Heliotropium indicum L.

Last updated: 13 September 2016

Scientific Name

Heliotropium indicum L.


Tiaridium indicum (L.) Lehm

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Rumput Ekor Kucing, Jengking Kala [1]. Rumput ekur kuching, rumput kala jenkeng, rumput oleh (Peninsular) [2]
English Indian Heliotrope, Indian Turnsole [1]
Indonesia Buntut Tikus, Bandotan Lombok, Ekor Anjing [1]. bandotan, gajahan (Javanese) [2]
Thailand Kuno kaa-mo (Peninsular), yaa nguang chaang (General), yaa nguang chaang noi (Northern) [2]
Laos Nha nguong xang [2]
Philippines Trompa ngelephante, buntot-leon (Tagalog, Bikol), kambra-kambra (Bisaya) [2]
Cambodia Promoi damrey, kantui damrey [2]
Vietnam C[aa]y v[of]i voi [2]
France Tournesol Indien [1]

Geographical Distributions

Heliotropium indicum can be found along coastlines, in drains and vacant plots. It is probably a native of tropical America. [2] [3]

Botanical Description

H. indicum is a member of the Boraginaceae family. [2]

The tree is an annual herb, 15-60 (-100) cm tall. The stem is hairy, simple or with a few branches. [2]

The leaves are egg-shaped, (1.5-)2-10(-12) cm x 1-8(-9) cm. The base is truncated but narrowly long-extending downwards and united to the stalk. The apex is acute, with tuber-like of mineralised cells and bristly hairs. The stalk is 1-9 cm long. [2]

The inflorescence consists of 1 to several spike-like indeterminate inflorescence(s), elongated to 5-20 cm long and without bracts. The sepal is with patent, bristly white hairs. The petal is salver-shaped. The tube is 3-4.5 mm long. The lobes are rounded, about 1 mm long, pale-violet, blue or white. The apex of fruit has two prominent teeth and distinctly divergent at pollination. [2]

The fruit is 2-3 mm long, fruit halves 2-celled with cells 2-locular. The outer partition is with one seed while the inner one is larger and empty. [2]


H. indicum is found in sunny places, on waste land, in periodically desiccating pools and ditches and other anthropogenic habitats, in general up to 800 m altitude. [2]

Chemical Constituent

H. indicum has been reported to contains heliotrine, helindicine, lycopsamine, indicine, indicine-N-oxide, acetyl-indicine, heleurine, supinine, supinidine, lindelofidine, trachelanthamidine, retronecine, putrescine, spermidine, spermine, rapanone, C16-C18 fatty acid esters of 1-cyano-2-hydroxymethylprop-1-en-3-ol, 49% phytol, 6.4% 1-dodecanol and 3% β-linalool. [3] [8]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant, leaves, roots, seeds. [2]

Traditional Use

In Malaysia, a paste made from H. indicum is applied to reduce urination, to counteract putrefaction, to treat pyoderma and ringworm infection. In Burma, a decoction of the whole plant is used to treat gonorrhea while in Indonesia, an infusion of the leaves is used to soothe mouth sprue. A decoction of the dried roots is drunk in the Philippines to promote menses, while the seeds are used to treat cholera, malaria, and for wound-healing. [3]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

The anti-infectious property of the herb is probably due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids. [3]

Antifertility activity

The roots of this herb contain rapanone related to the quinone embelin which is known to be a potential contraceptive agent. [3]

Antitumor activity

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids have antitumor properties but with limited potentials owing to some extent the toxicity of the active constituent, indicine-N-oxide from H. indicum. It is reported that indicine-N-oxide has reached Phase 1 clinical trials in advanced cancer patients. [3][4][5]

Antituberculosis activity

The essential oil from the aerial parts of the herb showed significant antituberculosis activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Ra in the Alamar blue assay system with an MIC of 20.8mg/ml. [6]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Suspensions of powdered dried leaves of H. indicum with 2% gum acacia were evaluated for its anti-inflammatory activity in albino rats. This herb produced significant anti-inflammatory effect in both the carrageenin hind paw oedema and cotton pellet granuloma. However, it was found to be less effective than the standard drug such as phenylbutazone. The study concludes that this herb possesses anti-inflammatory effects in both acute and subacute inflammation. [7]

Wound healing activity

Alcoholic extract of H. indicum was studied for wound healing properties in a rat model [8]. Topical application of 10% w/v H. indicum increased the percentage of wound contraction and completed wound healing by the 14th day with increased tensile strength indicating rapid epithelization and collagenisation. [8]


The plant is considered toxic to livestock with several records of fatal poisoning [5].

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Indicine-N-oxide was tested on 37 patients (15 males, 22 females, mean age 53 years) with solid tumours [5]. All patients had previously undergone chemotherapy, and 25 had prior radiotherapy. Eighty-four percent had a performance status of 0-3 (Cancer and Leukemia Group B criteria). The drug was given as a short infusion over 15 minutes and repeated with a median interval of 4 weeks with close monitoring of white blood cell and platelet counts. The patients were given a total of 55 courses starting from 1g/m2 to a maximum tolerated dose of 9g/m2. The therapeutic dose was found to be at 7g/m2 and a dose of 5g/m2 was recommended for patients with high risk. Toxic effects were leukopenia and thrombocytopenia, and the toxicity was cumulative with repeated doses. Other toxic effects included nausea and vomiting, anemia, and hepatic dysfunction. The hematologic toxicity have a tendency to be more distinct in patients with hepatic dysfunction, poor marrow reserve, and heavy prior chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Results demonstrated that there were no complete or partial responses. One patient with skin melanoma and another with ovarian carcinoma had improvement lasting 2 months. Dose reductions may be necessary for repeated courses. [5]


No documentation

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Lactating mothers should avoid consuming herbal tea contaminated with the seeds of this herb as it is a toxicity hazard to babies. [8]

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

Ingestion of this herb is dangerous. Fatal accidental poisoning in humans by drinking herbal tea probably contaminated or substituted with the seeds of this plant has been reported. [8]

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

No documentation

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of H. indicum [2]


  1. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1 & 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR; 2002.
  2. Chuakul W, Soonthornchareonnon N, Saralamp P. Heliotropium L. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers, 1999; p. 292–296.
  3. Wiart C. Medicinal plants of The Asia-Pacific: Drugs for the future?. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing; 2006.
  4. Sammy J, Machado L, Raimundo B, et al. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids from Heliotropium indicum. J Braz Chem Soc. 2005;16(6B):1410-1414.
  5. Ohnuma T, Sridhar KS, Ratner LH, Holland JF. Phase 1 study of indicine-N-oxide in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Treat Rep. 1982;66(7):1509-1515
  6. Machan T. Composition and antituberculosis activity of the volatile oil of Heliotropium indicum Linn. growing in Phitsanulok, Thailand. J Flavour Frag. 2005;21:265-267
  7. Srinivas K, Rao MEB, Rao SS. Anti-inflammatory activity of Heliotropium indicum Linn and Leucas aspera spreng. in albino rats. Ind J Pharmacol. 2000;32(1):37–38
  8. Reddy JS, Rao PR, Reddy MS. Wound healing effects of Heliotropium indicum, Plumbago zeylanicum and Acalypha indica in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;79:249-251