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Morinda elliptica


Morinda citrifolia var elliptica Hook. f, Morinda tinctoria Ridley. [2]

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Mengkudu, Mengkudu Hutan, Mengkudu Kecil
Thailand Yaw, Yaw Pa
English Indian Mulberry [1] [2]

General Information


Morinda elliptica is a member of the Rubiaceae family. It is a small tree which could reach up to 5m high. The leaves are narrowly elliptic or oblanceolate, shortly acuminate with long narrowed base. They measure 15cm long and 3cm wide with 7 pairs of nerves and 1cm long petiole. The peduncles are slender and 3cm long. The heads are oblong and measures 0.5cm long. The corolla tube is white, cylindric with subacute lobes. The fruits are green, oblong and not pulpy measuring about 1cm long. [3]

Plant Part Used

Shoots and leaves [1] [2]

Chemical Constituents

1-hydroxy-2-methylanthraquinone; 2-formyl 1-hydroxy anthraquinone; alizarin-1-methyl ether; anthragallol-1,2-dimethyl ether; damnacanthal; lucidin-2-methyl ether; morindone; morindone-5-methyl ether; nordamnacanthal; purpurin-1-methyl ether; rubiadin; rubiadin-1-methyl ether;  soranjidiol [1] [6]

Traditional Uses

The shoot is eaten with rice to help increase appetite. It is also eaten to treat diarrhoea, cholera and headache especially when combined with fever. For treating piles, the paste of the pounded leaves is applied the to the anus. Leaves smeared over with oil is heated  and applied over the body for fever, enlarged spleen, piles and postpartum period. The plant is also used to treat convulsions. [1] [2]

Pre-Clinical Data


Immudomodulatory activity

Damnacanthal is an anthraquinone which was extracted from the roots of M. elliptica. Immunomodulatory studies done revealed the capability of damnacanthal to activate mouse thymocytes and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells  (PBMC) at a low concentration (0.468µg/ml). Damnacanthal activated lymphocytes produced upregulated human interleukin-2 and human interleukine-12 cytokines in culture supernatant at 24 hours and the production was sustained until 72 hours. Thus, damnacanthal can act as an immunomodulatory agent to maintain a healthy immune system. [4]

Antioxidant activity

The leaves of M. elliptica form part of the ulam eaten by the Malays with rice. Antioxidant activity study showed that the methanolic extract of the leaves has high superoxide scavenging activity (80% against SOD standard). One active fraction of the leaves showed 86.6% activity. Within this fraction, the natural antioxidant compound naringenin was isolated. This qualifies the benefits of its use as ulam[5]

Antimicrobial activity

Of the 11 compounds isolated from the roots of M. elliptica, damnacanthal was the only one that showed moderate activity against HIV. Three anthraquinones (nordamnacanthal, damnacanthal and morindone) showed strong antimicrobial activity against bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and three fungi Aspergillus ochraceus, A. niger and Candida lypolitica[6]

Cytotoxic activity

Cytotoxic screening of 11 compounds identified in the roots of M. elliptica was done. Damnacanthal showed cytotoxic activity against MCF-7 (Breast carcinoma) and CEM-SS (T-Lymphoblastic leukaemia) cell lines. Lucidin-2-methyl ether was found to have strong cytotocity towards CEM-SS and MCF-7, while rubiadin only to CEM-SS. [6]


No documentation

Teratogenic effects

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

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. Zakaria M., Mohd MA., Traditional Malay Medicinal Plants, Institute Terjemahan Nasional Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 2010 pg. 98
  2. Burkill IH., A Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula Volume 2, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1966 pg. 1519 – 1520
  3. Ridley HN., The Flora of the Malay Peninsula Volume 2 L. Reeve & Co. London 1923 pg. 118
  4. Alitheen NB, Manaf AA, Yeap SK, Shuhaimi M, Nordin L, Mashitoh AR. Immunomodulatory effects of damnacanthal isolated from roots of Morinda elliptica. Pharm Biol. 2010 Apr;48(4):446-52. doi: 10.3109/13880200903168031
  5. Subramaniam V, Adenan MI, Ahmad AR, Sahdan R. Natural Antioxidants: Piper sarmentosum (Kadok) and Morinda elliptica (Mengkudu). Malays J Nutr. 2003 Mar;9(1):41-51. Epub 2003 Mar 15.
  6. Ali AM, Ismail NH, Mackeen MM, Yazan LS, Mohamed SM, Ho AS, Lajis NH. Antiviral, cytotoxic and antimicrobial activities of anthraquinones isolated from the roots of Morinda elliptica. Pharm Biol. 2000;38(4):298-301. doi: 10.1076/1388-0209(200009)3841-AFT298

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