Zanthoxylum armatum (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Zanthoxylum armatum DC.

Protologue: Prodr. 1: 727 (1824).
Family: Rutaceae


  • Zanthoxylum alatum Roxb. (1832),
  • Zanthoxylum planispinum Siebold & Zucc. (1846).

Vernacular names

  • Wild Chinese pepper (En)
  • Philippines: chi-it, sibit-paklauit (Igorot)
  • Laos: ma:d
  • Thailand: mak kak (northern)
  • Vietnam: dắng cay, sẻn gai


From Pakistan and northern India eastward to China, Korea, Japan, the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan; of limited distribution in Malesia, in the Philippines (Luzon) and Indonesia (Lesser Sunda Islands). Occasionally cultivated there and also outside its natural area of distribution.


In India, the pungent bark is used to clean teeth and as an insect repellent. Leaves, bark and fruits are employed in India to cure fever, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, smallpox, diabetes and cholera, and as an anthelmintic. Since ancient times, the fruits have been used in Chinese medicine as a stimulant and emmenagogue, against toothache and as an anthelmintic. The bark but also other plant parts are used to stupefy fish. Various parts of the plant are used to season food, especially in Thailand, China and India.


  • Deciduous or evergreen, dioecious, scandent or erect shrub or small tree up to 6 m tall.
  • Leaves alternate, trifoliolate or imparipinnate, 5-23 cm long, rachis winged; leaflets opposite, 3-11, ovate to lanceolate, 1.5-13 cm × 0.5-5 cm, margins entire to glandular crenate.
  • Inflorescence paniculate, axillary or terminal, 1-7 cm long.
  • Flowers about 2 mm long, perianth segments 6-7, green-yellow, undifferentiated; male flower with 4-6 stamens; female flower with 1-3-carpellate ovary and 1-3 stigmas.
  • Fruit a subglobose follicle, 4-5 mm in diameter, single or 2-3 together, reddish; each follicle 2-valved and 1-seeded.
  • Seed shiny black.

Z. armatum occurs in rain forest, thickets and, at higher elevations, often on open slopes and rock ledges; in Malesia up to 1750 m, in continental Asia up to 2400 m altitude.

Selected sources

  • Burkill, I.H., 1935. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. 2 volumes. Crown Agents for the Colonies, London, United Kingdom. 2402 pp. (slightly revised reprint, 1966. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 2444 pp.).
  • Hartley, T.G., 1966. A revision of the Malesian species of Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae). Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 47: 171-221.
  • Li, Hui‑Lin et al. (Editors), 1975-1979. Flora of Taiwan. 6 volumes. Epoch Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan. Second edition (1993- .) edited and published by the Editorial Committee of the Flora of Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan (editor-in-chief: Huang Tseng-Chieng).
  • 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.237,

271, 488, 786, 788, 810, 824, 1063. medicinals


  • P.C.M. Jansen
  • Tahan Uji