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Costus speciosus


Costus nipalensis Roscoe, Costus speciosus var. angustifolius Ker Gawl, Costus speciosus var. nipalensis (Roscoe) Baker. [1]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Setawar Hutan, Tawar, Tawar-tawar, Setengteng, Teng, Tawaga
English Spiral Ginger
Indonesia Tabar-tabar (Batak); Kalacim (Bangka); Sitawar, Tawa-tawa (Minangkabau); Pacing Tawar (Sunda); Poncang Pacing; Pacing Tawa (Jawa); Bunto (Madura); Tepu Tawa (Bugis); Tampun Tawara (Makasar); Tubu-tubu (Ambon); Uga-uga (Ternate)
Thailand Kushta, Ueang Phet Maa
Vietnam Cat Loi, Cay Cu Choc, Cu Choc, Mia Do, Se Vona
India Keu (Hindi, Keu); Chunnak-koova (Malayalam); Penva (Marathi); Kemuka (Bombay); Kuranam (Tamil); Chengalvakoshtu (Telagu & Kannarease); Kust, Besemati, Keukanda, Chana, Keokanda, Kottam, Kostam (Tamil); Kashmeeramu (Telagu)
Nepal Kusth
China Bi-qiao-jiang
Hong Kong Bight-sour-gueng
Japan O-hozaki-ayame [1-5]

General Information


Costus speciosus (J. Konig) Sm., is a member of the Costaceae family. It is an aromatic herb with fleshy branched underground rhizomes. The stem can reach up to 2m tall. It is stout, red and leafy. The leaves are oblong or oblanceolate, acute or acuminate, often cuspidate, glabrous above and silky pubescent beneath and sheathing at the base. They are subsessile and arranged in spiral.  It measures 15-30cm long. The flowers are 4cm across, white, funnel-shaped, with contrasting large bright red ovate bracts measuring 1.4-4cm long, numerous in a very dense cylindrical spike of 5-10cm long. The calyx with 3 oval lobes; corolla tube shorter than the calys with unequal petals measuring 2.5-4cm. The lip is white and the center is orange red, rounded, measures 5-8cm, forming a funnel with margins incurved and meeting. The capsule red, crowned with persistent calyx. [1]

Plant Part Used

Rhizomes and roots [1] [2] [3] [4]

Chemical Constituents

3-O-[a-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1à2)-b-D-glyopyranosyl]-26-O-[b-D-glucopyranosyl]-22-a-methoxy-(25R); methyl triacontanoate; methyl-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2E-propenoate; 25-en-cycloartenol; b-sitosterol-b-D-glucopyranoside; b-sitosterol glucoside; cycloartanol; dioscin; diosgenin; diosgenone; furost-5-n-3b,26-diol; gracillin; ligogenin; methyl protodioscin; octacosanic acid; prosapogenins A – B of dioscin; protodioscin; tigogenin. [1] [3] [16]

Traditional Used:

The roots of C. speciosus is bitter and astringent and is considered a stimulant, digestive, anthelmintic, depurative and aphrodisiac. [1] [2] 

Gastrointestinal Diseases

The rhizomes are useful in the treatment of dyspepsia, cholera, constipation, dysentery and diarrhea. The Nepalese used it to stop hiccoughs. In Indonesia and China the rhizome forms part of the remedy for liver cirrhosis, and the accompanying jaundice and ascites. However, overdose of the rhizome or consuming fresh rhizome can lead to toxic symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract namely vomiting, diarrhea and giddiness. Thus, it had been recommended that the rhizomes should be detoxified by steaming it before drying and using in as medicine. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Respiratory Diseases

In India and Nepals the rhizome had been advocated in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, and colds. The Chinese uses it to treat cases of Whooping cough (Pertusis). [1] [2] [3] 

Gynaecological Uses

The roots are used in postnatal care and also considered a galactagogue in India. [2] 

Other uses

In Nepals the roots are used to treat inflammatory conditions like rheumatism, lumbago and pain in the marrow. It is also useful for infectious conditions like otitis externa, conjunctivitis, leprosy and other skin infections. It diuretic effects had been used effectively in cases of dropsy, oliguria and dysuria. The rhizome is considered an antidote and had been advocated for use especially in snakebites and other venomous bites. It is also used in cases of dog bites and the accompanying rabies. The leaves are used topically over wounds and ulcers and the stem is recommended for treatment of burns. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antidiabetic activity

In a screening exercise for hypoglycaemic activity C. speciosus was found to have hypoglycaemic activity in diabetic rats but not in nondiabetic rats. This indicates that the juice from the rhizome of C. speciosus only reduce elevated blood glucose levels. The ethanol extract of the roots of C. speciosus was found to bring down blood glucose levels by increasing glycogenesis and decreasing gluconeogenesis. Two sesquiterpenoid compound isolated from the rhizome of C. speciosus proved to possess this activity. The compounds were identified as costunolide from the hezane extract and eremanthin. It is believed that Costunolide produces it hypoglycaemic activity by stimulating insulin secretion. [6] [7] [8] [9] 

Hypolipidaemic activity

Costunolide and eremanthin were found to have the ability to decrease total cholesterol level, triglyceride and LDL cholesterol while at the same time increase the HDL cholesterol. [8] [9] 

Antimicrobial activity

The hexane extract of C. speciosus showed significant antibacterial and antifungal activities. The most potent compound isolated in this extract was costunolide. It is active against Trichophyton mentagrophytes, T. simii, T. rubrum 296, Epidermophyton floccosum, Scopulariopsis sp., Aspergillus niger, Curvulari lunata and Magnaporthe grisea. The other compound isolated was eremanthin which has lesser antifungal activity. [10]

In a screening exercise for antituberculous activity, the stem and flower of C. speciosus showed antituberculous activity with MIC of 800microg/ml. [11] 

Anti-inflammatory activity

Costunolide was found to inhibit the expression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1,6, induceible nitric oxide synthase, monocyte chemotactic protein 1 and cyclooxygenase 2 in activated microglia. There was a corresponding stimulation of NFkappaB and suppression of MAPK pathway activation by inducing MKP-1 production. In total, Costunolide shows an ability to inhibit expression of multiple neuroinflammatory mediators through inhibition of NFkappa B and activation of MAKP. [12] 

Oxytocic activity

The ethanol extract of the rhizome of C. speciosus significantly increased phasic contraction of isolated rat uterine muscle. This contraction effect was abolished by inhibition of I-type calcium channels or myosin light chain kinase (MLCK). This was not blocked by estrogen receptor blocker which proves that this effect was not due to the presence of diosgenin. Thus, the extract increases contraction of isolated rat uterine muscles by calcium entry on I-type calcium channels and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) calcium release. [13] 

Antioxidant activity

The administration of either Costunolide (20mg/kg) or Eremanthin (20mg/kg) was found to be able to reduce the oxidative damage seen in STZ induced diabetic rats. They seem to cause significant reduction in TBARS level and a significant increase in GSH content along with increased enzymatic activities of SOD, CAT and GPx. [14]

Antinociceptive activity

Two extracts (aqueous and ethanol) of the rhizome of C. speciosus were assessed for their antinociceptive activity. Both extracts were found to have significant peripheral anti-nociceptive actions but only the ethanol extract showed significant central analgesic activity. [15]


Raw / fresh rhizome is poisonous. The rhizome upon harvesting need to be washed sliced and steamed before being dried for use. [3] [4] Costunolide and eremanthin did not show any toxic effects in acute toxic study in rats. [14]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

Overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness. [4]

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Contraindicated in pregnancy. [3] [4] [13]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

There is a possible cumulative effect when used with antidiabetic drugs due to the proven antidiabetic activities of two components of the extracts of the rhizome i.e. costunolide and eremanthin. [8] [9]

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation


  1. Joshi KK., Joshi SD., Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Used in Nepal, Tibet and Trans-Himalayan Region Bloomington. 2006; pg. 50 – 51.
  2. Panda H., Medicinal Plants Cultivation & Their Uses, National Institute of Industrial Research, New Delhi. 2002; pg. 528.
  3. Kimura T., International Collation of Traditional and Fork Medicine Volume 2 Northeast Asia World Scientific Publishing Inc. Singapore. 1997; pg. 205.
  4. Hembing HM. Tumpas Hepatitis dengan Ramuan Herba, Niaga Swadaya, Jakarta. 2008; pg. 65.
  5. Seidemann J. World Spice Plants, Springer. Berlin. 2005; pg. 118.
  6. Mosihuzzaman M, Nahar N, Ali L, Rokeya B, Khan AK, Nur-E-Alam M, Nandi RP. Hypoglycemic effects of three plants from eastern Himalayan belt. Diabetes Res. 1994;26(3):127-38.
  7. Bavarva JH, Narasimhacharya AV. Antihyperglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of Costus speciosus in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Phytother Res. 2008 May;22(5):620-6.
  8. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S, Duraipandiyan V. Normo-glycemic and hypolipidemic effect of costunolide isolated from Costus speciosus (Koen ex. Retz.)Sm. in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Chem Biol Interact. 2009 May 15;179(2-3):329-34. Epub 2008 Oct 21.
  9. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S, Duraipandiyan V. Antidiabetic and antilipidemic effect of eremanthin from Costus speciosus (Koen.)Sm., in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Chem Biol Interact. 2009 Nov 10;182(1):67-72. Epub 2009 Aug 18.
  10. Duraipandiyan V, Al-Harbi NA, Ignacimuthu S, Muthukumar C. Antimicrobial activity of sesquiterpene lactones isolated from traditional medicinal plant, Costus speciosus (Koen ex.Retz.) Sm. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Mar 7;12:13.
  11. Mohamad S, Zin NM, Wahab HA, Ibrahim P, Sulaiman SF, Zahariluddin AS, Noor SS. Antituberculosis potential of some ethnobotanically selected Malaysian plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Feb 16;133(3):1021-6. Epub 2010 Nov 19.
  12. Rayan NA, Baby N, Pitchai D, Indraswari F, Ling EA, Lu J, Dheen T. Costunolide inhibits proinflammatory cytokines and iNOS in activated murine BV2 microglia. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2011 Jun 1;3:1079-91.
  13. Lijuan W, Kupittayanant P, Chudapongse N, Wray S, Kupittayanant S. The effects of wild ginger (Costus speciosus (Koen) Smith) rhizome extract and diosgenin on rat uterine contractions. Reprod Sci. 2011 Jun;18(6):516-24.
  14. Eliza J, Daisy P, Ignacimuthu S. Antioxidant activity of costunolide and eremanthin isolated from Costus speciosus (Koen ex. Retz) Sm. Chem Biol Interact. 2010 Dec 5;188(3):467-72. Epub 2010 Aug 13.
  15. Bhattacharya S, Nagaich U. Assessment of anti-nociceptive efficacy of costus speciosus rhizome in swiss albino mice.  J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2010 Jan;1(1):34-40.
  16. Qiao CF, Li QW, Dong H, Xu LS, Wang ZT. [Studies on chemical constituents of two plants from Costus]. . Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2002 Feb;27(2):123-5.

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