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Boerhaavia diffusa


Boerhaavia diffusa


Boerhaavia repens

Vernacular Name

Aluka, Punarnava, Pig Weed, Tar Vine, Horse Purslane.


Boerhaavia diffusa is a prostrate herb found growing in tropical, wet areas, mostly during rainy seasons. The creeping, hairy and sometimes purplish stems yield small red or white flowers. The leaves of this plant are smooth and oblong or cordite in shape.

Origin / Habitat

B. diffusa is used in traditional medicinal systems throughout tropical climates of the world. Medicinal use dates back thousands of years in India. It should be noted that a few studies have found that the plant is most effective, medically, when harvested in the month of May [1][2].

B. diffusa needs full sunlight in order to flourish. It can withstand droughts although it prefers a moist soil.

Chemical Constituents

Beta-sitosterol, chlorides, chlorates, hentriacontane, nitrates, potassium nitrate, Punarnavine, sulfates, ursolic acid [4], beta-ecdysone, boeravine, boeravinones, flavons, hypoxanthine-9-L-arabinofuranoside, liridoderdin, punarnavoside, syringaresinol mono Beta-D-glucoside [4].

Plant Part Used

Whole Plant [3].

Traditional Use

Virtually all parts of B. diffusa plant are used in some form or another for numerous applications throughout Africa. In Nigeria, B. diffusa is used as rabbit food [1].The roots have been used in order to treat dysentery [5], jaundice, and ulcers [5].  In these cases, either a root decoction, or the boiled root itself is ingested. The root sap has also been used externally to treat sore throat and some burns [5]. The roots and leaves are considered to be a febrifuge.  In large doses B. diffusa has been used as an emetic [6]. In cases of stomach cramp or heartburn, the leaves are taken with small amounts of calcium and palm oil [7]. The whole plant has been used as a diuretic, which has been useful in cases of jaundice, enlarged spleen, gonorrhea, and general internal inflammation. 

B. diffusa has been used by some African traditional medical systems in order to treat several maladies which affect pregnant women. In order to hasten childbirth, the whole plant of B. diffusa has been boiled, and the water in which the plant has steeped is drunk. In order to achieve the same effect, the root has been eaten and leaf maceration has been ingested. In southern Sudan, the roots are used to prepare an umbilical cord to be severed [5].

The sap of B. diffusa has been used externally for a variety of treatments. In the Ivory Coast, the leaves are dried, and the powder has been applied to the chest to treat asthma.



B. diffusa is presently being studied for its potential role in diabetes and liver disorders. Numerous laboratory and animal studies have proven the efficacy of B. diffusa as a hypoglycemic [1][8][9]. This is probably due to its regenerative actions upon Beta-cells in the pancreas [10]. One study suggested that the effect of B. diffusa on blood glucose was comparable to glibenclamide [8].  

B. diffusa has been used to treat hepatic disorders for thousands of years. Today there are many studies that verify this claim. One animal study evaluated the effect of B. diffusa on rats with ethanol-induced liver damage. The liver damage consisted of increased levels of cholesterol, free fatty acids and triglycerides in the liver and kidneys, all of which were reversed after treatment with Aluka [11]. Additional studies have confirmed the usage of B. diffusa as a hepatoprotective [2] with no signs of toxicity [12].

B. diffusa also may play a role in cancer treatment.  Animal studies have shown the effectiveness of using B. diffusa as both a chemopreventive in mice [13] and radioprotective in mice [14].

Animal studies have also confirmed the effectiveness of B. diffusa as a dermatological antifungal.  These studies show that treatment decreases the growth of various species of fungus from the Microsporum genus [15][16]. Additional research has indicated that Aluka, particularly the chemical Punarnavine, has the ability to inhibit the metastasis of certain melanomas in mice [17][18][19].

In other research settings animal and preclinical studies have showed that B. diffusa exhibits spasmolytic [20][21],  analgesic [22], and immunomodulatory [23] activity.


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, B. diffusa should not be used by those taking medications for blood sugar regulation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

B. diffusa is generally considered safe when used as directed.


Not to be used by those taking medication for hepatic disorders as this herb may alter treatment outcomes.


Not to be used by pregnant and nursing women.

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Western Herb

  3) South Central America Herbs

  4) Ayuverda


  1. Chude MA, Orisakwe OE, Afonne OJ, Gamaniel KS, Vongtau OH, Obi E.  Hypoglycaemic effect of the aqueous extract of Boerhavia diffuse leaves.  Ind J Pharmacol. 2001;33:215-216.
  2. Rawat AK, Mehrotra S, Tripathi SC, Shome U. Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. roots--a popular Indian ethnomedicine. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar. 1997;56(1):61-66.
  3. Kapoor, LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2001.
  4. Premila, M.S. Ayurvedic Herbs: A Clinical Guide to the Healing Plants of Traditional Indian Medicine. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press; 2006.
  5. Neuwinger HD. African Traditional Medicine: A Dictionary of Plant Use and Applications. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Gmbh Scientific Publishers; 2000.
  6. Schmeltzer GH, Gurib-Fakim A, AGROOH. Medicinal Plants 1. Wageningen, Netherlands; Plant Resources of Tropical Africa; 2008.
  7. Adjanohoun EJ. Contributions aux Études Éthnobotaniques et Florisitque au Niger. Paris, FR: Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique; 1988.
  8. Pari L, Amarnath Satheesh M. Antidiabetic activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L.: effect on hepatic key enzymes in experimental diabetes. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar. 2004;91(1):109-113.
  9. Satheesh MA, Pari L. Antioxidant effect of Boerhavia diffusa L. in tissues of alloxan induced diabetic rats. Indian J Exp Biol. Oct. 2004;42(10):989-992.
  10. N. Koteswara Rao, MM. Annapurna, Boini KM, S. Nammi. Antidiabetic Activity of Boerhaavia diffusa L. Leaf Extract in Streptozotocin-Induced IDDM Model Rats. Asia Pacific Journal of Pharmacology. 2004;16:67–70.
  11. Devaki T., Shivashangari K. S., Ravikumar  V., Govindaraju P. Hepatoprotective activity of Boerhavia diffusa on ethanol-induced liver damage in rats. J  Nat Rem. 2004;4(2).
  12. Chandan BK, Sharma AK, Anand KK. Boerhaavia diffusa: a study of its hepatoprotective activity. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar. 1991;31(3):299-307.
  13. Bharali R, Azad MR, Tabassum J. Chemopreventive action of Boerhaavia diffusa on DMBA-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. Oct. 2003;47(4):459-464.
  14. Manu KA, Leyon PV, Kuttan G. Studies on the protective effects of Boerhaavia diffusa L. against gamma radiation induced damage in mice. Integr Cancer Ther. Dec. 2007;6(4):381-388.
  15. Agrawal A, Srivastava S, Srivastava MM. Antifungal activity of Boerhavia diffusa against some dermatophytic species of Microsporum. Hindustan Antibiot Bull. Feb. 2003-Nov. 2004;45-46(1-4):1-4.
  16. Agrawal A, Srivastava S, Srivastava JN, Srivastava MM. Inhibitory effect of the plant Boerhavia diffusa l. against the dermatophytic fungus Microsporum fulvum. J Environ Biol. Jul.  2004;25(3):307-311.
  17. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Anti-metastatic potential of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa Linn. Immunobiology. Dec. 5, 2008. [Epub ahead of print]
  18. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Boerhaavia diffusa stimulates cell-mediated immune response by upregulating IL-2 and downregulating the pro-inflammatory cytokines and GM-CSF in B16F-10 metastatic melanoma bearing mice. J Exp Ther Oncol. 2008;7(1):17-29.
  19. Manu KA, Kuttan G. Effect of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa, on cell-mediated immune responses and TIMP-1 in B16F-10 metastatic melanoma-bearing mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2007;29(3-4):569-586.
  20. Borrelli F, Ascione V, Capasso R, Izzo AA, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O. Spasmolytic effects of nonprenylated rotenoid constituents of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. J Nat Prod. Jun.  2006;69(6):903-906.
  21. Borrelli F, Milic N, Ascione V, Capasso R, Izzo AA, Capasso F, Petrucci F, Valente R, Fattorusso E, Taglialatela-Scafati O. Isolation of new rotenoids from Boerhaavia diffusa and evaluation of their effect on intestinal motility. Planta Med. Oct. 2005;71(10):928-932.
  22. Hiruma-Lima CA, Gracioso JS, Bighetti EJ, Germonsén Robineou L, Souza Brito AR. The juice of fresh leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa L. (Nyctaginaceae) markedly reduces pain in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul. 2000;71(1-2):267-274.
  23. Mehrotra S, Mishra KP, Maurya R, Srimal RC, Singh VK. Immunomodulation by ethanolic extract of Boerhaavia diffusa roots. Int Immunopharmacol. Jun. 2002;2(7):987-996.

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