Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (L.) Vahl

Protologue: Enum. Pl. 1: 206 (1804).
Family: Verbenaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= unknown


Stachytarpheta indica auct. non (L.) Vahl

Vernacular names

  • (Blue, Jamaican) Snakeweed, (bastard) vervain (En). Queue de rat, vervaine (Fr)
  • Indonesia: jarong (Javanese, Sundanese), gajihan, ngadi rengga (Javanese)
  • Philippines: kandikandilaan (Tagalog), bolo moros (Bikol), albaka (Panay Bisaya)
  • Cambodia: mo mi scha
  • Thailand: phan nguu khieo (central), yaa nuat suea (northern), yaa haang nguu (peninsular)
  • Vietnam: duôi chuột, hải tiên.

Origin and geographic distribution

S. jamaicensis originates from the New World tropics, and at present has a pantropical distribution.


The juice of the leaves, roots or the entire plant of S. jamaicensis is used in many countries as a tonic, emetic, expectorant, sudorific, stimulant, purgative, emmenagogue, emollient and cooling agent. It is used locally in various parts of its range in the treatment of headache, earache, malaria, yellow fever, syphilis, jaundice, contusions and wounds caused by blows, liver trouble, intestinal worms, and nervous pains. It is widely used in the treatment of dysentery. In Peninsular Malaysia, a decoction of the leaves is drunk against ulcers in the nose and as an antiperiodic in malaria. In Java, a decoction of the root is used for gonorrhoea and as an abortifacient. In Indo-China, the pounded leaves are rubbed on the body as a febrifuge. In West Africa the leaf sap is used in the treatment of ophthalmia and applied to sores in children’s ears; internally it is taken in the treatment of heart troubles. In Java, it is fed to cattle and horses as fodder. The young shoots are eaten as a side dish. The dried leaves are used as an adulterant in tea. S. jamaicensis is also often planted as an ornamental and for hedges.

Production and international trade

S. jamaicensis is only used on a local scale.


As is the case with many Verbenaceae , Stachytarpheta species are also known to accumulate iridoids and phenylpropanoids. Ipolamiide is an example of an iridoid-glucoside found in e.g. S. jamaicensis , S. mutabilis (Jacq.) Vahl and S. cayennensis (Rich.) Vahl . 6β-Hydroxy-ipolamiide was isolated and characterizedfrom the roots of S. indica . The phenylpropanoid verbascoside, which is also known as acetoside, is reported for S. jamaicensis and S. cayennensis .

In a general pharmacological screening, gradual doses of an aqueous extract of S. jamaicensis leaves were intraperitoneally administered to rats.The following effects were noted: a reduction of motor activity and the alarm reaction, ataxia, sedation, analgesia, anaesthesia, ptosis, piloerection, head tremors and a significant reduction of body temperature of about 8.4C. Robichaud's sign was present, probably due to some muscular relaxation. There were appreciable changes in respiration, with an increase in amplitude and reduction of frequency, followed by apnoea and the death of the animals, probably due to asphyxia. It is furthermore reported that ipolamiide and verbascoside are present in the extract, but no further information is available on their relation, or other compounds with the effects observed. The ethanol extract from fresh leaves and stem parts of S. jamaicensis exhibited spasmolytic and vasodilating activities.

In addition, the petroleum ether extract of S. jamaicensis showed no antibacterial activity using the agar dilution streak method on 6 bacteria: Enterococcus faecalis , Escherichia coli , Pseudomonas aeruginosa , Salmonella typhimurium , Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis . However, in a toxicity test on 4-stage larvae of the mosquito Aedes aegypti the ethyl acetate extract of the leaves showed strong growth retardant and anti-feedant activity. Likewise larvicidal activity was observed on the tick Boophilus microplus .

The ethanolic- and n-butanolic extracts of dried leaves of S. cayennensis were investigated using anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive in vivo models. Intraperitoneal pretreatment with the dried extracts, at doses ranging from 100 to 200 mg/kg, significantly inhibited carrageenan induced oedema formation in rats. The active extracts were further fractionated and monitored with the same bioassay: ipolamiide and verbascoside were isolated and subsequently shown to inhibit histamine- and bradykinin induced contractions of the guinea-pig ileum in vitro. In addition, the compounds also showed in vivo anti-inflammatory activity when administered orally to rats, mainly in the fourth hour after the administration of the phlogistic agent (70% and 94%, respectively). These results indicate that ipolamiide and verbascoside from S. cayennensis show anti-inflammatory properties which seem to be due, at least partly, to the inhibition of bradykinin and histamine. The extracts also exhibited antinociceptive activity measured by the hot-plate test, both i.p. and p.o. and in doses ranging from 100 to 300 mg/kg. Furthermore, acute (48 h) and subchronic (30 days) evaluation of the aqueous and ethanolic extracts in mice showed no significant effects for doses up to 300 mg/kg. For the butanol extract, however, tested at 100 mg/kg in the acute model, abdominal contractions and difficulties in locomotion have been observed immediately, and for up to 2 hours following injection.

In some regions of the world, S. cayennensis is used in folk medicine to treat gastric and intestinal disturbances. Freeze-dried aqueous extracts of the whole plant (0.5–-2 g/kg, orally) were shown to increase the intestinal motility and protect mice against ulcers induced by e.g ethanol or indomethacin. Injected into the duodenal lumen, the extract inhibited the basal acid secretion as well as that induced by histamine and bethanecol in pylorus-ligated mice. Partition of the aqueous extract in organic solvents yielded semipurified fractions whose anti-acid activity guided further chemical purification. All the fractions were chromatographically characterized, the main substances in the active extract being flavonoids and amines. The most purified active fraction obtained presented a specific activity 5-10 times higher than that detected in the original extract.

Subsequent pharmacological studies indicate that the anti-ulcer activity of S. cayennensis is related to a specific inhibition of the gastric acid secretion. Cholinergic and histaminergic stimulation of acid secretion were similarly reduced by the extracts, suggesting inhibition of common steps in both pathways, possibly at the level of histamine release/H2 receptor interaction, or at the proton pump. In addition, the freeze-dried aqueous extract of the whole plant tested in rodents up to doses of 2 g/kg orally, produced no signs of toxicity.

Finally, ipolamiide isolated from S. mutabilis inhibited feeding by the locusts Schistocerca gregaria and Locusta migratoria and larvae of the noctuid Spodoptera littoralis . It was active at concentrations well below those occurring naturally.


An erect perennial herb, up to 1.2(-2) m tall, sometimes woody at the base, often dichotomously branched from the base and spreading; young stems obtusely quadrangular, sparingly hairy. Leaves opposite, simple, obovate to oblong-elliptical, (2-)4-9 cm × (1-)2-5 cm, base cuneate to wing-like decurrent, apex obtuse to slightly acute, margin serrate-dentate, glabrous above, sometimes sparingly hairy below; subsessile to shortly petiolate; stipules absent. Inflorescence a spike, solitary, terete, stout, often flexuous, 15-50 cm long, rachis up to 7 mm in diameter, the furrows of the half immersed flowers much narrower than the mature rachis; peduncle (0.5-)1-2.5(-3.5) cm long, glabrous. Flowers sessile, at first erect, later immersed in the thickened rachis, bracteate; calyx compressed, completely embedded, about 5-7 mm long, the rim bilobed with 4 equal and 1 smaller tooth; corolla pale bluish, violet or purple, with a whitish spot at the throat, hypocrateriform, the tube about 1 cm long, slightly curved, 2-lipped, the upper lip 2-lobed, the lower 3-lobed, lobes subequal, the limb about 8 mm wide; fertile stamens 2, staminodes 2; ovary superior, 2-locular, style included. Fruit a schizocarp, oblong-linear, 3-5(-7) mm × 1.5-2 mm, enclosed in the fruiting calyx, splitting at maturity into 2 hard mericarps, each 1-seeded. Seed linear, without endosperm.

Growth and development

S. jamaicensis flowers and fruits throughout the year. Only a few flowers of a spike are open simultaneously. They are ephemerous, expanding in the early morning and falling off in the afternoon of the same day. The flowers are specialized for butterfly pollination, but other pollinators may also affect pollination. When flowers or spikes are detached the corolla is shed within a few minutes, if put in water in time new flowers will open the following morning. Seeds are easily dispersed by rainwater.

Other botanical information

Stachytarpheta is most abundant in the New World tropics and subtropics, and comprises some 65 species and many infraspecific and hybrid taxa. Great confusion exists in the South-East Asian literature with respect to the names S. indica (L.) Vahl and S. jamaicensis . In most cases the name S. indica has been misapplied to S. jamaicensis , and quite often S. jamaicensis has been misapplied to S. urticifolia Sims. Some adhere to the view that S. urticifolia and also S. dichotoma (Ruiz. & Pav.) Vahl should be considered synonyms of S. cayennensis (Rich.) Vahl. The three species are distinguished based on vegetative and floral characters, like the general stature of the plant, dimensions and serration of the leaf, the dimensions of the calyx teeth and the colour of the corolla mouth and curvature of the tube. Mention is made of plants in mixed populations showing intermediate characters, often ascribed to hybridisation. The common weed Stachytarpheta used in folk medicine is in the majority of cases S. jamaicensis . In view of the taxonomic complexity of this closely related group of species, only S. jamaicensis is treated here but properties and uses may equally apply to the other species in this complex.


S. jamaicensis is a common weed of disturbed soils on roadsides, waste places, especially in pastures but also in plantation crops throughout Asia and Oceania. The main habitat is sunny, to lightly shaded, preferably not too heavy soils with a pronounced dry season, from sea-level up to 1500 m altitude.

Propagation and planting

S. jamaicensis is propagated by seed and produces on average about 2000 seeds per plant. There are about 430 seeds per gram. A field trial for seed viability in the Philippines gave viable seeds after 6.5 years of burial.


In general S. jamaicensis is harvested whenever the need arises.

Handling after harvest

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

Genetic resources and breeding

S. jamaicensis is widespread and common throughout South-East Asia, and therefore not endangered.


Extracts and purified compounds (ipolamiide, verbascoside) from Stachytarpheta species display a range of interesting pharmacological effects, e.g. in the field of anti-inflammation and gastric disturbance. More detailed pharmacological investigation, and full toxicological screening will be needed however, in order to fully evaluate future possibilities of selected species.


  • Chariandy, C.M., Seaforth, C.E., Phelps, R.H., Pollard, G.V. & Khambay, B.P.S., 1999. Screening of medicinal plants from Trinidad and Tobago for antimicrobial and insecticidal properties. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64(3): 265-270.
  • Munir, A.A., 1992. A taxonomic revision of the genus Stachytarpheta Vahl (Verbenaceae) in Australia. Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Garden 14(2): 133-168.
  • Rajendran, A. & Daniel, P., 1997. The identity of Stachytarpheta indica auct. non (L.) Vahl (Verbenaceae). Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 34(1-4): 165-173.
  • Rodriguez, S.M. & Castro, O., 1996. Chemical and pharmacological evaluation of Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (Verbenaceae). Revista de Biologia Tropical 44(2 part A): 353-359. (in Spanish)
  • Schapoval, E.E., Winter de Vargas, M.R., Chaves, C.G., Bridi, R., Zuanazzi, J.A. & Henriques, A.T., 1998. Antiinflammatory and antinociceptive activities of extracts and isolated compounds from Stachytarpheta cayennensis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 60(1): 53-59.
  • Vela, S.M., Souccar, C., Lima-Landman, M.T. & Lapa, A.J., 1997. Inhibition of gastric acid secretion by the aqueous extract and purified extracts of Stachytarpheta cayennensis. Planta Medica 63(1): 36-39.

Other selected sources

74, 105, 134,

  • 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.

  • Chuakul, W., Saralamp, P., Paonil, W., Temsiririrkkul, R. & Clayton, T. (Editors), 1997. Medicinal plants in Thailand. Vol. II. Department of Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand. 248 pp.228, 252, 302, 380, 407, 440, 662, 688, 786, 788, 810, 951, 1071.


J.L.C.H. van Valkenburg & N. Bunyapraphatsara