Cordia dichotoma (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cordia dichotoma J.G. Forster

Protologue: Fl. ins. austr. prodr. 18: 110 (1786).


  • Cordia suaveolens Blume (1826),
  • Cordia griffithii C.B. Clarke (1885),
  • Cordia premnifolia Ridley (1915),
  • Cordia obliqua auct. non Willd.,
  • Cordia myxa auct. non L.

Vernacular names

  • Philippines: anonang (general), anonang-bakir (Ilocos Sur), guma (Balabac), sinaligan (Iloko)
  • Burma (Myanmar): sebasten tree, thanat
  • Sebestan plum, soap berry (En)
  • Capestan (Fr)
  • Indonesia: kendal (Javanese, Balinese), nunang (south-western Sumatra, Malay), toteolo (Halmahera)
  • Malaysia: sekendal, sekendai, petekat (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: anonang (general), anonang-bakir (Ilocos Sur), guma (Balabac), sinaligan (Iloko)
  • Burma (Myanmar): sebasten tree, thanat
  • Papua New Guinea: cordia (general)
  • Laos: 'man, 'man khôk
  • Thailand: mandong (Nakhon Ratchasima), phakmong (Shan, northern), manmu (Lampang).
  • Vietnam: lá bạc, lá trắng, thiên dầu thống


From northern India, Indo-China and Thailand, throughout the Malesian area towards southern China, the Solomon Islands, north-eastern Australia and New Caledonia.


In Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indo-China almost all plant parts of C. dichotoma are used for medicinal purposes. A decoction of the stem bark is taken for dyspepsia, diarrhoea, dysentery fever, headache, stomach-ache, and as a tonic. It is also beneficial after parturition. Externally, the moistened bark is maturative when applied to boils, swellings and tumours. It is applied to ulcers in the mouth in the form of a gargle or as a powder. The teeth are rubbed with the bark to strengthen them. In Burma (Myanmar), the bark is used to treat catarrh and the fruit is cooling. The juice of the leaves is also considered cooling, and is applied as a poultice to treat migraine, inflammation and swellings. The powdered seeds or the fresh fruits are applied to skin eruptions and gonorrhoea. The fruit is very mucilaginous and highly esteemed for coughs and diseases of the chest, the uterus and the urethra. In larger quantities it is given in bilious affections as a laxative. In India, the fruit is considered demulcent and the bark mildly astringent and tonic. The seeds are considered a good remedy for ringworm; they are powdered, mixed with oil and applied topically.

The timber of C. dichotoma is tough, fairly strong and seasons well, but insects soon attack it. The wood is used for temporary and light construction, small boats, tools and tool handles; sometimes also used for fuel. The fibres of the bark are used to make ropes. In Indonesia, the leaves are used to wrap fish before cooking, and in Burma (Myanmar) they are used as plates and cigar wrappers. In India, the sweet, translucent pulp of the fruit is considered edible; the fruit can also be pickled. In China though, the fruits are used to stupefy fish. The very mucilaginous pulp yields a short-term glue, similar to that of other species, e.g. C. cochinchinensis Gagnep., from Indo-China and Peninsular Malaysia. C. dichotoma also provides high-quality fodder which is available throughout most of the year. In the Philippines, branches are placed in upland rice to deter termites.

Other Cordia species, often important for their use as a timber, are medicinally used as well. In India, the mucilaginous fruits of C. myxa L. are used for cough and chest complaints on account of their demulcent properties. The entire plant is used for snakebite, and a decoction of the fresh bark is used for fever and dyspepsia. In Indo-China and Africa, the fruits are eaten, and are also used as an emollient and tonic. The bark is a tonic and the powdered seeds are applied as a paste on skin problems. In Vietnam, the ripe seeds of C. bantamensis Blume are used as an anthelmintic to treat taenia and ascarids. In Indonesia (Ternate), the young leaves of the timber tree C. subcordata Lamk, crushed or rubbed on the hands impart an odour which protects them from the stings of poison fish; if stung, the leaves are rubbed on the wounds to subdue pain. In New Guinea, a decoction of the leaves is used to bathe limbs of people with muscular or rheumatic pain. Fresh leaves are used externally in East New Britain for tropical ulcers and knee wounds.

A decoction of the leaves of C. alliodora (Ruiz & Pavon) Oken, from Central and northern South America, but introduced into Sabah as a plantation tree, is taken in Mexico as a stimulating tonic, especially in cases of catarrh and pulmonary ailments. In El Salvador and the West Indies, a decoction of the leaves is applied to bruises, swellings and skin diseases. A decoction of fresh or dried leaves of C. curassavica (Jacq.) Roem. & Schult, a shrub from Central America and northern South America, but introduced into West Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo at the end of the 19th Century, where it has become a troublesome weed, is taken in Trinidad to relieve colds, influenza, fever, pneumonia, coughs and insomnia. The pressed juice of the leaves is given to cure malaria. (medicinals)

Production and international trade

C. dichotoma is only used on a local scale for medicinal purposes.


The stem bark of C. dichotoma contains 2% tannic acid, the leaves contain flavonol glycosides and phenolics, the seed contains 46% fat (rich in unsaturated fatty acids), and 31% protein (containing several essential amino acids). A neutral polysaccharide was isolated from the fruits and separated into 2 fractions. The major fraction contained D-glucose and L-arabinose in the molar ratio of 21:4. Analysis suggested it to be an arabinoglucan, and the backbone of the polysaccharide to be composed of (1-> 6)-linked D-glucopyranosyl and (1-> 2)-linked L-arabinofuranosyl residues. From the seeds, 11 compounds were isolated and two of these,α-amyrin and 5-dirhamnoside, showed 71 and 68% anti-inflammatory activity, respectively, in tests with rats when applied as an oral dose of 1 g/kg.

The ethanolic leaf extract was investigated for antifertility effects on male rats in oral doses of 100 mg/kg daily for 21 days. Though none of these extracts interfered with spermatogenesis, anti-implantational and abortifacient effects were observed in females mated by the males fed with the leaf extracts.

Finally, an extract of fruits showed a strong reduction in hatching of nematode eggs of Meloidogyne incognita treated with a range of concentrations, but the leaves were ineffective.

The density of the wood is 425-520 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. See also the table on wood properties.

From the root bark of C. alliodora a phenylpropanoid derivative, 1-(3'-methoxypropanoyl)-2,4,5-trimethoxybenzene, and a prenylated hydroquinone have been isolated. Both compounds exhibited antifungal properties against the phytopathogenic mould Cladosporium cucumerinum. The phenylpropanoid derivative, whose structure is closely related toβ-asarone, also demonstrated a marked activity against larvae of Aedes aegypti. From the roots of C. curassavica, the meroterpenoid naphthoquinones cordiaquinones A and B, J and K have been isolated. The four naphthoquinones demonstrated antifungal activities against Cladosporium cucumerinum, Candida albicans and toxic properties against larvae of the yellow fever-transmitting mosquito Aedes aegypti.


  • A shrub or small tree, 5-10(-25) m tall, bole up to 60(-100) cm in diameter, bark surface smooth, becoming fissured with age.
  • Leaves alternate, variable, ovate to oblong-ovate, 6-15 cm √ó 5-8 cm, base acute, rounded or cordate, apex acuminate to rounded, margins entire or somewhat undulate, membranaceous to coriaceous, glabrous to sparsely hairy; petiole 1.5-4.5 cm long; stipules absent.
  • Inflorescence terminal or on slender lateral branches with 2-4 leaves, subcorymbose to subthyrsoid, lax, with pseudo-dichotomous branching, 5-11 cm long, with 10-many flowers.
  • Flowers male or bisexual, the two types on different trees, sessile; calyx cup-shaped, 3-5 mm √ó 3-4 mm, opening irregularly at the apex, hairy, accrescent to 6-10 mm long, glabrescent; corolla cylindrical-campanulate, 6-8(-10) mm long, white, yellowish-white or green, tube 3 mm long, lobes 4-6, oblong, spreading and reflexed; stamens as many as corolla lobes, inserted at corolla, long exserted; ovary superior, 4-locular, 1 ovule per locule, style twice forked.
  • Fruit drupaceous, ovoid, 10-13(-25) mm long, yellowish-white, orange or pinkish when ripe, 1(-3)-seeded, outer mesocarp pulpy and sticky, mucilaginous.
  • Seed ovoid, flattened, up to 6 mm long, endosperm absent.
  • Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl elongated; cotyledons leafy; first leaves alternate.

Growth and development

In Java, C. dichotoma flowers in June, and from November-–February. The fruits are often deformed by galls.

Other botanical information

Cordia is a large pantropical genus of about 250-300 species, in Malesia represented by 6 indigenous species and 3 species introduced from tropical America.

The real C. myxa L. is a native of the eastern Mediterranean region, but has long been naturalized in tropical Africa, India, Indo-China and Australia, more rarely so in South America. Whether C. myxa and C. dichotoma are truly different, is still doubtful.


C. dichotoma occurs in coastal hills, inland fringes of mangroves, also in open forests, thickets and savanna, from sea-level up to 500 m altitude, or planted up to 1500 m altitude, sometimes as a roadside tree. It tolerates a range of soils, but thrives on deep, moist, sandy loams, and does not grow well on dry, shallow, or gravelly soils. It occurs naturally in areas where the annual rainfall ranges from approximately 250-3000 mm; in areas with less than 500 mm rainfall it grows in depressions and alongside streams.

Propagation and planting

C. dichotoma is propagated by seed, cuttings or by stump plants. Branches root easily, and are often used as garden stakes. The number of seeds per kg ranges from 4200-6700. Natural regeneration can be unreliable, because a high proportion of seeds may be affected by seed borers, and the seedlings are susceptible to grazing. Artificial regeneration by direct sowing is possible, but more reliable results can be achieved with planting stock.


C. dichotoma is moderately tolerant of shade, although from the pole stage it prefers open conditions. It coppices and pollards well.

Diseases and pests

Several fungi attack C. dichotoma and C. alliodora, including Phellinus noxius which causes brown root rot and black bud rot, and Phyllactinia thirumalachari which causes powdery mildew on leaves. Insect pests recorded on C. dichotoma include the Mango mealy bug, the whitefly Aleuroclava afriae and the thrips Austrothrips cochinchinensis. Leaf galls of C. dichotoma are induced by the mite Eriophyes cordiae, those of C. myxa are caused by weevils (Baris cordiae), mites (Eriophyes cordiae) and thrips (Aneurothrips), and all 3 gall types can appear on the same leaf. The roots of C. dichotoma are attacked by the nematode Meloidogyne incognita.

C. curassavica, introduced into the Botanic Gardens of Singapore from tropical America, spread rapidly over Peninsular Malaysia from 1954 onwards and has become a weed pest, especially in large coconut plantations. Since 1977, biological control programmes have been developed to eradicate this weed. The galerucid Metrogaleruca obscura (attacking the leaves) and the eurytomid Eurytoma attiva (attacking the fruits) have become established, and reduced the population of C. curassavica to an acceptable level.


The plant parts of C. dichotoma used for medicinal purposes are harvested whenever needed or when they are available.


In Indo-China, a mature tree of C. dichotoma can produce 20-50 kg of fruit per year.

Handling after harvest

Most plant parts of C. dichotoma are used fresh, but the seeds and sometimes the stem bark may be dried and powdered before use.

Genetic resources and breeding

C. dichotoma is widespread and common throughout South-East Asia, and therefore not endangered.

There are no known breeding programmes of C. dichotoma.


Little is known about the phytochemistry and phyto-pharmacology of C. dichotoma . In a preliminary screening, interesting activity was found in the field of anti-inflammation. More research is needed to fully evaluate the future possibilities of this plant.


  • Choudhary, D.N., Singh, J.N., Verma, S.K. & Singh, B.P., 1990. Antifertility effects of leaf extracts of some plants in male rats. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 28(8): 714-716.
  • Chovatia, R.S. & Singh, S.P., 1996. Propagation of Cordia dichotoma Forster through budding and grafting. Journal of Applied Horticulture Navsari 2(1-2): 127-134.
  • Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. pp.769-771.
  • Riedl, H., 1997. Boraginaceae. In: Kalkman, C., Kirkup, D.W., Nooteboom, H.P., Stevens, P.F. & de Wilde, W.J.J.O. (Editors): Flora Malesiana. Series 1. Vol. 13. Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 43-144.
  • Theagarajan, K.S., Prabhu, V.V. & Rao, P.S., 1977. Chemical examination and utilisation of Cordia dichotoma kernel. Current Science 46(15): 511-512.
  • Wong, W.C. & Sudo, S., 1995. Cordia L. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Soerianegara, I. & Wong, W.C. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(2). Timber trees: Minor commercial timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 147‚Äì-152.

Other selected sources

8, 93,

  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A-H) pp. 1-1240, Vol. 2 (I-Z) pp. 1241-2444.

407, 469, 470, 647, 696, 727, 739, 786, 788, 1066. medicinals

36, 60, 68, 77, 78, 99, 145, 203, 234, 273, 382, 450, 497, 527, 574, 676, 705. timbers


  • N.O. Aguilar