Etlingera elatior (Jack) R.M. Sm

Last updated: 18 Aug 2016

Scientific Name

Etlingera elatior (Jack) R.M. Sm.


Achasma yunnanensis T.L. Wu & S.J. Chen, Alpinia acrostachya Steud., Alpinia diracodes Loes. [Illegitimate], Alpinia elatior Jack, Alpinia javanica (Blume) D.Dietr. [Illegitimate], Alpinia magnifica Roscoe, Alpinia speciosa (Blume) D.Dietr., Amomum magnificum (Roscoe) Benth. & Hook.f. ex B.D.Jacks., Amomum tridentatum (Kuntze) K.Schum., Bojeria magnifica (Roscoe) Raf., Cardamomum magnificum (Roscoe) Kuntze, Cardamomum speciosum (Blume) Kuntze, Cardamomum tridentatum Kuntze, Diracodes javanica Blume, Elettaria speciosa Blume, Etlingera elatior var. alba Todam & C.K.Lim, Etlingera elatior var. pileng Ongsakul & C.K.Lim, Geanthus speciosus Reinw. ex Blume [Invalid], Hornstedtia imperialis (Lindl.) Ridl., Nicolaia elatior (Jack) Horan., Nicolaia imperialis Horan., Nicolaia intermedia Valeton, Nicolaia magnifica (Roscoe) K. Schum. ex Valeton, Nicolaia speciosa (Blume) Horan., Phaeomeria imperialis Lindl. [Invalid], Phaeomeria magnifica (Roscoe) K.Schum., Phaeomeria speciosa (Blume) Koord. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Kantan, kechala, ubud udat, [2] bunga kantan, bunga siatan [3]
English Philippine waxflower, torch ginger [2]
China Hui xiang sha ren shu, huo ju jiang, [2] xiang bao jiang, xiang hua ya jiang [3]
Indonesia Assam situ, cekala biasa, lamei, nyanding, petikala, siala, tite lan, [2] honje, kecombrang [3]
Thailand Kaa laa [3]
France Gigembre, aromatique, gingembre aromatique de Java, gingembre aromatique des Malais [3]
Spain Boca de dragon [3].

Geographical Distributions

Etlingera elatior is a native herb in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and South Thailand. It is widely cultivated pantropically and naturalized in Southeast Asia. [4][5]

Botanical Description

E. elatior is a member of Zingiberaceae family. [1] It is a vigorous growing perennial herb grown in large clumps pseudostems of about 3-4 m height. [5][6]

Ligule is bilobed to 1.5 cm and is glabrous; petiole is 3-4 cm. The leaf blade is lanceolate and glabrous with 80 x 18 cm. [5][6]

Inflorescence is borne on a robust,long, 0.8-1.5 m. The peduncle is raised well above ground and is surrounded by red, tapering, glabrous, involucral bracts, 2-3 x ca. 1 cm. [5][6]

Floral bracts are similar to involucral bracts but pinkish, smaller. The bracteoles are tubular, ca. 2 cm, deeply split on 1 side. [5][6]

Calyx is 3-4 cm with apex 3-toothed. Corolla is pink to red, sometimes white. Labellum is deep red with a yellow margin. Filament is short, flat, whitish pubescent; anther is red and longer than filament. [5][6]

Fruiting head is greenish, yellowish orangey or reddish, ellipsoid, sometimes subglobose, ca. 2.5 cm in diameter containing many small black seeds. [5][6]


Figure 1: A fully matured E. elatior clumps.



Figure 2: The leaves are glossy green in colour.


Figure 3: Red flower variety.


No documentation.

Soil Suitability and Climate Requirement

The plant can be planted in various soil types. However it is best suited to soil with high organic matter content and well drained. Total annual rainfall of 200–300 cm and tropical conditions with temperature range of 20 - 28ºC is ideal for its growth. [7]

Field Preparation

Land Preparation

Good land preparation is very important for good crop growth. It helps to reduce weed problems and improve soil structure. The planting area has to be disc plough once followed with rotovator for at least twice. [7]

Production of Planting Materials

E. elatior can be propagated by using matured rhizomes. Each segments of the rhizomes to be used as the planting should have at least two growing buds. The plant is very robust. The freshly cut rhizomes can be directly planted in the field. [7]


Figure 4: The rhizomes to be used as the planting materials.

Field Planting

E. elatior should be planted at a distance of 5 m between rows and 3 m between plants in a row. This will give the population density of about 660 clumps/ha. It is important to make sure that the rhizomes are planted to about 5-8 cm deep into the soil. Organic mulching using the rice straw should be applied around the planting point to conserve moisture and control the weeds. [7]

Field maintenance


Both the organic fertilizer such as chicken dung and inorganic compound fertilizer are required for optimum growth. The recommended rate for chicken dung and the inorganic fertilizer (N:P:K:Mg  = 12:12:17:2) are 500 and 2,000 kg/ha/year respectively. These fertilizers are divided into 3 equal portions and applied at 4 months intervals. [7]

Weed Control

Weeds should be controlled using the contact herbicides or manually using grass cutter during the early part of crop growth. The dense canopy of the crop will naturally control the weeds when it is full grown. [7]

Water management

No irrigation is required for field planting of E. elatior. However, to avoid transplanting stress, planting should be carried out at the beginning of the rainy seasons. [7]

Pest and Disease Control

Currently, there are no serious pest and disease problems on the field planting of E. elatior. [7]


E. elatior starts to produce flower buds at about 10-12 months after planting. These flowers buds are ready for harvesting at about 4-5 weeks after its emergence from the soil surface. The flowers buds should be harvested when it is fully-grown but before it starts to bloom. The flower stalks should be cut at about 10 cm above the soil surface. A sharp knife or scatters should be used. Care should be taken not to contaminate the production with sand or any organic materials. Each matured plant will produce about 4 flower buds. [7]




Figure 5: The buds are harvested when they are fully grown.

Postharvest handling

E. elatior is usually marketed as fresh produce. Thus, it is important that once harvested, the produce should be immediately sent to the processing centres for cleaning, washing and packaging. To avoid contamination, clean plastic containers should be used for handling of the produce. [7]



Figure 6: Handling of the E. elatior flowers for the fresh market.

Estimated cost of production

The estimated cost of production per hectare of E. elatior is about RM8, 500. Based on 42,000/ha/year buds yield, the production cost is estimated to be RM 0.20/bud. The production cost was estimated based on the cost of current inputs during writing of this article. [7]

Chemical Constituent

Methanol extract of E. elatior dried flowers was found to contain tannin and anthocyanin, respectively. [8]

Methanol (80%) extract of E. elatior dried flowers was found to contain phenolics and flavonoids (caffeic acid, quercetin and kaempferol), terpenoids, saponins and tannins. [9]

Methanol and ethyl acetate extract of E. elatior flowers was found to contain flavonoids, tannins, saponin, and steroid. [10]

Ethanol extract of E. elatior dried flowers was found to contain phenolic acids (caffeic acid, gallic acid, tannic acid, chlrogenic acid) and flavonoids (quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, kaempferol, myricetin). [11]

Essential oils of leaves, stems, flowers and rhizomes of E. elatior has been reported to contain volatile constituents at percentage of 0.0735%, 0.0029%, 0.0334% and 0.0021%, respectively. The leaf essential oil contained β-pinene (19.7%), caryophyllene (15.4%) and (E)-β-farnesene (27.9%) as major compounds whereas the stem essential oil  consisted of largely 1,1-dodecanediol diacetate (34.3%) and (E)-5-dodecane (27.0%). The essential oils of the flowers and rhizomes contained the major compounds 1,1-dodecanediol diacetate (24.4% and 40.4% respectively) and cyclododecane (47.3% and 34.4%, respectively). [12]

The major components identified in the oils of inflorescence and inflorescence axis of E. elatior from Brazil were dodecanol (42.5%, 34.6%), dodecanal (14.5%, 21.5%) and α-pinene (22.2%, 6.3%), respectively. [13]

Plant Part Used

Fruits and leaves. [4]

Traditional Use

Traditionally, a decoction of the E. elatior flowers has been used to treat ear ache and its decoction of the leaves is used for cleaning wounds. Meanwhile, decoction of young shoots is used to reduce body odour after giving birth. [14] The plant is also claimed as a remedy for hypertension and diabetes. [4]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

Methanol (80%) extract of E. elatior flower (100 mg/mL) inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus with minimum inhibition concentration (MIC) of 1.563 mg/mL, Bacillus thuringienesis (MIC = 6.250 mg/mL), Escherichia coli (MIC = 12.5 mg/mL), Salmonella sp. (MIC = 12.5 mg/mL), Microccocus sp.( MIC = 50 mg/mL), Bacillus subtilis (MIC = 25 mg/mL), Proteus mirabilis (MIC = 25 mg/mL) compared to chloramphenicol (30 µg/mL, S. aureus = 28 mg/mL, B. thuringienesis = 31 mg/mL, E.coli = 30 mg/mL, Salmonella sp. = 29 mg/mL, Microccocus sp. = 32 mg/mL, B. subtilis = 30 mg/mL, P. mirabilis = 30 mg/mL) using disk diffusion method. [9]

Ethanol (100%) extract of E. elatior flower (12.5 mg/mL) inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtilis with inhibition zone diameter of 11.7 mm compared to gentamicin (25.7 mm) using disc diffusion assay. [15]

Methanol extract of E. elatior leaves has been reported to exhibit strong antibacterial activity than did rhizomes against gram-positive bacteria. [16]

Antioxidative activity

Diarylheptanoids compounds isolated from the ethyl acetate extract of E. elatior were found to inhibit lipid peroxidation in a more potent manner than α-tocopherol. [17]

Antioxidant activity

Methanol (50%) extract of E. elatior flower (8.33 mg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with Fe2+ reducing ability (3.6 mM Fe(II)/100 g) using ferric reducing antioxidant potential (FRAP) assay. [8]

Methanol (80%) extract of E. elatior flower showed antioxidant activity with 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity with inhibition concentration at 50% of growth (IC50) of 9.14 µg/mL compared to Butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) (8.08 mg/mL). [9]

Methanol (80%) extract of E. elatior flower showed antioxidant activity with 1,1-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity with IC50 of 21.14 µg/mL. [10] Ethanol and aqueous extracts of E. elatior flower showed antioxidant activity with 1,1-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity with IC50 of 41.2 and 34.5 µg/mL respectively, compared to α-tocopherol (12.6 µg/mL) and BHT (19.7 µg/mL). [11]

Ethanol (95%) extract of E. elatior flower (50 μg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with Fe2+ reducing ability (930 mM Fe(II)/g fresh weight) using FRAP assay. [15]

Methanol extracts of E. elatior leaves showed antioxidant activity with the highest ascorbic acid equivalent antioxidant capacity (AEAC) and ferric-reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). [16]

Ethanol (95%) extract of E. elatior flower (0–500 mg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with Fe2+ reducing ability (37.2 µmol TE/g fresh weight) using FRAP assay. [18]

Ethanol (95%) extract of E. elatior flower (0.14–0.51 mg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with capacity to quench ABTS+ radical formation (1.40 µmol TE/g fresh weight) using trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) assay. [18]

Ethanol extract of E. elatior flower (1 mg/mL) showed antioxidant activity with inhibition of lipid peroxidation (96.5%) using thiobarbituric acid (TBA) assay. [18]

Antitumor activity

Methanol extract of E. elatior flower (200 mg/mL) showed 85.9% growth inhibition rate of Raji cell line using Epstein Barr Virus Early Antigen (EBV-EA) assay. [19]

Ethanol extract of E. elatior flower showed antitumor activity against HepG2 (hepatocellular carcinoma) with IC50 of 97.5 μg/mL, HT-29 (colon carcinoma) with IC50 of >100 μg/mL, MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 (breast cancer) with IC50 of >100 μg/mL and HeLa (cervical cancer) with IC50 of >100 μg/mL. [20]

Cytotoxic activity

Methanol (80%) extract of E. elatior flower showed cytotoxicity activity against CEM-SS and MCF-7 cell lines with IC50 of 46 and 47 µg/mL, respectively compared to tamoxifen with IC50 of 30 μM (MCF-7) and IC50 of 15 μM (CEM-SS) using methylthiazoletetrazolium (MTT) assay. [19]

Antiproliferative activity

Aqueous extract of E. elatior flower (0.2-0.8 mg/mL) shown significant inhibition of cell proliferation of MV4-11 (IC50 of 0.36 mg/mL) and K562 (0.25 mg/mL) in dose dependent pattern using conventional trypan blue exclusion assay. [21]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


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  3. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database. Etlingera elatior (Jack) R. M. Sm. [homepage on the Internet]. c1995-2001 [updated 2001 Nov 12, cited 2016 Aug 18]. Available from:
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  21. Asmaa S, Jusoh M, Johan ASMF. Anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effect of P. sacharosa, E. elatior and P. granatum aqueous extract on human myeloid leukaemia. Asian J Med Res. 2012;1(4):146-151.