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Rubia cordifolia


Rubia cordifolia


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Kifundo, Ukakaka, Kifundo, Lalessa, Rubia, Bengal Madder, Madderwort, Aromatic Madder, Indian Madder


Rubia cordifolia is a perennial climber found throughout Asiatic and African regions of the world up to an altitude of 2500m. The long, slender, grooved vines can grow to a length of several metres yield glabrous, cordate or ovate leaves. The vine yields small white flowers and spherical dark-purple or black fruit.

Origin / Habitat

R.cordifolia thrives in a neutral soil and partial sunlight. This plant is native to warm areas such as South America, Africa and southern Asia.

Chemical Constituents

Quinones: anthraquinone glycosides including rubiadin, I-hydroxy 2-methoxy anthraquinone, 3-dimethoxy 2-carboxy anthraquinone. Rubiprasin A, B, C, ruiearbonols, aborane triterpenoids. Mangistin, alizarin, garancin, mollugin, furomollugin [1][2][3][4].

Plant Part Used

Root [5].

Traditional Use

R. cordifolia has been used throughout Central and Eastern Africa for a variety of applications. R. cordifolia is thought to be very effective as a treatment for gastrointestinal maladies. In order to treat general stomach pain, a decoction of the roots is ingested [5] In Uganda and Tanzania the leaves are used to treat general gastric debility as well as diarrhea [6]. A popular application in Zimbabwe in order to treat diarrhea is to pulverise  R. cordifolia root and then ingest the pulp [7].

Another popular and purportedly effective role of R. cordifolia is that of being beneficial to the reproductive organs of both men and women. In South Africa, the juice of the root or the raw root itself has been used in order to treat impotence. The plant itself is thought to have strong aphrodisiac properties [6]. The root of R. cordifolia is a primary ingredient in a root cocktail used in order to treat hyrdocele [8]. Sap from the entire R. cordifolia plant is used in enema form to treat numerous sexually transmitted diseases, specifically Gonorrhea [9]. In women, R. cordifolia is thought to be effective in assisting pregnancy and reducing the uteral pain and leakage [8] In order to reduce scarring of the umbilical cord after birth, the whole R. cordifolia plant is decocted, and bathed in. This usage primarily occurs in Uganda [10].

Numerous other applications of R. cordifolia include that of a respiratory aide, cough suppressant [11],hepatoprotective [11], and poison antidote [6].



Current research has investigated the important role of R. cordifolia in cancer prevention and treatment.  Numerous laboratory and animal studies have reviewed and confirmed its cytotoxic activity in some cancers [12][13][14].  It has been identified that R. cordifolia also could be used to inhibit topoisomerase [12].

R. cordifolia has also displayed radioprotective activity. An animal study found that R. cordifolia reduced lipid peroxidation induced by radiation as well as reduced hemopoietic injury and genotoxicity [15].

R. cordifolia has also displayed notable antioxidant activity [16]. The antioxidant behavior is comparable to or better than Vitamin E and EDTA [17]. The antioxidant activity of R. cordifolia was found to be in the form of regulating glutathione oxidation [18]. In laboratory analysis, it also demonstrated a reduction in lipid peroxidation through a direct interaction with iron [19].

Studies have also demonstrated the role of R. cordifolia as an effective treatment for various hepatic disorders [20]. R. cordifolia has been the subject of laboratory studies on Hepatitis B, as it inhibits secretion of the Hepatitis B surface antigen [21]. This may be due to the activity of R. cordifolia as both an antimicrobial [22] and an antiviral [21].

In an animal model, R. cordifolia has also been shown to demonstrate antistress properties, reduced blood sugar, the occurrence of ulcer, as well as reduced corticosterone levels [23]. An animal model also suggests that R. cordfiolia may enhance GABA levels in the brain [24].


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used by those with kidney or liver disease. Based on pharmacology this herb should not be used by those being treated for Hepatitis B unless directed and monitored by a physician.

Not to be used by individuals with seizure disorders.

Not to be used with any medications used to treat or affecting the kidneys or liver.


Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Western Herbs

  3) Ayuverda


  1. Gupta PP, Srimal RC, Verma N, Tandon JS. Biological Activity of Rubia cordifolia and Isolation of an Active Principle. Pharmaceutical Biology. 1999;37(1):46-49.
  2. Kannan M, Ranjit A, Narayanan M. Phytochemistry and Ethanopharmacological Studies on Rubia cordifolia Linn. (Rubiaceae). Ethnobotanical Leaflets 2009;13:338-342.
  3. Qiao YF, Wang SX, Wu LJ, Li X, Zhu TR. Studies on antibacterial constituents from the roots of Rubia cordifolia L. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1990;25(11):834-839.
  4. Chang LC, Chavez D, Gills J, Fong H, Pezzuto J, Kinghorn A. Rubiasins A–C, new anthracene derivatives from the roots and stems of Rubia cordifolia. Tetrahedron Letters, 2000;41(37):9.
  5. Kokwaro JO. Medicinal Plants of East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau; 1976;181-182.
  6. Schmeltzer GH, Gurib-Fakim A, AGROOH. Medicinal Plants 1. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa; 2008.
  7. Chinemana F, Drummond RB, Mavi S, de Zoysa I. Indigenous plant remedies in Zimbabwe. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov-Dec 1985;14(2-3):159-172.
  8. Baerts-Lehmann M, Lehmann J.  Prelude Medicinal Plants Database.  Catholic University of Louvain. 2007 Available from:  [Accessed on February  21, 2009].
  9. Van Puyvelde L, Geiser I, Rwangabo PC, Sebikali B. Rwandese herbal remedies used against gonorrhoea. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep. 1983;8(3):279-286.
  10. Ssegawa P, Kasenene JM. Medicinal plant diversity and uses in the Sango bay area, Southern Uganda. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep 25, 2007;113(3):521-540.
  11. Neuwinger HD. African Traditional Medicine: A Dictionary of Plant Use and Applications. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Gmbh Scientific Publishers; 2000.
  12. Son JK, Jung SJ, Jung JH, Fang Z, Lee CS, Seo CS, Moon DC, Min BS, Kim MR, Woo MH. Anticancer constituents from the roots of Rubia cordifolia L. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Feb. 2008;56(2):213-216.
  13. Lee JE, Hitotsuyanagi Y, Kim IH, Hasuda T, Takeya K. A novel bicyclic hexapeptide, RA-XVIII, from Rubia cordifolia: structure, semi-synthesis, and cytotoxicity. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. Jan 15, 2008;18(2):808-811.
  14. Itokawa H, Ibraheim ZZ, Qiao YF, Takeya K. Anthraquinones, naphthohydroquinones and naphthohydroquinone dimers from Rubia cordifolia and their cytotoxic activity. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Oct. 1993;41(10):1869-1872.
  15. Tripathi YB, Singh AV. Role of Rubia cordifolia Linn. in radiation protection. Indian J Exp Biol. Jul. 2007;45(7):620-625.
  16. Tripathi YB, Sharma M. Comparison of the antioxidant action of the alcoholic extract of Rubia cordifolia with rubiadin. Indian J Biochem Biophys. Oct. 1998;35(5):313-316.
  17. Tripathi YB, Sharma M, Manickam M. Rubiadin, a new antioxidant from Rubia cordifolia. Indian J Biochem Biophys. Jun. 1997;34(3):302-306.
  18. Pandey S, Sharma M, Chaturvedi P, Tripathi YB. Protective effect of Rubia cordifolia on lipid peroxide formation in isolated rat liver homogenate. Indian J Exp Biol. Mar. 1994;32(3):180-183.
  19. Tripathi YB, Sharma M. The interaction of Rubia cordifolia with iron redox status: a mechanistic aspect in free radical reactions. Phytomedicine. Mar. 1999;6(1):51-57.
  20. Rao GM, Rao CV, Pushpangadan P, Shirwaikar A. Hepatoprotective effects of rubiadin, a major constituent of Rubia cordifolia Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. Feb 20, 2006;103(3):484-490.
  21. Ho LK, Don MJ, Chen HC, Yeh SF, Chen JM. Inhibition of hepatitis B surface antigen secretion on human hepatoma cells. Components from Rubia cordifolia. J Nat Prod. Mar. 1996;59(3):330-333.
  22. Li X, Liu Z, Chen Y, Wang LJ, Zheng YN, Sun GZ, Ruan CC. Rubiacordone A: a new anthraquinone glycoside from the roots of Rubia cordifolia. Molecules. Jan 23, 2009;14(1):566-572.
  23. Patil RA, Jagdale SC, Kasture SB. Antihyperglycemic, antistress and nootropic activity of roots of Rubia cordifolia Linn. Indian J Exp Biol. Dec. 2006;44(12):987-992.
  24. Kasture VS, Deshmukh VK, Chopde CT. Anticonvulsant and behavioral actions of triterpene isolated from Rubia cordifolia Linn. Indian J Exp Biol. Jul. 2000;38(7):675-680.

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