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Ceiba pentandra


Bombax pentandra (Linn.) Gaertn., Ceiba casearia Medik., Eriodendron anfractuosum DC., Bombax orientale Spreng., Bombax occidentale Spreng., Bombax guineensis Thonn., Ceiba occidentalis (Spreng) Burkill., Ceiba caribaea (DC) A. Chev., Ceiba guineensis (Thonn.) A. Chev., Ceiba thonningii A. Chev. [4]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Kabu, Kabu-kabu, Kekabu, Kapok
English: Silk Cotton, Kapok Tree
Philippines: Kapok
Vietnam: Gon
Cambodia: Kor
Laos: Kok
India: Hattian, Safedsmal (Hindi)

Fromager, Arbre a Kapok, Ouatier, Kapokier, Cotonnier Faux

German: Kapokbaum, Wollbaum
Portuguese: Mafumeira, Poilao, Mufuma, Arvere da Sumauma, Kapoc’
Mexico: Pochote
Peru: Ceiba, Huimba 
Brazil: Sumauma 
Swanhili: Msufi 
Fiji: Vauvau ni vavalangi, Kapok [1] [2] [3] [4]

General Information


Ceiba pentandra is a member of the Bombaceae family. It is a slender erect tree reaching up to 60m. The trunk is cylindrical and has large spines in distant whorls. The leaves are digitately compound with 5 to 8 leaflets which are lanceolate, acuminate, entire and measures 6 to 15cm long. The petioles are as long as or longer than the leaflets. It has numerous flowers, white in colour measuring about 3cm long. The petals are densely silkly externally. The fruits are oblong, pendulous measuring 15cm long and 5cm thick. [1]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant [1] [2]

Chemical Constituents

2-hydroxy-5-isopropyl-7-methoxy-3-methyl-8,1-naphthalene carbolactone; 2,7-dihydroxy-8-formyl-5-isopropyl-3-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone; 2,7-dimethoxy-5-isopropyl-3-methyl-8,1-naphthalene carbolactone; 5-hydroxy-7,4',5'-trimethoxyisoflavone 3'-O-alpha-L-arabinofuranosyl(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside; 7-hydroxycadalene; 8-formyl-7-hydroxy-5-isopropyl-2-methoxy-3-methyl-1,4-naphthaquinone; glutamic acid; kaempferol; pentandrin; pentandrin glucoside; quercetin; vavain; vavain 3'-O-beta-d-glucoside [3] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Traditional Used:

The bark of C.pentandra is considered a diuretic while the unripe fruit is a demulcent and astringent. The gum from the bark is an astringent and abortifacient, and the leaves are emollient and sedative. [1] 

Gastrointestinal diseases

The root and stem bark is generally considered an emetic and antispasmodic. Both in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa it is being used in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery. It is the gum of the bark that possesses an astringent property which renders it useful in the treatment of these to gastrointestinal disorders. The flower has found use as a remedy for constipation in the form of a decoction. Decoction of the stem bark is used by some African community as mouth wash for allying toothache and other oral problems. When taken orally it helps to treat stomach problems, diarhhoea and even hernia. [1] [2] 

Gynaecological Problems

The decoction of the root is considered an oxytocic. The macerated roots is used in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea. The leaves and gum of the bark are believed to have abortifacient properties and the sap from the leaves is used in the treatment of bleeding of pregnancy. [2] 

Infectious Diseases

In the Philippines the tap root of the young plants is used to treat gonorrhea while in Africa they made used of a decoction of the bark for the same purpose. The decoction of the bark is also used to treat wounds, sores, furuncles and leprous macules. Sometimes the powdered bark is applied over wounds instead. The leaves could also be used to treat infections of the skin like sore, abscesses and whitlows. A decoction of the leaves is used to treat conjunctivitis and wounds in the eyes. It is also used in removing foreign bodies in the eye where this decoction is irrigated into the affected eye. 

Other uses

Infusion of the pounded leaves with onion and turmeric makes a remedy for cough. Warmed young leaves mixed with palm oil are eaten as a prescription for heart problem amongst some African tribes. The leaf sap is taken orally or used in baths for general fatigue, stiffness of the limbs, headache and bleeding of pregnancy. The macerated bark to also treat heart problems and hypertension. [1] [2]

Pre-Clinical Data


Hepatoprotective activity

The ethyl acetate fraction of the methanol extract of stem bark of C. pentandra proved to have hepatoprotective activity against paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats. This was evidenced by the fact that 400mg/kg of the ethyl acetate fraction given to rats with hepatotoxicity was observed to have reduced significantly the SGOT, SGPT, Alkaline phosphotase, and the total bilirubin levels. [10] 

Antidiabetic activity

Two studies were done to determine the antidiabetic activity of C. pentandra as claimed by some African traditional herbalist. The aqueous extract of the bark of the tree was found to significantly reduce blood glucose levels is streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. At the same time this extract did not affect the liver enzyme level indicating its non-toxic status. The other study was done on the root bark of the tree. The methylene chloride/methanol extract of the root bark showed significant reduction in blood glucose level in streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. This extract was found to also reduce the serum cholesterol, triglyceride, creatinine and urea level while at the same time reduce both food and water intake. [11] [12] 

Antiangiogenesis activity

In a study of 58 plant materials to determine their anti-angiogenetic activity, it was found that C. pentandra stem extract had the strongest activity with inhibition percentage at 87.5% with 100 microgram/ml of the extract. [13]


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

The cotton-like fibre from the fruit of C. pentandra had been implicated as a cause of chronic bronchitis amongst workers at a kapok ginning factory in Sri Lanka. Severn of the workers had chronic bronchitis but none developed Byssinosis. [14] 

Workers handling different wood was found to develop pruriginous manifestation following handling of C. pentandra wood. [15]

In a study to determine the accumulation rate of dust mites in various kinds of mattresses, it was found that C. pentandra had significantly higher accumulation rate of house dust mites as compared to the others. (i.e. polyurethane, coconut and synthetic fibres. [16]

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Parts of the plant are believed to have abortifacient properties, its use during pregnancy should be discouraged. [1] [2]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

Plants with antidiabetic properties should be used with caution when taken together with antidiabetic drugs. There is always the danger of patients going into hypoglycaemia due to the cumulative effects of both herbals and drugs. [11] [12]

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1) Botanical Info


  1. Paz AM., Tamayo AC., Galez  Handbook on Trees Rex Book Store Inc., Quezon City 2004 pg. 29
  2. Louppe D., Oteng-Amoako AA., Brink M., PROTA Timbers, Volume 1 Plant Resources of Tropical Africa Wageningen 2008 pg. 146
  3. Cambie RC., Ash J., Fijian Medicinal Plants CSIRO Australia 1994 pg. 40
  4. Buttner R., Mansfeld’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticulcural Crops Springer Berlin 2001 pg. 1572
  5. Rao KV, Sreeramulu K, Gunasekar D, Ramesh D. Two new sesquiterpene lactones from Ceiba pentandra. J Nat Prod. 1993 Dec;56(12):2041-5.
  6. Noreen Y, el-Seedi H, Perera P, Bohlin L. Two new isoflavones from Ceiba pentandra and their effect on cyclooxygenase-catalyzed prostaglandin biosynthesis. J Nat Prod. 1998 Jan;61(1):8-12.
  7. Ngounou FN, Meli AL, Lontsi D, Sondengam BL, Atta-Ur-Rahman, Choudhary MI, Malik S, Akhtar F. New isoflavones from Ceiba pentandra. Phytochemistry. 2000 May;54(1):107-10.
  8. Ueda H, Kaneda N, Kawanishi K, Alves SM, Moriyasu M. A new isoflavone glycoside from Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertner. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2002 Mar;50(3):403-4.
  9. Kishore PH, Reddy MV, Gunasekar D, Caux C, Bodo B. A new naphthoquinone from Ceiba pentandra. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2003 Sep;5(3):227-30.
  10. Bairwa NK, Sethiya NK, Mishra SH. Protective effect of stem bark of Ceiba pentandra linn. against paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Pharmacognosy Res. 2010 Jan;2(1):26-30.
  11. Ladeji O, Omekarah I, Solomon M. Hypoglycemic properties of aqueous bark extract of Ceiba pentandra in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Feb;84(2-3):139-42.
  12. Dzeufiet PD, Ohandja DY, Tédong L, Asongalem EA, Dimo T, Sokeng SD, Kamtchouing P. Antidiabetic effect of Ceiba pentandra extract on streptozotocin-induced non-insulin-dependent diabetic (NIDDM) rats. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2006 Aug 28;4(1):47-54.
  13. Nam NH, Kim HM, Bae KH, Ahn BZ. Inhibitory effects of Vietnamese medicinal plants on tube-like formation of human umbilical venous cells. Phytother Res. 2003 Feb;17(2):107-11
  14. Uragoda CG. An investigation into the health of kapok workers. Br J Ind Med. 1977 Aug;34(3):181-5.
  15. Ngangu Z, Foussereau J. [Tropical woods and contact eczema]. Derm Beruf Umwelt. 1982;30(6):193-5.
  16. Visitsunthorn N, Chirdjirapong V, Pootong V, Jirapongsananuruk O, Pacharn P, Weeravejsukit S, Mahakittikun V, Vichyanond P. The accumulation of dust mite allergens on mattresses made of different kinds of materials. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2010 Jun-Sep;28(2-3):155-61.

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