Cissampelos pareira (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cissampelos pareira L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1031 (1753).
Family: Menispermaceae
Chromosome number: n= 12

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: mangaloke (Moluccas)
  • Philippines: sansau (Tagalog), sampare (Bisaya), kalaad (Iloko)
  • Thailand: khong khamao (northern), khruea ma noi (eastern), krung khamao (peninsular)
  • Vietnam: dây mối, mối tròn, tiết dê.

Origin and geographic distribution

Cissampelos consists of 20-25 species and has a pantropical distribution.

Only the pantropical C. pareira var. hirsuta (Buch.-Ham. ex DC.) Forman occurs in Malesia. In Asia it is found from Nepal and India, through Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern China, Thailand and Malesia (but is not known from Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Java), to Australia (Queensland).


Preparations of C. pareira have a large array of uses in tropical countries and are applied against a variety of complaints. For instance, the root decoction is used to treat complaints in the following organs:

  • Urinary tract: diuretic (the Philippines, Thailand, India, Africa, Central and South America), acute and chronic cystitis (India), solvent of urinary calcifications (the Philippines, India, Africa, Madagascar, Central and South America).
  • Gastro-intestinal tract: colic (antispasmodic action: Indo-China, South America), purgative (Africa, Madagascar), diarrhoea (Thailand, Africa), dysentery (India), emetic (Madagascar).
  • Genital tract: emmenagogue (Thailand, Africa, Central and South America), painful menstruation and pre- and postnatal pains (antispasmodic action: South America), prevention of a threatened miscarriage (South America), to stop uterine haemorrhages (South America).
  • In general: febrifuge (the Philippines, Thailand, India, Africa, Central and South America), pectoral (the Philippines), cough (Africa), blennorrhoea (Indo-China), heart trouble (India), rheumatism (Africa, Central and South America), jaundice (Thailand, Central and South America), treatment for snake bites (Africa, Central and South America), sores (externally, Thailand, India).

The (pounded) leaves are applied to snake bites (the Philippines), they are used to cure scabies (the Philippines), in the treatment of abscesses, wounds and ulcers (Thailand, India, Africa, Central and South America) and as a stomachic (India). The plant is locally used by tribals in India in prevention of pregnancy.

The leaves, crushed in water, give a jelly which is used as a refreshment. In the Philippines, the fibres of the bark are made into ropes, which are used as a fish poison.

Production and international trade

C. pareira is only used in local medicine and is not traded on the international market.


C. pareira contains a number of alkaloids, especially bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids: hayatine (= d,l-bebeerine = d,l-curine), hayatidine (= d,l-4-O-methylbebeerine = d,l-4-O-methylcurine), hayatinine (= l-4-O-methylbebeerine = l-4-O-methylcurine), d-4-O-methylbebeerine (= d-4-O-methylcurine), l-bebeerine (= l-curine), d-isochondodendrine, d-dicentrine, d,l-dehydrodicentrine, d-insularine (all from roots), l-cycleanine (from roots and leaves) and cissampareine (from plants). Hayatinine (in the form of its methochloride) has been evaluated for its muscle-relaxant properties. The molecule is structurally very similar to that of d-tubocurarine from Chondrodendron tomentosum Ruiz & Pavón ( Menispermaceae , South America) and also shows comparable neuro-muscular blocking activities. Both have a non-depolarizing mode of action, and the blocking site is at the cholinergic (nicotinic) receptor in the postsynaptic membrane. Additionally, l-cycleanine has shown significant inhibition of nitric oxide production in vitro, and reduced the level of tumour necrosis factor in vivo, using a mouse model for fulminant hepatitis.

The roots have also been found to be a rich source of tropoloisoquinoline alkaloids. Using bioassay-directed purifications, guided by cytotoxicity against P388 cells, pareirubrine A, pareirubrine B, grandirubrine, isomerubrine and pareitropone have been isolated, all of which showed potent antileukemic activity. Furthermore, two cytotoxic azafluoranthene alkaloids, structurally strongly related to tropoloisoquinoline alkaloids, have been isolated from the same root extract. One of the tetrahydroprotoberberine group of alkaloids, cissamine chloride (= cyclanoline chloride) has been isolated from the roots. C. pareira exhibits curare-like activity, depressing the central nervous systems, relaxing smooth muscles and with hypotensive and hypoglycaemic action.

In tests in Africa, extracts of Cissampelos roots and leaves controlled storage pest species, such as the small beetles Acanthoscelides obtectus on cowpeas, Prostephanus truncatus on maize grains and Sitophilus oryzae on wheat grains.

Adulterations and substitutes

Other Menispermaceae have similar or related alkaloids such as benzylisoquinolines, and similar applications. Cyclea barbata Miers is known to be used as a substitute.


  • A dioecious scandent shrub with woody older stems and slender leafy stems, glabrous to densely pubescent.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, simple and entire, broadly ovate, 4.5-11 cm × 4.5-12 cm, with rounded, truncate or cordate base and acuminate to obtuse apex, mucronate at the tip, hairy below, sparsely pubescent above, palmately 5-7-veined; petiole 2-9 cm long, pubescent; stipules absent.
  • Male inflorescence an axillary subcorymbose peduncled cyme, 2-4 cm long, solitary or a few together; female inflorescence axillary, thyrsoid, narrow, up to 18 cm long, composed of a pseudoraceme of fascicles with accrescent suborbicular bracts.
  • Flowers unisexual, pedicel up to 2 mm long; male flower greenish or yellowish, with 4 sepals pilose outside, a cupuliform corolla and stamens completely fused, having 4 anther-cells; female flower with one sepal, one petal and one pilose carpel having a thick style with divaricately 3-lobed stigma.
  • Fruit a pubescent, orange to red drupe, about 5 mm long, curved with style-scar near base; endocarp with 2 dorsal rows of very prominent transverse ridges.
  • Seed horseshoe-shaped; embryo elongate, narrow, embedded in endosperm, cotyledons flattened.

Growth and development

The flowers are probably pollinated by small insects such as flies and bees, and possibly small beetles and moths.

Other botanical information

C. pareira has been subdivided into 2 varieties: var. pareira occurs in the West Indies, var. hirsuta (Buch.-Ham. ex DC.) Forman (synonyms: C. pareira L. var. orbiculata (DC.) Miq., C. pareira L. var. peltata Scheff., C. pareira L. var. typica Diels) is pantropical. C. pareira has been erroneously recorded from Peninsular Malaysia and Java. These records are based on misidentified specimens of Pericampylus glaucus (Lamk) Merr.

C. owariensis P. Beauv. ex DC. is cultivated in Africa as a medicinal plant.


C. pareira occurs in primary and secondary forest, in Thailand also in bamboo forest, and in thickets, up to 1300 m altitude. It climbs over trees and river banks.

Genetic resources and breeding

C. pareira is very widespread and locally common (e.g. in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand). There is no reason to suppose any danger of genetic erosion. The quantity and composition of the alkaloids found in the roots seem to differ between accessions from different regions of the extremely large area of distribution. Although it cannot be excluded that this is partly due to misidentifications, it is possibly a result of great genetic diversity.


The alkaloids present in C. pareira have interesting properties, e.g. antileukaemic and neuromuscular blocking activity. The roots are used in traditional medicine in different parts of the world for similar purposes, which seems to confirm their effectiveness.


  • Brown, W.H., 1951. Useful plants of the Philippines. Reprint of the 1941-1943 edition. Vol. 1. Technical Bulletin 10. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Bureau of Printing, Manila, the Philippines. p. 531.
  • Forman, L.L., 1986. Menispermaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. & de Wilde, W.J.J.O. (Editors): Flora Malesiana. Ser. 1, Vol. 10. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Boston, London. pp. 234-236.
  • Forman, L.L., 1991. Menispermaceae. In: Smitinand, T. & Larsen, K. (Editors): Flora of Thailand. Vol. 5(3). The Forest Herbarium, Royal Forest Department, Bangkok. pp. 323-325.
  • Hegnauer, R., 1969. Chemotaxonomie der Pflanzen [Chemotaxonomy of plants]. Vol. 5. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, Boston, Stuttgart. p. 81.
  • Morita, H., Matsumoto, K., Takeya, K. & Itokawa, H., 1993. Azafluoranthene alkaloids from Cissampelos pareira. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 41(7): 1307-1308.
  • Morita, H., Matsumoto, K., Takeya, K. & Itokawa, H., 1993. Conformation of tropolone ring in antileukemic tropoloisoquinoline alkaloids. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 41(8): 1478-1480.
  • Morita, H., Matsumoto, K., Takeya, K., Itokawa, H. & Iitaka, Y., 1993. Structures and solid state tautomeric forms of two novel antileukemic tropoloisoquinoline alkaloids, pareirubrines A and B, from Cissampelos pareira. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 41(8): 1418-1422.
  • Nguyen Van Duong, 1993. Medicinal plants of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Mekong Printing, Santa Ana, California, United States. pp. 257-258.
  • Niber, B.T., Helenius, J. & Varis, A.L., 1992. Toxicity of plant extracts to three storage beetles (Coleoptera). Journal of Applied Entomology 113(2): 202-208.
  • Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. pp. 294-296.

Other selected sources

979, 1554.


S.F.A.J. Horsten & R.H.M.J. Lemmens