Nyctanthes arbor-tristis L.

Last updated: 17 October 2016

Scientific Name

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis L.


Bruschia macrocarpa Bertol, Nyctanthes dentata Blume, Nyctanthes tristis Salisb, Parilium arbor-tristis (L.) Gaertn, Scabrita scabra L.Scabrita triflora L. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Seri gading [2]
English Night jasmine, bruschia, coral jasmine, tree of sadness [2]
India Harsingar, manjatpu (Tamil) [2]
Indonesia Srigading (Sundanese, Javanese) [2]
Thailand Karanikaa [2]
Laos Salikaa [2]
Sinhala Sepalika [2]
Philippines Coral jasmine [2]
Vietnam Lai tau, Dza hoa [2].

Geographical Distributions

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is native to the subtropical Himalayas of Nepal and India, and is probably introduced in the more southern parts of India, and in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. In its native habitat, N. arbor-tristis is found on rocky ground in dry hillsides, and as undergrowth in dry deciduous forest. It grows at sea-level up to 1500 m altitude, within a wide range of rainfall patterns, from seasonal to non-seasonal and is tolerant of moderate shade. [2]

Botanical Description

N. arbor-tristis is a member of the Oleaceae family. N. arbor-tristis is a large shrub or small tree that can reach up to 10 m tall. The bark is scabrous and grey. The branches are spreading, rough, with tetragonal twigs and scabrous. [2]

The leaves are arranged decussately opposite, ovate, measuring (4-)6-12 cm x 2-6.5(-9) cm, wedge-shaped to nearly heart-shaped at the base, acute or acuminate at apex, with entire margin or with a few teeth, very scabrous above with bulbous-based hairs, hairy beneath and with a short petiole. [2]

The flowers are axillary or terminal. The bracteate cymes consist of 2-7-flowered corymbs, with quadrangular, slender peduncle, fragrant and sessile. The sepal is bell-shaped and measures about 5 mm long. The petal is cylindrical, with orange tube and 5-8 spreading, imbricate and more or less contorted, white lobes and measures 5-15 mm long. There are 2 stamens that are inserted near the top of the petal tube. The style is about as long as the petal tube while the stigma is obscurely bifid. [2]

The fruit is a heart-shaped to almost orbicular flat capsule. It is about 2 cm across, brown, 2-celled and opens transversely from the apex. There is 1 compressed seed per cell. [2]


In its native area, N. arbor-tristis is found on rocky ground in dry hillsides and as undergrowth in dry deciduous forests. It can be cultivated from sea level up to 1500 m altitude at the equator, within a wide range of rainfall patterns and from seasonal to non-seasonal. It tolerates moderate shade. The flowers open at sunset and usually wither after sunrise the next day. [2]

Chemical Constituent

Flower of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to containmannitol, rengyolone, a cyclohexylethanoid, iridoid glucosides, 6-Otrans-cinnamoyl-7-O-acetyl-6b-hydroxyloganin, 4-Hydroxy hexahydrobenzofuran-7-one, arborside C, 6b-hydroxyloganin and nyctanthoside, a phenylpropanoid glycoside, a modified diterpenoid nyctanthin, flavonoids, anthocyanins and an essential oil. [3][4][5]

The leaves has been reported to containmannitol, b-amyrin, b-sitosterol, hentri-acontane, benzoic acid, benzoic esters of longanin, 6b-hydroxylonganin, iridoid glucosides-arborsides A, B and C, nyctanthic acid, friedlin, lupeol, oleanolic acid, derivatives of kaempferol, tannic acid, methyl salicylate, resin, ascorbic acid and carotene. [2][6][7] Iridoid glycosides in the leaves has been reported to contain 6,7-di-0-benzoylnyctanthoside, 6-O-trans-cinnamoyl-6b-hydroxyloganin, 7-O-transcinnamoyl-6b-hydroxyloganin and desrhamnosylverbascoside. [4][8]

The seed of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to containabout 15% of pale yellow-brown oil, nyctanthic acid, nyctoside A, b-sitosterol, Iridoid glucosides, arbortristoside A, B, D and E. The bark of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to contain a glycoside and alkaloids, the latter may be poisonous to animals and humans. [2][4] The glycosides are iridoid glycosides and phenylpropanoid glycosides. [4][9][10][11][12]

Plant Part Used

leaves, flowers (inflorescence). [13][14]

Traditional Use

The flowers of N. arbor-tristis are used in India, Indonesia (Java) and Malaysia to provoke menstruation while the bitter leaves are used as cholagogue, laxative, diaphoretic and diuretic. [2] The leaf juice is used to expul roundworms and threadworms in children. [2][13][15][16][17] The leaf juice is also used to treat loss of appetite, piles, liver disorders, biliary disorders, chronic fever. The hot infusion of flowers is used by some elderly Sri Lankan Buddhist monks as a sedative. [3] Malarial fever, obstinate sciatica, rheumatism, and as a diaphoretic. [13][15][16][18] The leaves reportedly have anti-inflammatory activity while an extract from shade-dried leaves showed insecticidal effect. A decoction of the leaves is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat sciatica, arthritis and malaria, and as a tonic and a laxative. [14]

The seed powder is used for scalp scurvy, in alopecia and as anthelminthics. [2][15][17][18] The bark is used for the treatment of bronchitis and snakebite. [15] In central India, the tribal people used various parts of N. arbor-tristis to relieve cough, hiccup, dysentery, snakebite and sores. [13][16] The inflorescence is used to treat scabies and other skin diseases. [13] Besides, the activities related above, N. arbor-tristis is also known in Indian traditional medicine as immunotoxic, antiallergic, antihistaminic, purgative, antibacterial and ulcerogenic activities. [19] Other uses are as an expectorant and for bilious fevers. [18]

The flowers of N. arbor-tristis which are bright orange corollas, contain a saffron-yellow colouring matter, which was formerly used for dyeing silk, sometimes together with safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.), turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), and indigo (Indigofera spp.). It is also used for dyeing cotton to colour the robes of Buddhist priests orange, yellow or golden colour (like saffron) although the colour is easily washed out and will rapidly fade in the sun. To make the colour more permanent, lime juice or alum is added to the dye bath which is a decoction of the the corolla tubes. [2] The dye is nyctanthin which is allied to crocetin from saffron (Crocus sativus L.). The flowers are fragrant, containing an essential oil which is similar to jasmine oil and is used as a perfume. The bark is used as a tanning material while the leaves are used to polish wood and ivory. The wood is used for boarding and as firewood. It is fairly heavy, averaging 880 kg/m, brown, close-grained and moderately hard. [2]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

The acetone-soluble fraction of the ethyl acetate extract of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to exhibited potent antioxidant activity as shown in scavenging experiments (scavenging assays for DPPH, hydroxyl and superoxide radicals, and H2O2) and in prevention against Fe(II)-induced liposomal lipid peroxidation and g-ray-induced DNA damage. The antioxidant activity was attributed to the plant’s strong reducing power and its high content of phenolics and flavonoids. [14] In an earlier study that compared the antioxidant activity of 11 leafy vegetables, N. arbor-tristis showed the lowest activity. [20] The aqueous extract of N. arbor-tristis showed median inhibitory concentration (IC50) values of 1782 µg/mL (hydroxyl radical-scavenging assay), 1388 µg/mL (superoxide radical-scavenging activity in riboflavin/light/NBT system), 1946 µg/mL (DPPH radical-scavenging assay) and 3970 µg/mL (inhibition of lipid peroxidation induced by FeSO4 in egg yolk). The total antioxidant activity, based on the reduction of Mo(VI) to Mo(V) at acid pH, was 9.41 µg/mg dry weight of plant material of gallic acid and 30.3 ascorbic acid equivalents, respectively. [20]

A hot infusion of the flowers showed antioxidant activity in the fowl egg yolk assay with an EC50 of 3582 mg/mL for inhibiton of the formation of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS). The standard antioxidant, butylated hydroxy toluene (100 mg/ml), inhibited TBARS formation by 86%. [3]

N. arbor-tristis has been reported to have activities against visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) and oxidative stress. [14] A bioactive fraction and the two pure compounds showed significant free radical scavenging activities in ABTS (2,2′-azinobis [3-ethylbenzthiozoline-6-sulfonic acid]) and hydroxyl radical scavenging assays. The bioactive fraction and the two pure compounds showed antigenotoxic and protective effects against pBlueScriptII SK (-) supercoiled DNA strand scission by hydroxyl radicals. These findings point to the therapeutic potential of the plant in cancer drug development. [16]

Hepatoprotective activity

The ethanolic leaf extract of N. arbor-tristis protected against carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced hepatotoxicity. [19] The rats were pretreated with the extract (1000 mg/kg body weight/day, p.o. for 7 days) prior to the administration of a single dose of CCl4 (1.0 mL/kg, s.c.). The blood was taken at 48 h after CCl4 administration (day 9) from the abdominal aorta under pentobarbitone anesthesia (350 mg/kg i.p.) for the evaluation of serum cholesterol, AST, ALP, bilirubin, serum glucose, total protein and alkaline phosphatase. Silymarin (0.07 g/kg body weight/day, p.o. for 7 days), a mixture of flavonolignans from the fruits of Silybum marianum, was used as the reference standard. The leaf extract of N. arbor-tristis and silymarin restored all serum and liver parameters that were altered by CCl4 to normal levels. Both N. arbor-tristis extract and silymarin prevented the loss in body weight that was seen with CCl4. Both also protected against CCl4-induced increase in liver weight and volume. The hepatoprotective mechanism of N. arbor-tristis extract was postulated to involve blockade of bioactivation of CCl4 through inhibition of P 450 2E1 activity and/or to the accelerated detoxification of CCl4. These effects may be mediated by the antioxidants present in the plant. [19] In another model of CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity (0.7 ml/kg body weight, i.p. on 3rd, 6th and 10th day), the ethanolic and aqueous extracts of the leaves of N. arbor-tristis (500 mg/kg, oral route for 10 days) reversed the elevation in serum AST, ALT and total bilirubin that were induced by CCl4. [17]

Immunomodulatory activity

N. arbor-tristis extracts has been reported to show potent immunomodulatory activity. [21][22] The mice fed with 50% ethanolic extract of the seeds, flowers and leaves of the plant showed strong stimulation of antigen-specific and non-specific immunity as shown by increased humoral and delayed type hypersensitivity responses to sheep erythrocytes and in the macrophage migration index. The seed extract showed maximum activity with the active principle(s) appearing to be associated with lipids. In the flowers and leaves, the activity was associated with the aqueous fraction of the ethanolic extract. [23]

The ethanolic (50%) seed and root extracts of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to show immunomodulatory activity against systemic candidiasis in mice. Both iridoid glucosides isolated from the seed, viz, arbortristosides A and C (5 mg/kg, p.o. once daily), were protective with arbortristoside C providing greater protection and better cure than arbortristoside A. The administration of arbortristoside A (5 mg/kg) in prophylactic and therapeutic (administered post-infection) regimens led to enhanced protection, while arbortristoside C showed deleterious effects in the mice. The extracts and arbortristosides A and C were strongly stimulatory by increasing both humoral and delayed type hypersensitivity responses to sheep red blood cells and macrophage migration index in Balb/c mouse. No protection was seen when the mice were given arbortristosides A or C together with ketoconazole. [24]

The leaf and fruit extracts reduced the levels of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1b, and interleukin-6 but increased the level of interleukin-10 in the joint homogenate on days 2, 14 and 47 in comparison to untreated arthritic mice. Both the ethanolic extract of the orange tubular calyx of N. arbor-tristis (200 mg/kg, i.p.) has been reported to inhibited carrageenan-induced rat paw edema when compared with the standard drug (diclofenac sodium) and untreated control. [26]

In arthritic mice and soluble protein A (SpA)-treated Balb/c mice, oral administration of the water soluble fraction of the ethanol extract of N. arbor-tristis caused depletion of plasma TNF-a and interferon-7 levels although plasma IgM and lgG levels were unaffected. This points to the possibility of therapeutic applications of N. arbor-tristis in the management of TNF-a which modulates the expression of cytokines and proteins including class I antigens of the MHC complex, and has an important role in immune responses to inflammatory rheumatic diseases. [7]

Immunopotentiator activity

The anti-immunosuppressive effect of an aqueous extract of N. arbor-tristis leaves was determined in three to four week old Swiss albino mice (20-25 g) which were exposed to the extract, malathion, or to the extract which was administered after 3 doses of malathion and continued during the course of immunosuppressive dosing with malathion. N. arbor-tristis leaf aqueous extract reverted humoral, non-specific and cell mediated immunological parameters to normalcy as the values of antibody titres, of the non-specific immune parameters and of cell mediated immune parameters were raised by the extract. The T-cell number, Fc receptor bearing cell counts, complement receptor bearing B-lymphocytes and IgG bearing B-cells of the extract-treated malathion mice were also increased towards normalcy while the phagocytic index was greater than in malathion mice not treated with the extract. The results showed that N. arbor-tristis leaf aqueous extract showed immunopotentiator activity with the capacity for potentiating both humoral and cell mediated immune responses. [25]

Antihistaminic and anti-tryptaminergic activity

The pre-treatment of guinea pigs exposed to histamine aerosol (2% at 300 mm Hg pressure) with a water soluble portion of the alcoholic extract of N. arbor-tristis leaves (4.0 & 8.0 g/kg oral doses) offerred significant protection against the development of asphyxia. Antitryptaminergic activity against 5-HT induced rat paw oedema was also been seen. [11] Arbortristoside A and arbortristoside C present in N. arbor-tristis was reported to be antiallergic. [14]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The water-soluble fraction of the ethanol extract elicited significant anti-inflammatory activity against acute inflammatory oedema produced in rats by different phlogistic agents, namely carrageenin, formalin, histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and hyaluronidase. [7][21] The extract significantly reduced acute inflammatory swelling in the knee joint of rats induced by turpentine oil. [21] The leaf and fruit extracts also showed anti-inflammatory action in the mouse model of arthritis which was elicited by immunological methods, namely, injections of Freund's complete adjuvant into the sub-planter surface of the right hind paw on days 0 and 12 [28] and PPD-induced tuberculin reaction. In subacute models of carrageenin induced granuloma pouch and cotton pellet granuloma, rats were fed daily with the extract for 6 days from the day of pouch formation or for 5 days from the day of pellet implantation. Granulation tissue formations in both models were significantly inhibited by the extract. [21]

The ethanolic extract of the orange tubular calyx of N. arbor-tristis and the isolated carotenoid (200 mg/kg, i.p.) showed significant inhibition of carrragenan-induced rat paw edema when compared to the standard drug (diclofenac sodium) and untreated control. [26]

Protection against silica-induced early fibrogenic reaction activity

The pre-treatment of mice with N. arbor-tristis leaf extract protected their lungs from the initial injury produced by exposure to silica particles (< 5 mu at a rate of -10 mg/m3 respirable mass for 5 h) by the Flow Past Nose Only Inhalation Chamber. The extract significantly protected against the accumulation of TNF-α in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and prevented the development of silica-induced early fibrogenic reactions, viz, congestion, edema, infiltration of nucleated cells in interstitial alveolar spaces and thickening of alveolar septa. [29]

Antinociceptive and antipyretic activity

The water-soluble portion of an ethanol extract of the N. arbor-tristis has been reported to exhibited significant aspirin-like antinociceptive activity which was evidenced by inhibition of acetic acid-induced writhing in albino mice but failed to elicit morphine-like analgesia which was tested via the rat tail flick and the mouse tail-clip methods. The extract exhibited antipyretic effect against brewer’s yeast-induced pyrexia in rats and when administered orally for six consecutive days in rats, it produced dose-dependent gastric ulcers. [30]

Sedative activity

The sedative potential of a hot infusion of the flowers (3.7, 7.5, 12.5, 18.7 mg/kg, p.o.) were examined in rats using the rat hole-board test at 2 h post-dosing. In this test, each rat was placed at the center of the standard rat hole-board apparatus and observed for 7.5 min. The number of rears, number of head dips, cumulative time spent on head dips, and locomotory activity was monitored and the time spent per head dip computed. Male rats exhibited a dose-dependent conscious sedative activity (at 7.5 & 12.5 mg/kg, p.o.) while female rats remained unaffected. At these doses, muscle strength and coordination were not affected nor was blood glucose levels affected even at the highest dose. However, glucose absorption from the small intestine was significantly reduced by the 12.5 mg/kg dose. The sedation was attributed, in part, to the antioxidant and membrane stabilizing activity of the extract. The latter was shown by marked inhibition of heat-induced hemolysis of uncoagulated fresh rat blood by the flower infusion (625 mg/ml). There was no overt dependence that would have been manifested as withdrawal reactions. [3]

Although the water soluble portion of the alcoholic extract of N. arbor-tristis leaves by itself had no effect on the righting reflex of albino rats, it (4.0 & 8.0 g/kg oral doses) elicited significant prolongation of pentobarbitone sleeping time. Both doses elicited tranquilizing activity as shown by avoidance of electrical shock in pole climbing apparatus in albino rats without causing motor incoordination as tested by the rotarod method. The highest dose of 8.0 g/kg elicited hypothermic effects by causing a significant decrease in the rectal temperature of albino rats after 90 and 120 mins. The spontaneous motor activity was generally depressed by these doses. All these point to a tranquilizing effect of the extract. [27]

Anticholinesterase activity

The aqueous extract of N. arbor-tristis has been reported to have the activity of acetylcholinesterase in mice, thus it antagonized the inhibition of this enzyme by malathion. The greater effects were seen in the serum than in the brain. [22] The weak antimuscarinic activity against acetylcholine induced contractions of isolated rabbit ileum was previously reported. [27]

Antimicrobial activity

The aqueous and methanol extracts of the mature leaves of N. arbor-tristis has been reported for bactericidal activities against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa by the disk diffusion method. [15] Both extracts were active against the bacteria except for P. aeruginosa which was resistant to the aqueous extract. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values of the aqueous and methanol extracts against S. aureus were 72.50 and 62.50 mg/mL, respectively. Against B. subtilis, the MIC values for the aqueous and methanol extracts were 64.50 and 31.25 mg/mL, respectively while against E. coli, MIC values for the aqueous and methanol extracts were 75.00 and 31.00 mg/mL, respectively. No MIC was recorded with the aqueous extract against P. aeruginosa while the methanolic extract showed a MIC of 250.00 mg/mL. In general, the methanol extract was more active than the aqueous extract. [15] An earlier study tested the antibacterial activity of N. arbor-tristis aqueous and methanol extracts against Pseudomonas testosteroni, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Proteus morganii, Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus flavus and Klebsiella pneumoniae. [18] The aqueous extract showed minimal activity against Ps. testosteroni but was not effective against the other organisms. The methanolic extract was not able to inhibit any of the tested organisms. Gram positive (B. subtilis, B. cerues, B. megaterium, S. aureus, Streptococcus sp., Sarcinia lutea) and gram negative bacteria (E. coli, Shigella dysentriae, Shigella shiga, Shigella boydii, Shigella sonnei, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) were inhibited by the chloroform and ethylacetate extracts, but not by the petroleum ether extract of N. arbor-tristis flowers. [3]

Antiviral activity

The ethanolic extract, n-butanol fractions and two pure compounds, arbortristoside A and arbortristoside C, isolated from the N. arbor-tristis has been reported to pronounced inhibitory activity against encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) and Semliki Forest Virus (SFV). In vivo, the ethanolic extract and the n-butanol fraction at daily doses of 125 mg/kg body weight protected EMCV infected mice against SFV by 40 and 60%, respectively. [10][31]

Antileishmanial activity

N. arbor-tristis has been reported for anti-leishmanial activity that attributed to iridoid glucosides, arbortristosides A, B, and C and 6-b-hydroxyloganin. [14] A bioactive fraction and one of the pure compounds isolated from the methanolic extract of the leaves of N. arbor-tristis dose-dependently inhibited the growth of axenic promastogote culture of Leishmania donovani Ag83. In L. donovani-infected golden hamsters, the pure fraction (100 mg/kg body weight) reduced hepatic parasite burden up to 83% while the spleenic burden was reduced to 77% when compared to untreated infected control. [16] The arbortristosides A, B, C, and 6-beta-hydroxy-loganin exhibited both in vitro and in vivo antileishmanial activity against amastigotes in macrophage cultures and hamsters test systems, respectively. [32]

Antifilarial activity

The chloroform extract of the flowers and a pure compound isolated from N. arbor-tristis has been reported showed larvicidal activity against Culex quinquefasciatus Say, a common filaria vector. [33]

Antiplasmodial activity

Rengyolone, a cyclohexylethanoid isolated from the ethanolic extract of N. arbor-tristis flowers and its acetate has been reported showed in vitro antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum (K1, multidrug resistant strain) with IC50 values of 2.1 and 4.6 mg/mL, respectively. The standard drug, chloroquine diphosphate, had an IC50 value of 0.16 µg/mL (0.31 µM). [12] The Iridoid glycosides were without effect with IC50 values of > 20 µg/mL. The extract also showed in vitro efficacy against Plasmodium falciparum (at minimum a dose of 1000–1200 g/mL), Leishmania donovani and Entamoeba histolytica. [2] The ethanolic extract of the fruit had an IC50 of 54 µg/mL in a chloroquine-susceptible strain of P. falciparum. Fruit extract concentrations of 100 and 50 mg/mL produced 80 and 42% inhibition, respectively. [32]

Antitrypanosomal activity

At high doses, the crude 50% ethanolic extract of N. arbor-tristis leaves has been reported exhibited antitrypanosomal activity both in vitro and in vivo. The extract (1000 μg/mL) killed all trypanosomes after 4 h of incubation with Trypanosoma evansi (106 trypanosomes/mL) and when mice were inoculated with the well contents, they survived for 30 days. The lower extract concentrations were without effect. In the in vivo assay, mice were inoculated with T. evansi (104 trypanosomes/mL) and given the extract (100, 300 and 1000 mg/kg body weight i.p.) daily for 5 consecutive days after the appearance of parasitaemia. The controls received diminazene aceturate (10 mg/kg, i.p.). The mean parasitaemia was significantly reduced by 300 and 1000 mg/kg doses on days 3 through 6 although upon discontinuation of the doses at day 6, the parasitaemia increased causing the deaths of the mice. In contrast, a single dose of the control compound cured the mice. The antitrypanosomal activity was attributed to the presence of nyctanthoside or iridoid glucosides (arbortistosides A, B and C) or 6b-hybroxylonganin which were previously identified to be active against Plasmodium spp. and Leishmania spp. [6]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Adverse reaction

There has been reported that the person who grounded the dried leaves of N. arbor-tristis developed vesicles on both palms. [27]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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