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Acanthus illicifolius L.


Dilivaria ilicifolia, Juss., Acanthus neo-guineensis, Aquifolium indicum Rumph

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Jeruju Putih
Indonesia:  Jeruju (Java & Bali); Gali-gali (Makasar)
Thailand:  Nguak pla maw [1]

General Information


Acanthus illicifolius is a strictly mangrove plant of the Acanthaceae family. It is a low sprawling or somewhat vine-like herb, scarcely woody and can grow up to 2 m height. The axes initially are erect but tend to recline with age; branching is infrequent and commonly seen in the older parts. The aerial roots tend to appear from the lower surface of the reclining stems. The leaves are decussating and have a pair of spines at their insertion. They are glabrous, gradually tapering below, either broadly lanceolate with entire margins or more usually with a sinuous, spiny margin. The apex is broadly tridentate including an apical spine. Major spines are seen at the end of leaf lobes horizontal or erect; minor spines between major lobes erect. The inflorescences are terminal spikes measuring 10-20 cm long extending with age. The flowers are in four ranks, numbering up to 20 pairs, the bract below each flower is 5 mm long or shorter, often caducous; with 2 lateral bracteoles, conspicuous and persistent. The flowers are perfect; calyx 4-lobes, the upper lobe conspicuous and enclosing the flower in bud, the lower lobe somewhat smaller; lateral calyx lobes narrow, wholly enclosed by upper and lower sepal. The corolla is a zygomorphic, at least 3 cm long with a short tube closed by basal hairs; abaxial lip broadly 3-lobed to entire, adaxial lobes absent. There are 4 stamens, subequal, with thick hairy connectives, anthers medifixed, each with 2 cells, aggregated around the style. The ovary bilocular, with 2 superposed ovules in each loculus, style enclosed by stamens, the capitates to pointed stigma exposed. The fruit is a capsule measures 2-3 cm long and 1 cm wide, usually with 4 rugose angular seeds measuring about 1 cm long with delicate testa and wrinkled is whitish green. [2]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, fruit and roots [2]

Chemical Constituents

Octacosyl alcohol, stigmasterol, benzoxazoline-2-one, stigmasteryl-b-D-glucopyranoside, acancifoliuside, acteoside, isoacteroside, acanthaminoside, (+)-lyoniresinol 3a-o-b-glucopyranoside, (-)-lyoniresinol and a-amyrin.

Traditional Use:

The dwellers of the mangrove region used this plant to treat various inflammatory conditions including infected wounds, abscesses and rheumatism. The leaves are used in most cases whether in the form of a poultice or fomentation and at times in decoction. Amongst the Malays of Peninsular Malaysia, the fruit pulp is considered as a blood purifier and for the treatment of abscesses. [1] 

Fomentation of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism and neuralgia as well as allied pain due to poisoned arrow. The fruit pulp, shoots or roots has been used to treat snakebites by various societies living in the vicinity of mangrove swamps. The young leaves are boiled with the bark of Cinnamomum culilawan as a remedy for flatulence. The juice of the leaves is used as hair preserver. [1][2]

Pre-Clinical Data


Anticancer activity:

A study on evaluated tumour reducing and anticarcinogenic activity of extracts of A. ilicifolius reported that the alcoholic extract of A. ilicifolius was effective in controlling tumour progression and inhibiting carcinogenisis of induced papilloma formation in mice. The extract showed cytotoxic activity against lung fibroblast cells and Ehrlich’s ascites carcinoma (EAC) cells. [3][4] 

Anti-inflammatory activity:

The methanolic fraction of A. illicifolius leaf was found to significantly inhibit oedema of rat paw induced by carrageenan when given before and after carrageenan. It also reduced protein exudation and leucocyte migration in the peritoneal fluid effectively inhibiting peritoneal inflammation, inhibit COX (1 and 2) and 5-LOX activity, and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF alpha and IL-6). [5] 

Anti-oxidant activity:

It was found that the alcoholic extract of A. illicifolius leaves inhibited the formation of oxygen derived free radicals (ODFR) in vitro. The methanolic fraction of A. ilicifolius leaf extract was found to have significant free radical scavenging activity (DPPH, ABTS, superoxide and hydroxyl radical). Upon intraperitoneal administration it was found that it augmented the endogenous antioxidant status. [5][6] 

Hepatoprotective activity:

Oral administration of alcoholic extract of A. illicifolius leaves was seen to significantly reduce carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced hepatotoxicity in rats, as judged from the serum and tissue activity of marker enzymes: glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT), glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). [6] 

Osteoblastic activity:

The methanolic extract of leaves of A. illicifolius contained acancifoliuside, acteoside, isoacteroside, acanthaminoside, (+)-lyoniresinol 3a-o-b-glucopyranoside, (-)-lyoniresinol and a-amyrin. Acteoside, isoacteoside and (+)-lyoniresinol 3a-O-β-glucopyranoside was found to increase the growth and differentiation of osteoblasts significantly. [7]


No documentation

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. I.H. Burkill A Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Kuala Lumpur 1966 Vol. 1 pg. 27 – 28.
  2. Kathy MacKinnon The ecology of Kalimantan, Volume 3. Periplus Editions (HK.) Ltd, Hong Kong 1996 pg. 512.
  3. Babu BH, Shylesh BS, Padikkala J. Tumour reducing and anticarcinogenic activity of Acanthus ilicifolius in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Jan;79(1):27-33.
  4. Chakraborty T, Bhuniya D, Chatterjee M, Rahaman M, Singha D, Chatterjee BN, Datta S, Rana A, Samanta K, Srivastawa S, Maitra SK, Chatterjee M. Acanthus ilicifolius plant extract prevents DNA alterations in a transplantable Ehrlich ascites carcinoma-bearing murine model. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Dec 28;13(48):6538-48.
  5. Mani Senthil Kumar KT, Gorain B, Roy DK, Zothanpuia, Samanta SK, Pal M, Biswas P, Roy A, Adhikari D, Karmakar S, Sen T. Anti-inflammatory activity of Acanthus ilicifolius. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Oct 30;120(1):7-12. Epub 2008 Jul 25.
  6. Babu BH, Shylesh BS, Padikkala J. Antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect of Acanthus ilicifolius. Fitoterapia. 2001 Mar; 72(3):272-7.
  7. Phan Van Kiem, Tran Hong Quang, Tran Thu Huong, Le Thi Hong Nhung, Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Chau Van Minh, Eun Mi Choi and Young Ho Kim Chemical constituents of Acanthus ilicifolius L. and effect on osteoblastic MC3T3E1 cells Archives of Pharmacal Research July, 2008 Volume 31(7): 823-829.

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