Cressa cretica (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Cressa cretica L.

distribution in Africa (wild)
Protologue: Sp. pl. 1: 223 (1753).
Family: Convolvulaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 28

Vernacular names

  • Alkali weed, rosin weed, cressa (En).
  • Cresse de Crète, cresse à feuilles d’herniaire (Fr).
  • Erva molhada (Po).

Origin and geographic distribution

Cressa cretica occurs in tropical Africa and from the Mediterranean region east to India. In western and eastern Africa it occurs in saline and coastal areas of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and from Somalia south to Mozambique. It also occurs in Madagascar.


In Senegal a maceration of the whole plant, together with the barks of Vitex cuneata Thonn. and Faidherbia albida (Delile) A.Chev., is drunk against bronchitis. In Sudan a maceration of the aerial parts is drunk as a tonic. A decoction of the stems together with leaves of Vitex doniana Sweet, is applied topically against skin eruptions as in smallpox. In Sudan crushed dry leaves with sugar are taken as an emetic.

In Indian traditional medicine Cressa cretica is known as ‘Rudanti’ or ‘Rudravanti’. It is used to treat a variety of diseases including diabetes, asthma, constipation, joint pain, inflammation, dyspepsia, intestinal worms, flatulence, colic, skin problems, leprosy, urinary discharges and is taken as an expectorant, stomachic, tonic, aphrodisiac, antibilious and alterative. Also in Bahrain the plant is traditionally used as expectorant and antibilious agent.

The plant is reported to be used in Madagascar in making toothpaste. It has a sour and unpleasant taste. In Mauritania only camels occasionally graze it. In Iraq and in Saudi Arabia it is said to provide good fodder for sheep and goats. It is an effective soil-binder along the coasts.

Production and international trade

The plant is only traded locally and quantities involved are not known.


From an ethanol extract of the fruits the coumarano-chromone glycoside cresoside was isolated. From the aerial parts 8 acyclic terpenic compounds were isolated, cressanyl esters A–G, as well as cressatriterpenic acid. The aerial parts also contain the flavonoids quercetin, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, kaempferol-3-O-glucoside, kaempferol-3-O-rhamnoglucoside, and rutin syringaresinol-β-D-glucoside, as well as dicaffeoylquinic acids. The aerial parts further contain triacontanoic acid, 24-hydroxy-4-octacosanone, 24-nor-12-ursene, β-amyrin, stigmasterol, ursolic acid and stigmasterol 3-O-β-D-glucoside. The seeds contain 22–25% edible oil. The fatty acids of the oil consist mostly of oleic acid and palmitic acid. Other components of the oil are sterols, hydrocarbons and tocopherol.

In tests in India, extracts of stems and leaves showed strong in vitro antifungal activity against Penicillium citrinum and a weaker effect against Candida albicans. In another test chloroform and aqueous extracts showed in vitro activity against the dermatophytic fungi Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Paecilomyces varioti, Microsporum gypseum and Trichophyton rubrum. In in-vitro screening for antibacterial activity of aqueous and alcoholic extracts of Indian plant species against the pathogens Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris and Salmonella typhimurium whole plant extracts of Cressa cretica showed no activity except some activity against Klebsiella. In a similar test whole plant extracts showed weak results against Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus subflava.

The antitussive and asthma relieving properties were studied in a test with guinea pigs and mice. Ethanol extracts of whole plants showed dose-dependent reduction of coughing induced by exposure to aerosols of citric acid (guinea pigs) or sulphur dioxide gas (mice) comparable to the effect of codeine sulphate. To test the antifertility properties of Cressa cretica, male rats given daily doses of a methanol extract of Cressa cretica showed a significant decrease in the weight of testis, epididymis, seminal vesicle and ventral prostate, completely impairing their fertility.


Much-branched, short-lived perennial herb or small subshrub up to 25 cm tall; stems hairy, very leafy. Leaves alternate, simple and entire, sessile; stipules absent; blade lanceolate to ovate, 2–9 mm × 1–6 mm, base cordate to cuneate, apex acute, appressed pubescent. Inflorescence a terminal bracteate cluster at the end of lateral branches. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sessile; sepals slightly unequal, obovate, 3–4 mm long, imbricate, acute to obtuse, silky hairy; corolla campanulate, 5–6 mm long, whitish-pink, lobes imbricate, obtuse; stamens long-exserted, up to 3.5 mm long; ovary superior, 2-celled, styles 2, exserted, stigmas capitate. Fruit an ovoid capsule, 3–4 mm long, surrounded at least at base by calyx, 2–4-valved, usually 1-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 3 mm long, glabrous, shiny, dark brown.

Other botanical information

Variation in Cressa has been handled in various ways: extreme lumping into the single species Cressa cretica, or extreme splitting of every morphological variant into 19 species. Currently, most authorities recognize 4 species, Cressa cretica in Africa and from southern Europe to India, Cressa australis R.Br. in Australia and Timor, and Cressa truxillensis Humb., Bonpl. & Kunth and Cressa nudicaulis Griseb. in the Americas.

Growth and development

Cressa cretica is found flowering mainly during the rainy season.


Cressa cretica is a halophyte occurring in salt pans, on dunes or near the sea, often on the landward side of periodically inundated muds and sands of marine or interior salt marshes. It also occurs in the rice fields near the river Senegal; its presence in increasing or decreasing amount is an indication of brackishness of the water.

Propagation and planting

Cressa cretica is propagated by seed. Scarification with acid improved germination.


In tests with plants growing at different salinity concentrations, lower concentrations promoted the growth, but the highest salinity concentration (850 mM) did not have a significant adverse growth effect. Growth and reproduction of Cressa cretica plants were significantly inhibited by potassium (K) deficiency.

Genetic resources

Cressa cretica is widespread and locally common or even dominant, and is in no danger of genetic erosion.


The importance of Cressa cretica in traditional medicine especially in India warrants further study of its pharmacological value and may lead to its wider use in Africa.

Major references

  • Austin, D., 2000. A revision of Cressa L. (Convolvulaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 133(1): 27–39.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Priyashree, S., Jha, S. & Pattanayak, S.P., 2012. Bronchodilatory and mast cell stabilising activity of Cressa cretica L.: Evaluation through in vivo and in vitro experimental models. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine 5(3): 180–186.
  • Verdcourt, B., 1963. Convolvulaceae. In: Hubbard, C.E. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 161 pp.

Other references

  • Chaudhary, S., Khosa, R.L., Priyank & Rani, S., 2012. A report on pharmacognostical and quality control parameters of stem and root of Cressa cretica Linn., Convolvulaceae. Journal of Pharmacy Research 5(1): 616–621.
  • Gonçalves, M.L., 1987. Convolvulaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 8, part 1. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 9–129.
  • Hussain, S., Ahmed, E., Malik, A., Jabbar, A. & Arshad, M., 2005. Phytochemical Studies on Cressa cretica. Journal of the Cbemical Society of Pakistan 27(3): 296–298.
  • Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G., 1974. La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Plantes médicinales et toxiques. Vigot & Frères, Paris, France. 1011 pp.
  • Parekh, J. & Chanda, S.V., 2008. Antibacterial activity of aqueous and alcoholic extracts of 34 Indian medicinal plants against some Staphylococcus species. Turkish Journal of Biology 32: 63–71.
  • Pirzada, A. J., Shaikh, W., Ghani, K.U. & Laghari, K.A., 2009. Study of antifungal activity and some basic elements of medicinal plant Cressa cretica Linn against fungi causing skin diseases. Sindh University Research Journal 41(2): 15–20.
  • Priyashree, S., Jha, S. & Pattanayak, S.P., 2010. A review on Cressa cretica Linn.: a halophytic plant. Plant Review 4(8): 161–166.
  • Rani, S., Chaudhary, S., Singh, P., Mishra, G., Jha, K.K. & Khosa, R.L., 2011. Cressa cretica Linn: an important medicinal plant - A review on its traditional uses, phytochemical and pharmacological properties. Journal of Natural Product and Plant Resources 1(1): 91–100.
  • Sunita, P. & Jha, S., 2012. Constituents of cressa cretica L., a halophytic plant. Asian Journal of Chemistry 24(6): 2730–2732.
  • Sunita, P., Jha, S. & Pattanayak, S.P., 2009. In-vivo antitussive activity of Cressa cretica Linn. using cough model in rodents. Pharmacognosy Research 1(3): 157–161.


  • N.S. Alvarez Cruz, Unidad de Medio Ambiente, Delegación del CITMA, Cor. Legón 268 / Henry Reeves y Carlos Roloff, Sancti Spiritus C.P. 60100, Cuba

Correct citation of this article

Alvarez Cruz, N.S., 2013. Cressa cretica L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 12 November 2020.