat. 2009;16(5):367-75.
  17. Sancheti S, Sancheti S, Seo SY. Evaluation of antiglycosidase and anticholinesterase activities of Boehmeria nivea. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2010;23(2):236-40.
  18. Tian XY, Xu M, Deng B, Leung KS, Cheng KF, Zhao ZZ, Zhang SP, Yang ZJ, Deng PX, Xu DY, Xu XP, Koo I, Wong M. The effects of Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaud. on embryonic development: in vivo and in vitro studies. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;134(2):393-398.
  19. Miura N. Ramie (Boehmeria nivea) pollen-induced bronchial asthma and allergenic cross-reactivity of ramie and Parietaria. Arerugi. 1993; 42(5):649-655.