Phyla nodiflora (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phyla nodiflora (L.) Greene

Protologue: Pittonia 4: 46 (1899).
Family: Verbenaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= (32), 36


Verbena nodiflora L. (1753), Phyla chinensis Lour. (1790), Lippia nodiflora (L.) Michx. (1803).

Vernacular names

  • Lippia, frog fruit, cape weed (En)
  • Philippines: busbusi (Iloko), chachahan (Tagalog), sirik puyo (Bisaya)
  • Cambodia: man am ca dam
  • Thailand: yaa klet plaa (central)
  • Vietnam: dây lức, sài dất giả.

Origin and geographic distribution

P. nodiflora is found in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world.


In the Philippines, an infusion of the leaves and tops of P. nodiflora is employed as a carminative and diuretic. In traditional Indian medicine the plant is considered emollient, a febrifuge and diuretic. A poultice of the fresh plant is applied to ripen boils. A paste or poultice is further applied to swollen cervical glands, to erysipelas, burns, and to chronic indolent ulcers. It is said to be useful in the treatment of blenorrhoea, lithiasis, ischuria, constipation and pain in the knees. An infusion is drunk as a post-partum tonic. An infusion of the fresh whole plant or the root is used in the treatment of fever, whereas in Nepal plant juice is applied for the same purpose. In Nepal, fresh juice from roots or aboveground parts and in Iran dried whole plants are used for minor gastro-intestinal complaints. The plant parts are applied as a gastric stimulant and as an astringent also against ulcers. In Iran an infusion is used as an anthelmintic. In Vietnam, the leaves are used in treating bronchitis and other respiratory ailments, and a similar use is reported for some areas in India. In the Philippines, an infusion of the leaves is drunk as a substitute for tea. It is valued as a lawn plant where grass is too difficult to maintain, as it makes an excellent ground cover, withstanding walking and trampling very well. It can be used to control water and wind erosion. Locally it is an important nectar plant for honeybees.

Production and international trade

P. nodiflora is only used on a local scale.


P. nodiflora plants contain an essential oil. Steam volatile compounds include monoterpenes such as carvacrol, thymol, p-cymene,β-ocimene,β-pinene andγ-terpinene, and sesquiterpenes e.g.β-caryophyllene,β-bisabolene andδ-cadinene. Further characteristic compounds are benzenoids, e.g. phenylacetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, 2-phenethyl alcohol and methyl salicylate, and alkanes like octan-3-ol, 2,6-dimethyl-octane.

Phytochemical investigations have revealed the presence of many flavonoids in several parts (aerial parts, leaves, flowers): batatifolin, lippiflorin-A and -B, nodifloridin-A and -B, nodifloretin-A and -B, and derivatives of 6-hydroxyluteolin, hispidulin, jaceosidin and nepetin. Many flavonoids occur as sulphated derivatives in the plant material. Other characteristic phytochemical compounds include the phenylpropanoid verbascoside, and the quinoid cornoside.

A methanolic extract of the dried aerial parts of P. nodiflora was active against Mycoplasma phlei at a concentration of 1 mg/disk using an in vitro assay. However, in several other assays, no antimicrobial activity could be detected against several strains of yeasts, mycoplasma or some pathogenic bacteria.

Petroleum ether, ethanolic or water extracts of the dried leaves of P. nodiflora were tested for anti-inflammatory- or analgesic activity in vivo. In rats, the petroleum ether-extract, at an oral dose of 0.5 g/kg, showed anti-inflammatory activity after induction of pedal oedema with carageenin, and anti-pyretic activity after induction of pyrexia with yeast suspension. Also a decoction of the plant displayed significant anti-pyretic activity using the latter model. In addition, the aqueous extract displayed analgesic activity in mice undergoing the hot-plate- and acetic acid-induced writhing assays.

Other pharmacological effects of hydroethanolic extracts include antispasmodic activity in vitro on the isolated guinea-pig ileum, and in vivo antitumour activity against P-388 cells transplanted in mice. No cytotoxicity could be detected, however, against CA-9KB cells cultured in vitro. A methanolic extract of the dried whole plants also showed no toxic effects against Vero cells, but partially inactivated herpes simplex virus-1 at a concentration of 200μg/ml. Furthermore, an ethanol extract was active as an anthelmintic; it caused paralysis in human roundworms, Ascaris lumbricoides , within 18 hours of application.

Extracts of P. nodiflora are considered to be very safe. LD50values reported in the literature include > 10 g/kg orally and > 1 g/kg intraperitoneally for an ethanol extract in mice.


A perennial creeping herb, stems prostrate, mostly rooting at the nodes, (10-)30-90 cm tall; branches slender, procumbent or ascending, densely appressed strigillose, to puberulent or glabrescent. Leaves decussate, variable, spathulate to obovate or elliptical, 1-7 cm × 0.6-2.5 cm, base long- or short-cuneate, apex rounded or obtuse, margin basally entire, sharply serrate above the middle, variably strigillose puberulent to glabrous on both surfaces, fleshy; petiole 2-8 mm long or absent; stipules absent. Inflorescence axillary, at first globose-capitate, later cylindrical, often elongating in age, 1-2.5 cm × 0.5-1 cm long when mature, densely many-flowered; peduncle 1-11.5 cm long, bracteolate. Flowers sessile, subtended by a bract, calyx deeply 2-cleft, up to 2 mm long, corolla purple or pink to white, the mouth often yellow and the throat pink-brown, the tube slightly exserted from the calyx, 4-lobed, the lobes subequal, the lower lobe larger and bifid, stamens 4, didynamous, included or slightly exserted; ovary superior, 2-locular, 1 ovule per locule, stigma capitate. Fruit a drupe, dry, globose to oblong, flattened, 1.5-2 mm long, at maturity dividing into 2 planoconvex pyrenes.

Growth and development

P. nodiflora flowers and fruits throughout the year.

Other botanical information

Phyla comprises some 10-20 species and is widely distributed in subtropical and tropical America, and only 1 or 2 species are found in the Old World tropics.


P. nodiflora is found on a wide range of soils but prefers well-drained sandy soils and is often encountered bordering waterways and near the sea. It can be a common weed in open, waste places at low and medium altitudes.

Propagation and planting

P. nodiflora is propagated by seed or division.


P. nodiflora can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Flowers are most abundant when grown in full sun.

Diseases and pests

P. nodiflora is susceptible to the fungi Cercospora lippiae and Meliola durantae .


In general P. nodiflora is harvested whenever the need arises. Leaves and flowers are in general present throughout the year.

Handling after harvest

Plant parts of P. nodiflora are usually used fresh but roots and aboveground parts may well be dried for future use.

Genetic resources and breeding

P. nodiflora is widespread and common throughout South-East Asia, and therefore not endangered.


Interesting anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of P. nodiflora extracts are reported from the literature. Furthermore, a reasonable amount of phytochemical data is available. More research will be needed, however, especially to investigate possible links between pharmacology and phytochemistry, in order to evaluate its potential for future developments.


  • Bhakuni, D.S., Bittner, M., Marticorena, C., Silva, M., Weldt, E., Hoeneisen, M. & Hartwell, J.L., 1976. Screening of Chilean plants for anticancer activity: I. Lloydia 39(4): 225-243.
  • Bhakuni, D.S., Dhar, M.L., Dhar, M.M., Dhawan, B.N. & Mehrotra, B.N., 1969. Screening of Indian plants for biological activity: Part II. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 7: 250-262.
  • Elakovich, S.D. & Steven, K.L., 1985. Volatile constituents of Lippia nodiflora. Journal of Natural Products 48(3): 504-506.
  • Forestieri, A.M., Monforte, M.T., Ragusa, S., Trovato, A. & Iauk, L., 1996. Antiinflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activity in rodents of plant extracts used in African medicine. Phytotherapy Research 10(2): 100-106.
  • Munir, A.A., 1993. A taxonomic revision of the genus Phyla Lour. (Verbenaceae) in Australia. Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens 15(2): 109-128.
  • Taylor, R.S.L., Edel, F., Manandhar, N.P. & Towers, G.H.N, 1996. Antimicrobial activities of southern Nepalese medicinal plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 50(2): 97-102.

Other selected sources

73, 74,

  • 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.

501, 696, 739, 810, 992, 1007.


Wongsatit Chuakul, Noppamas Soonthornchareonon, Orawan Ruangsomboon.