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Caesalpinia pulcherrima


Poinciana pulcherrima Linn., Poinciana bijuga (non Linn.) Lour, Poinciana elata Lour [3]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Bunga Merak

Bunga Kacang, Bunga Merak, Bunga China, Jingok (Sumatra); Kembang Patra Kombala (Sunda); Merak-merakan, Merak Ngigel, Merakan, Patra Mengala, Kembang Abang (Java); Mar Kegel, Merak Kagel, Merak Ngegel, Parak Kagel (Madura)

English: Bird-of-Paradise, Paradise Poinciana, Yellow Bird-of-Paradise, Desert Bird-of-Paradise [1]

General Information


Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a member of the Fabaceae family. It is a shrub or a small tree with glabrous branches that are armed with thorns. The leaves are 5-9 pinnate and 1-3cm long; leaflets in 5-12 pears, oblong, rounded and mucronate at the apex, glabrous, 1-2cm long and 5-8mm broad. The inflorescence are in terminal or upper axilla racemes. The flowers are yellow, red or orange. The bracts are linear-lanceolate, small and deciduous. The pedicels are slender with 4-8cm long and glabrous. The receptacle is broadly campanulate, 3mm long. The sepals are unequal, the inferior larger, 1.5cm long, cucullate in the bud, the 4 others are about 1cm long. The petals are unguiculate, about 2cm long, superior with longer claw and narrower lamen. The filaments elongated, about 6cm long. The ovary shortly stipitate and glabrous. The pod linear-oblong, shortly stipitate, acuminate, 8-12cm long and 2cm broad, with partitions between the seeds. The seeds are 6-8 ovate and compressed. [7]

Plant Part Used

Flowers, barks, leaves and roots. [1][2][4][6]

Chemical Constituents

2'-hydroxy-2,3,4',6'-tetramethoxychalcone; 2'-methoxybonducellin; 5,7-dimethoxy-3',4'-methylenedioxyflavanone; 5,7-dimethoxyflavone; 6 b-benzoyl-7b-hydroxyvouacapen-5a-ol; 6b-cinnamoyl-7b-hydroxyvouacapen-5a-ol; 7-hydroxycadalene; 7-O-methylbonducellin (3E)-2,3-dihydro-6,7-dimethoxy-3[(3-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)methylene]-4H-1-benzo pyran-4-one; (3E)-3-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-ylmethylene)-2,3-dihydro-7-hydroxy-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one, (3E)-3-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-ylmethylene)-2,3-dihydro-7-methoxy-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one; (3E)-2,3-dihydro-7-hydroxy-3-[(3-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)methylene]-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one; (3E)-2,3-dihydro-3-[(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)methylene]-7-methoxy-4H-1-benzopyran-4-o ne; (E)-7-methoxy-3-(4'-methoxybenzylidene)chroman-4-one; (E)-7-hydroxy-3-(3',4',5'-trimethoxybenzylidene)chroman-4-one; (E)-7-hydroxy-3-(2',4'-dimethoxybenzylidene)chroman-4-one;alpha-cadinol; benzyl 2,6-dimethoxybenzoate; bonducellin; caesaldekarin A; caryophyllene oxide; ellagitanin; isobonducellin; isovouacapenol C; isovouacapenol E; myricitroside; neocaesalpin P, neocaesalpin Q; neocaesalpin R; pulcherralpin; pulcherrimin; pulcherrimin A; pulcherrimin C; pulcherrimin E; pulcherrin A; pulcherrin B; pulcherrin C; phytol; sappanone A; sitosterol; spathulenol; teucladiol

Traditional Used:

The properties of the various part of C. pulcherrima are interpreted by the Indonesian traditional medicine practitioners as follows:

a) Flowers – sweet, neutral, improves circulation and menstruation, abortifecient, emmenagogue, pectoral and febrifuge.

b) Bark – Astringent, emmenagogue, abortifacient

c) Leaves – stimulant, emmenagogue and purgatives

Gastro-intestinal diseases

In Southwest Africa the tea made from C. pulcherrima is used to treat gastritis and intestinal inflammation and also useful in diarrhea and dysentery. The Indians make use of the leaves to treat flatulence, aphthous ulcers and hepatitis. They make use of the fruits instead to treat diarrhea and dysentery. [1] [4]

Gynaecological problems

The whole plant has emmenagogue property and various parts of C. pulcherrima had been advocated for use in treating menstrual problems. In India the leaves, bark and flowers has been given for uterine dysfunction. In the Amazon forest the roots were given to procure abortion as within the first trimester. [1] [2] [4] [6]

Other uses

The flowers are used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions like infections, rheumatism and is useful in fever especially malaria, febrile fits in children, erysipelas and conjunctivitis. The juice of the flowers is a remedy for sores. The Indians make use of the flowers to treat bronchitis and asthma while to the Amazonians the seeds are given in bad cough, breathing difficulties and chest pains. The seeds can be used to treat gum complaints and ringworms. C. pulcherrima also makes good remedy for skin problems like rashes, bites and stings and irritation by poison ivy and chemicals. [1] [2] [4] [6]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antibacterial and Antifungal 

The ethanol extract of the fruit exhibited a broad spectrum antibacterial activity especially against Escherichia coli, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. [21]

Four new cassane-type furanoditerpenoids isolated from leaves of C. pulcherrima were found to be active against S. aureus, E. coli, P. aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, Candida albicans and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. [10]

Two cassane-furanoditerpenoids (6 beta-benzoyl-7beta-hydroxyvouacapen-5 alpha-ol and 6beta-cinnamoyl-7beta-hydroxyvouacapen-5 alpha-ol) showed potent antitubercular activity with the latter being more effective. [13]

Antiviral activity

The aqueous extracts of various parts of C. pulcherrima showed significant inhibitory against ADV-8 virus. The strongest being the fruit and seed (EC50 = 41.2mg/L, SI = 83.2), followed by the stem and leaves (EC50 = 61.8 mg/L, SI = 52.1) and finally the flower (EC50 = 177.9mg/L, SI = 15.5). [23]

Antiplasmodial activity

The methanol and acetone extracts of C. pulcherrima leaves had showed significant antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum. [24]

Cytotoxic activity

In a brine shrimp larvae test, it was found that methanol and aqueous extracts of the wood and methanol extract of aerial parts of C. pulcherrima were relatively toxic to the shrimp larvae. This cytotoxic activity was attributed to the high total phenolic content of the wood. [20] [22]

Two cassane-furanoditerpenoids (6 beta-benzoyl-7beta-hydroxyvouacapen-5 alpha-ol and 6beta-cinnamoyl-7beta-hydroxyvouacapen-5 alpha-ol) expressed moderate cytotoxic activity against KB (Human oral carcinoid cancer), BC (Human breast cancer) and NCI-H187 (Small cell lung cancer) cell lines. [13]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The ethanolic and aqueous extracts of the aerial parts of C. pulcherrima was subjected to anti-inflammatory studies. It was found that both extracts had significant anti-inflammatory activity as evidenced by a decrease in granuloma tissue development. Five flavonoids isolated from C. pulcherrima exhibited anti-inflammatory activities and these were 5,7-dimethoxyflavanone (1), 5,7-dimethoxy-3',4'-methylenedioxyflavanone (2), isobonducellin (3), 2'-hydroxy-2,3,4',6'-tetramethoxychalcone (4) and bonducellin. The order of the anti-inflammatory potency was 3>5>4>2>1. [14] [19]

Antiulcer activity

The aqueous and ethanol extracts of C. pulcherrima was found to have the ability to decrease the ulcer score in two ulcer models (pylorus ligation and aspirin induced models). This indicate that both extracts have antiulcer activity and not ulcerogenic. [19]


C. pulcherrima contains a variety of tannins, flavonoid and diterpene compounds which are considered toxic and has been implicated as a cause of dermatitis and gastrointestinal irritation upon ingestion. However there are limited human data on the ingestion of the seeds or parts of the plant. The availability of tannin could possibly cause gastrointestinal irritation including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Severe symptoms are unusual and persistence of symptoms beyond 24 hour suggest another etiology. [5]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

The leaves of C. pulcherrima contain hydrocyanic acid and should not be consumed indiscriminately. [6]

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Based on traditional understanding of the C. pulcherrima properties (leaves, barks and flowers) it is not advisable for use during pregnancy due to its abortifacient and emmenagogue effects [1] [6]

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation


  1. Wijayakusuma H. Ensiklopedia melenium: Bunga-bungaan PT. Prestasi Insan Indonesia Jakarta; 2000. p. 87.
  2. Mobile reference. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrub MobileReference. MobileReference; 2008.
  3. Merrill E. “Loureiro’s Flora Cochinchinensis” Transaction. American Philosophical Society. Vol. 24, Part 2, 1935 – June) American Philosophical Society Philedelphia 1935 pg. 191
  4. Kane CW. Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest: A Guide to the Identification, Collection, Preparation and Use of Medicinal and Edible Plants of the Southwestern. United States Lincoln Town Press; 2006. p. 23.
  5. Barceloux DG. Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances. John Wiley & Sons Inc.; 2008. p. 479–480.
  6. Panda H. Medicinal Plants Cultivaton and Their Uses. National Institute of Industrial Research New Delhi; 2002. p. 510.
  7. Foundation Van Eedenfonds. Flora of Suriname. Volume 2. p. 86.
  8. Paris RR, Delaveau PG. On The Flavonoids Of Caesalpinia Pulcherrima Sw: Isolation Of A Flavonoside Identified As Myricitroside. C R Hebd Seances Acad Sci. 1965 Jan 4;260:271-3.
  9. Che CT, McPherson DD, Cordell GA, Fong HH. Pulcherralpin, a new diterpene ester from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Journal of Natural Products. 1986 Jul-Aug;49(4):561-9.
  10. Ragasa CY, Hofileña JG, Rideout JA. New furanoid diterpenes from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Journal of Natural Products. 2002 Aug;65(8):1107-10.
  11. Srinivas KV, Koteswara Rao Y, Mahender I, Das B, Rama Krishna KV, Hara Kishore K, Murty US. Flavanoids from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Phytochemistry. 2003 Aug;63(7):789-93.
  12. Ragasa CY, Ganzon J, Hofileña J, Tamboong B, Rideout JA. A new furanoid diterpene from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin (Tokyo). 2003 Oct;51(10):1208-10.
  13. Promsawan N, Kittakoop P, Boonphong S, Nongkunsarn P. Antitubercular cassane furanoditerpenoids from the roots of Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Planta Medica. 2003 Aug;69(8):776-7.
  14. Roach JS, McLean S, Reynolds WF, Tinto WF. Cassane diterpenoids of Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Journal of Natural Products. 2003 Oct;66(10):1378-81.
  15. Maheswara M, Siddaiah V, Venkata Rao C. Two new homoisoflavonoids from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin (Tokyo). 2006 Aug;54(8):1193-5.
  16. Pranithanchai W, Karalai C, Ponglimanont C, Subhadhirasakul S, Chantrapromma K. Cassane diterpenoids from the stem of Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Phytochemistry. 2009 Jan;70(2):300-4.
  17. Pranithanchai W, Karalai C, Ponglimanont C, Subhadhirasakul S, Chantrapromma K. Cassane diterpenoids from the stem of Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Phytochemistry. 2009 Jan;70(2):300-4.
  18. Das B, Thirupathi P, Ravikanth B, Aravind Kumar R, Sarma AV, Basha SJ. Isolation, synthesis, and bioactivity of homoisoflavonoids from Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2009 Oct;57(10):1139-41.
  19. Sharma V, Rajani GP. Evaluation of Caesalpinia pulcherrima Linn. for anti-inflammatory and antiulcer activities. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 2011 Apr;43(2):168-71.
  20. Pawar CR, Mutha RE, Landge AD, Jadhav RB, Surana SJ. Antioxidant and cytotoxic activities of Caesalpinia pulcherrima wood. Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics. 2009 Apr;46(2):198-200.
  21. Sudhakar M, Rao ChV, Rao PM, Raju DB, Venkateswarlu Y. Antimicrobial activity of Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Euphorbia hirta and Asystasia gangeticum. Fitoterapia. 2006 Jul;77(5):378-80.
  22. Chanda S, Baravalia Y. Brine shrimp cytotoxicity of Caesalpinia pulcherrima aerial parts, antimicrobial activity and characterisation of isolated active fractions. Natural Product Research. 2011 Dec;25(20):1955-64.
  23. Chiang LC, Chiang W, Liu MC, Lin CC. In vitro antiviral activities of Caesalpinia pulcherrima and its related flavonoids. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 2003 Aug;52(2):194-8.
  24. Venkatesalu V, Gopalan N, Pillai CR, Singh V, Chandrasekaran M, Senthilkumar A, Chandramouli N. In vitro anti-plasmodial activity of some traditionally used medicinal plants against Plasmodium falciparum. Parasitol Res. 2012 Jan 31.

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