Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC.

Last updated: 01 Mar 2017

Scientific Name

Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC.


Desmodium triflorum var. majus Wight & Arn., Hedysarum heterophyllum Willd., Hedysarum reptans Roxb., Hedysarum triflorum var. oblongifolium Desv., Meibomia heterophylla (Willd.) Kuntze. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Akar sisik naga, akar telinga tikus, kekara, omba-omba, peparu bendang, rumput sisik naga [2], rumput sisek betok, rumput sisek naga, rumput telinga tikus [3][6]
English Spanish clover, variable vagina wort [2], hetero [3], desmodium [5], greater clover-leaved desmodium, variable leaf ticktrefoil, yi ye shan ma huang [6]
China Yi ye shan lu dou, bian ye shan ma huang, tian hu zhi zhu [6]
India  Tellausiri [6]
Sri Lanka Maha-undupiyali [4]
Borneo Kabot [2]
Indonesia Heuheulangan, sisik betok, sukut jareman [2][3], kimulas [6]
Thailand Ya-maengmi (Northeast) [3][6]
Laos Padông môd liinz [2][3][6]
Cambodia Smau ‘âm’bôk, trôm’ préi [2][3][6]
Vietnam Ha[n] the, tràng qu'a di diêp (Southern) [3][6]
Japan Kawariba-makie-hagi [2]
South Pacific Senivakacegu, wakutu (Fiji) [5].

Geographical Distributions

Desmodium heterophyllum is native to the tropical Asia and adjacent islands, occurring naturally in Mauritius, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Indo-China, Malesia, China and Taiwan. It is adventives to the South Pacific and naturalised in parts of north-eastern Australia. [3]

Botanical Description

D. heterophyllum is a member of Leguminosae family. It is a prostrate or ascending perennial under shrub and with woody rootstock. [3]

The stems are up to 1.5 m long, freely branching and covered with spreading reddish-brown hairs. [3]

The leaves are trifoliolate where on the lower parts are often unifoliolate. The petiole is 5-15 mm long. The leaflets are obovate or elliptical and usually measuring 10-25 mm x 8-14 mm. The laterals are smaller than the terminals, rounded or indented at the tip, hairless on the upper surface and sparsely covered with long hairs on the lower surface. [3]

The inflorescence is a few-flowered axillary or terminal raceme measures up to 6 cm long, and/or leaf-opposed clusters of 1-3 flowers. The pedicel is 10-25 mm long. [3]

The flower measures about 5 mm long which is purple or white. [3]

The pod is narrowly oblong, measuring 10-20 mm x 3-5 mm and with 3-6 broadly oblong or quadrate articles measure 3-4 mm long and densely covered with minute hooked hairs. The isthmus is between the articles that about ¾ of the width of the pod. It dehisces along the lower margins when ripen. [3]

The seed is transversely elliptical and measuring about 1.5 mm x 2 mm. [3]


D. heterophyllum is adapted to the humid tropics with an annual rainfall exceeding 1500 mm and to a wide range of soils from sands to clays. It is reported to be less tolerant of soil acidity than D. heterocarpon (L.) DC. It is intolerant of fire and salinity but susceptible to frost. [3]

Chemical Constituent

D. heterophyllum has been reported to contain tannins and alkaloids. [6]

Plant Part Used

Twigs, leaves and roots. [6]

Traditional Use

The root is considered carminative and is used in the treatment of stomach ache and other abdominal complaints. The Cambodians make use of the plant to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. [6] The twigs and leaves have diuretic properties. In Cambodia it is used in the treatment of urinary retention. [6] The Indian considered the leaves as galactagogue and expectorant and used them to stimulate lactation and to treat productive cough. The roots and leaves are used to treat infective sore, scabies and itchiness.  Juice extracted from the plant has been used to treat earache. [6]

Preclinical Data


Antixanthine oxidase activity

The methanol extract of D. heterophyllum showed some low level antixanthine oxidase activity in a dose-dependent manner. However, the water extract does not show any antixanthine oxidase activity. [7]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of D. heterophyllum [3].


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2010 July 14; cited 2017 Mar 01]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume II C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 672-673.
  3. Hacker JB, Teitzel JK. Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC. In: Mannetje L.'t, Jones RM, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 4: Forages. Wageningen, Netherlands: Pudoc, 1992; p. 110-112.
  4. McMillan HF. Tropical planting and gardening with special reference to Ceylon. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1999; p. 428.
  5. FAO. Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Mar 01]. Available from:
  6. Philippine Medicinal Plants. Hetero (Desmodium heterophyllum (Willd.) DC.). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2013 July, cited 2017 Mar 01]. Available from:
  7. Nguyen MT, Awale S, Tezuka Y, Tran QL, Watanabe H, Kadota S. Xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity of Vietnamese medicinal plants. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004;27(9):1414-1421.