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Cassia alata (Caesalpinaceae)


Senna alata L., Cassia alata var. perennis Pamp, Cassia alata var.  rumphiana DC., Cassia bracteata L. f., Cassia herpetica Jacq., Herpetica alata (L.) Raf.), Senna alexandrina Mill., Senna occidentalis (L.), Senna siamea (Lam.), Senna tora L.

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Solok, Gelenggang, Ketepeng Badak, Rugan (Iban)

Senna Alata, Candlestick, Candelabra Bush, Candle Bush, Empress Candle, Candletree, Ringworm Tree, Candlestick Senna, Wild Senna, Guajava,

 Thailand: Chumhet Thet

Akapulko, Fleur Palmiste, Fleur Dartre, Flor del Secreto, Tarantana, Akapulko, Man-slabriki, Akapulco

General Information


This large, spreading shrub from Argentina is very susceptible to frost. It produces from late summer to fall, large spikes of golden-yellow flowers. The flower spikes look like golden candles when covered with unopened flower buds. The tree can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet with an equal spread. Cassia alata makes an attractive specimen shrub or small tree if it is properly trained.[1]

Plant Part Used

Leaves and bark.

Chemical Constituents

Cassia alata leaf contains rhein, emodin, aloe-emodin, crysophanol, and isochrysophanol, glycosides rhein of aloe-emodin and sitosterol and sennoside A, B, C and b-physcione. It also contains kaempferol-3-gentiobioside, chrysophanic acid, adenine and flavonoids.[2][3][4][5]

Traditional Use:

C. alata is known to have laxative properties.[6] Traditionally, tea are made from the leaves and taken as a treatment for constipation and intestinal worms. The leaves are pounded and rubbed on the skin to cure eczema and ringworm [7] and white-spot fungal skin infections.[8] The leaves are pounded and rubbed on affected parts. The leaves contain a fungicide, chrysophanic acid which is a common ingredient in soaps, shampoos and lotions.[9][10] The leaves are boiled with water and simmered before applied over the infected area 2 times a day due to wound healing properties.[21]

Pre-Clinical Data


Anti-infective activity

The aqueous and methanol extracts of C. alata leaves have been evaluated on various kinds of microorganisms. The antimicrobial activity was determined using the disk diffusion method. The extracts exhibited more antifungal than antibacterial properties.[11][12] 

The ethanolic extracts of C. alata leaves showed high activity against 5 species of dermatophytic fungi but low activity against 4 other non-dermatophytic fungi. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values of the extract against Trichophyton mentagorphytes var. interdigitale, Trichophyton mentagrophytes var. mentagorophytes, Trichophyton rubrum and Microsporum gypseum were 125mg/mL, which Microsporum canis was 62.5mg/mL. The inhibition was observed by means of light and scanning electron microscopy. The most prominent change seen was the morphology of the macroconidia which underwent structural degeneration beyond repair.[13] 

The methanol extracts of the leaves, flowers, stem and root barks of C. alata showed a range of antimicrobial activity against all the tested bacteria (Bacillus cereus, B. coagulans, B. megaterium, B. subtulis, Lactobacillus casei, Micrococcus luteus, M. roseus, Staphylococcus albus, S. aureus, S. epidermis, S. mutans, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Citrobacter freundii, Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Proteus mirabilis, P. vulgaris, Psedomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi, S. typhimurium and Serratia marcescens) and protozoan (Trichomonas vaginalis) in this study. The activity was increased on fractionation petrol, dichloromethane and ethyl acetate. The dichloromethane fraction of the flower extracts being the most effective. However, no extract and fraction showed any activity against fungi.[14] 

One study investigated the inhibitory effect of the crude extracts from some herbs on adherence of Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) ATCC 25175 and TPF-1 in vitro. Six herbs: Andrographis paniculata, Cassia alata, Camellia sinensis, Psidium guajava, Harrisonia perforata and Streblus asper, were extracted with 50 or 95 % ethanol and dried. All extracts, but Streblus asper, showed significant inhibitory effect on bacterial adherence to glass surface by the use of radiolabelled bacteria. Andrographis paniculata, Cassia alata, Camelia sinensis and Harrisonia perforata inhibited the adherence of S. mutans ATCC 25175 for the saliva-coated hydroxyapatite adherence assay. Camelia sinensis was the strongest inhibitor followed by Andrographis paniculata, Cassia alata and Harrisonia perforata, respectively. For S. mutans TPF-1, similar levels of adherence inhibition was observed with Andrographis paniculata and Cassia alata. These findings suggested that Andrographis paniculata, Cassia alata, Camelia sinensis and Harrisonia perforata could inhibit adherence of S. mutans ATCC 25175, while Andrographis paniculata and Cassia alata had an effect on S. mutans TPF-1.[15]

In the search for therapeutic agents from natural sources with potential for the treatment of opportunistic infections in patients afflicted with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the antibacterial and antifungal activities of water extracts of C. alata were investigated. The extracts are traditionally used in Ivory Coast, West Africa to treat bacterial infections caused by Escherichia coli and fungal infections caused by Candida albicans and dermatophytes. The hypothesis was that the extract may contain some active ingredient(s) that can be isolated, identified and developed into potential antibacterial / antifungal agents for the treatment of opportunistic infections in patients with AIDS. The broth dilution and agar dilution methods were used. The effectiveness of the extracts was evaluated relative to those of a standard antibacterial agent chloramphenicol and an antifungal agent amphotericin B. The MIC and minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) for the aqueous extract of C. alata against E. coli were 1.6mg/mL and 60mg/mL, respectively whereas, for chloramphenicol were 2mg/mL and 10mg/mL. The MIC and minimum fungicidal concentration (MFC) for the extract against C. albicans were 0.39mg/mL and 60mg/mL, respectively. The MIC and MFC for amphotericin B were 0.58mg/mL and 0.98mg/mL, respectively. From the dose-response curve plots, the extract had an IC50 of 31mg/mL for E. coli and 28mg/mL for C. albicans. The data suggest that although C. alata extracts have much higher MIC and MFC compared to the standard antibacterial agent chloramphenicol and antifungal agent amphotericin B, the extract may contain agent(s), which have therapeutic potential and might be useful if isolated and developed for the treatment of opportunistic infections of AIDS patients.[16]

Pityriasis versicolor is a common skin infection caused by the yeast Malassezia furfur (formerly termed Pityrosporum ovale). C. alata leaf extract has shown to to be reliable to use as a herbal medicine to treat the infection.[17]

Analgesic activity

The hexane, chloroform and ethyl acetate extracts of the leaves of C. alata were tested for their analgesic activity using the acetic acid-induced writhing test. At a dosage of 5mg/20g mouse, the hexane extract was analgesic as it reduced the number of squirms induced by acetic acid by 59.5%.[10]

Antihyperglycemic activity

The methanolic extract of C. alata leaves had no effect on glucose levels in normoglycemic rats, but it reduced the blood sugar levels in streptozotocin-induced hyperglycaemic rats.[18] 

The hexane, chloroform and ethyl acetate extracts of the leaves of C. alata were tested for their hypoglycaemic activity on male mice induced intraperitoneally with alloxan (150mg/kg). The ethyl acetate extract proved to be more effective antidiabetic than the known and commercially available glipizide. At a dosage of 5mg/20g mouse, it decreased the blood sugar level of mice by 58.3%.[10]

Hepatoprotective activity

A study was done on the petals of C. alata extracted using a mixture of formic acid, ethanol and water (1:10:9 v/v/v) (18). Effects of treatment with various concentrations of the extracts prior to treatment of rats with carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) were assessed. Crude extracts of petals in 0.5% ethanol were administered by gavage for 14 days prior to injection of 0.5mL/kg CCl4 into the rats. Serum aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels decreased significantly in rats treated with the extracts compared to the rats treated with CCl4 only, 18 hours after CCl4 administration. These findings suggest that pretreatment of rats for 14 days with C. alata may reverse the changes against hepatotoxin-induced liver damage in rats.[19]

Anti-inflammatory activity 

Anti-inflammatory activities of heat-treated C. alata leaf extract and kaempferol 3-O-gentiobioside (K3G) isolated from C. alata leaf were observed on the inhibitory effects on concanavalin A-induced histamine release from rat peritoneal exudate cells (4). The heat treated leaf extract exhibited strong inhibitory effects at low concentrations in the studies of concanavalin A-induced histamine release, 5-lipoxygenase inhibition, and inhibition of cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2), whereas K3G showed weak inhibitory effects on concanavalin A-induced histamine release, 5-lipoxygenase, and COX-1. K3G had little or no effect on COX-2.[4]

Choleretic effects

The choleretic activity of C. alata extract proved to be better than that of hydroxycyclohexenyl-butyrate (Hebucol), a synthetic choleretic, in rats.[20] This suggests that the extract at 15mg/kg may have the ability to control liver disease. However, at high doses, the plant tends to inhibit bile secretion.[20]


The acute and subacute toxicities of the hydro-ethanolic extract of the leaves of C. alata were determined in Swiss mice and Wistar albino rats. In the acute toxicity study, the mice showed some behavioral changes at 120 min after oral administration at 20g/kg of the extract but the signs disappeared after 24 h. No adverse changes were seen in mice treated with less than 12g/kg. The medium lethal dose (LD50) obtained was about 18.5g/kg of body weight. Thus, the aqueous ethanol extract of C. alata was considered to be of low toxicity. For the subacute toxicity study, the rats were treated per os with distilled water (control), 500 or 1000 mg/kg of extract every 48 h for 26 days. An increase in body weight was observed after 26 days of treatment. There are some variations in the biochemical indices of the serum and liver homogenates (glutathione, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST)), haematological parameters (platelet) and in the relative weight of heart of the female rats. The liver was of normal architecture histopathologically after treatment with the extract appearing to improve the liver architecture of the rats treated with C. alata extract.[7] 

The ethanolic extract of C. alata leaves and the pure compounds emodin, kaempferol, aloe-emodin and rhein were tested for toxic effects on rats. The ethanol extract and the pure compounds isolated from C. alata elicited slight hepatorenal toxicity due to the presence of the anthraquinones in the leaves.[22] 

The leaf and seed extracts of C. alata showed LC50 value of 5.29 ppm and 4.31 ppm, respectively when tested in the brine shrimp (Artemia salina) lethality bioassay. These findings suggested that the seed extract was more toxic to brine shrimp than the leaf extract but was comparable to the standard gallic acid (LC50=4.53 ppm).[23]

Genotoxicity and Mutagenicity Studies

Anthroquinone sennoside B and rhein of C. angustifolia and C. fistula showed weak genotoxicity when tested in vivo on the bone marrow cells of mice.[24] 

The hexane, chloroform and ethyl acetate extracts of the leaves of C. alata were tested for their antimutagenic effects. [10] The chloroform extract showed antimutagenic activity, at a dose of 2mg/20g mouse, with a 65.8% inhibition in the mutagenicity of tetracycline.[10]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

C. alata leaf extract was shown to be a reliable herbal medicine in the treatment of Pityriasis versicolor. A 10-year human study has been conducted to demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of the C. alata leaf extract against Pityriasis versicolor.[17]

Adverse Effects in Human:

Hypokalemia or hypocalcemia may occur with chronic use.[25]

Use in Certain Conditions

It should be used with caution in young children; or in patients with inflammatory bowel disease because of its laxative properties. It may cause mild abdominal discomfort such as colic or cramps.[25]

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

It should be avoided in children under the age of 12 due to its laxative properties.[21]


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation. However, due to its laxative properties, prolonged use should be avoided since it may result in diarrhoea with excessive loss of water and electrolytes, particularly potassium.

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

C. alata should be avoided by patients with known acute intestinal inflammation, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis and abdominal pain of unknown origin.



The sennosides are contra-indicated in cases of obstruction, acute intestinal inflammation, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis and abdominal pain of unknown origin.[25]

Case Reports

No documentation

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  1) Malaysian Herbal Plants


  1. Gilman, EF & Watson, DG. Cassia alata: Candlebrush. Fact Sheet ST-125 Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1993.
  2. Moriyama H, Iizuka T, Nagai M. A stabilized flavonoid glycoside in heat-treated Cassia alata and its structural elucidation. Yakugaku Zasshi. 121(7): 817-820, 2001.
  3. Moriyama H, Iizuka T, Nagai M, Hoshi K. Adenine, an inhibitor of platelet aggregation, from the leaves of Cassia alata. Biol Pharm Bull. 26(9):1361-4, 2003a.
  4. Moriyama H, Iizuka T, Nagai M, Miyataka H, Satoh T.. Antiinflammatory activity of heat-treated Cassia alata leaf extract and its flavonoid glycoside.Yakugaku Zasshi. 123(7):607-11, 2003b.
  5. Moriyama H, Iizuka T, Nagai M, Murata Y. HPLC quantification of kaempferol-3-O-gentiobioside in Cassia lata. Fitoterapia, 74: 425-430, 2003c.
  6. Elujoba AA, Ajulo OO, Iweibo GO. Chemical and biological analyses of Nigerian Cassia species for laxative activity. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 7(12):1453-7, 1989.
  7. Pieme, CA, Penlap, VN, Nkegoum, B, Taziebou, CL , Tekwu, EM, Etoa FX , Ngongang, J. Evaluation of acute and subacute toxicities of aqueous ethanolic extract of leaves of Senna alata (L.) Roxb (Ceasalpiniaceae). African J Biotech 5(3) : 283-289 , 2006.
  8. Palanichamy, S. and Nagarajan, S. Antifungal activity of Cassia alata leaf extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 29: 337-340, 1990.
  9. Ajose, FOA. Some Nigerian plants of dermatologic importance. Int J Dermatol, 46(1): 48-55.
  10. Villasenor IM, Canlas AP, Pascua MPI, Sabando MN, Soliven, LA. Bioactivity studies on studies on Cassia alata Linn. leaf extract. Phytother Res. 16: 93-96, 2002.
  11. Somchit MN, Reezal I, Elysha Nur I, Mutalib AR. In vitro antimicrobial activity of ethanol and water extracts of Cassia alata. J Ethnopharmacol, 84(1) 1-4, 2003.
  12. Makinde, AA, Igoli, JO, Ta’Ama, L, Shaibu, SJ, Garba, A. Antimicrobial activity of Cassia alata African J Biotech 6(13): 1509-1510, 2007.
  13. Ibrahim D. and Osman H. Antimicrobial activity active of Cassia alata from Malaysia. J Ethnopharmacol. 45: 151-156, 1995
  14. Khan MR, Kihara M, and Omoloso AD. Antimicrobial activity of Cassia alata. Fitoterapia. 72(5):561-4, 2001.
  15. Limsong J, Benjavongkulchai E, and Kuvatanasuchati J. Inhibitory effect of some herbal extracts on adherence of Streptococcus mutans. J Ethnopharmacol. 92(2-3):281-9, 2004.
  16. Crockett CO, Guede-Guina F, Pugh D, Vangah-Manda M, Robinson TJ, Olubadewo JO, and Ochillo RF. Cassia alata and the preclinical search for therapeutic agents for the treatment of opportunistic infections in AIDS patients. Cell Mol Biol 38(7):799-802, 1992.
  17. Damodaran S. and Venkataraman S. A study on the therapeutic efficacy of Cassia alata, Linn. Leaf extract against Pityriasis versicolor. J Ehtnopharmacol. 42: 19-23, 1994.
  18. Palanichamy S, Nagarajan S, and Devasagayam M. Effect of Cassia alata leaf extract on hyperglycemic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 22(1):81-90, 1988.
  19. Wegwu, MO, Ayalogu, EO, Sule, O. Antioxidant protective effects of Cassia alata in rats exposed to carbon tetrachloride. J Appl Environ Mgt. 9(3): 77-80, 2005.
  20. Assane M, Traore, M, Bassene, E, Sere, A. Choleretic effects of Cassia alata Linn in rat. Dakar Med 38(1): 73-77, 1993 [Article in French]
  21. Cassia alata Linn. Database on Important Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Accessed
  22. Yagi, SM, El Tigani, S, Adam, SEI. Toxicity of Senna obtusifolia fresh and fermented leaves (kawal), Senna alata leaves and some products from Senna alata on rats. Phytother Res. 12(5): 324-330, 1998.
  23. Awal, MA, NaharA, Shamim Hossain, M, Bari, MA, Rahman, M, Haque, ME. Brine shrimp toxicity of leaf and seed extracts of Cassia alata Linn. and their antibacterial potency. J Med Sci. 4(3): 188-193, 2004.
  24. Mukhopadhyay, MJ, Saha, A, Dutta, A, De, B, Mukherjee, B. Genotoxicity of sennosides on the bone marrow cells of mice. Food Chem Toxicol 36: 937-940, 1998.
  25. WHO. Monographs on selected medicinal plants. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland,1: 241-249, 1999.

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