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Alocasia macrorrhiza


Arum macrorrhizum Linn., Colocasia indica Kunth Enum., Alocasia indica Schott., Arum indicum Lour. (WIlld) [3]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Birah Hitam
English Alocasia, Large Taro, Roasting Coco, Elephant Ear, Giant Taro
Indonesia Ababa, Bira, Birah (Sumatra); Sente, Bira (Java); Biah, Sente, Wia, Mae, Mael (Nusa Tenggara); Bira, Biha, Sente, Makata, Lawira (Sulawesi); Mira, Hila, Kei, Kiha, Tofeka, Wire, Wir (Maluku)
Philippines Aba, (Ibn.); Aba-aba (Ig.), Badiang, Biga, Malabiga (Tagalog); Badiang, Bagiang, Galiang, Biga, Ragiang, Taliang (Bis.); Bira, Biga, Sininaba (Ilk); Gabi, Talipan (Bik); Bilbila (Bon.)10
Vietnam Ray cay
China Hai yu
India Maanaka, Maana, Maankanda, Kasaalu, Hastikarni (Ayurveda); Kerukan kizhangu (Tamil)
Hawaii Ape Keoke, Apii [1]

General Information


Alocasia macrorrhiza is a member of the Araceae family. It is a tall succulent herbaceous plant that can reach up to 4.5m. It has a large elongated stem. The leaves are huge about 0.9m long and generally arrow shaped, with shallow and rounded lobes. The leaves point upwards forming a straight line with the main axis of the petiole. They have a conspicuous mid-rib and are green in colour. The spathe has a glaucous, yellowish-green blade. The ovules are one to a few in each ovary cell in sub basal placenta. The leaves nearly peltate. The caudex well developed. [2]

Plant Part Used

Tuber [1]

Chemical Constituents

Alomacrorrhiza A; Alocasin.

Traditional Used:

The tuber of  A. macrorrhiza is used to treat influenza, high fever and malaria; diarrhoea and typhoid fever, rheumatic; pulmonary tuberculosis and tuberculous lyphadenopathy; headache; abscesses and ringworm; venomous bites of snakes, dogs and insects; leucorrhoea.[1] It can be eaten after being put through a detoxifying process where the oxalate content is eliminated.[5] The process of detoxifying can be apply by soaked the slice of tuber in water for 7 days with the water being changed daily. This is then dried and ready for use. [1] In Hawaii it is used in the treatment of severe burns, acute abdominal pains.[6]

Rootstock – mild laxative, diuretic; used in inflammations and diseases of the abdomen and spleen.[5] It has used in the treatment of scorpion sting amongst the Indian traditional practitioners.[7] [8]

The leaf of A. macrorrhiza is traditionally used as astringent, styptic and antitumour. The root and leaf is used as rubefacient.   A decoction of the leaf and stem is used in a bath for treatment of skin conditions like itching and burns. A poultice of the fresh leaves helps in improving circulation, prevent bursting and reduce pain attributed to varicose veins. The steamed oiled leaves can help relieve rheumatic pains by applied around painful joints overnight. Toated, powdered leave speed up wound healing.[5] [9]

Underground stem of this plant is a common domestic remedy in gout and rheumatism. A formula called manmanda is prepared for treatment of gout, rheumatism and dropsy as follows: 3oz. of powdered rhizome, 6oz. of powdered rice, water and milk 20oz, boiled and given in dose of 1-2 oz.[11]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antioxidant activity
It was found that the edible parts of A. macrorrhiza exhibit potent antioxidant activity and this is especially seen in the diethyl ether extract.[12] Another study showed that the hydroalcoholic extract of the leaves showed potent antioxidant activities as demonstrated in various antioxidant models of screening.[13]

Antinociceptive & anti-inflammatory activity
The ethanolic extract of the leaves possesses potent antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities in a dose dependent manner. This is probably attributed to the antioxidant activities detected in this extract.[14]

Hepatoprotective Activity
The oral administration of hydroalcoholic extracts of leaves of Alocasia indica (Linn.) was found to effectively inhibit CCl4 and paracetamol induced liver damage.[4]

Trypsin/Chymotrypsin Inhibitor
The tuber of A. macrorrhiza was found to contain a trypsin/chymotrypsin inhibitor which specifically inhibit human trypsin but not human chymotrypsin.[15] The inhibitor was found to be a protein with 184 amino-acid sequence and exist in two dimmers.[16]

Antimicrobial activity
Alocasin is a protein compound of a molecular mass of 11kDa was isolated from the tuber of A. macrorrhiza. It has been shown to have anti-fungal activity against Botrytis cinerea and is also active in reducing the activity of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase.[17]

Haemagglutinating activity
Alocasin has been found to show weak haemagglutinating activity.[17]

Antitumour activity
A study on the antitumour activities of A. macrorrhiza showed that the inhibitory rate against S180 in mice was 29.38% and those against transplantable human gastroadenitis in nude mice was 51.72%.[18]

Lymphocyte stimulation activity
The lectin of A. macrorrhiza was found to have mitogenic potentials towards human peripheral blood lymphocytes. The lectins were found to be T-cell mitogens and do not indue DNA synthesis in B-enriched lymphocytes. The proliferation kinetic studies showed maximum incorporation on day 3 and the mitogenic response was inhibited by asialofetuin in a dose dependent manner.[19]


The plant is considered toxic. All parts (leaves, stems and tubers) can be injurious. The toxins include raphides of water-insoluble calcium oxalate and sapotoxin (a neurological poison). Clinically the patient will experience burning sensation of the lips and mouth resulting from ingestion. Inflammatory reaction with oedema and blistering ensues. Hoarseness, dysphonia and dysphagia may result. The pain and oedema normally slowly subside without treatment. Analgesic can be given when indicated. There is no danger of systemic oxalate poisoning because Ca oxalate is insoluble.[4]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

Toxicity due to the presence of Calcium oxalate and a neurological toxin called sapotoxin. For consumption it has to be thoroughly detoxify through running water for several days.

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

The toxic effects in itself is an indication of avoidance in periods of pregnancy and lactation.

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

Infants and children should avoid coming in contact with the plant as it will cause contact dermatitis and also gastrointestinal poisoning if consumed.


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

  1. Two cases of fatal poisoning following ingestion of the fruit of A. macrorrhiza was reported by Goonasekara The clinical manifestations simulate those of cynogenic glycoside poisoning.[20]
  2. Chan TY et. al reported a case of poisoning due to consumption of raw tuber of A. macrorrhiza. It was reported that the patient developed both neurological (severe pain and perioral and pharyngeal numbness) and gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain) symptoms immediately after consuming the tuber.[21]
  3. Tang et al reported a case of corneal injury by A. macrorrhiza in 2006. Diagnosis was established upon the observation of needle-like crystals in the corneal stroma following injury. It was resolved after 3 months with the disappearance of the crystals confirmed by confocal microscopy.[22]
  4. A systemic review of cases of poisoning due to A. macrorrhiza showed that it is attributed to the presence of saptoxin and calcium oxalate which are distributed throughout the plant. The reviewers noted that amongst the 27 studied cases, 1 had skin contact and another eye contact, while 25 cases consumed either the leaf or the tuber, raw or cooked. Amongst the symptoms reported that were injected sore throat together with numbness of the oral cavity. Other symptoms include salivation, dysphonia, abdominal pain, ulcers of the oral cavity, dysphagia, thoracodynia, chest tightness and swollen lips. [23]

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  1) Botanical Info


  1. Arief Hariana H. Tumbuhan Obat & Khasiatnya. Penebar Swadaya Jakarta; 2008. p. 69–71.
  2. Palaiswami MS, Peter KV. Tuber & Root Crops: Vol. 9 Horticulture. Science Series Laxmi Art Creations. New Delhi; 2008. p.58.
  3. Merrill. Loureiro’s “Flora Cochinchinensis”. Transactions, American Philosophical Society (Vol 24, Part 2). Philadelphia; 1934. p. 97.
  4. Lewis Nelson, Richard DS, Micheal JB, Kenneth FL. Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants. New York: New York Botanical Garden;2007. p. 75.
  5. Khare CP. Indian Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Dictionary. Springer-Verlag Berlin; 2007. p. 35.
  6. Kaaiakamanu DM, Akina JK. Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value. University Press of the Pacific Honolulu; 2003. p. 17.
  7. Nadkarni KM. Dr. K.M. Nadkarni’s Indian Materia Medica Volume 2. Popular Parkashan Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai; 2007. p. 73.
  8. Varhana R. Direct Uses of Medicinal Plants and Their Identification. Sarup & Sons New Delhi; 2008. p. 23.
  9. Rozita A, Michael JB. Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes; 1998. p.90.
  10. Phillipine Medical Plants. Biga. [cited 2012 March 27]. Available from:
  11. Chopra RN, Chopra IC. Indigenous Drugs of India. Academic Publishers. p. 662.
  12. Madal P, Misra TK, Singh ID Antioxidant activity in extract of two edible aroids. Indian J. Pharm. Sci. 2010 Jan: 72(1): 105–8.
  13. Mulla WA, Salunkhe VR, Kucherkar SB, Qureshi MN. Free Radical Scavenging Activity of Leaves of Alocasia indica (Linn). Indian J. Pharm. Sci. 2009 May; 71(3): 303–7.
  14. Mulla W, Kuchekar S, Thorat V, Chopade A, Kuchekar B. Antioxidant, Antinociceptive and Anti-inflammatory Activities of Ethanolic Extracts of Leaves of Alocasia Indica (Schot.) .J. Young Pharm. 2010 Apr; 2(2): 137-43.
  15. Sumathi S, Pattabiraman TN. Natural plant enzyme inhibitors. V. A trypsin/chymotrypsin inhibitor from Alocasia macrorhiza tuber. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1977 Nov 23; 485(1):167-78.
  16. Argall ME, Bradbury JH, Shaw DC. Amino-acid sequence of a trypsin/chymotrypsin inhibitor from giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza). Biochim Biophys Acta. 1994 Feb 16; 1204(2):189-94.
  17. Wang HX, Ng TB. Alocasin, an anti-fungal protein from rhizomes of the giant taro Alocasia macrorrhiza. Protein Expr Purif. 2003 Mar; 28(1):9-14.
  18. Ke Y, Zhou X, Bai Q. Studies on the antitumour effect of Alocasia macrorrhiza. Zhong Yao Cai. 1999 May;22(5):252-3.
  19. Kamboj SS, Shangary S, Singh J, Kamboj KK, Sandhu RS. New lymphocyte stimulating monocot lectins from family Araceae. Immunol Invest. 1995 Aug; 24(5):845-55.
  20. Goonasekera CD, Vasanthathilake VW, Ratnatunga N, Seneviratne CA. Is Nai Habarala (Alocasia cucullata) a poisonous plant? Toxicon. 1993 Jun; 31(6):813-6.
  21. Chan TY, Chan LY, Tam LS, Critchley JA. Neurotoxicity following the ingestion of a Chinese medicinal plant, Alocasia macrorrhiza. Hum Exp Toxicol. 1995 Sep; 14(9):727-8.
  22. Tang EW, Law RW, Lai JS. Corneal injury by wild taro. Clin Experiment Ophthalmol. 2006 Dec; 34(9):895-6.
  23. Lin TJ, Hung DZ, Hu WH, Yang DY, Wu TC, Deng JF. Calcium oxalate is the main toxic component in clinical presentations of alocasia macrorrhiza (L) Schott and Endl poisonings. Vet Hum Toxicol. 1998 Apr; 40(2):93-5.

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