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Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex Correa


Hibiscus bacciferus J.G. Forster, Thespesia macrophylla Blume, Malvaviscus populneus (L.) Gaertn.

Vernacular Names:


Baru, baru-baru, bebaru, baru laut, waru, buah keras laut, tebawan [1]

English: Portia tree, Pacific rosewood [2]
Tamil: Cheelanthi [2]
Hindi: Bhendi, gajadanda [2]
Indonesia: Baru laut, waru laut [2]
Javanese: Waru laut [1]
Thaialand: Pho thale [2]

General Information


Thespesia populnea is a small tree and a member of Malvaceae family. It is found all around tropical Asia, Africa and West Indies. Besides, it is common in the coastal forests of peninsular Malaysia. [1]

Plant Part Used

Fruit, seed, leaf, peduncle, bark, flower, wood. [1]

Chemical Constituents

Four naturally occurring quinones; mansonone D, mansonone H, thespone, and thespesone were extracted from the heartwood of T. Populnea. [3]

A paper reported the isolation of sesquiterpene quinones; thespesenone and dehydrooxoperezinone-6-methyl ether for the first time in nature from the red heartwood of Thespesia populnea. Other constituents isolated are 7-hydroxycadalene, and the sesquiterpene quinones: mansonone D, mansonone E, mansonone F, mansonone G, mansonone M, and thespesone. [4]

Other chemical constituents include: β-Sitosterol, ceryl alcohol, epoxyoleic acid, gossypetin, gossypol, herbacetin, kaempferol, kaempferol-3-monoglucoside, kaempferol-7-glucoside, linoleic acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, populneol, populnin, quercetin, stearic acid, thespesin, saponins and tannins. [5]

Traditional Use:

Malays use the mixture of the extracted fruit with pounded leaves as a poultice to relieve headache and pruritus. In the Philippine Islands, the extract of the fruit is used to relieve pruritus while the Indians use the fruit itself. The yellowish extract from the young fruit is used to treat insect bites, gonorrhoea, migraine, headache, fistula, psoriasis, scabies, tinea and warts. [1]

The seeds are used to treat scabies and other skin disorders. In India, the seeds are used as a laxative. An application of the seeds or leaves is rubbed onto swollen joints. [1]

The extract from the peduncles is used to treat centipede stings as well as to address various skin disorders. [1]

The bark is used to treat dysentery and haemorrhoids. A decoction of the bark and perhaps an application of the flowers are used to relieve pruritus. [1]

The wood is used to treat cholera and pleurisy. [1]

Pre-Clinical Data


Anti-implantation activity

A preliminary study reports a significant anti-implantation activity of two different groups of fatty acids present in the petroleum-ether (C-1) and ethyl acetate (C-2) extracts of seeds of T. populnea. The autopsy on day 10 revealed that all the control rats were pregnant and had a normal number of implantations. On treatment with C-1, it was found that the number of implants on uteri horns decreased as the doses increased from 50 to 110 mg/kg (60% inhibition). The similar inhibitory activity occurred in the case of C-2 (48.6% inhibition) in a dose dependent pattern. Further work is needed for establishing the mechanism of antifertility action. [6]


Anti-oxidant activity

A study has been undertaken to investigate the anti-oxidant activity of aqueous and methanolic extracts of T. populnea bark in CCl4-intoxicated liver injury in rats. The extracts exhibited significant activity showing increased levels of glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase, glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase and catalase, and decreased level of lipid peroxidation. [7]


Wound healing activity

The effects of the treatment with an aqueous extract of T. populnea fruits on the open wounds and restructured incision wounds in rats were studied. The results show that the topical administration of 50 mg/rat extract possesses a good wound healing activity, with healing process accelerated by 79.17% at day 8, and the epithelization time reduced from 24.33 to 19.17 days. Furthermore, the scar area was reduced from 55.83 to 37.51 mm2. When treated orally with a dose of 200 mg/kg, daily for 10 days, the tensile strength of the wounds was significantly increased from 279.52 to 467.43 g. [8]

Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity

The ethanolic extract of T. populnea bark (TPE) was investigated for its potential as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic at doses of 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg body weight.   The anti-inflammatory activities were evaluated by both acute and chronic inflammation models. The acetic acid-induced writhing response and formalin-induced paw licking time in mice were used to assess analgesic activity. The result indicates that TPE (200 and 400 mg/kg, p.o.) and indomethacin could protect against the carrageenan-induced acute inflammation. The treatment with TPE (200 and 400 mg/kg, p.o.) produced a significant and dose-dependent inhibition in abdominal writhes produced by acetic acid. [9]

Cognitive functions, total cholesterol levels and cholinesterase activity

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a genetically heterogenous neurodegenerative disorder and is the most common form of dementia among older people. AD is also associated with aphasia, apraxia and agnosia, with loss of memory being the fundamental symptom. Several studies have shown a strong connection between high cholesterol and high incidence of AD. A recent study was undertaken to investigate the effects of T. populnea bark on cognitive functions, total cholesterol levels and cholinesterase activity in mice.  The ethanolic extract of T. populnea (TPE) bark was used in the experiments involving 312 male, albino mice made up of young mice (3-4 months old) and the aged mice (12-15 months old). The plant extract TPE was suspended in gum acacia and administered orally in mice. It was observed that T. populnea extract lowered serum cholesterol in mice, inhibited acetylcholinesterase enzyme, thereby increasing acetylcholine concentration in brain homogenate, and ultimately improved memory of both young and aged mice. This combination of anticholinesterase, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering effects and memory improving property of the T. populnea bark, it appears to have the potential in the management of AD. [10]


T. populnea extract did not produce any mortality even when administered orally at the highest dose of 2000 mg/kg in Swiss mice. [9]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Use 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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  1)  Botanical Info


    1. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. 2002; 2:386-387.
    2. accessed on 14 June 2007.
    3. Inbaraj,J.J., Gandhidasan,R. & Murugesan, R. Cytotoxicity and superoxide anion generation by some naturally occurring quinones. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 1999; 26:1072-8.
    4. Puckhaber, L.S. & Stipanovic, R.D. Thespesenone and Dehydrooxoperezinone-6-methyl Ether, New Sesquiterpene Quinones from Thespesia populnea. J. Nat. Prod., 2004; 67:1571-3.
    5. Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases.
    6. Ghosh, K. & Bhattacharya, T.K. Preliminary study on the antiimplantation activity of compounds from the extracts of seeds of Thespesia populnea. Indian J. Pharmacol. 2004; 36:288-91.
    7. Ilavarasan, R. et al. Antioxidant activity of Thespesia populnea bark extracts against carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury in rats. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2003; 87:227-30.
    8. Nagappa, A.N. & Cheriyan, B. Wound healing activity of the aqueous extract of Thespesia populnea fruit. Fitoterapia. 2001; 72:503-6.
    9. Vasudevan, M., Gunnam, K.K. & Parle, M. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Thespesia populnea bark extract. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2007; 109:264-70.
    10. Vasudevan, M. & Parle, M. Pharmacological actions of Thespesia populnea relevant to Alzheimer’s disease. Phytomedicine. 2006; 13:677-87.

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