Waltheria indica (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Waltheria indica L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 1: 673 (1753).
Family: Sterculiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 24


Waltheria americana L. (1753).

Vernacular names

  • Philippines: barulad (Iloko), kanding-kanding (Cebu Bisaya)
  • Thailand: taan saai (south-western), yaa hua nok khao (northern)
  • Vietnam: hoàng tiên, hoàn tiên.

Origin and geographic distribution

The area of origin of W. indica is uncertain, but it is at present widely distributed throughout the tropics and the subtropics.


In the Philippines, W. indica is considered a febrifuge and an antisyphilitic.

In Central America a decoction of various plant parts is taken as a treatment for fever and syphilis, and is applied externally on skin eruptions and wounds. In Cuba, a decoction of the leafy stems is taken to relieve bladder ailments. In Panama, it is considered a remedy for haemoptysis. In northern Nigeria and Togo a decoction of the root is given as a general tonic to children. In Burkina Faso it is given as an antidiarrhoeal to children. The root is also used as a cough medicine in Togo and in Senegal for healing wounds. Various parts are also employed in veterinary medicine in North and West Africa.

The bark yields a fibre similar to jute, but is of no commercial interest.

Production and international trade

W. indica is only used on a local scale.


A general screening of W. indica revealed the presence of some general flavonoids and caffeic acid. In addition, 3 alkaloids have been isolated: adouétine X, Y and Z. These are characterized by only one of the four nitrogen molecules being basic. The adouétine Z (in the form of its amidosulphonate) has an LD50in mice of 52.5 mg/kg. It acts as a sedative of the central nervous system and as a stimulant of the medulla. In dogs it produces hypertension, slows down the heartbeat, and has a relaxing action on the smooth muscle fibres of the intestine.

Two antifungal flavonoids have been isolated from the chloroform extract of W. indica , collected in the Philippines: 5,2',5'-trihydroxy-3,7,4'-trimethoxyflavone and 5,2'-dihydroxy-3,7,4',5'-tetramethoxyflavone. The first showed high antifungal activity against Candida albicans and low activity against Trichophyton mentagrophytes , while the second showed moderate antifungal activity against Aspergillus niger and Trichophyton mentagrophytes . Furthermore, a total aqueous extract of W. indica collected in Burkina Faso showed in vitro antibacterial activity against 3 entero-bacteria: Escherichia coli , Salmonella typhi and Shigella dysenteriae at a minimum inhibitory concentration of 5, 2.5 and 2.5 mg/ml, respectively.

Using an in vivo (mice) model, hexane, chloroform, methanol or water extracts of W. indica showed no significant effects on castor oil induced diarrhoea.


A subshrub, 0.5-2 m tall, with ascending branches, sparsely to densely stellate-pubescent or stellate-tomentose. Leaves alternate, simple, ovate-oblong to oblong, 2.5-9 cm × 1.5-4 cm, base rounded, apex obtuse or subacute, margin serrate, basally 3-5-nerved; petiole 0.5-3.3 cm long; stipules narrow. Inflorescence an axillary, dense globose cluster, subsessile or pedunculate, those in the upper axils often forming an interrupted or continuous spike-like or corymb-like inflorescence; bracts and bracteoles linear to linear-lanceolate. Flowers bisexual, 5 mm across, 5-merous; calyx tube campanulate, 2-3 mm long, lobes 5, triangular, 1 mm long; petals 5, obovate oblong, yellow, 2-5 mm long, shortly clawed; stamens 5, opposite the petals, filaments united into a tube; ovary superior, globose, 1-loculed, ovules 2, style excentric, stigma fimbriate. Fruit an obconical capsule, 3 mm × 2 mm, enclosed in the calyx, 2-valved, 1-seeded. Seed obovoid, 2 mm × 1.4 mm, dark brown. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons obovate to orbicular, 7 mm long, petiole up to 1 cm long; first leaves alternate, ovate, 1-2 cm long, densely stellate pubescent, margin serrate, petiole 1-2 cm long.

Growth and development

W. indica flowers and fruits throughout the year.

Other botanical information

Waltheria comprises about 50 species, almost all from the tropics of Central and South America, one of which is a weed in the Old World tropics and subtropics. Whereas W. indica plants from Central America are homostylous, plants in India are reported as heterostylous.


W. indica is an ubiquitous weed and early colonizer in disturbed ground, tolerant of a wide spectrum of habitats and altitudes, from coastal plains, open scrub, roadsides and weedy fields to steep rocky slopes, from sea-level to 125 m altitude in Java.

Propagation and planting

W. indica is propagated by seed.


Plant parts of W. indica are collected whenever the need arises.

Handling after harvest

Plant parts of W. indica are used fresh or dried and stored for future use.

Genetic resources and breeding

W. indica is widespread and common in dry open, often disturbed habitats throughout South-East Asia, and therefore not endangered.


Limited information is available on the phytochemistry and phytopharmacology of W. indica . More research is needed to fully evaluate its future potential.


  • Baba-Moussa, F., Nacoulma, O., Ouattara, A., Nguyen, H.P., Akpagana, K. & Bouchet, P., 1998. Activité antibactérienne des extraits aqueux totaux de Combretum micranthum, Lawsonia inermis et Waltheria indica plantes de la pharmacopée Ouest Africaine [Antibacterial activity of total aqueous extracts of Combretum micranthum, Lawsonia inermis and Waltheria indica, plants from the west African pharmacopoeia]. Revue de Médecines et Pharmacopées Africaines 11-12: 197-203.
  • Morton, J.F., 1981. Atlas of medicinal plants of Middle America, Bahamas to Yucatan. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Illinois, United States. pp. 558-559.
  • Ragasa, C.Y., Cruz, C.A., Chiong, I.D., Tada, M. & Rideout, J.A., 1997. Antifungal flavonoids from Waltheria americana. Philippine Journal of Science 126(3): 243-250.
  • Saunders, J.G., 1993. Four new distylous species of Waltheria (Sterculiaceae) and a key to the Mexican and Central American species and species groups. Systematic Botany 18(2): 356-376.
  • Verdcourt, B., 1995. Sterculiaceae. In: Dassanayake, M.D., Fosberg, F.R. & Clayton, W.D. (Editors): A revised handbook to the flora of Ceylon. Vol. 9. Amerind Publishing Co., New Delhi, India. pp. 409-445.
  • Zavala, M.A., Perez, S., Perez, C., Vargas, R. & Perez, R.M., 1998. Antidiarrhoeal activity of Waltheria americana, Commelina coelestis and Alternanthera repens. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 61(1): 41-47.

Other selected sources

74, 76, 143,

  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1948-1976. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. 11 volumes. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India.662, 760, 810.


N.O. Aguilar & J.L.C.H. van Valkenburg