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Heliotropium indicum L. (Boraginaceae)


Tiaridium indicum (L.) Lehm

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Rumput Ekor Kucing, Jengking Kala [1].
English Indian Heliotrope, Indian Turnsole [1].
Indonesia Buntut Tikus, Bandotan Lombok, Ekor Anjing [1].
French Tournesol Indien [1].

General Information


This is an annual herb which grows to a height of 50cm and can be found along coastlines, in drains and vacant plots. It is probably a native of tropical America [2][8]. Accessed on 22nd April 2008.

Plant Part Used:

Whole plant, leaves, roots, seeds

Chemical Constituents:

The plant contains heliotrine, helindicine, lycopsamine, indicine, indicine-N-oxide, acetyl-indicine, heleurine, supinine, supinidine, lindelofidine, trachelanthamidine, retronecine, putrescine, spermidine, spermine, rapanone, C16-C18 fatty acid esters of 1-cyano-2-hydroxymethylprop-1-en-3-ol. It also yields an essential oil which consists mainly 49% phytol, 6.4% 1-dodecanol and 3% β-linalool [2-4][8].

Traditional Use:

In Malaysia, a paste made from the plant is applied to reduce urination, to counteract putrefaction, to treat pyoderma and ringworm infection. In Burma, a decoction of the whole plant is used to treat gonorrhea while in Indonesia, an infusion of the leaves is used to soothe mouth sprue. A decoction of the dried roots is drunk in the Philippines to promote menses, while the seeds are used to treat cholera, malaria, and for wound-healing [2].

Pre-Clinical Data


Antimicrobial activity:

The anti-infectious property of the herb is probably due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids [2].

Antifertility activity:

The roots of this herb contain rapanone related to the quinone embelin which is known to be a potential contraceptive agent [2].

Antitumor activity:

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids have antitumor properties but with limited potentials owing to some extent the toxicity of the active constituent, indicine-N-oxide from Heliotropium indicum. It is reported that indicine-N-oxide has reached Phase 1 clinical trials in advanced cancer patients [2][5][8].

Antituberculosis activity:

The essential oil from the aerial parts of the herb showed significant antituberculosis activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Ra in the Alamar blue assay system with an MIC of 20.8mg/ml (4).

Anti-inflammatory activity:

Suspensions of powdered dried leaves of Heliotropiumindicum with 2% gum acacia were evaluated for its anti-inflammatory activity in albino rats. This herb produced significant anti-inflammatory effect in both the carrageenin hind paw oedema and cotton pellet granuloma. However, it was found to be less effective than the standard drug such as phenylbutazone. The study concludes that this herb possesses anti-inflammatory effects in both acute and subacute inflammation [6].

Wound healing effect:

Alcoholic extract of Heliotropium indicum was studied for wound healing properties in a rat model [7]. Topical application of 10% w/v Heliotropium indicum increased the percentage of wound contraction and completed wound healing by the 14th day with increased tensile strength indicating rapid epithelization and collagenization. This study suggests that the extract of Heliotropium indicum possesses wound healing activity.


The plant is considered toxic to livestock with several records of fatal poisoning [5].

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

Indicine-N-oxide was tested on 37 patients (15 males, 22 females, mean age 53 years) with solid tumours [5]. All patients had previously undergone chemotherapy, and 25 had prior radiotherapy. Eighty-four percent had a performance status of 0-3 (Cancer and Leukemia Group B criteria). The drug was given as a short infusion over 15 minutes and repeated with a median interval of 4 weeks with close monitoring of wbc and platelet counts. The patients were given a total of 55 courses starting from 1g/m2 to a maximum tolerated dose of 9g/m2. The therapeutic dose was found to be at 7g/m2 and a dose of 5g/m2 was recommended for patients with high risk. Toxic effects were leukopenia and thrombocytopenia, and the toxicity was cumulative with repeated doses. Other toxic effects included nausea and vomiting, anemia, and hepatic dysfunction. The hematologic toxicity have a tendency to be more distinct in patients with hepatic dysfunction, poor marrow reserve, and heavy prior chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Results demonstrated that there were no complete or partial responses. One patient with skin melanoma and another with ovarian carcinoma had improvement lasting 2 months. Dose reductions may be necessary for repeated courses.

Adverse Effects in Human:

Ingestion of this herb is dangerous. Fatal accidental poisoning in humans by drinking herbal tea probably contaminated or substituted with the seeds of this plant has been reported [8].

Use in Certain Conditions:

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Lactating mothers should avoid consuming herbal tea contaminated with the seeds of this herb as it is a toxicity hazard to babies [8].

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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  1)  Botanical Info


  1. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. 2002, Institute for Medical Research.
  2. View Abstract: Medicinal Plants of the Asia-Pacific: Drugs for the Future? . 2006, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., Singapore .
  3. View Abstract: Souza, J. S.N.. Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids from Heliotropium indicum.. J. Braz. Chem. Soc.. 2005; 16(6B): 1410-4
  4. View Abstract: Machan, T. . Composition and antituberculosis activity of the volatile oil of Heliotropium indicum Linn. growing in Phitsanulok, Thailand.. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 2005; 21: 265-7
  5. View Abstract: Ohnuma, T. . Phase 1 study of indicine-N-oxide in patients with advanced cancer.. Cancer Treat Rep. 1982; 66(7): 1509-15
  6. View Abstract: Srinivas, K. . Anti-inflammatory Activity of Heliotropium indicum Linn. and Leucas aspera Spreng. in albino rats.. Ind. J. Pharmacology. 2000; 32: 37-8
  7. View Abstract: Reddy, J.S. . Wound healing effects of Heliotropium indicum, Plumbago zeylanicum and Acalypha indica in rats. . J. Ethnopharmacol. 2002; 79: 249-51

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