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Justicia gendarussa Burm. f. (Acanthaceae)


Gendarussa vulgaris Bojer, Gendarussa vulgaris Nees [1] 

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Daun Rusa (Malay), Tambiau, Sibangun (Kadazandusun), Gander Rusa (Selakau), Pinyingoh (Bidayuh), Urok Tulang Bunang (Kayan), Udu Tulang Sa'ai (Kenyah) [2][3]
Brunei: Sarimbangun Hitam
Phillipines: Kapanitulot (Tagalog)
Tamil: Karunochchi
Sinhala: Kalu-weraniya

General Information


Justicia gendarussa is a native plant of China but is found wild or cultivated in Sri Lanka, India, Malaya (Malaysia), the Phillipines. [4] It is commonly found along streams at low and medium altitudes in both secondary and primary forests or sometimes in thickets in town areas.  It is also rarely planted.

J. gendarussa is a shade loving, quick growing, erect, branched and evergreen shrub by measuring 0.6-1.2m in height. The leaves are simple, opposite, lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, acute at base, tapering into rounded apex and glabrous and shining leaves (8-12.5cm long, 1.2-2cm broad) with prominent purple veins beneath.  The stem is quadrangular, thickened at and above the nodes and internodes measure 2-7cm long.  The flowers are in terminal or axillary spikes and are irregular, bisexual, sessile, white with pink or purple spots inside and red in the throat and lip. [4]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, twigs. [2][3][7]

Chemical Constituents

The leaves of J. gendarussa contains of alkaloids, flavonoids, saturated steroidal saponins or triterpinoidal saponins, amino acids, aromatic amines, and are rich in potassium salts. [4] The leaves also contain 2-amino benzyl alcohol, 2(2'-amino benzyl amino) benzyl alchol, and their respective 0-methyl ethers, friedelin, lupeol, and β-sitosterol. [5][6]

Traditional Use:

The fresh leaves of J. gendarussa are pounded into a paste, warmed and rubbed or applied onto the affected area which is then bandaged to ease muscle pains, broken/fractured bone, muscle sprains and cuts or added to coconut oil to treat boils. [2][3][7] The young leaves are boiled to make a drink or used as a bath to treat lumbago and for aphrodisiac purposes.  A decoction of the twigs is used as a herbal bath during childbirth.  The leaves are used in Vietnamese folk medicine as a poultice to treat rheumatism and arthritis. [2] For use as an antidote to drunkenness and food poisoning, the leaves are boiled to make a drink or the fresh leaves are eaten regularly. [3]

In Sri Lanka traditional medicine, the leaves of J. gendarussa are used as an analgesic to treat hemiplegia, rheumatism, arthritis, headache and earache. [4] It is used in India for the treatment of chronic rheumatism, cephalalgia, cough, and bronchitis.[5]

In the West Indies, a decoction of the plant is used as a bath to treat haemorrhoids and fever. [8] In Brazil, it is used to treat pains, fever, and for the treatment of diseases of magical-religious origin. [9]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antinociceptive activity

The aqueous leaf extract of J. gendarussa (1500, 2000 and 3000mg/kg p.o.) showed a moderate and dose-dependent antinociceptive activity in the hot plate but not in the tail flick test. The antinociceptive effect had a rapid onset (2h) and was of 2-4h duration.  However, in comparison to morphine, the antinociceptive effect of J. gendarussa leaf extract was weaker by 2-5 folds.  The antinociceptive activity of the leaf extract was probably mediated via opioid receptors as it was blocked by naloxone (1.5mg/kg, i.p.), an opioid receptor antagonist but there was no evidence of involvement of cholinergic mechanisms or dopaminergic mechanisms.  Its effectiveness in the hot plate test indicated that antinociception by the leaf extract was mediated centrally at the supraspinal level, therefore, it may be effective against phasic transient pain.  [4]

The leaf extract (3000mg/kg) also suppressed both phases of the formalin test of nociception indicating that it was effective against both neurogenic and continuous inflammatory pain even of peripheral origin.  Its ineffectiveness in the tail flick test showed that the antinociception that was induced by the leaf extract was not mediated spinally as the tail flick test predominantly measures spinal reflexes.  These findings showed that the leaf extract has the potential to be used as a safe and economical oral therapeutic agent for mild to moderate pains.  The strong antioxidant activity of the extract may have also contibuted to its antinociceptive activity. [4]

Antioxidant activity

The aqueous leaf extract of J. gendarussa showed a dose-dependent anti-oxidant activity which was comparable to those of butylated hydroxytoulene, ascorbic acid and vitamin E in the thiobarbituric acid reactive substances assay which was based on fowl egg yolk. [4]

Immunosuppresive activity

The methanol extract of J. gendarussa (100µg/mL) produced a significant decrease in mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation which suggests that it affected T-cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. The methanol extract produced a maximum inhibition of 85%.  A low concentration of the aqueous extract (50µg/mL) showed a strong immunosuppressive effect on mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes. [5]

Antiviral activity

The crude water extract of the aerial parts of J. gendarussa (200µg/mL) strongly inhibited HIV type 1 reverse transcriptase activity in vitro eliciting 90.75% inhibition ratio while the ethanol extract elicited 16.82% inhibition ratio. [10] In this assay, doxorubicin hydrochloride (1mM) was used as the positive control, it inhibited HIV-1 reverse transcriptase activity by 98.3%.


The subchronic (21 days) treatment of rats with the aqueous leaf extract of J. gendarussa (3000mg/kg p.o.) did not produce any overt signs of toxicity, stress or aversive behaviours. There were no changes in the haemotological parameters or in the serum enzyme levels of glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT), glutamic-pyruvate transaminase (SGPT), creatinine and urea indicating no hepatic, renal or haemotoxicities.  The leaf extract also did not produce changes in the rectal temperature or the body weight [4]

Genotoxicities and Mutagenicity Studies

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Use in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

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. MMPND.  Sorting Justicia names.
  2. Ahmad F B. and Holdsworth D K.  Medicinal Plants of Sabah, East Malaysia - Part I.  Pharmaceutical Biology, 41:5, 340-346, 2003.
  3. Sarawak Forestry.
  4. Ratnasooriya WD, Deraniyagala SA, Dehigaspitiya DC. Antinociceptive activity and toxicological study of aqueous leaf extract of Justicia gendarussa Burm. F. in rats.  Pharmacognosy Magazine, 3(11): 145-155, 2007.
  5. Arokiyaraj S, Perinbam K, Agastian P, Balaraju K.  Immunosuppressive effect of medicinal plants of Kolli hills on mitogen-stimulated proliferation of the human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 39(4): 180-183, 2007.
  6. Herrera-Mata H, Rosas-Romero A, Oscar, CV.  Biological Activity of "Sanguinaria" (Justicia secunda) Extracts'.  Pharmaceutical Biology, 40:3, 206- 212, 2002.
  7. Kulip, Unchi, Majawat.
  8. Gurib-Fakim A, Sewraj MD, Gueho J and Dulloo E.  Medicinal Plants of Rodrigues.  Pharmaceutical Biology, 34(1): 2-14, 1996.
  9. De Albuquerque UP, Monteiro JM, Ramos MA, de Amorim ELC.  Medicinal and magic plants from a public market in northeastern Brazil.  Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 110(1): 76-91, 2007.
  10. Woradulayapinij W, Soonthornchareonnon N, Wiwat C.  In vitro HIV type 1 reverse transcriptase inhibitory activities of Thai medicinal plants and Canna indica L. rhizomes.  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 101: 84-89, 2005.

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