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Eleutherine bulbosa (Mill.) Urb.


Eleutherine americana (Aubl.) Merr. ex K.Heyne, Antholyza meriana Blanco [Illegitimate], Bermudiana bulbosa (Mill.) Molina, Cipura plicata (Sw.) Griseb., Eleutherine anomala Herb., Eleutherine longifolia Gagnep., Eleutherine plicata (Sw.) Herb., Eleutherine subaphylla Gagnep., Ferraria parviflora Salisb., Galatea americana (Aubl.) Kuntze, Galatea bulbosa (Mill.) Britton, Galatea plicata (Sw.) Baker, Galatea vespertina Salisb. [Invalid], Ixia americana Aubl., Marica plicata (Sw.) Ker Gawl. [Illegitimate], Moraea plicata Sw. [Illegitimate], Sisyrinchium americanum (Aubl.) Lemée, Sisyrinchium bulbosum Mill., Sisyrinchium capitatum Pers., Bermudiana congesta (Klatt) Kuntze, Cipura plicata (Sw.) Griseb. [4]

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Bawang Merah, Bawang Sabrang
China Hong-cong, Xiao Hong Suan
Indonesia Bawang-bawangan, Bawang Dayak (Kalimantan); Bawang Arab, Babawangan (Western Java); Bawang Kapal, Bawang Siyam, Teki Sabrang, Luluwan Sapi [1]

General Information


Eleutherine bulbosa is a member of the Iridaceae family. It is a herbaceous plant which can reach up to 40cm high. The stem is erect or drooping; subterranean, elongated ovoid and red in colour. The leaves are radial, lanceolate and glabrous measure 25-60cm x 1-2.5cm. The flowers are white or yellow in colour and open in the evening for 2 hours. [5]

Plant Part Used

Bulb and leaves

Chemical Constituents

Eleutherol; isoeleutherin; eleutherin; [markedly increase the bloodflow of arteriae coronaria]; elecanacin; isoelecanacin; eleutherinoside A; eleuthoside B; (-)-3-[2-(acetyloxy)propyl]-2-hydroxy-8-methoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone; eleutherinol; 1,5-dihydroxy-3-methylanthraquinone; (-)-isoeleutherin; (+)-eleutherin; (-)-hongconin; (+)-dihydroeleutherinol; Isoeleutherol; eleutherin; isoeleutherin; beta-sitosterol; 8-hydroxy-3, 4-Dimethoxy-1-methyl-anthra-9, l0-quinone-2-carboxylic acid methyl ester; Hongconin; 4,8-Dihydroxy-3-Methoxy-1-methyl-anthra-9,10-quinone-2-carboxylic  acid methyl ester; Eleutherinone; Kadsuric acid. [1][2][7-10] 

Traditional Uses

E. bulbosa is traditionally used in the treatment of uterine haemorrhage, abortion, headache and anaemia. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the bulb are taken for pertussis, haemoptysis and simple coughs[6].The bulb is also used in the treatment of abscesses, impetigo, trauma and wounds. The treatment is by using the poultice of pounded bulb over the lesion. The chewed fresh bulb or expressed juice is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, jaundice, colitis and also in cases of cancer of the colon.[3][6]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antioxidant Activity

Seven new naphthoquinone compounds were isolated from the bulb of E. bulbosa.  Some of the compounds showed potent anti-oxidant activity. [9]

Anti-inflammatory Activity

Pyranonaphthoquinoids such as (-)-isoeleutherin was isolated from  E. bulbosa bulb. It exhibited anti-inflammatory activity as evidenced by its ability to inhibit lipopolysaccharide(LPS)-stimulated induction of nitric oxide (NO), suppress the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) protein and interferon-beta, and inhibit the activation of transcriptional activity of nuclear factor - kappa beta (NF-kB) by LPS. [11]

Antimicrobial Activity


E. bulbosa was shown to have antibacterial activity against Streptococcus pyogenesStaphylococcus aureus and Campylobacter sp. The effects of E. bulbosa on S. aureus has been extensively studied. It was found that the extracts of E. bulbosa could inhibit lipase and protease enzymes and enterotoxin production, a process which could be utilized in food preservation and healing of wounds. Amongst the isolated compounds that were assumed to support this activity were including eleutherol, eleutherin, isoeleutherin, hongconin and elecanacin. [12-19] They were also effective against MRSA. [15]

E. bulbosa was able to inhibit the formation of biofilm by S. pyogenes. [12] The ethanol extract of the bulb has been found to demonstrate antibacterial activity against all Campylobacter spp. both from humans and chicken isolates. [19]


Eleutherin, a naphthoquinone isolated from the bulb of E. bulbosa showed inhibitory activity to Trichophyton mentagrophytes in a dose dependent manner and is comparable to miconazole. The same compound showed potent antimelanogenesis activity with low toxicity as compared to the commercial skin-whitening agent arbutin. [20]


The extract of E. bulbosa and its oligosaccharides extract showed growth-promoting activity on mixed infant intestinal microbiota and individual bacterial species including bacteroides, bifidobacteria, clostridia, and lactobacilli. The highest levels of bacterial populations were seen from the oligosaccharide extract. This shows that E. bulbosa has the potential of being developed as a prebiotics ingredient in functional foods. [21]


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. Craker LE, Simon JE, Herbs, spices & Medicinal Plants – Recent Advances in Botany, Horticulture and Pharmacology, Volume 2 Food Products Press, London 1991 pg. 26
  2. Yaniv Z, Bachrach U. Handbook of Medicinal Plants Haworth Medical Press Hew York 2005 pg. 79
  3. Jangkaru Z. Tanaman Obat Pelancar Air Seni Penebar Swadaya Jakarta 2006, pg. 21
  4. The Plant List. Accessed on 10th July 2014. Available from 
  5. Puri RK, Bulungan Ethnobiology Handbookpg. Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor 2001, 78
  6. Dan NV, Nhu DT, Medicinal Plants in Viet Nam WHO, Manila 1989 pg. 167
  7. Nielsen LB, Wege D. The enantioselective synthesis of elecanacin through an intramolecular naphthoquinone-vinyl ether photochemical cycloaddition. Org Biomol Chem. 2006 Mar 7;4(5):868-76. Epub 2006 Jan 19.
  8. Paramapojn S, Ganzera M, Gritsanapan W, Stuppner H. Analysis of naphthoquinone derivatives in the Asian medicinal plant Eleutherine americana by RP-HPLC and LC-MS. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2008 Aug 5;47(4-5):990-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 Apr 10.
  9. Han AR, Min HY, Nam JW, Lee NY, Wiryawan A, Suprapto W, Lee SK, Lee KR, Seo EK. Identification of a new naphthalene and its derivatives from the bulb of Eleutherine americana with inhibitory activity on lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide production. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2008 Sep;56(9):1314-6.
  10. Liu XJ, Yan XQ, Wang NL. Studies on chemical constituents of Eleutherine americana. Zhong Yao Cai. 2009 Jan;32(1):55-8.
  11. Song SH, Min HY, Han AR, Nam JW, Seo EK, Seoung Woo Park, Sang Hyung Lee, Sang Kook Lee. Suppression of inducible nitric oxide synthase by (-)-isoeleutherin from thebulbs of Eleutherine americana through the regulation of NF-kappaB activity. Int Immunopharmacol. 2009 Mar;9(3):298-302. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Jan 7.
  12. Limsuwan S, Voravuthikunchai SP. Boesenbergia pandurata (Roxb.) Schltr., Eleutherine americana Merr. And Rhodomyrtus tomentosa (Aiton) Hassk. as antibiofilm producing and antiquorum sensing in Streptococcus pyogenes. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2008 Aug;53(3):429-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2008.00445.x. Epub 2008 Jul 9.
  13. Ifesan BO, Hamtasin C, Mahabusarakam W, Voravuthikunchai SP. Inhibitory effect of Eleutherine americana Merr. extract on Staphylococcus aureus isolated from food. J Food Sci. 2009 Jan-Feb;74(1):M31-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.01004.x.
  14. Ifesan BO, Siripongvutikorn S, Voravuthikunchai SP. Application of Eleutherine americana crude extract in homemade salad dressing. J Food Prot. 2009 Mar;72(3):650-5.
  15. Ifesan BO, Hamtasin C, Mahabusarakam W, Voravuthikunchai SP. Assessment of antistaphylococcal activity of partially purified fractions and pure compounds from Eleutherine americana. J Food Prot. 2009 Feb;72(2):354-9.
  16. Ifesan BO, Voravuthikunchai SP. Effect of Eleutherine americana Merr. extract on enzymatic activity and  enterotoxin production of Staphylococcus aureus in broth and cooked pork. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2009 Jul-Aug;6(6):699-704. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2009.0279.v
  17. Mahabusarakam W, Hemtasin C, Chakthong S, Voravuthikunchai SP, Olawumi IB. Naphthoquinones, anthraquinones and naphthalene derivatives from the bulbs of Eleutherine americana. Planta Med. 2010 Mar;76(4):345-9. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1186143. Epub 2009 Sep 23.
  18. Ifesan BO, Joycharat N, Voravuthikunchai SP. The mode of antistaphylococcal action of Eleutherine americana. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2009 Nov;57(2):193-201. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2009.00599.x. Epub 2009 Aug 19.
  19. Sirirak T, Voravuthikunchai SP. Eleutherine americana: a candidate for the control of Campylobacter species. Poult Sci. 2011 Apr;90(4):791-6. doi: 10.3382/ps.2010-01166.
  20. Kusuma IW, Arung ET, Rosamah E, Purwatiningsih S, Kuspradini H, Syafrizal, Astuti J, Kim YU, Shimizu K. Antidermatophyte and antimelanogenesis compound from Eleutherine americana grown in Indonesia. J Nat Med. 2010 Apr;64(2):223-6. doi: 10.1007/s11418-010-0396-7. Epub 2010 Feb 13.
  21. Phoem AN, Voravuthikunchai SP. Eleutherine americana as a growth promoter for infant intestinal microbiota.Anaerobe. 2013 Jan 30. pii: S1075-9964(13)00017-6. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.004. [Epub ahead of print]

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