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Plumbago rosea


Thalia coccinea, Plumbago coccinea, Plumbagidium roseum [6]

Vernacular Names:


Chelaka Merah, Cheraka Merah

English Fire plant, Officinal leadwort, Rosy flowered leadwort ; Indian leadwort, Rose coloured leadwort, Searlet leadwort

Laurel (Tagalog, Bikol), Pampasapit (Tagalog)


Chitra, Lalchita, Raktochita, Raktochitra (Beng.), Lal chitra (Bombay), Chitrak (C.P.), Chitra, Lalchita, Lalchitarak, Lal chitra, Raktachitra (Hindi), Shitranj, Shitray (Kashmir), Chettikotuveli, Chuvannakotuveli (Mal.), Lalchitra (Mar.) Shitrakesurkh (Pers.), Agni, Atidipya, Chitraka, Chitranga, Chitravalli, Dahaka, Dipika, Hrasvagni, Kalamula, Marjara, Pathi, Raktasikha, Usharbudhavhavhaya, Vyala (Sanskirt), Akkini, Sengodiveli, Sittiramulam(Tam.), Errachitramulam (Tel.)


Shittermul, Shitarajehmar, Shitturridge [3] [6] [8]

General Information


Plumbago rosea is a member of the Plumbaginaceae family. It is a perennial herb or small shrub up to 2  m tall. The stems are erect, trailing or climbing, simple or branched from the base, sometimes rooting at the nodes. The leaves are alternate, simple and entire while the stipules are absent. The petiole is short and the auricles are absent. The blade narrowly ovate to elliptical-ovate in shape measuring 5cm-15cm  x  2cm-8 cm. The base rounded to obtuse in shape, apex acute, papery. The inflorescence an elongated spike or raceme, many-flowered, measuring 10-30 cm long, glabrous. The bracts ovate in shape measuring 2 – 3 mm long, apex acuminate. The peduncle measures 2 – 10 cm long. The flowers bisexual, regular and pentamery. The pedicel measures 0-1 mm long. The calyx tubular in shape measuring 8-9 mm long, glandular and red in colour. The corolla tube measures 2.5-4.5 cm long. The lobes obovate in shape measuring 1.5-3 cm in diametre, apex rounded, mucronate, purple to red in colour; stamens free, exserted; ovary superior, ellipsoid-ovoid, 1-celled, style filiform, stigma lobes 5.[6]

Plant Part Used

Roots, Root bark [1]

Chemical Constituents

6-hydroxyplumbagin; β-sitosterol; campesterol; leucodelphinidin; plumbagin (2-methyl juglone); plumbaginol; stigmasterol;[6]

Traditional Used:

The root and root bark of P. rosea is bitter and dry with stomachic, carminative, astringent, and anthelmintic properties. It is also acrid, vesicant and a stimulant.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

The root and root bark’s carminative and astringent properties make them suitable for treating intestinal troubles, dysentery, diarrhea and dyspepsia. For this purpose a tincture of the roots is prepared and given to the patient. This tincture is also used for the treatment of haemorrhoids. In Java the crushed roots are applied locally to ease toothache.[1] [7] [8]


In India and most of the Southeast Asian countries the roots of P. rosea had been used to procure abortions. It is believed that it is more potent than Plumbago zeylanica. Many ways had been devised to induce abortion by using the roots. These include from a simple decoction of the root to a more drastic and dangerous methods whereby scrapings of the root bark made into a paste is inserted per vaginum. One can image the effects of roots as a vesicant on the mucosa of the vagina. The decoction is used as a contraceptive by some societies. In high doses it can cause death.[2] [4] [6] [7]

Other uses

For infective processes in the body like leprosy and secondary syphilis, the roots in the form of decoction is being prescribed. It is being used to treat skin problems like leucoderma, scabies and ringworm. The vesicant effects on the skin had been taken advantage of by malingerers in India to deceive doctors and employers. The decoction of the roots again can be used to treat respiratory conditions like bronchitis and various forms of coughs. An embrocation made from macerated root in bland oil is applied externally for the treatment of rheumatic affections of the joints and paralytic conditions.  The roots are also used as an anticancer drug. The diuretic properties mention above had been taken advantage of in its used to treat ascites and elephantiasis.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Pre-Clinical Data


Anticancer activity

It had been mentioned above that the roots of P. rosea had been used to treat cancer traditionally in India and Africa. In their studies on the anticancer properties of P. rosea, it was[10] noted that the ethanol extract possesses a weak antitumour effect. When used in combination with other treatment modalities (Radiation and Hyperthermia) they found that there was an increase in complete response and tumour free survival rates. This makes the ethanol extract a good candidate for use in combination with radiation to enhance the tumour killing effects of the latter. Their further investigation lead to the isolation of a naphthoquinone called plumbagin which proved to have not only cytotoxic activity but also radiosensitizing effects on mouse melanoma cell in vitro[11] an also in Erlich ascited carcinoma in vivo.[12] This radiosensitizing effect was found to be not tumour specific.[13]

Antifertility activity

Study[14] reported that in their screening of six indigenous plants for their antifertility activity, P. rosea did not show any anti-implantation and teratogenic activity. However, study[15] found that the combined dry powdered roots of five plants which included that of P. rosea showed morphological changes in the endometrial surface epithelium in albino rat uterus. This structural disparity would affect the smooth functioning of nidatory preparation in the endometrium. Another study[16] found that the methanolic root extract possesses a dose related inhibitory effect on uterine contractile responses elicited by oxytocic agent on isolated uteri of pregnant and pseudo-pregnant rats. However, when given orally to pregnant mice there was significant fetotoxic activity along with mild abortive potentials at higher doses. Sheeja et al[17] studied the leaves for their antifertility activity. They found that their acetone and ethanol extracts were most effective in interrupting normal oestrous cycle of rats by prolonging dioestrous stage of the oestrous cycle with consequent temporary inhibition of ovulation and this antiovulatory activity is reversible.


The root-bark contain the toxic substance plumbagin (2-methyl-5-hydroxy-14 naphthaquinone). It is an irritant poison and acts freely on skin and mucous membrane. The roots are acrid and can cause vesicular eruption on the skin. When taken internally in large doses it produce narcotic effects and an irritant poison.[2]

Acute and subacute toxicity studies of ethanolic root extract of P. rosea was carried out. The 24 hour LD50 values in mice wrer 239.88 mg/kg intraperitoneally and 1148.15 mg/kg orally. The oral dose above 1250mg/kg produced severe diarrhoea. The subacute toxicity studies in rats did not produce mortality with 50mg/kg intraperitoneally for 30 days. It was observed that there were no weight gain but a significant reduction in weight of liver, kjdney, thymus and testes with increase in splenic weight  in male rats. Female rats showed loss in weight of thymus, weight gain in uterus and not changes in liver and spleen. There was a significant increase in total WBC and neutrophil counts, levels of serum alkaline phosphatase and alanine transaminase and liver alkaline phosphatase but a significant reduction in the DNA, RNA and total proteins in both sexes.[18]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

Plumbago rosea in whatever form is absolutely contraindicated in pregnancy. It is a potent abortifaceint.

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. R. Keshvachandran, P.A. Nazeem . Diraja, P.S. John & K.V. Peter, Recent trends in horticultural biotechnology, New India Publishing Agency, New Delhi, 2007. pg287
  2. Vimala Veeraraghavan, Behaviour Problems in Children and Adolescents, Northen Book Centre, New Delhi, 2006. pg79
  3. Chopra R N, I.C. Chopra, Indigenous Drugs Of India, Academic Publishers, India, 2006. pg385-386
  4. Udoy Chand Dutt, Materia Medica of the Hindus, Compiled from Sanskrit Medical Works, with a Glossary of Indian Plants, Thacker, Spink & Co, Calcutta, pg 186-187
  5. Edward John Waring, M.D., Pharmacopoeia Of India, W. H. Allen & Co., London, 1868. pg169-170
  6. Gabriëlla Harriët Schmelzer, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (Program), Medicinal plants, Prota Foundation, Netherlands, 2008. pg473-474
  7. Kurian, A. & A.Sankar, Alice Kurian and M.Asha Sankar, Medicinal plants, New India Publishing Agency, New Delhi, 2007. pg152
  8. Batugal, P.A., Kanniah, J., Sy, L., Oliver, J.T. (eds.), Medicinal Plants Research in Asia - Volume I: The Framework and Project Workplans, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Selangor, 2004. pg168
  9. Sir William Jackson Hooker Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 89 Lovell Reeve & Co. London 1863 pg. 5363
  10. Devi PU, Solomon FE, Sharada AC. In vivo tumor inhibitory and radiosensitizing effects of an Indian medicinal plant, Plumbago rosea on experimental mouse tumors. Indian J Exp Biol. 1994 Aug;32(8):523-8.
  11. Prasad VS, Devi PU, Rao BS, Kamath R. Radiosensitizing effect of plumbagin on mouse melanoma cells grown in vitro. Indian J Exp Biol. 1996 Sep;34(9):857-8.
  12. Devi PU, Rao BS, Solomon FE. Effect of plumbagin on the radiation induced cytogenetic and cell cycle changes in mouse Ehrlich ascites carcinoma in vivo. Indian J Exp Biol. 1998 Sep;36(9):891-5.
  13. Ganasoundari A, Zare SM, Devi PU. Modification of bone marrow radiosensensitivity by medicinal plant extracts. Br J Radiol. 1997 Jun;70(834):599-602.
  14. Vohora SB, Garg SK, Chaudhury RR. Antifertility screening of plants. 3. Effect of six indigenous plants on early pregnancy in albino rats. Indian J Med Res. 1969 May;57(5):893-9.
  15. Sarma HN, Mahanta HC. Modulation of morphological changes of endometrial surface epithelium by administration of composite root extract in albino rat. Contraception. 2000 Jul;62(1):51-4.
  16. Abdul Sattar M, Abdullah NA, Khan MA, Dewa A, Samshia D. Uterotrophic, fetotoxic and abortifacient effect of a Malaysian variety of Plumbago rosea L. on isolated rat uterus and pregnant mice. Pak J Biol Sci. 2007 Mar 1;10(5):763-7.
  17. Sheeja E, Joshi SB, Jain DC. Antiovulatory and estrogenic activity of Plumbago rosea leaves in female albino rats. Indian J Pharmacol. 2009 Dec;41(6):273-7.
  18. Solomon FE, Sharada AC, Devi PU. Toxic effects of crude root extract of Plumbago rosea (Rakta chitraka) on mice and rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1993 Jan;38(1):79-84.
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Sir William Jackson Hooker Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Volume 89 Lovell Reeve & Co. London 1863 pg. 5363

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