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Family Moraceae
Ficus retusa Linn.

Rong shu

Scientific names    Common names  
Ficus amblyphylla Miq. Balete (Tag.)   
Ficus nitida Thunb. Marabutan (Bag.)
Ficus microcarpa L. Chinese banyan (Engl.)
Ficus retusa Linn. Curtain fig (Engl.)
Urostigma amblyphyllum Miq. Indian laurel fig (Engl.)
Worldwide there are over 800 species of the genus Ficus (Latin: fig) and of the more than 10 species found in the Philippines, Balete is a shared common name for six of them: (1) Ficus benjamina, salisi (2) Ficus elastica, Indian rubber tree (3) Ficus indica, baleteng-baging (4) Ficus payapa, payapa (5) Ficus retusa, marabutan, and (6) Ficus stipulosa, botgo..

Other vernacular names
BURMESE: Nyaung ok.
CHINESE: Rong shu.
DANISH: Laurbærfigen.
GERMAN: Chinesische Feige, Indischer Lorbeer, Lorbeerfeige.
HINDI: Chilkan, Kamarup.
JAPANESE: Gajumaru.
KANNADA: Hillala, Hinala, Kirgoli, Kirigoli, Kirugoli, Nankipipri, Peelaalada mara, Peeladamara, Pilal.
MALAYALAM: Itti, Ittiyal, Itty alu, Itti arealou, Kallithi.
MARATHI: Nandruk.
SANSKRIT: Gajapadapa, Kantalaka, Ksavataru, Kuberaka, Kuni, Kunjarapadapa, Nandivriksha, Plaksah, Sthalivrksa, Tunna.
SPANISH: Laurel de Indias.
TAMIL: Icci, Ichi, Kallicci, Kallicchi, Kalluichi, Malaiyichi.
TELUGU: Billa juvvi, Hema vudaga, Konda pillara, Nandireka, Plaksa, Yerra juvvi.
THAI: Sai yoi, Sai yoi bai laem.

Marabutan is a large tree, often epiphytic, with slender aerial roots. Bark is brown and smooth. Leaves are elliptic, ovate or obovate, 5 to 10 centimeters long, the apex rounded or with short and blunt tapering points, narrowing into a petiole 6 to 12 millimeters long. Male flowers are numerous, scattered, stalkless or short-pedicelled. Female flowers are stalkless and much smaller. Fruit is stalkless, yellow or reddish, about 1 centimeter in diameter.

- In thickets and forests at low and medium altitudes throughout the Philippines, ascending to 1,500 meters.
- Also occurs in India to southern China, in Taiwan, and through Malaya to Australia and New Caledonia.

Parts utilized
Leaves, rootlets and bark.

- Study yielded a wide range of phytochemicals: sterols, terpenoids, glycoside, flavonoids, polyphenols, proteins and carbohydrates.

- Leaves and bark are antirheumatic.
- Plant considered pungent, bitter, and aphrodisiac.

- Leaves and bark used as poultice for rheumatism.
- In Concan, juice of leaves used for flatulent colic and the juice of bark used for liver diseases.
- Bark juice used for liver diseases.
- The rootlets are dried and powdered, mixed with salt and applied to toothaches.
- In China, adventitious rootlets used for toothaches, for which they are dried, powdered and applied to the decaying or aching tooth.
- In Ayurveda, used to treat liver disorders, hepatomegaly, wounds and ulcers.

- In Kerala, India used for treatment of leucoderma, ulcers, leprosy, itching, and biliousness. Bark used for liver diseases. Powdered leaves and bark used for rheumatic headaches. Leaves and roots used for wounds and bruises. (5)

Phenolic Content / Radical Scavenging Activity: Study of the leaves of eleven Ficus species growing in Egypt were subjected to free radical scavenging activity. Six methanol extracts, including Ficus nitida showed high activity. (2)
Anti-Diabetic: Study of water and methanolic extracts of Ficus retusa leaves showed significant lowering of blood glucose in a dose-dependent manner. No over sign of hepatotoxicity and renotoxicity were observed in chronic toxicity studies. Results conclude the extracts present a potential and safe alternative antidiabetic treatment. (3)
Antioxidant / Antibacterial: Results showed the methanol extracts of bark, fruits and leaves of F. microcarpa exhibited excellent antioxidant activities and also possessed activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The activities may be attributed to its high level of phenolic compounds. (4)
Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of ethyl acetate and methanolic extract of leaves in albino wistar rats. Results showed significant anti-inflammatory effects in reducing rat paw edema induced by carrageenan. Diclofenac was the reference anti-inflammatory agent. (7)
Hepatoprotective: Study evaluated ethyl acetate and methanolic extracts of leaves for hepatoprotective effects against carbon tetrachloride induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Both extracts showed significant hepatoprotective activity. (8)
Anti-Secretory / Antiulcer: Study evaluated an ethanol extract of stem bark in albino rats. Phytochemical analysis yielded alkaloids, triterpenoids, and flavonoids. The ethanol extract showed dose-dependent inhibition in ethanol-induced gastric lesions. Results support it ethnomedical use in the treatment of gastric ulcer. (9)


Last Update May 2013

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Pharmacognostical studies on Ficus retusa leaf / Swapnadeep et al
Total phenolic contents and free radical scavenging activity of certain Egyptian Ficus species leaf samples / El-Sayed Saleh Abdel-Hameed / Food Chemistry • Volume 114, Issue 4, 15 June 2009, Pages 1271-1277 / doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.11.005
Antidiabetic activity of Ficus retusa leaves / Swapnadeep Parial, D C Jain and S B Joshi / Drug Invention Today, Vol 2, No 1 (2010)
Evaluation of antioxidant and antibacterial activities of Ficus microcarpa L. fil. extract / Changwei Ao, Anping Li et al / Food Control, Vol 19, Issue 10, October 2008, Pg 940-948 / doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2007.09.007
STUDIES ON THE MEDICINAL PLANTS OF KERALA FORESTS / V.P.Krishnan Nambiar N.Sasidharan C.Renuka M.Balagopalan /
Sorting Ficus names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Evaluation of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Ficus retusa (Moraceae)
/ N. Jay Raju, N Sreekanth / IJRAP 2011, 2(2) 515-517
/ N. Jaya Raju and N. Sreekanth / International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy, 2011
ANTI-SECRETORY ACTIVITY OF ETHANOLIC EXTRACT OF STEM BARK OF FICUS RETUSA L. IN ALBINO WISTAR RATS / E.Kalyan Rao* and K.Praveen Kumar / International Journal of Biological & Pharmaceutical Research. 2012; 3(1): 109-112.

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