Asclepias curassavica L.

Last updated: 01 Oct 2015

Scientific Name

Asclepias curassavica L. 


Asclepias aurantiaca Salisb [Illegitimate], Asclepias bicolor Moench [Illegitimate], Asclepias cubensis Wender, Asclepias margaritacea Hoffmanns. ex Schult. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Bunga mas [2], bunga tunjong, melukut paya [3] bunga tanjung, bunga sebusok, bunga melukut paya [5]
English Swallow wort, red milkweed [2], bastard ipecacuanha, bloodflower, blood-flowered milkweed, blood plant, butterfly weed, Curacau silkweed, curassavian, curassavian swallow wort, false ipecacuanha, false ipepac, Indian root, kittie mc-vanie, milkweed, red cotton, red-flowered cotton bush, red head plant, red-head cotton bush, red-head, red milkweed, red-headed cotton-bush, red top, silkweed, swallow wort, West Indian ipecacuanha, wild ipecacuanha [3] common milkweed, bastard ipepac [5]
China Lian sheng gui zi hua, ma li jin [3]
India Ariyaman, ban-kapas, chikka kaage thonde, hole chadaranga, hululiga gida, jilledu mandaara, kaakathundi, kaakatundi, kakanasika, kakatudi, kakatundi, kakkathondi, karki, kaura-dodi, kiria kaage thonde, krishnachura, kukatund, kurki, lalma [3]
Indonesia Kapas Cinde (Sunda); Mas Sekar (Java) [4]
Thailand Fai duean haa (Northern); thian daeng (Central); mai cheen (South-western) [2]; tien deng [5]
Laos Mak kha kay [2]
Philippines bulak damo, kapul-kapul (Tagalog); anibung (Bontok) [2]; asuncion [3]
Vietnam b[oo]ng tai, ng[oo] th[ij] [2], ngo thi [3]
Japan To-wata [3]
France Asclepias de Curaçao [2]
Hawaii Lauhele, laulele, nu’mela, pua ‘anuhe [3]

Geographical Distributions

Asclepias curassavica is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Australia and Asia, and less frequently in Africa. The precise origin of A. curassavica is unknown, but is thought to be South America, Central America or the Antilles. [6]

Botanical Description

A. curassavica is a perennial herb of the Asclepiadaceae family. It is an erect, glabrous, perennial herb that grows up to 1.2 m tall. It has a milky exudate throughout. [7]

The stem is smooth, round, dull green or suffused with dull red. [7]

The leaves are simple, opposite, shortly petiole, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, acuminate and measures 7 – 13 cm long and 6 – 25 cm wide. The base is narrowed. [7]

The inflorescence is in the form of an umbel with 6 - 15 flowers on terminal or axillary peduncle. [7]

The flowers are perfect, radially symmetrical or irregularly shaped bright red or orange with yellow centers. There are 5 sepals, deeply divided, reflexed, and green. Five petals which are linear with base united into a fused corolla. The corolla lobes are red, reflexed, oblong and approximately 8mm long. The corona scale is orange in colour, 5-lobed and measures 3.5-4.0 mm long. The corona is hood-shaped with inwardly curved horns; stamens 5 in number; anthers with two pollen sacs; pollen aggregates into masses called pollinia or pollen sacs. The style filaments are united with pistils 2-carpelled. [7]

The fruit is a pair of dry dehiscent, spindle-shaped follicles, measuring 5–15 cm long, many seeded, splitting lengthwise on one side at maturity. [7]

The seeds are ovate, flat, winged, measures 4–6 mm long and 2.2-4.0 mm wide, brown in colour, minutely ridged, with a pappus of fine white silky hairs at the apex, measures 2-3 cm long. [7]


A. curassavica grows best in full sun and in well-drained, acid or neutral and loam or sand soil. Environmental requirements of A. curassavica have not been quantified, although it has been noted that it appears to be tolerant of a wide range of environmental and climatic characteristics. [6]

Chemical Constituent

A. curassavica has been reported to contain oxypregnanes, 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin and 12-O-benzoylsarcostin. Other chemical content includes 12-O-benzoylsarcostin 3-O-β-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-D-digitoxopyranoside, 12-O-benzoylsarcostin 3-O-β-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-digitoxopyranoside, sarcostin 3-O-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-canaropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-digitoxopyranoside, sarcostin 3-O-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-canaropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-canaropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-digitoxopyranoside, 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-canaropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-digitoxopyranoside, and 12-O-benzoylsarcostin 3-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-canaropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1→4)-β-d-digitoxopyranoside. [7]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant [7], roots [12]

Traditional Use

A. curassavica is known to traditional practitioners as effective haemostatics. This had been taken advantage of by doctors in the West Indies to treat bleeding wounds and bleeding haemorrhoids effectively [12].

In Indonesia, A. currasavica is traditionally used in the treatment of inflammed spleen, pneumonia, mastatis, pyoderma by clean the wound using the water from decoction of whole plant. Paste also can be used for this infection along with Aloe vera L. by topically applied to the infected area [7].

In Indonesia, the sap of the plant was applied to the skin to treat the eczema [7].

The roots are used as a cheaper alternative to ipecacuanha as an emetic in Jamaica [12] and almost everywhere the plant is found. It is also considered a purgative [14]. The plant has astringent properties and is used to treat dysentery in Jamaica [14]. Syrup prepared from the expressed juice is a powerful vermifuge by virtue of its emetic and purgative properties. The roots of A. curassavica had been used effectively in the treatment of gonorrhoea [14].

Preclinical Data


Antifungal activity A. curassavica latex saps degraded a great number of yeasts by inhibiting the growth of Candida albicans. Deformation of the yeasts causes a change in cytoplasmic content after a contact of 4 to 6 hours. The result also showed the saps appeared on the cell wall in which terpens, cardenolids and enzymes in glucanases were presumed to be responsible for these effects. [8]

Cytotoxic activity

The isolation of calotropin from an alcoholic extract of A. curassavica exhibited cytotoxic activity against cells derived from human carcinoma of the nasopharynx. [9]

A series of cardenoliedes from A. curassavica aerial parts and roots showed cytotoxic activity against four cancer cell lines (IC50 0.01 to 2.0 μg/mL). [10]

A. curassavica aerial parts showed significant cytotoxic activity against HepG2 and Raji cell lines. Asclepin had the strongest cytotoxic activity with an IC50 value of 0.02 µM against the two cancer cell lines while 12β-hydroxycalotropin (a new cardenolide compound) had significant cytotoxic activity with IC50 values of 0.69 and 1.46 µM, respectively. [11]

Cardiac activity

Isolated glycoside from A.curassavica namely asclepin marked a positive inotropic effects and increased the force of contraction. The cardiac activity also was compared using different type of glycosides such as strophanthin, digoxin, digitoxin and digitoxigenin and asclepin was found to be more active than other glycosides. [12]

Wound healing

Cysteine protease from A. curassavica latex exhibited both thrombin and plasmin like activities. It also has similar action on fibrinogen and fibrin. Direct incubation of fibrinogen with latex enzyme fraction resulted in the formation of fibrin clot similar to thrombin enzyme. By inducing the formation of clot in citrated blood plasma, it scientifically validates the use of plant latex in stop bleeding and wound healing by traditional medical practitioners [13]. The strong pro-coagulant action of the enzyme reduced the plasma clotting time from 195s to 58s when compared to trypsin (195s to 155s). The proteolytic activity including thrombin like activity of A. curassavica latex enzyme fraction was completely inhibited by iodoacetic acid (IAA). [14]

Crude extract of A. curassavica latex indicated the highest caseinolytic activity at pH 8.5 in the presence of 12 mM cysteine. The major purified protease called asclepain c-l showed a molecular mass of 23.2 kDa by mass spectrometry and a pI higher than 9.3 [15]. However, the study showed that the minor proteolytic component; asclepin c-ll has higher specific activity than asclepain c-l. The activity of asclepain c-II is inhibited by cysteine proteases inhibitors like E-64. [16]

Clinical Data

No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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  2. Kiew R. Asclepias curassavica 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 Publisher; 2001.
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  5. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research.Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR; 2002; p. 88.
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  9. Kupchan SN, Knox JR, Kelsey JE, Renauld JAS. Calotropin, a cytotoxic principle isolated from Asclepias curassiva. Science. 1964;146(3652):1685-1686.
  10. Michael CR, Chang FR, Huang HC, Michael Y, Chiang MYN, Wu YC. Cytotoxic principles from the Formosan Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. J Nat Prod. 2005;68(10):1494–1499
  11. Li JZ, Qing C, Chen CX, Hao XJ, Liu HY. Cytotoxicity of cardenolides and cardenolide glycosides from Asclepias curassavica. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009;19(7):1956-1959.
  12. Patnaik GK, Kohler E. Pharmacological investigation on asclepin—A new cardenolide from Asclepias curassavica. Part II. Comparative studies on the inotropic and toxic effects of asclepin, g-strophantin, digoxin and digitoxin. Arzneimittelforschung. 1978; 28(8):1368-1372.
  13. Shivaprasad HV, Rajesh R, Nanda BL, Dharmappa KK, Vishwanath BS. Thrombin like activity of Asclepias curassavica L. latex: action of cysteine proteases. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;123(1):106-109.
  14. Shivaprasad HV, Riyaz M, Venkatesh KR, et al. Cysteine proteases from the Asclepiadaceae plants latex exhibited thrombin and plasmin like activities. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2009;(3):304-308
  15. Liggieri C, Arribére MC, Trejo SA, Canals F, Avilés FX, Priolo NS. Purification and biochemical characterization of asclepain c I from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L. Protein J. 2004;23(6):403-411.
  16. Liggieri C, Obregon W, Trejo S, Priolo N. Biochemical analysis of a papain-like protease isolated from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai). 2009;41(2):154-162.