Dodonaea viscosa (PROSEA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Logo PROSEA.png
Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Dodonaea viscosa Jacq.

Protologue: Enum. syst. pl.: 19 (1760).
Family: Sapindaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 28, 30, (32)


  • Dodonaea burmanniana DC. (1822),
  • Dodonaea repanda Schumach. & Thonn. (1827),
  • Dodonaea candolleana Blume (1847).

Vernacular names

  • Hop bush (En)
  • Indonesia: cantigi (Sundanese), kayu mesen (Javanese), sikil (Malay)
  • Malaysia: kayu berteh, serengan laut, gelam paya
  • Papua New Guinea: lokai (Wapenamanda, Enga Province), kelne (Minj, Western Highlands Province), ioia (Erave, Southern Highlands Province)
  • Philippines: kalapinai, tabau (Tagalog), tubu-tubu (Cebu Bisaya)
  • Thailand: chumhet le (peninsular), mai pek
  • Vietnam: chành ràng, rù rì.

Origin and geographic distribution

D. viscosa has a pantropical distribution and is found throughout South-East Asia.


In various parts of the world, decoctions of the leaves, fruits, bark or wood of D. viscosa are employed as a febrifuge. Externally the fresh, dried or powdered leaves are applied as a poultice, apparently for their astringent properties, to treat wounds, swellings, burns and to ripen boils, sores and ulcers. Likewise, decoctions of bark and leaves are included in herbal baths for their astringent properties. In a broad sense preparations are employed largely as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, antiviral and hypotensive agents. Various gastro-intestinal disorders, skin conditions and healing of wounds are managed with these preparations. In Indonesia, wood powder is taken with water as a remedy for flatulence. In the Philippines, a decoction of the bark is used as an astringent in humid eczema and for simple ulcers. Throughout South America a decoction of the leaves is applied in hot compresses on abscesses and boils. In Papua New Guinea a decoction of the leaves or bark is drunk to treat diarrhoea or dysentery. The juice from heated leaves is rubbed on nipples of breastfeeding women as a galactagogue. In Fiji, the plant is used as a remedy for constipation and to treat sore eyes. A decoction of fresh leaves is taken by pregnant women to overcome difficulties in parturition. In Australia, the plant is used in traditional Aboriginal medicine. As an analgesic, the leaves are chewed without swallowing to alleviate toothache. The chewed leaves are poulticed on wounds caused by venomous stingfish or stingray. A cooled infusion is sponged on the body as a febrifuge. Branches with green leaves are put on a fire to produce smoke. A baby is held in the smoke for a short time to promote good health. In Mexico, the bitter leaf decoction is taken to relieve fever, colic, gout and rheumatism, and as a treatment for venereal diseases. In dry frost-free regions in Australia and the United States, the plants are frequently used in amenity and roadside plantings. They withstand drought, salt, wind and pollution. In arid zones the species is used as a windbreak or hedging plant, responding well to light clipping. It is also used to bind sandy soils and reclaim marshland. The wood is very hard, heavy and durable and is sought after as a utility timber. However, the usually small dimensions more or less restrict its use to firewood. It also makes an excellent charcoal.

Production and international trade

The medicinal use of D. viscosa is of local importance only.


Several parts of D. viscosa , e.g. the fruits, seeds and stems contain a mixture of saponins, which in the case of the seeds is sometimes called dodonin. The seeds also yield the saponins dodonosides A and B which have R1-barringenol as the aglycone. The saponin mixture in general exhibits anti-exudative, phagocytosis-enhancing and molluscicidal activity.

The plant also contains diterpenoid acids based on the ent-labdane and ent-clerodane skeleton. Hautriwaic acid (containing the ent-clerodane bicyclic skeleton) is the primary example.

In addition, a group of shikimate-derived secondary metabolites were isolated from D. viscosa , which includes compounds such as the coumarin fraxetin, the lignocoumarins cleomiscosin A and B and a vast array of flavones (from the seeds, bark, leaves and flowers) of which a significant number contain methoxyl groups at C-3 and C-6.

Aqueous and alcoholic extracts were found to exhibit cardiac depressant and coronary-constricting properties and spasmolytic activity on smooth muscle and intestine preparations in vitro. The alcoholic extract has sedative action on the virgin guinea-pig uterus and a hypotensive effect, unaffected by atropine. Both extracts possess slight anthelmintic activity, and the alcoholic extract exhibits antibacterial properties.

The aqueous and ethanolic extracts obtained from the leaves showed hypotensive properties. In the Langendorff isolated rabbit heart, administration of the alcoholic extract (0.1 ml of a 2 g/ml solution) or the aqueous extract (0.3 ml of a 2 g/ml solution) showed temporary reduction of the contractile force of the heart. Coronary perfusion rate was reduced by 41% on injection of 0.05 ml of the ethanolic extract (2 g/ml) and by 43% with 0.3 ml of the aqueous extract (2 g/ml). In the isolated frog heart, the inhibitory activity was not affected by pretreatment with atropine. Injection of 0.2 ml of a 2 g/ml solution of the ethanolic extract in the femoral vein of cats induced a slight drop in blood pressure; the aqueous extract had no effect. Both extracts (0.2 ml and 0.5 ml of a 2 g/ml solution, respectively) caused a marked relaxation of rat- and rabbit duodenum preparations and of the guinea-pig ileum in vitro. Furthermore, the ethanolic extract counteracted the spasmogenic effects induced by barium chloride, acetylcholine and histamine.

In addition, the effect of a chloroform-methanol extract from the aerial parts was studied on the isolated rat and guinea-pig ileum. The extract was found to inhibit the spontaneous contraction of the intestinal smooth muscle in a concentration-dependent manner in the 1-104μg/ml range. The activity was associated mainly with four metabolites which were subsequently isolated and identified by bioassay-directed fractionations: sakuranetin and 6-hydroxykaempferyl-3,7-dimethylether (2 flavones) and hautrivaic acid and ent-15,16-epoxy-9-α-H-λ-13(16)14-diene-3-β,8-α-diol (2 diterpenes). All compounds elicited a concentration-dependent inhibition of the spontaneous and electrically-induced contractions of guinea-pig ileum. Sakuranetin and the ent-labdane inhibited the ileum contractions evoked by acetylcholine, histamine, and barium chloride. In addition, both substances were capable of relaxing contractions of the rat uterus in vitro, induced by Ca2+in K+-depolarizing solutions. These results suggest that sakuranetin and ent-15,16-epoxy-9-α-H-λ-13(16)14-diene-3-β,8-α-diol produce an interference with the calcium metabolism in smooth muscle cells. The spasmolytic activity provides at least in part a pharmacological basis for the traditional use of the plant as an antispasmodic agent.

The isolated coumarin fraxetin has attracted some attention as an anti-oxidant. When administered to mice (25 mg/kg, 30 days), an increase in the activity of liver glutathione reductase and a decrease in the GSSG/GSH ratio were observed. Furthermore, fraxetin displayed analgesic properties in the acetic acid-induced writhing test in mice.

The crude methanol extract exhibits significant activity against the yeast Candida albicans and the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus at concentrations of 20 mg/ml. The essential oil extracted from the leaves and seeds furthermore exhibits inhibitory activity against the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica and Staphylococcus aureus.

An ethanolic extract of the leaves showed antibacterial activity against Bacillus spp., Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Escherichia coli, Micrococcus spp., Salmonella spp. and Sarcina lutea.

Using the wheat rootlet growth inhibition assay, D. viscosa showed a concentration-related growth inhibition of wheat rootlets. In addition, various extracts of D. viscosa show insecticidal activity against the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis; the hexane extract being most effective.


  • A dioecious or polygamodioecious, spreading, dense or erect, multi-stemmed shrub to single-stemmed small tree, 1.5-5(-8) m tall trunk with a diameter up to 20 cm; branches spreading or erect.
  • Leaves alternate, simple, elliptical to obovate, 5-15 cm × 2.5-4 cm, thin, base decurrent into petiole, apex rounded, entire, smooth, veins 4-8 mm apart, ending free; stipules absent.
  • Inflorescence an axillary or terminal panicle, 3-3.5 cm long, laxly and widely branched, with 12-15 flowers.
  • Flowers male, female or hermaphrodite, occurring single per specimen or usually in various mixtures; sepals (3-)4, about 2.7 mm × 1.5-1.8 mm, scar under fruit strongly lobed; petals absent; stamens 5-7, scars distinct in fruit; ovary 2(-3)-locular, style present, stigma slightly lobed.
  • Fruit a reniform-cordate, inflated, winged, septifragal capsule, 8-12 mm × 11-16 mm, thin, yellowish to light brown, very sparsely glandular, smooth, glabrous.
  • Seed subglobular, about 2.5 mm in diameter, attached to swollen placenta, smooth, black.
  • Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 8-16 mm long; cotyledons lanceolate, acute, glabrous; epicotyl 0.5-1.5 mm long; first 3-4 leaves alternate, simple, sessile.

Growth and development

D. viscosa is a species with Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). CAM plants are able to fix CO2at night and to photosynthesize with closed stomata during the day, thus minimizing water loss under arid conditions. D. viscosa flowers and fruits throughout the year. Pollination is probably by wind in the absence of any factual observations, although a considerable amount of pollen has been found in honey and pollen load samples of the bee Apis florea in India. Likewise, dispersal of the broad-winged fruits is enhanced by wind; floating on the water is another option.

Other botanical information

Dodonaea comprises about 65 species, mainly restricted to Australia, 3 species occur in Malesia. D. angustifolia L.f., another species with a worldwide distribution, is often confused with or considered to be a synonym of D. viscosa or recognized at subspecies level only. D. angustifolia is an inland species, usually dioecious with annular, non-lobed sepal scars beneath the fruit, and usually a (partly) 3-locular ovary. D. viscosa is a coastal species and has a distinctly lobed sepal scar and usually 2-locular ovaries. Traditional uses recorded for inland locations may well refer to D. angustifolia, in particular those mentioned for highland areas in New Guinea. Based primarily on leaf shape, several subspecies have been recognised in D. viscosa including the above mentioned subsp. angustifolia (L.f.) J.G. West.


D. viscosa is found in coastal vegetation on or behind sandy beaches or on limestone rock. It can be present in the Barringtonia formation and Casuarina forest but also in savanna and in coconut plantations, from sea-level up to 90 m altitude. D. angustifolia is found at (0-)1200-3600 m altitude, and seems to be adapted to a drier and cooler climate than D. viscosa.

Propagation and planting

An impermeable seed coat is part of the germination delay system for D. viscosa , and impermeability is overcome at different rates within a seed cohort. Burial of the seeds enhances breaking of seed dormancy. Acid-scarified seed stored in paper bags and closed glass bottles at room temperatures retains good viability for 11 months. Propagation by stem-cuttings 20-25 cm long, 0.7-1 cm in diameter, with at least 2-3 nodes, collected from 1-2-year old shoots under artificial mist conditions is also successful. Rooting success can be enhanced by application of indole butyric acid up to 2000 ppm. Plants can be grown in light, well-drained soils in full sun. Plantations of D. viscosa can be established by direct sowing or by using seedlings. Direct sowing is done by using 3 seeds per planting hole, which are covered by soil. When the seedlings reach a height of 10 cm, they are thinned to one. The second method involves sowing in seedbeds, and seedlings are transplanted to polythene bags when 5 cm tall. Seedlings are planted out when they have reached 13 cm height. Plants over 60 cm height do not transplant well.


For ornamental purposes shrubs of D. viscosa should be pruned to improve foliage appearance and to ensure a balanced shape; cutting back into the old wood usually results in collapse.

Diseases and pests

A yellowing disease in D. viscosa is recorded for Hawaii, caused by an unidentified plant-pathogenic phytoplasma; it causes yellowing and dwarfing of the leaves and a proliferation of fine branches into a witches’ broom; in the final stages the plant becomes defoliated and dies. A leaf blight disease caused by Alternaria tenuissima and a leaf spot disease caused by Corynespora cassiicola are mentioned for India. In New Zealand, D. viscosa may suffer from powdery mildew caused by Sawadaia bicornis and a leaf spot disease caused by Pseudocercospora dodonaeae . In South Australia leaves and branches are damaged by a gall midge (Asphodylia dodonaeae). D. viscosa is a host of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita. The larvae of Achnaea janata, a serious pest of Ricinus communis L. and Citrus and other fruits in India, also cause damage in D. viscosa.


Fruits, leaves, bark or wood of D. viscosa are collected whenever the need arises.

Genetic resources and breeding

D. viscosa is widespread and common throughout South-East Asia, and therefore not endangered. There are no known concerted breeding programmes of D. viscosa. It is represented in some seedbank collections, and selections for ornamental purposes, e.g. "Purpurea" and "Saratoga", are sometimes marketed.


There is some significant circumstantial evidence for the pharmacological basis of the traditional medicinal uses of D. viscosa. It seems likely that a number of compounds (e.g. fraxetin, sakuranetin, ent-15,16-epoxy-9-α-H-labda-13(16)14-diene-3-β,8-α-diol) may provide interesting leads for pharmacological evaluation and therefore merit further reseach.

In addition, the potential for cultivation as a shrub fuelwood on saline and alkaline soils also deserves further attention.


  • Adema, F., Leenhouts, P.W. & Van Welzen, P.C., 1994. Sapindaceae. In: Kalkman, C., Kirkup, D.W., Nooteboom, H.P., Stevens, P.F. & de Wilde, W.J.J.O. (Editors): Flora Malesiana. Series 1, Vol. 11. Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 419-768.
  • Cambie, R.C. & Ash, J., 1994. Fijian medicinal plants. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, Australia. pp. 279-280.
  • Ghisalberti, E.L., 1998. Ethnopharmacology and phytochemistry of Dodonaea species. Fitoterapia 69(2): 99-113.
  • Rojas, A., Cruz, S., Ponce-Monter, H. & Mata, R., 1996. Smooth muscle relaxing compounds from Dodonaea viscosa. Planta Medica 62(2): 154-159.
  • Rojas, A., Hernandez, L., Pereda-Miranda, R. & Mata, R., 1992. Screening for antimicrobial activity of crude drug extracts and pure natural products from Mexican medicinal plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 35(3): 275-283.
  • Uppal, R. & Khosla, P.K., 1997. Vegetative propagation through branch cuttings in selected temperate shrubs of western Himalayas. Annals of Forestry 5(1): 80-83.

Other selected sources

3, 123, 136, 353

  • Holdsworth, D.K., 1977. Medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea. Technical Paper No 175. South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia. 123 pp., 459, 461, 526, 696, 810, 842, 847, 881, 1061.


  • P.C. van Welzen