Evolvulus alsinoides (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L.

distribution in Africa (wild)
1, plant habit; 2, flower; 3, part of corolla, cut open; 4, pistil; 5, fruit. Source: PROSEA
Protologue: Sp. pl. ed. 2, 1: 392 (1762).
Family: Convolvulaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 26

Vernacular names

  • Slender dwarf morning-glory, tropical speedwell (En).
  • Corre corre (Po).

Origin and geographic distribution

Evolvulus alsinoides probably originates from the Americas but spread to Asia and probably Africa in the 1500s. It has become widespread throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. In tropical Africa it occurs from Senegal and Gambia eastward to Somalia and southward to Madagascar and South Africa.


The leaves of Evolvulus alsinoides are bitter and are widely used in Africa and Asia to prepare tonics and febrifuges. In Niger a decoction of the leaves is taken as a laxative or purgative. In Benin powdered leaves mixed with shea butter are applied as a rub to treat stiffness of the limbs. In Kenya the powdered leaves are applied to sores and bleeding wounds, and in Tanzania the pounded leaves are placed onto enlarged glands in the neck. The Suri people of Ethiopia apply crushed leaves to burns, and Sukuma people of Tanzania burn the dried leaves in a pipe as a cure for leprosy. Leaves are also made into cigarettes, which are smoked in Nigeria and India against asthma and chronic bronchitis. In Niger ash of the plant enters into a preparation that is rubbed on against skin infections, especially chickenpox. In Togo an infusion of the plant is taken to treat menstrual problems. In Nigeria an infusion made from the whole plant is taken as a stomachic. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Madagascar the pounded whole plant is added to food as a vermifuge and against diarrhoea. In Zimbabwe a piece of root is carefully rubbed over the eye to treat cataract. Maasai people in Kenya boil the plant to prepare a wash to overcome a depression.

It is one of the plants known as ‘Shankhpushpi’ or ‘Vishnukranti’ in the traditional Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine, and is renowned for its memory enhancing, antidepressant, anti-epileptic, aphrodisiac and immunomodulatory properties. It also goes into preparations against fever accompanied by indigestion or diarrhoea. In southern India an infusion of the powdered whole plant is drunk against syphilis. A preparation of the plant in oil is applied to promote hair growth.

Throughout West Africa the plant is used as a charm worn as a girdle or bracelet to procure love or a favour. In Sudan Evolvulus alsinoides is an ingredient of a charm worn against evil spirits causing diseases and after childbirth. The leaves produce a somewhat fragrant smoke that is used in northern Nigeria to perfume houses. Evolvulus alsinoides is cultivated, e.g. in Gabon, as a herbaceous ornamental. It is grazed by all stock.

Production and international trade

As a commercial drug, Evolvulus alsinoides is widely traded, especially in India. The extent of its trade in Africa is unknown.


Evolvulus alsinoides is reported to contains flavonols, saponins, alkaloids, tannins, steroids, glycosides, terpenoids, reducing sugars, amino acids, gums and mucilages. The compounds identified in whole plant extracts include long-chain alkanes, butanetriol, esters of ferulic acid and caffeoyl-quinic acid, caffeic acid, the coumarin derivatives scopoletin, scopoline, umbelliferone, and several kaempferol and sitosterol derivatives. Ethanolic leaf extracts showed moderate antibacterial and antifungal properties and also against Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. An ethanol extract of the whole plant showed anti-ulcer and anticatatonic activity in rats. In vivo, the extract significantly reduced the incidence of ulcers in aspirin-treated rats and reduced the incidence of catatonia in chlorpromazine-treated rats. In mice, the extract showed central nervous system depressant activity with ED50 of 450 mg/kg. In tests with albino mice, moderate doses (200 mg/kg) of the alcoholic extract caused drowsiness, stupor and reduced mobility; higher doses tested were neither lethal nor toxic.

Evolvulus alsinoides is mentioned in traditional Indian writings as a potential enhancer of cognitive functioning. In a study with rats, results showed that extract-treated rats did not show better learning during the pre-electroshock phase, nor did the extract attenuate induced amnesia. However, in other experiments the ethanolic extract improved learning and memory and significantly reversed amnesia induced by scopolamine. Adaptogenic, anxiolytic and anti-amnesic activities of an ethanol extract of the aerial parts were found by assessing its effects on the activity of the central nervous system of rats and mice using several behaviour and performance tests. In chronic unpredictable stress and acute stress experiments comparing the effects of Evolvulus alsinoides and Panax quinquefolius L., both extracts caused improvement in peripheral stress markers and reduced scopolamine-induced dementia, indicating their adaptogenic and anti-amnesic properties.

Several phenolics and flavonoids, isolated from the butanol soluble fraction of the ethanol extract, have been screened for antistress activity in acute stress models. In rats, stress exposure results in significant increases of plasma glucose, adrenal gland weight, plasma creatine kinase, and corticosterone levels. One of the constituents of the butanol fraction displayed a promising antistress effect by normalizing hyperglycemia and adrenal hypertrophy, and plasma corticosterone and creatine kinase levels. The compounds 1,3-di-O-caffeoyl quinic acid methyl ester and caffeic acid showed similar but more moderate effects. The effects of methanolic extracts of the roots on psychotic problems were studied using reserpine-treated rats. Chronic application of the extract reversed reserpine-induced orofacial dyskinesia as shown by significantly reduced frequencies of vacuous chewing movements and tongue protrusions in a dose-dependent manner. Crude extracts of Evolvulus alsinoides showed immunomodulatory activity in an adjuvant-induced arthritic rat model. The extract caused a marked reduction in inflammation and oedema.

Experiments on anti-inflammatory properties of plant extracts have been contradictory. Some found no effect, others report not only antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory activity, but also changes in blood-pressure and heart rate and force in laboratory rats. Most experiments are done with alcoholic extracts while in Ayurvedic medicine aqueous extracts are more commonly used. This may explain some of differences found. Aqueous extracts of the plant showed moderate anti-oxidant effects, while ethanolic extracts showed almost no effects.

A water extract of the corolla inhibited spore germination and mycelial growth of the fungi Alternaria brassicae, Alternaria brassicicola and Fusarium oxysporum.

Adulterations and substitutes

In Ayurvedic medicine, ‘Shankhpushpi’ may refer to several plant species, including Convolvulus prostratus Forsk. (synonym: Convolvulus pluricaulis Choisy), Clitoria ternatea L. and Canscora decussata (Roxb.) Roem. & Schult.


Extremely variable, annual to perennial herb, deep-rooted, thinly or sometimes rather densely covered with long, silky hairs; stems few to many, trailing or prostrate and slender, but flowering shoots ascending, up to 50(–70) cm long. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole up to 3 mm long; blade elliptical to ovate-oblong or lanceolate to linear-oblong, 5–45 mm × 1–15 mm, acute or rounded at both ends, distinctly mucronate, white silky-hairy on both surfaces. Inflorescence an axillary, 1–few-flowered cyme; peduncle very thin, 5–50 mm long, shorter to much longer than the leaves, often with 2–4 bracts at the base, these minute, lanceolate, up to 5 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel up to 10 mm long, very thin; bracteoles small; calyx densely silky or villous, not enlarged in fruit, sepals ovate-lanceolate, up to 5 mm × 1 mm; corolla broadly funnel-shaped, up to 8 mm long and wide, blue, rarely white, the folds paler beneath; stamens 5, inserted above the middle of the corolla tube; ovary superior, ovoid to globose, 2-celled, each cell with 2 ovules, glabrous, styles 2, free from the base, each forked, stigmas 4, long, terete or subclavate. Fruit a globose capsule, 3–4 mm long, glabrous, 4-valved, 4-seeded. Seed ovoid, c. 1.5 mm long, brown to black, smooth, glabrous. Seedling with epigeal germination, cotyledons deeply emarginate.

Other botanical information

About 100 species have been described in Evolvulus, mainly in the Americas, from the southern United States to Argentina. Several of these are also present in Africa, Asia and Australia. Several Evolvulus species are cultivated for their striking blue flowers, e.g. Evolvulus nuttallianus Roem. & Schult. and Evolvulus glomeratus Nees & Mart., the latter with a large-flowered cultivar 'Blue Daze'.

In the extremely variable Evolvulus alsinoides 7 varieties have been described mainly on the basis of differences in hairiness, but in Africa too many intermediate forms have been described to maintain the subdivision.

Evolvulus nummularius

Evolvulus nummularius (L.) L. has spread throughout the tropics and subtropics including much of tropical Africa, South Africa and Madagascar. It is a perennial, prostrate herb occurring in grassland, dry forest and dense thicket, and may in some localities become a weed. In traditional medicine it is used to treat fever and expel intestinal worms. The plant contains sedative and anticonvulsive substances. The plant has ornamental value.

Growth and development

Evolvulus alsinoides is pollinated by numerous insect species, including honey bees. Seeds germinate at the beginning of the rainy season, and plants start flowering after about 2 months.


Evolvulus alsinoides is a plant of sandy, open, dry grassland, thornveld and rocky places, occurring in most of the tropics and subtropics, often on limestone, at low and medium altitudes. It is locally abundant. It also occurs as a weed in waste places and arable or pastoral land.

Propagation and planting

Evolvulus alsinoides is propagated by seed. Seed weight is 12 g per 1000 seeds.


In India some cultivation trials for medicinal purposes of the species have been carried out.

Diseases and pests

In India Evolvulus alsinoides is attacked by the root fungus Sclerotium rolfsii, and by Albugo evolvuli causing gall formation on the aerial parts. It is also an alternative host for the larvae and pupae of the ubiquitous black cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon or tobacco cutworm).


Whole plants are uprooted for use.

Handling after harvest

Evolvulus alsinoides is used fresh or the leaves are dried for later use.

Genetic resources

Evolvulus alsinoides is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.


Evolvulus alsinoides will remain important in Ayurvedic medicine and in traditional medicine in Africa and elsewhere. Although much research has been done on the pharmacology and phytochemistry of Evolvulus alsinoides, little information is available on specific medicinally active compounds. It is therefore not possible to fully evaluate its potential.

Major references

  • Andrade, C., Monteiro, I., Hegde, R. & Chandra, J., 2012. Investigation of the possible role of Shankapushpi in the attenuation of ECT induced amnestic deficits. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 54(2): 166–171.
  • Austin, D.F., 2008. Evolvulus alsinoides (Convolvulaceae): an American herb in the Old World. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 117: 185–198.
  • Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2012. Evolvulus. [Internet] Prelude Medicinal Plants Database. Metafro-Infosys, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium http://www.metafro.be/prelude. Accessed September 2012.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Heine, H., 1963. Convolvulaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 335–352.
  • Schmelzer, G.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N., 2001. Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 258–260.
  • Sethiya, N.K., Nahata, A., Mishra, S.H. & Dixit, V.K., 2009. An update on Shankhpushpi, a cognition-boosting Ayurvedic medicine. Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine 7(11): 1001–1022.
  • Singh, A., 2008. Review of ethnomedicinal uses and pharmacology of Evolvulus alsinoides Linn. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 734–740.
  • 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

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  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akpagana, K., Chibon, P., El-Adji, A., Eymé, J., Garba, M., Gassita, J.N., Gbeassor, M., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Hodouto, K.K., Houngnon P., Keita, A., Keoula, Y., Hodouto, W.P., Issa Lo, Siamevi, K.M. & Taffame, K.K., 1986. Contributions aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques au Togo. Médecine Traditionelle et Pharmacopée. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 671 pp.
  • Atindehou, K.K., Koné, M., Terreaux, C., Traoré, D., Hostettmann, K. & Dosso, M., 2002. Evaluation of the antimicrobial potential of medicinal plants from the Ivory Coast. Phytotherapy Research 16(5): 497–502.
  • Atindehou, K.K., Schmid, C., Brun, R., Koné, M.W. & Traoré, D., 2004. Antitrypanosomal and antiplasmodial activity of medicinal plants from Côte d’Ivoire. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90(2): 221–227.
  • Deroin, T., 2001. Convolvulaceae. Flore de Madagascar et des Comores, familles 133 bis et 171. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 11–287.
  • Garcia, M.A., Demissew, S. & Thulin, M., 2006. Convolvulaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 3. Angiospermae (cont.). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 221–258.
  • Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
  • Gupta, P, Akanksha, Siripurapu K.B., Ahmad, A., Palit, G., Arora, A. & Maurya, R., 2007. Anti-stress constituents of Evolvulus alsinoides: an Ayurvedic crude drug. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 55(5): 771–775.
  • Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
  • Lekshmi, U.M.D. & Reddy, P.N., 2011. Preliminary studies on antiinflammatory, antipyretic, and antidiarrhoeal properties of Evolvulus alsinoides. Turkish Journal of Biology 35(5): 611–618.
  • Malik, J., Karan, M. & Vasisht, K., 2011. Nootropic, anxiolytic and CNS-depressant studies on different plant sources of shankhpushpi. Pharmaceutical Biology 49(12): 1234–1242.
  • Maritano, P.F., Alderete, L.M., Pérez de la Torre, M.C. & Escandón, A.S., 2010. In vitro propagation and genetic stability analysis of Evolvulus spp. Biotechnological tools for the exploration of native germplasm with ornamental potential. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant 46(1): 64–70.
  • Nahata, A., Patil, U.K. & Dixit, V.K., 2010. Effect of Evolvulus alsinoides Linn. on learning behavior and memory enhancement activity in rodents. Phytotherapy Research 24(4): 486–493.
  • Nambiar, G.R. & Mehta, A.R., 1981. Influence of sugars on ergot alkaloid production by cell suspensions of Evolvulus alsinoides L. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 19(6): 535–537.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Ngavoura, P., 1990. Fiabilité de la médecine traditionnelle dans le monde moderne - “Contribution du forestier”. Mémoire de fin de cycle, Ecole nationale des eaux et forêts (ENEF), Cap-Estérias, Gabon. 115 pp.
  • Sathish, K.R., Azizur Rahman, A., Buvanendran, R., Obeth, D. & Panneerselvam, U., 2010. Effect of Evolvulus alsinoides root extracts on acute reserpine induced orofacial dyskinesia. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 2, suppl. 4: 117–120.
  • Singh, K.P. & Bhavana Dhakre, G., 2010. Reproductive biology of Evolvulus alsinoides L. (medicinal herb). International Journal of Botany 6(3): 304–309.
  • Siripurapu, K.B., Gupta, P., Bhatia, G., Maurya, R., Nath, C. & Palit, G., 2005. Adaptogenic and anti-amnesiac properties of Evolvulus alsinoides in rodents. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 81(3): 424–432.
  • Vijayalakshmi, N. & Sasikumar, J.M., 2010. Phytochemical investigation of methanolic extract of the leaves of Evolvulus alsinoides Linn. Biosciences Biotechnology Research Asia 7(2): 841–847.

Sources of illustration

  • Schmelzer, G.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N., 2001. Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 258–260.


  • R.B. Jiofack Tafokou, Millennium Ecologic Museum of Cameroon, P.O. Box 8038, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Correct citation of this article

B. Jiofack Tafokou, R., 2013. Evolvulus alsinoides (L.) L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 13 November 2020.