Mala-bawang is a plant with bulbs about 4 centimeters long, ovoid-oblong, and narrowed at both ends, the outer layers thin, and purple. Leaves are lanceolate, 3 to 4 from each bulb, 30 to 50 centimeters long, 1.5 to 3 centimeters wide, narrowed at both ends, and plicate. Scapes are rather slender, as long as the leaves, and green. Spathes are 10 to 12 millimeters long, the outer two are green, the inner ones very much thinner, and greenish-white. Flowers are white, about 2 centimeters in diameter, with obovate spreading lobes.
(Sisyrinchium palmifolium is described as topped with 2.5' tall flower spikes laden with large, quarter-sized, bright yellow flowers that open around 6 o'clock in the evening. Some taxonomists lump this with Sisyrinchium macrocephalum.)
Introduced, now naturalized.
Occasionally in waste places about towns.
Sometimes, planted for ornamental purposes.
- Phytochemical screening of bulb yielded phenols, sterols, phlobatannins, proteins, steroids, tannins, and reducing sugar.
- Traditionally used as diuretic, vermifuge, abortifacient, antifertility agent.
- Studies have shown anti-cancer, radical scavenging, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antimelanogenesis properties.
- Macerated bulbs applied on the stomach of children to relieve gas pains.
- Decoction of bulbs used as diuretic.
- Bulbs used by vermifuge, for dysmenorrhea, and as abortive and antifertility agent.
- In Thailand, the herb is one of ten herbal constituents of the prasaplai recipe, used in ancient gynecological practice for relieving dysmenorrhea and controlling mensuration.
- Used for breast cancer and to facilitate breast feeding.
• Cytotoxicity / Anti-Tumorigenesis: Study yielded 15 naphthalene derivatives, including 4 new glucosides, eleutherinosides B-E. Two of the compounds showed dose-dependent inhibition of transcription of TCFB-catenin in SW480 colon cancer cells and selective cytotoxicity against three colorectal cancer cell lines. Aberrant WntB-catenin signaling has recently been implicated in tumorigenesis. (1)
• Radical Scavenging Activity / Antimelanogenesis: In a study evaluating medicinal plants from Kalimantan for antimelanogenesis, the bulbs of Eleutherine palmifolia showed DPPH radical scavenging activity and strongly inhibited the melanin production of B16 melanoma cells without significant cytotoxicity suggesting its potential as ingredient for skin whitening cosmetics. (2)
• Prasaplai in Dysmenorrhea: E. palmifolia is one of 10 herbal constituents used in ancient Thai medicine for dysmenorrhea. Study showed Prasaplai caps have efficacy in relieving dysmenorrhea, although less than NSAIDs. (3)
• Antimicrobial: An ethanol extract of bulb was tested against multidrug resistant pathogens. Extract showed a potential source of antimicrobial agent against methicillin resistant Staphy aureus and Acinebacter baumannii, with an antimicrobial activity higher than standard antibiotics. (4)
• Antidiabetic / Bulbs: Study evaluated aqueous and ethanol extracts of eleutherine palmifolia bulbs for antihyperglycemic effects in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Results showed significant reduction of blood glucose levels, higher blood insulin levels, lower cholesterol and LDL levels. The antidiabetic action may be through inhibtion of alpha-glucosidase which can reduce postprandial blood glucose, and also by repairing of damaged pancreatic beta cells, thus enhancing insulin secretion. (6)
• Health Drink / Effervescent Powder of Water Extract: Study evaluated three different formulations of effervescent compositions containing tartaric acid, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate. Formula B (55%) showed to be the most preferred product. (7)
- Seeds in the cybermarket.