Akapulko is a coarse, erect, branched shrub, 1.5 to 3 meters high. Leaves are pinnate and 40 to 60 centimeters long, with orange rachis on stout
branches. Each leaf has 16 to 28 leaflets, 5 to 15 centimeters in length, broad and rounded at the apex, with a small point at the tip. Leaflets gradually increase in size from the base towards the tip of the leaf. Inflorescences are terminal and at the axils of the leaves, in simple or panicled racemes, and 10 to 50 centimeters long. Flowers are yellow, about 4 centimeters inn diameter, at the axils of thin, yellow, oblong, concave bracts which are 2.5 to 3 centimeters long. Pod is rather straight, dark brown or nearly black, about 15 centimeters long and 15 millimeters wide. On both sides of the pods there is a wing that runs the length of the pod. Pod contains 50 to 60 flattened, triangular seeds.
- Abundant throughout the Philippines in settled areas at low and medium altitudes.
- Occasionally planted as ornamental or for its medicinal properties.
- Introduced from tropical America; now pantropic.
Additional botanical info
• Propagated rapidly
by seeds (dispersed by waters) or stem cuttings. Basal stem may produce coppices
• Seeds from mature pods can
be collected during the season and immediately planted or stored
for six months.
• Chrysophanic acid (chrysophanol); oxymethyl
anthraquinone, 2.2%; aloe-emodin; rhein; cassiaxanthone; tannins; saponins;
• Study of chemical constituents yielded 12 compounds: chrysoeriol, kaempferol, quercetin, 5,7,4'-trihydroflavanone, kaempferol-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, 17-hydrotetratriacontane, n-dotriacontanol, n-triacontanol, palmitic acid ceryl ester, stearic acid, palmitic acid.
• Phytochemical studies of crude extract of stem bark yielded important secondary metabolites - tannins, steroids, alkaloids, anthraquinones, terpenes, carbohydrates and saponins.
• Phytochemical study of leaves yielded 12 compounds viz. chrysoeriol, kaempferol, quercetin, 5,7,4'-trihydroflavanone, kaempferol-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, kaempferol-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranoside, 17-hydrotetratriacontane, n-dotriacontanol, n-triacontanol, palmitic acid ceryl ester, stearic acid, palmitic acid. (29)
• Study of leaf extracts yielded main constituents of 6-octadecenoic acid (24.99 %), 2, 3-dihydroxypropyl-9-octadecenoate (20.86 %) and octadecanoic acid (18.08 %). (39)
• Phytochemical screening of methanol extract of seeds yielded steroids, anthraquinones, cardiac glycosides and flavonoids. (42)
• Proximate analysis of seeds on % dry weight basis showed a composition of moisture 7.69 ± 0.35, ash 4.30 ± 0.08, crude protein 12.75 ± 0.05, crude lipid 4.79 ± 0.05, crude fiber 5.45 ± 0.05, carbohydrate 72.71 ± 0.09, and energy value of 385.07 ± 0.43 kcal/100 g of dried seed sample. Amino acid analysis yielded leucine, phenylalanine+tyrosine and threonine. Oil yielded a combination of unsaturated fatty acids (51.90%) and saturated fatty acids (43.30%). Mineral analysis (mg/100g) showed appreciable amount of potassium (270.00 ± 0.98), iron (29.642 ± 0.101), magnesium (373.417 ± 0.520) and calcium (439.317 ± 1.181), together with zinc, manganese, copper, chromium, and cadmium. (42)
• Analysis of fatty acid compounds of seed oil were mainly palmitic acid (67.13%), stearic acid (20.13%), arachidic acid (6.49%), behenic acid (4.11%), and lauric acid (2.15%). Analysis of oil cake showed 20.5% protein, >10% potassium, 1% magnesium, and 0.67% calcium. (46)
• Proximate analysis of S. alata leaves (g/100g) yielded moisture 4.49 ± 0.05, ash 9.53 ± 0.06, crude fiber 14.75 ± 0.01, crude protein 13.14 ± 0.02 , crude lipid 3.91 ± 0.01, carbohydrate 47.73 ± 0.01 and food energy value 298.61 ± 0.40 Kcal/100g. Mineral analysis showed the leaf to be rich in K 779.20 mg/100g, Mg 142.80 mg, Fe 42.35 mg, and Ca 158.38 mg.(47)
• Proximate analysis of S. alata flowers (g/100g) yielded moisture 6.16 ± 0.14, ash 7.00 ± 1.0, crude fiber 15.73 ± 0.93, crude protein 13.14 ± 0.02, crude lipid 1.81 ± 0.09, carbohydrate 57.04 ± 0.04 and food energy value 296.98 ± 0.61 Kcal/100g. Mineral analysis yielded K 1121.95, Mg 148.21, Fe 25.33, and Ca 63.30.(47)
• Saponin acts as a laxative and expels intestinal parasites.
• Its fungicide property derives from chrysophanic acid.
• Plant considered alterative, astringent, abortifacient, aperient, expectorant, purgative, sudorific, hydragogue, diuretic, vermifuge.
Leaves, seeds, and flowers.
- The seeds used for intestinal parasitism.
- Tincture from leaves reported to be purgative.
- Decoction of leaves and flowers for cough and as expectorant in bronchitis and asthma. Also used as astringent.
- Crushed leaves and juice extract used for ringworm, scabies, eczema, tinea infections, itches, insect bites, herpes.
- Preparation: Pound enough fresh leaves; express (squeeze
out) the juice and apply on the affected skin morning and evening. Improvement
should be noticed after 2 - 3 weeks of treatment.
- Decoction of leaves and flowers used as mouthwash in stomatitis.
- In Africa, the boiled leaves are used for
- In South American, used for skin diseases,
stomach problems, fever, asthma, snake bites and venereal disease.
- In Thailand, leaves are boiled and drunk
to hasten delivery.
- As laxative, boil 10-15 dried leaves in water, taken in the morning
- For wound treatment, leaves are boiled and simmered to one-third volume,
then applied to affected areas twice daily.
- In India, plant used as cure for poisonous bites and for venereal eruptions.
- In Nigeria locally used for treatment of ringworm and parasitic skin diseases.
- In the Antilles, Reunion, and Indo-China, plant is used as hydrogogue, sudorific, and diuretic.
- Decoction of roots used for tympanites.
- Wood used as alterative.
- Sap of leaves used as antiherpetic.
- Leaf tincture or extract used as purgative.
- Juice of leaves mixed with lime-juice for ringworm.
- Leaves taken internally to relieve constipation.
- Strong decoction of leaves and flowers used as wash for eczema.
- Infusion of leaves and flowers used for asthma and bronchitis.
- Strong decoction of leaves used as abortifacient.
- Seeds used as vermifuge.
(1) Wash fresh leaves thoroughly and cut
in small pieces.
(2) Add one glass of cooking oil or coconut oil to one glass of cut
(3) Fry until crispy.
(4) Remove from the heat; strain.
(5) Cut 2 white candles (Esperma No. 5) into small pieces.
(6) In a cooking pot, pour the strained oil together with the candle
pieces; stir until the candle has melted.
(7) Pour the mixture into a clean container; cover when cool.
(8) Apply the ointment to affected areas twice daily.
• Antifungal / Leaves and Bark:Crude ethanol and aqueous extract
of Cassia alata (GELENGGANG
BESAR) leaves and bark were
tested for antifungal activity in vitro against three fungi –
Aspergillus fumigatus, Microsporum canis and Candida
albicans. The study showed the C. alata to be effective against
C. albicans, confirming its potential as a natural source of antifungal
• Anthraquinone / Antifungal: Study yielded an anthraquinone high-yielding Senna alata leaf extract
with antifungal activity against dermatophytes – Tricophyton rubrum,
T mentagrophytes and Microsporum gypseum. (7)
• Antidermatophytic: Study of ethanolic extract of CA leaves showed high activity against various species of dermatophytic fungi but low activity against non-dermatophytic fungi. (4) In a study using methanolic, ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts to screen for phytochemicals, antibacterial and antifungal activities, the methanolic extract showed the highest activity.
• Analgesic: (1) Ethanol and hexane
extract of Senna alata leaves showed analgesic effect in mice. (2) Study of leaf extract of C. alata in mice showed analgesic activity. Fifty milligrams of kaempferol 3-O-sophoroside was equivalent to 100 mg of the extract.
• Phytochemistry / Antimicrobial Activity:
(1) Nigerian studies showed activity of the methanol leaf extract
on Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus
aureus, Proteus vulgaris. Secondary metabolites were identified (saponins,
tannins, phenolic compounds, eugenol, glycosides and anthraquinones).
(2) Study of methanolic extracts of flowers, leaves, stem and root barks
of CA showed a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity, with the flower
extract the most effective.
• Antiseptic Soap: A Nigerian
study on Cassia alata-based soap exhibited high antimicrobial potency
against Staph aureus, the organism most widely encountered and undesirable
of the normal skin flora. At a reduction time of 5 minutes, the herbal
soap made a 94.78% reduction of the microbial load, findings of economic,
industrial and medical significance. (4)
• Anti-Inflammatory: (1) Leaf
extract of S. alata showed anti-inflammatory activity through inhibition
of histamine secretion. (2) Anti inflammatory activity of heat-treated CA leaf extract and kaempferol 3-O-gentiobioside (K3G), an abundant flavonoid glycoside isolated from CA were compared with the activities of sun-dried CA leaf extract. Both extracts exhibited strong inhibitory effects on Concanavalin A-induced histamine release from rat peritoneal exudate.
• Antibacterial: Study showed
the water extract of leaves to have more portent antibacterial activity
than the ethanol extract against S. aureus.
• Purgative Effect: Study
showed Cassia alata fresh leaves showed significant purgative efficacy
on volume and frequency compared to placebo. (8)
• Hematologic & Toxicity Effects:
Study of aqueous leaf extract in albino showed significant dose-dependent
decreases in hemoglobin levels and erythrocyte counts with emaciation,
loss of appetite and weight loss as signs of toxicity.
• Phytochemistry & Antibacterial
Activity of Senna alata Flower: Study of crude plant extracts
yielded steroids, anthraquinone glycosides, volatile oils and tannins
with good inhibitory activity against S aureus, S faecalis, B subtilis
among others. (10)
• Antimicrobial / Leaves: Study of crude ethanol and water extract of leaves and barks from CA showed concentration-dependent activity against C albicans. The water extract showed antibacterial activity against S aureus.
• Bioactivity of Leaf Extracts: Hexane (H), chloroform (C), ethylacetate (EA) extracts of CA leaves showed analgesic (H), anti-inflammatory (H/EA), antimutagenic (C), antimicrobial (H/EA), hypoglycemic activities (EA). All extracts effected a decrease in motor activity, enophthalmos, hyperemia, micturition and diarrhea. (14)
• Constipation Treatment: Leaves have been claimed effective as a laxative, presumed to be due to anthraquinones. In a study testing the efficacy of CA leaves for treatment of constipation compared to placebo, the differences were statistically highly significant. Minimal side effects – nausea, dyspepsia, abdominal pain and diarrhea – were noted in 16-25 percent of patients. (15)
• Hepatoprotective / Paracetamol / Leaves: An alcoholic extract study of dried leaves of Cassia alata on paracetamol-induced hepatic injury in albino rats showed hepatoprotective activity that is attributed to the flavonoids present in the leaves. (18)
• Hepatoprotective / Carbon Tetrachloride: Study of crude extracts of petals of the plant showed hepatoprotective activity in rats with CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity. The effect was attributed to anthocyanin present in the extract. (25)
• Weight-Lowering Effect / Hypolipidemic: Study showed C. fistula and S. alata significant and effectively reduced the body weight and weight of parametrial fat in mice due to their tannin contents. Both plants present as potential sources of anti-obesity and hypolipidemic compounds. (20)
• Pityriasis versicolor / Leaves: A 10-year human study indicates the leaf extract of Cassia alata can be reliably used as a herbal medicine to treat Pityriasis versicolor. The leaf extract has no side-effects. (21)
• In-vitro Antifungal Activity: Study of crude stem bark extract on clinical test dermatophytes showed marked antifungal effects on M. canslaslomyces, T verrucosum, T mentagrophytes and E. floccosum. The extract was fungicidal for all tested dermatophytes.
• Antifungal Activity / Leaves: Study evaluated a crude leaf extract on clinical test Dermatophytes. Results showed the leaf exudates and ethanol extract of leaf exhibited marked antifungal effects on Microsporum canis, Trichophyton jirrucosum, Tricophyton mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton jllorcosum. Phytochemical analysis yielded alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthracionones and carbohydrates. (28)
• Effect on Smooth Muscle Activity / Toxicity Study / Roots: Study evaluated the effect of ethanolic and aqueous roots extract on smooth muscle activity in rat and rabbit. Results showed marked dose dependent spasmodic effect on drug-induced contractions of the gastrointestinal tract and uterus/fallopian smooth muscle preparations tested. The ethanolic extract of roots is moderately toxic with a lethality dose (LD50) of 263±25 mg/kg. (30)
• Immune Stimulating / Antioxidant / Leaves: Study investigated the antioxidant potency and immune stimulating property of a methanolic extract of CA. Results showed very high DPPH radical scavenging activity in contrast to standard synthetic antioxidant BHT. CA also showed strong immune-modulating or immune-stimulating potency, as evidenced by rise in leukocyte count with concomitant increase in granulocytes and significant increase in peritoneal macrophages in rabbits treated with the extract. (31)
• Anthelmintic / Leaves: Study evaluated the efficacy of CA against cestode Hymenolepis diminuta. Results showed decreased parasite motility. Microscopic studies showed changes similar with worms treated the known drug praziqunatel. Results suggest a potential alternative anthelmintic drug. (32)
• Antidiabetic / α-glucosidase inhibition / Leaves: A methanol extract of leaves showed potent α-glucosidase inhibitory activity far better than the standard drug, acarbose. Fractionation of crude extracts yielded kaempferol (56.7±7.7µM) and kaempferol 3-O-gentiobioside. (33)
• Immunostimulatory Effects on Staph Infection: Study evaluated the immunostimulatory effect of the ethanolic extract on Swiss albino rats infected with Staphylococcus aureus. In the extract treated group there was lower WBC count, with decrease in neutrophil-lymphocyte ration indicating suppression of infection/inhibition of proliferation of Staphylococcus aureus infection. (34)
• Pityriasis versicolor / Leaves: Study reports on 10-year study indicating the therapeutic efficacy of Cassia alata leaf extract against Pityriasis versicolor in humans. The leaf extract has no side effects. (35)
• Comparative Antimicrobial Effects of Leaf Extracts: Study compared the antimicrobial activities of aqueous and ethanolic leaf extracts on bacteria and fungi. The extracts showed dose dependent antimicrobial effect with greater activity against K. pneumonia, P. aeruginosa, C. albicans and T. mentagrophytes. The extracts showed more activity against fungi than bacteria, with the aqueous leaf extract showing better antibacterial activity against K. pneumonia and the ethanol leaf extract against P. aeruginosa. (37)
• Antimicrobial / Flowers: Study evaluated the antimicrobial activity of various extracts of flowers on some bacterial and fungal strains. Results showed 2.5 and 3% crude extracts completely inhibited the growth of dermatophytes. A methanol extract was the most active against E. coli, Microsporum gypseum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. (38)
• Antipyretic / Leaves: Study evaluated the antipyretic effect of aqueous and ethanol leaf extracts of Cassia alata in Brewer's yeast induced pyrexia. Results showed dose dependent reduction in temperature, with the ethanol extract showing higher reduction than the water extract. Both extracts showed significantly higher effect than paracetamol. (40)
• Antimalarial Terpenes/ Leaves: Eleven terpenes extracted from C. alata and O. gratissimum leaves were screened for in vitro antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falcifarum. Nine terpenes showed promising antimalarial activity with IC50 values below 1 µg/ml; two terpenes showed good activity with IC50 below 4 µg/ml. (41)
• Abortifacient / Effect of Post-Coital Leaf Alkaloids: Study investigated the pregnancy terminating effects of alkaloids from S. alata leaves on pregnant rats. The leaf alkaloids exhibited anti-implantation, anti-gonadotropic, anti-progesteronic, embryonic resorptive, feto-maternal toxic activity. The alkaloids may not be the sole abortifacient bioactive agent in the leaf extract. (43)
• Bronchorelaxant, Genotoxic and Antigenotoxic Effects: Study evaluated an aqueous-ethanolic extract of C. alata (AECal) and its fractions for bronchorelaxant, genotoxic, and antigenotoxic effects. Results suggest (1) muscarinic receptors contribute in part to the relaxant effects of CF-AECal; (2) CF-AECal interferes with membrane polarization; and (4) AECal is not genotoxic in vivo and contains chemopreventive phytoconstituents offering protection against CP-induced genotoxicity. (44)
• Inhibition of α-amylase and α-glucosidase / Antidiabetic: Study investigated the inhibitory effect of S. alata leaf extracts on α-amylase and α-glucosidase, and its potential for reducing postprandial blood glucose level of rats.. Results showed S. alata leaf extracts inhibit α-amylase as well as as α-glucosidase and reduced postprandial hyperglycemia in rats. (45)
• Nutritional Analysis / Leaves and Flowers: Antinutritional analysis of flowers and leaves yielded alkaloids (L 6.75 g/100g, F 5.16), saponins (L 2.00, F3.50), and oxalates (L8.03, F 3.50). Vitamin analysis showed the leaves and flowers are excellent sources of ß-catotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. The leaves and flowers are rich in some nutrients, and antinutritional factors should pose no problem since they may be lost during the process of domestication. (see constituents above) (47)
- Commercially available as lotion and ointment, in 5- and 10-gm containers for ringworm, pityriasis
versicolor, athlete's foot.