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Asclepias curassavica


Asclepias nivea [1] [2]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Bunga Emas
English False Ipecac, Blood Flower, Bastard Ipecacuanha, Redhead Cottonbush, Blood-flower, Kittie McWanie, Milkweed, Oficial-de-sala, Red cotton, Redtop; Scarlet Milkweed; Silkweed
Indonesia Kapas Cinde (Sunda); Mas Sekar (Java) [7]
Philipines Bulac-bulacan, Bulac-castila, Bulac-damo, Buquit-quit, Calalauan, Capol-capol [8]
India Kakatundi, Kaura-dodi
China Ma Li Chin
French Ipeca Sauvsage
Portuguese Oficail-da-sala
Spanish Algondocillo, Corcalito, Flor de Sangre, Yuquillo
Hawaii Laulele, Pua Anuhe [3][4][5][6]

General Information


Asclepias curassavica is a perennial herb of the Asclepiadaceae family. It is an erect, glabrous, perennial herb that grows up to 1.2m tall. It has a milky exudate throughout. The stem is smooth, round, dull green or suffused with dull red. The leaves are simple, opposite, shortly petioled, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, acuminate and measures 7-13cm long and 6-25cm wide. The base is narrowed. Inflorescence in the form of an umbel with 6–15 flowers on terminal or axillary peduncle. The flowers are perfect, radially symmetrical or irregularly shaped, bright red or orange with yellow centers. There are 5 sepals, deeply divided, reflexed, green. Five petals which are linear with base united into a fused corolla. The corolla lobes are red, reflexed, oblong and approximately 8mm long. The corona scale is orange in colour, 5-lobed and measures 3.5-4.0mm long. The corona is hood-shaped with inwardly curved horns; stamens 5 in number; anthers with two pollen sacs; pollen aggregates into masses called pollinia or pollen sacs. The style filaments are united with pistils 2-carpelled. The fruit is a pair of dry dehiscent, spindle-shaped follicles, measuring 5-15cm long, many seeded, splitting lengthwise on one side at maturity. The seeds are ovate, flat, winged, measures 4-6mm long and 2.2-4.0mm wide, brown in colour, minutely ridged, with a pappus of fine white silky hairs at the apex, measures 2-3cm long. [9]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant [12] [13] [14]

Chemical Constituents

3,4-seco-urs-20(30)-en-3-oic acid; 6'-O-feruloyl-desglucouzarin; 12b,14b-dihydroxy-3b,19-epoxy-3a-methoxy-5a-card-20(22)-enolide; 12b-hydroxycalotropin; 12b-hydroxycoroglaucigenin; 12-O-benzoyltayloron; 12-O-(E)-cinnamoyltayloron; 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin; 12-O-benzoylsarcostin; 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin 3-O-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside; 12-O-benzoylsarcostin 3-O-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside; sarcostin,3-O-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-canaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside;  sarcostin,3-O-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-canaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-canaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside; 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin,3-O-b-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-canaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-d-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside; 12-O-benzoylsarcostin,3-O-b-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-d-canaropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-oleandropyranosyl-(1-->4)-b-D-digitoxopyranoside; 12-O-benzoylsarcostin; 12-O-benzoyldeacylmetaplexigenin; 16a-hydroxyasclepin;16a-acetoxycalotropin; 16a-acetoxyasclepin; 19-nor-16α-acetoxy-10β-hydroxyasclepin; 20β,21-dihydroxypregna-4,6-dien-3-one; asclepain CI; asclepain CII; asclepine (asclepiadin); asclepin; ascurogenin; calotropin; calotropagenin; coroglaucigenin; corotoxigenin; saclepogenin; clepogenin; curassavogenin; desglucouzarin; kidjolanin; uscharidin; uzarigenin;[7][10][11]

Traditional Used:

Gastrointestinal Diseases

The roots are used as a cheaper alternative to ipecacuanha as an emetic in Jamaica [12] and almost everywhere the plant is found. It is also considered a purgative.[14] The plant has astringent properties and is used to treat dysentery in Jamaica.[14] A syrup prepared from the expressed juice is a powerful vermifuge by virtue of its emetic and purgative properties.


A. curassavica is known to traditional practitioners as an effective haemostatics. This had been taken advantage of by doctors in the West Indies to treat bleeding wounds and bleeding haemorrhoids effectively.[12]

Infectious Diseases

The roots of A. curassavica had been used effectively in the treatment of gonorrhoea.[14] In Indonesia it is used in the treatment of inflammed spleen, pneumonia, mastatis, pyoderma.[7]

Other uses

Various parts of A. curassavica had been used in the treatment of fungal infection, leucorrhoea, warts, cancer, caries, fever.[13]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antifungal activity

The latex sap of A. curassavica was found to degrade a great number of yeasts. They were found to have deformed and emptied the cytoplasm of these yeasts cells. The sap apparently also acts on the cell wall. It is presumed that the susbtance responsible for these effects were terpens and cardenolids and also enzymes in particular glucanases.[15]

Cytotoxic activity

The alcololic extract of A. curassavica showed cytotoxic activity when tested in vitro against cells derived from human carcinoma of the nasopharynx. Systematic fractionation of the extract led to the isolation of calotropin a cardiac glycoside which proved to be the factor responsible for the cytotoxic activity of the plant.[16]

Roy et.all isolated a series of cardenoliedes from the aerial parts and roots of A. curassavica with most of them showing pronounced cytotoxicity against fouor cancer cell lines (IC50 0.01 to 0.20microg/ml).[17]

Li et al. [18] tested isolates from the aerial part of A. curassavica to determine its cytotoxic activity againsts HepG2 and Raji cell lines. They found that asclepin had the strongest cytotoxic activity with IC50 of 0.02 microM while 12beta-hydroxycalotropin (a new cardenolide compound) had significant cytotoxic activity with IC50 of 0.69 and 1.46microM against HepG2 and Raji cell lines respectively.

Cardiac activity

A cardiac glycoside (asclepin) was isolated from A. curassavica and its activity was compared with thosed of g-strophanthin, digoxin, digitoxin and digitoxigenin. Asclepin showed a marked positive inotropic effect as evidenced by increase in the force of contraction. It was found to be more active than the other glycosides.[19]

Anti-inflammatory & thrombin-like activity

The latex of A. curassavica contained a cycteine protease enzyme asclepain (CI & CII) which has effects similar to papain.[22][23] These cycteine proteases also has thrombin-like activity as evidenced by the strong pro-coagulant action as demonstrated by Shivaprasad et al.[24][25]


The plant is toxic in nature and contains a number of potent cardiac glycosides. Signs of toxicities include vertigo, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, pallor, chills and arrhythmia. Traditional remedy for toxicity is by inducing emesis with egg white.[7]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

Chakraborty et al. [20] reported a case of corneal oedema in a  60 year old male patient who had hazy vision in the left eye after working in his garden the previous day. His hands had come in contact with the white, milky latex of A. curassavica, and he had rubbed his left eye immediately afterwards.

The plant’s milky latex can produce dermatitis in susceptible individuals.[21]

Used 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


  1. Sydenhan Edwards The Botanical register: consisting of coloured figures of exotic plants , Volume 1 James Ridgway, London 1815 pg. 81
  2. Germplasm Resources Information Network ( Accessed on: 13th July 2010
  3. Dr. Ashok Bendre & Dr. Ashok Kumar  A Text Book Of Practical Botany 2 Rastogi Publications New Delhi 2009 pg. 156
  4. W. Hamilton MB Art. V. – On the properties of the Asclepias curassavica, or Bastard Ipecacuanha American journal of pharmacy, Volume 19 Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science pg. 21-24
  5. D. Jesse Wagstaff International poisonous plants checklist: an evidence-based reference CRC Press LLC., Boca Raton 2008 pg. 35
  6. John Harry Wiersema, Blanca León World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference CRC Press LLC., Boca Raton 1999 pg. 56
  7. Hembing Wijayakusuma Ensiklopedia milenium: Bunga-bungaan PT. Prestasi Insan Indonesia Jakarta 2000 pg. 81 - 86
  8. Elmer Drew Merrill A Dictionary of the Plant Names of the Philippine Islands BiblioLife LLC., Manila 1903 pgs 37, 38, 42, 47
  9. LeRoy G. Holm  World weeds: natural histories and distribution John Wiley & Sons Inc. New York 1997pg. 82
  10. Li JZ, Liu HY, Lin YJ, Hao XJ, Ni W, Chen CX. Six new C21 steroidal glycosides from Asclepias curassavica L. Steroids. 2008 Jul;73(6):594-600. Epub 2008 Jan 20.
  11. Warashina T, Noro T.Steroidal glycosides from the roots of Asclepias curassavica. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2008 Mar;56(3):315-22.
  12. W. Hamilton MB Art. V. – On the properties of the Asclepias curassavica, or Bastard Ipecacuanha American journal of pharmacy, Volume 19 Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science pg. 21-24
  13. Timothy Johnson CRC ethnobotany desk reference CRC Press LLC. Boca Raton 1998 pg. 81
  14. K. M. Nadkarni cDr. K. M. Nadkarni's Indian materia medica: Repr, Volume 1 Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai 1976 pg. 151
  15. Moulin-Traffort J, Giordani R, Régli P Antifungal action of latex saps from Lactuca sativa L. and Asclepias curassavica L. Mycoses.  1990 Jul-Aug;33(7-8):383-92.
  16. S. Morris Kupchan , John R. Knox , John E. Kelsey , and J. A. Saenz Renauld Calotropin, a Cytotoxic Principle Isolated from Asclepias curassavica L  Science 1964:Vol. 146(3652):1685 – 1686
  17. Michael C. Roy, Fang-Rong Chang, Hsiao-Chu Huang, Michael Y.-N. Chiang, and Yang-Chang Wu Cytotoxic Principles from the Formosan Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica J. Nat. Prod., 2005, 68 (10):1494–1499
  18. Li JZ, Qing C, Chen CX, Hao XJ, Liu HY. Cytotoxicity of cardenolides and cardenolide glycosides from Asclepias curassavica. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009 Apr 1;19(7):1956-9. Epub 2009 Feb 14.
  19. Patnaik GK, Köhler E.Pharmacological investigation on asclepin--a new cardenolide from Asclepias curassavica. Part II. Comparative studies on the inotropic and toxic effects of asclepin, g-strophantin, digoxin and digitoxin). Arzneimittelforschung. 1978;28(8):1368-72.
  20. Soumen Chakraborty, MD; Jaqueline Siegenthaler, MD; Ernst R. Büchi, MD Corneal Edema Due to Asclepias curassavica Archives of Ophthalmology August 1995Vol. 113( 8)
  21. Botanical Dermatology Database ( Accessed on: 13th July 2010
  22. Liggieri C, Arribére MC, Trejo SA, Canals F, Avilés FX, Priolo NS. Purification and biochemical characterization of asclepain c I from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L. Protein J. 2004 Aug;23(6):403-11.
  23. Liggieri C, Obregon W, Trejo S, Priolo N. Biochemical analysis of a papain-like protease isolated from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai). 2009 Feb;41(2):154-62.
  24. Shivaprasad HV, Rajesh R, Nanda BL, Dharmappa KK, Vishwanath BS. Thrombin like activity of Asclepias curassavica L. latex: action of cysteine proteases. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 May 4;123(1):106-9. Epub 2009 Feb 21.
  25. Shivaprasad HV, Riyaz M, Venkatesh Kumar R, Dharmappa KK, Tarannum S, Siddesha JM, Rajesh R, Vishwanath BS. Cysteine proteases from the Asclepiadaceae plants latex exhibited thrombin and plasmin like activities. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2009 Oct;28(3):304-8. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

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