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Boerhavia diffusa L.


Axia cochinchinensis Lour., Boerhavia adscendens Willd., Boerhavia caespitosa Ridl., Boerhavia ciliatobracteata Heimerl, Boerhavia paniculata Rich. [Illegitimate], Boerhavia xerophila Domin [Invalid] [48]

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Rumput Babi [4]

Spreading Hog Weed

India Svetapurnarnaba, Itsit (Bengali); Sant, Beshakapore, Gadhaparna, Thikri, (Hind); Punarnava, Sothaghni (Sanskrit) Gandhapurna, swetapoorna, punarnaba (Punjabi); Vakha-Khaparo (Gujerati); Ghetuli, Satodimool, Motosatade (Bombay); Attatamamidi (Telagu); Mukkuratai, Mukukrattai, Kadiyirattam (Tamil); Tamilama, Talutama (Malayali); Sanadika, Gonajali (Cannada); Punarnava, Khapra, Vasu (Mah) [1][2]

General Information


Boerhaavia difusa is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family. It is an annual herb that can reach up to 1 m tall. The stems are profusely branching from the base, prostrate when young but ascending when flowering begins. The leaves are opposite, simple, unequal with blade broadly ovate to elliptic and measure 1.5-6.0 cm x 0.5-5.0 cm. The leaf base is obtuse, cordate or truncate and apex acute to obtuse; margins are sinuate. They are pale green to whitish beneath with red marginal glands occasionally. The inflorescence appears in the axillary, small, often congested irregular umbel with 3-5 flowers. The flowers are bisexual, regular, perianth tubular-campanulate with distinct constriction midway, the lower part being obconical, surrounding the ovary, 5-ribbed, green with upper part 5-lobed, red or purple. The stamens 1-3, slightly exserted; ovary superior 1-celled, style slightly exserted, stigma head-shaped. The fruit is an achene enclosed by the thickened lower part of the perianth. The seed is obovoid and pale brown. [47]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant, roots.

Chemical Constituents

3,3',5-trihydroxy-7-methoxyflavone; 3,4-dimethoxyphenyl-1-O-beta-D-apiofuranosyl-(1'' -->3')-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside; 3,4-dihydroxy-5-methoxycinnamoyl-rhamnoside; 3,5,4'-trihydroxy-6,7-dimethoxyflavone 3-O-galactosyl(1-->2)glucoside [eupalitin 3-O-galactosyl(1-->2)glucoside]; 4',7-dihydroxy-3'-methylflavone; boeravine; b-sitosterol; b-ecdysone,; boeravinones A – E, G – J; caffeoyltartaric acid; coumaronochromone; eupalitin 3-O-beta-D-galactopyranosyl-(1''' --> 2'')-O-beta-D-galactopyranoside; eupalitin 3-O-galactoside, hypoxanthine 9-L-arabinofuranoside; kaempferol; liridoderdin; kaempferol quercetin 3-O-(2"-rhamnosyl)-robinobioside,3-O-robinobioside; kaempferol 3-O-(2"-rhamnosyl)-robinobioside, potassium salts; punarnavoside; quercetin; quercetin 3-O-rhamnosyl(1-->6)galactoside (quercetin 3-O-robinobioside), syringaresinol mono b-D-glycoside; tetrasubstitution; ursolic acid.[3] [5] [7] [12]

Traditional Uses

Ayurvedic healers have recognized that there are two varieties of B. diffusa; red and white; with the latter being more favored. B. diffusa as a whole is considered bitter, stomachic, laxative, diuretic, expectorant, diaphoretic and an emetic [1]. The plant is part of the medicinal compounds used to treat cough, difficulty in breathing and asthma.  [1] [2]  B. diffusa is traditionally used to treat snake bites, rat bite, fever, alcoholism, phthisis, insomnia, rheumatism and eye diseases. A decoction of the white variety of B. diffusa has been recommended for those with kidney stones. [2] 

The roots are considered purgative, anthelmintic, febrifuge, laxative and stomachic and used in the treatment of jaundice and ascites. The roots of B. diffusa also have diuretic properties and used in the treatment of all forms of oedematous conditions including ascites, anasarca, renal oedema, scanty urine, stangury and urethritis.[1] [2] The properties also made it beneficial for hypertensives. [4] The roots is also boiled in milk and taken to maintain good health. [8] 

Preclinical Data


Antiasthmatic activity

In a screening study on antiasthmatic activity in plants used for the treatment of the affection in Ivory Coast, the ex vivo study was found that methanol extract of B. diffusa could induce moderate to strong relaxation of the mice isolated trachea. [13]

Antitumour activity

Initial studies on aqueous methanol extract of B.diffusa showed the extract was effective in reducing metastatis formation by B16F-10 melanoma cells in C57BL/6 mice. Subsequent to this, an alkaloid named punarnavine was isolated from B.diffusa. It shown that this compound has apoptotic and anti-metastatic activities in B16F-10 melanoma cells. The apoptotic activity seen in the cells of B16F-10 melanoma was found to occur as a result of activation of p53 induced caspase-3 mediated pro-apoptotic signalling and suppression of NF-Kappa B induced Bcl-2 mediated survival signalling. The anti-metastatic activity on the other hand could be due to suppression or down-regulation of expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) namely MMP-2, MMP-9, ERK-1, ERK-2 and vascular endothelial growth factor in lung tissue of metastasis-induced animals. It was also found to inhibit MMP-2 and MMP-9 protein expression in gelatin zymographic analysis of B16F-10 cells. [14] [15] [16]

Ethanol extract of B. diffusa roots showed antiproliferative activity as demonstrated by its ability to inhibit the proliferation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) (T-cell mitogen phytohaemagglutinin, concanavavalin A-stimulated proliferation, purified protein derivative antigen-stimulated PBMC and human mixed lymphocyte culture) and several cells lines of mouse and human origin (e.g. mouse macrophage cells (RAW 264.7), human macrophage cells (U937), human monocytic cells (THP-1), mouse fibroblast cells (L929), human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293), mouse liver cells (BNLCL.2), African green monkey kidney cells (COS-1), mouse lymphoma cells (EL-4), human erythroleukemic cells (K562), and human T cells (Jurkat)). [17] 

B.diffusa extract has cancer chemopreventive activity as evidenced by its ability to prevent skin papillomagenesis induced by 1,12-dimethyl-benz(a)anthracene (DMBA) in male Swiss albino mice. [18] Another study showed that the chloroform fraction of the ethanol extract of B. diffusa roots was found to inhibit the growth of HeLa cells within 48 hours. This effect could be due to its ability to inhibit DNA synthesis in S-phase of cell cycle which is evidenced by the detection of DNA fragmentation and caspase-9 activation. [19]

Immunomodulatory activity

As cited above, punarnavine exhibited antimetastatic activity against B16F-10 melanoma cells. Two studies indicated that this compound could enhance the immune response against the progression of B16F-10 melanoma cells in mice. This is evidenced by the its ability to enhance the production of cytokines such as IL-2 and IFN-gamma while the levels of GM-CSF and pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-beta, IL-6 and TNF-a were significantly lowered. Punarnavine was also shown to enhance natural killer (NK) cell activity, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and antibody-dependent complement mediated cytotoxicity (ACC). [20] [21] Other effects of punarnavine on the immune system includes enhancing the total white blood cell count, increasing bone marrow cellularity and the number of alpha-esterase positive cells, enhancing proliferation of splenocytes, thymocytes and bone marrow cells. [22]

Immunosuppresive activity

The ethanol extract of the roots of B. diffusa showed immunosuppressive activity as evidenced by its ability to inhibit human NK cell cytotoxicity in vitro, production of nitric oxide (NO) in mouse macrophage cells, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells  (PBMCs). [23] Further studies showed that the chloroform and ethanol extracts were able to inhibit PHA stimulated proliferation of PBMCs, two-way MLR, NK cell cytotoxicity and LPS induced NO production by RAW 264.7. The compound eupalitin-3-O-beta-D-galactopyranoside (Bd-I) purified from the ethanol extract inhibited similar effects as the ethanol extract but at a more effective level. It inhibited production of PHA stimulated IL-1 at the protein and mRNA transcript levels and LPS stimulated TNF-alpha production in human PBMC; it also blocked the activation of DNA binding of nuclear factor-(kappa)B and AP-1, which were necessary for T cell activation and proliferation. This compound is a potential candidate for immunosuppressive use. [24]

Radioprotective activity

Hydro-alcoholic extract of B. diffusa given intraperitoneally (20 mg/kg) was able to protect damages produced by sublethal dose of irradiation in mice (600 rads, single dose) when given intraperitoneally in the dose of 20 mg/kg. These protective effects were seen in bone marrow, intestine and liver as evidenced by the normalizations of the biomarkers related to these organs. This activity was probably mediate through the antioxidative properties. [25]

Antioxidant activity

Aqueous extract of B. diffusa roots was found to have a high total phenolic content and exhibited significant free radical scavenging activity. [26] One of the compounds isolated from the roots of B. diffusa which showed a very potent antioxidant activity was boeravinone G. [27]

Anti-urolithiasis activity

A study on aqueous extract of B. diffusa roots to show the ameliorating effect in hyperoxaluric oxidative stress and renal injury was carried out. It was found that the extract was able to reduce the level of malondialdehyde and improve activity of antioxidant enzymes followed by reduction in blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine. It also reduced the amount of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals in urine and inhibited deposition of calcium oxalate crystal and renal cell damage. [26][28]

The combination between B. diffusa and Tribulus terrestris were found to have antilithiasis activity as it could reduce and prevent the growth of urinary stones induced by ethylene glycol. It also restored all elevated biochemical parameters, urine pH and increased urine volume significantly. [29]

Hepatoprotective activity

Studies have shown that the whole plant, the roots and the leaves possesses hepatoprotective activity. The roots showed maximum hepatoprotective activity in aqueous form rather than powder form and the diameters about 1-3 cm of roots for aqueous extraction (2ml/kg) proved to be most superior. The ethanol and aqueous extracts of the leaves showed hepatoprotective activity against acetaminophen induced liver damage. [30] [31] [32].

Antoconvulsant activity

Methanol extract of B. diffusa roots and its liriodendrin-rich fraction administered intraperitoneally to pentylenetetrazol (PTZ)-induced seizures in Male Swiss albino mice exhibited potent anticonvulsant activity in a dose dependent manner as compared to the other fractions. Liriodendrin-rich fraction also showed significant protection against BAY k-8644-induced seizures caused by its calcium channel antagonist action. [33] [34]

Antioestrogenic activity

Methanol extract of B. diffusa was found to have the ability to compete with [(3)H]-estradiol for binding to Oestrogen receptor (ER) with IC50 value of 320 +/-25 µg/mL. This was evidenced by RT-PCR analysis which showed the extract’s ability to reduce the mRNA expression of pS2 (oestrogen responsive gene) indicating it’s antioestrogenic action. Together with its ability to arrest all cell cycle phases of MCF-7 cells at G0-G1 phase, this extract may be useful in the treatment of oestrogen dependent breast cancers. [35]

Spasmolytic activity

Methanol extracts of B. diffusa roots contained a number of rotenoid compounds (i.e. boeravinone G, boeravinone E and another known as compound 5) which showed strong spasmolytic activity in guinea pig ileum through direct effects on smooth muscle. The results showed that these compounds were able to inhibit the contraction induced by acetylcholine (Ach). [36][37]

Antidiabetic activity

The administration of the ethanol extract of the leaves of B. diffusa resulted in a significant decrease in blood glucose and a significant increase in plasma insulin levels in both normal and alloxan induced diabetic rats. Changes in other parameters include reduction in glycosylated haemoglobin, increased in hepatic enzymes such as hexokinase, decreased in levels of glucose-6-phosphatase, fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase and improved glucose tolerance test were seen in rats treated with the extract. The extract also showed significant antioxidant and cortisol lowering activity, while an aqueous extract of the plant caused significant reduction in serum and tissue cholesterol, free fatty acids, phospholipids and triglycerides. [38] [39] [40] [41]

Antinociceptive activity

The crude extracts of B. diffusa obtained from a lypholized decoction and from the juice of fresh leaves were subjected to a series of experiments to demonstrate analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The results showed that the juice of fresh leaves has significant antinociceptive activity however, the underlying mechanism is not known. [42]

Antifungal activity

An antifungal screening exercise done on aerial and root parts of B. diffusa showed that the antifungal activity was only found in the roots. Ethyl acetate extract of the roots was the most active against three dermatophytic fungi which are Microsporum gypseum, M. fulvum,  and M. canis with M. gypseum being most affected. [43] [44]

Antifibrinolytic activity

A comparative study to evaluate the effects of antifibrinolytic agents, anti-inflammatory drugs and root extract of B. diffusa on endometrial histology, menstrual cycle length (MCL), duration of flow (DMF) and menstrual iron loss (MIL) of IUCD-fitted menstruating monkeys was done. The results showed that the root extract of B. diffusa was the most active antifibrinolytic and anti-inflammatory. This was evidenced by the effects observed as follows:

  1. The extract was able to effectively reduce stromal oedema, inflammation and tortuosity of glands and increasing the degree of deposition of fibrin and platelets in the vessel lumen. [45]
  2. The extracts showed noticeable reduction in DMF (124%) and uterine tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) activity (274%). [46]


The ethanol extract of B. diffusa did not display any teratogenic effects as similar survival rate and the litter size of foetuses were shown with normal control group and no foetal anomaly was detected after birth. [9]

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


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  11. Ahmed-Belkacem A, Macalou S, Borrelli F, Capasso R, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O, Di Pietro A. Nonprenylated rotenoids, a new class of potent breast cancer resistance protein inhibitors. J Med Chem. 2007 Apr 19;50(8):1933-8.
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  15. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Punarnavine induces apoptosis in B16F-10 melanoma cells by inhibiting NF-kappaB signaling. Asian Pacific Organization For Cancer Prevention. 2009;10(6):1031-7
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  18. Bharali R, Azad MR, Tabassum J. Chemopreventive action of Boerhaavia diffusa on DMBA-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2003 Oct;47(4):459-64.
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  23. Mehrotra S, Mishra KP, Maurya R, Srimal RC, Singh VK. Immunomodulation by ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. International Immunopharmacology. 2002 Jun; 2(7):987-96.
  24. Pandey R, Maurya R, Singh G, Sathiamoorthy B, Naik S. Immunosuppressive properties of flavonoids isolated from Boerhaavia diffusa Linn. International Immunopharmacology. 2005 Mar;5(3):541-53.
  25. Manu KA, Leyon PV, Kuttan G. Studies on the protective effects of Boerhaavia diffusa L. against gamma radiation induced damage in mice. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2007 Dec;6(4):381-8.
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