A las cuatro

Family • Nyctaginaceae - Mirabilis jalapa Linn. - FOUR O'CLOCK - Xi zao hua

Scientific names

Mirabilis jalapa Linn.
Mirabilis longiflora Linn.
Mirabilis lindheimeri
Mirabilis dichotoma
Mirabilis odorata
Jalapa congesta L.
Nyctago versicolor L.
Nyctago jalapa L.
Zi mo li (Chin.)

Common names

A las cuatro (Span., Tag.)
Maravilla (Span.)
Gilala (Tag.)
Oracion (Tag.)
Suspiros (Span.)
Clavilla (So. Amer.)
Talang (Sul.)
Four o’clock (Engl.)
Marvel of Peru (Engl.)
Xi zao hua (Chin.)

a las quatroBotany
Alas cuatro is an erect, nearly or quite smooth, branched plant, about 20 to 80 centimeters in height. Leaves are narrowly ovate, 4 to 10 centimeters long. Involucres are crowded, calyxlike, about 1 centimeter long or less, with one flower. Perianth is white, purple, or yellow, 3 to 4 centimeters long, with a cylindrical tube which is slightly enlarged and upward, and with a spreading limb. Fruit is narrowly ovoid, about 8 millimeters long, black and finely ribbed.

– Throughout the Philippines in settled areas.
– In cultivation; also frequently spontaneously.
– Introduced from Mexico by the Spaniards
– Now pantropic.

– Roots contain oxymethylanthroquinone.
– Plant contains trigonelline, an alkaloid, that possess a purgative action.
– Also contains galactose and arabinose.
– Phytochemical screening yielded steroids, alkaloid, flavonoid, carbohydrates, glycosides, and proteins in the total alcoholic extracts.
– Phytochemical screening yielded ten compounds: chrysophanol, physcion, stigmasterol, mirabijalone A, boeravinone C, Aurantiamide acetate, glycerin monoeicosate, β-sitosterol, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid.
– Roots isolated eleven compounds identified as astragaloside II, astragaloside II, astragaloside IV, astragaloside VI, flazin, 4′-hydroxy-2, 3-dihydroflavone 7-beta-D-glucopyranoside, gingerglycolipid A,, 3, 4-dihydroxybenzaldehyd, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, beta-sitosterol, and daucosterol.

Considered diuretic, purgative, vulnerary.
Tubers are weakly purgative and emetic.
Root is believed to be aphrodisiac; also reported to be purgative, emetic and cathartic.

Parts used
Leaves, roots, tubers.

– Juice of leaves are soothing when applied to areas of urticaria.
– In India and Java bruised leaves used as poultices for boils and abscesses, and the juice used for uterine discharges.
– Juices of leaves used internally for gonorrhea.
– Infusion of leaves used as a diuretic and for dropsy.
– Roots used as mild purgative, emetic and cathartic.
– Leaves are anti-inflammatory. Decoction used for abscesses.
– Leaf juice used for wounds.
– In China, used in traditional medicine in treatment of diabetes.
– In Peru, root decoction used as diuretic.
– In India and Java, bruised leaves used for poulticing boils and abscesses; juice used for uterine discharges.
– In Brazil, Kayapo indians inhale the powdered dried flowers for headaches; the Assurani Indians grate the tuberous seeds and drink it for intestinal parasites. Poultice of leaves and flowers used for eczema, skin infections and itching.
– In south Brazil, leaves used to treat inflammatory and painful diseases; also used as laxative.
– In Mexico, the decoction of entire plant is used vaginal discharge, dysentery, diarrhea, abdominal colic and muscle pains.
– In Thailand, seed powder used for infections.
– In South Africa, used as a purgative.

Leaves are used as emergency food.

Crushed seed used as pepper substitute.

Other vernacular names

AYURVEDA: Gulambasa.
BRAZIL: Maravilla, Bonnia.
CHINESE: Yan zhi hua, Fen dou hua, Ye fan hua, Zhuang yuan hua, Ding xiang ye, Ku ding xiang.
INDONESIA: Kembang Pagi Sore, Kembang Pukul Empat, Bunga Waktu Kechil (Melayu); Kederat, SegeratTegerat (Java); Noja (Bali); Bungga Ledonosko (Roti); Loro Laka (Timor); Bunga-bunga Paranggi (Makasar); Pukul Ampa (Minahasa); Kupa Oras (Ambon); Cako Rana (Ternate)
GERMAN: Wunderblume
HINDI: Gul-abbas.
KOREAN: Punkkot
MALAYSIA: Kembang Pukul empat, Kembang Lohor, Kembang Dzohor
NEPAL: Maritidhs, Nakajali; Lankaphul, Lankasoni, Malati; Labujana, Langasani; Barka gurubands.
PERU: Marvel of Peru.
SPANISH: Clavellina, Clavillia, Maravilla, Hoja de Xalapa

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Mirabilis jalapa / Plants For A Future

(2) Pharmacological study of antispasmodic activity of Mirabilis jalapa Linn flower / Kazuko Aokia, Alma Rosa Cortésa, / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2007.11.004 / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol 116, Issue 1, 28 Feb 2008, Pages 96-101

(3) Antinociceptive activity of Mirabilis jalapa in mice / Cristiani I.B. Walker et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology • Volume 120, Issue 2, 20 November 2008, Pages 169-175 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.08.002

(4) Clavilla / Mirabilis jalapa: Raintree – Tropical Plant Database

(5) Indigenous Theories of Contagious Disease / Edward Green /

(6) Characterization of Mirabilis antiviral protein – a ribosome inactivating protein from Mirabilis jalapa L / Ricky N S Wong et al / IUBMB Life, Volume 28, Issue 4 December 1992 , pages 585 – 593 / DOI: 10.3109/15216549209163267

(7) Study on the Antidiabetic Chemical Constituents of Mirabilis Jalapa L. / Latest Health Articles

(8) Studies on chemical constituents from roots of Mirabilis jalapa / Lai GF, Luo SD, Cao JX, Wang YF. / Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2008 Jan;33(1):42-6.

(9) Anti-inflammatory activity of aqueous extract of Mirabilis jalapa Linn. leaves / Manjit Singh, Vijender Kumar, Ishpinder Singh, Vinod Gauttam, and Ajudhia Nath Kalia / Pharmacognosy Res. 2010 Nov-Dec; 2(6): 364–367. / doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.75456

(10) CYTOTOXICITY AND ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY OF EXTRACTS FROM MIRABILIS JALAPA / Abhilash A*, Prabhu Raj KJ, Hemalatha, Gopi Krishna B.M, Dr. Hindustan Abdul Ahad / Pharma Research Library


(12) Use of Mirabilis jalapa L flower extract as a natural indicator in acid base titration / Mahajan Niranjan Shishir*, Jadhav Rahul Laxman, Pimpodkar Nayana Vinayak, Dias Remeth Jacky and Garje Sandip Bhimrao / Journal of Pharmacy Research Vol.1.Issue 2. Oct- December 2008

(13) Importance of white flowered Mirabilis jalapa with respect to its phytochemical and antimicrobial screening
/ Naveed Ullah*, Mir Azam Khan, Haider Ali, Nouman Altaf, Shakoor Ahmad, Ghayour Ahmed and Minhaj ud Din / African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Vol. 5(24), pp. 2694-2697, 29 December, 2011

(14) Studies to evaluate the effect of Seeds of Mirabilis Jalapa on Blood Clotting and Bleeding time in Rabbit / MUHAMMAD ANIS ALAM, SYED MUHAMMAD SHAMIM, SYED MUHAMMAD MASOOD ALI, SAYYADA HUMAIRA MASOOD /

ISSN- 0975-1491 Vol 5, Issue 2, 2013

(16) Biochemical Properties of Protiens Isolated from Mirabilis jalapa / Wichet Leelamanit, Pongsakorn lertkunakorn, Sumalee Prapatrkul, Rith Watthanachaiyingcharoen, Omboon Luanrat, Nongluck Ruangwises, Prapan Suppakpatana / Mahidol University. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences – ONLINE

(17) Antioxidant Activities of Mirabilis jalapa L. Seed Epicarp Extract / Xin Hong Wang, Jing Tao Dai / Advanced Materials Research (Volumes 550 – 553)

(18) Cytotoxic rotenoids from Mirabilis jalapa / Jun-Ju Xu; Chen Qing; Yu-ping Lv; Ya-min Liu; Ying Liu; Ye-Gao Chen / Chemistry of Natural Compounds;Nov2010, Vol. 46 Issue 5, p792

• Colorant: Edible crimson dye from flowers; used as colorant for cosmetics, cakes and jellies.
• Cosmetics: Pounded seeds used in Malaya, China and Japan for making cosmetic powder. Powdered root, likewise used for cosmetic preparations, mixed with rice powder and sandalwood. In China, flowers are also used for cosmetic purposes.

Study Findings
• Antispasmodic: Extract of Mirabilis jalapa exhibits an inhibitory effect on gut smooth muscle contractility probably through a serotoninergic mechanism interacting with other adrenergic systems.
• Antimicrobial: The ethanol extract of Mirabilis jalapa tested against five pathogenic bacterial strains (E. coli, S. aureus, S. typhi, B. cereus, K. pneumoniae) and toxins showed antimicrobial activities comparable to conventional antibiotics suggesting a potential as agents for biocontrol and chemotherapy. The methanol extract of MJ showed stronger and broader spectrum of microbial activity compared to other extracts, using amikacin as the standard bacterial agent.
• Cytotoxicity / Antitumor / Anticancer: Study of protein fractions with ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) properties from the leaves of MJ showed cytotoxic activity6 against a breast cancer cell line.
• Cytotoxicity: Study isolated from the leaves of MJ, a 30 kD protein fraction named MI-30, with the properties of a ribosome-inactivating protein. It produced cytotoxic effect, more toward breast and cervical cancer cells as compared to normal mononuclear cells.
• Antibacterial: Study of roots showed antibacterial activity against diarrhea-causing pathogens: Staph aureus, Strep pyogenes, E coli, Enterobacter sp., V cholera, Shigella flexner and S typhi.
• Phytochemicals / Pharmacognosy: Study yielded the presence of triterpenoids, alkaloids, glycosides and flavonoids. Diagnostic features are multicellular trichomes, anisocytic stomata and calcium oxalate.
• Analgesic / Antinociceptive Activity: Study demonstrated antinociceptive activity in mice, supporting its folkloric use as an analgesic.
• Protein Biochemical Properties / Anticancer / Antibacterial: Study of crude proteins showed to be active against B subtilis. Proteins also exhibited anticancer activity to permanent cell lines L929 (mouse fibroblasts).
• Antiviral / Antiproliferative / Abortifacient: Purified protein from the root tubers of Mirabilis jalapa exhibited antiviral, abortifacient and anti-proliferative activities.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Total alcoholic extract exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity in the carrageenan-induced paw edema model.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Evaluation in Wistar albino rats showed dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity in a carrageenan-induced paw edema model.
• Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity: Various extracts of leaves and bark of Mirabilis jalapa were evaluated for cytotoxicity and antioxidant activity. On brine shrimp lethality bioassay, a petroleum ether extract sowed significant cytotoxic activity, with an LC50 of 8.132 compared to vincristine sulfate. A crude methanol extract showed mild antioxidant activity.
• Free Radical Scavenging / Antibacterial: Study showed significant antioxidant properties and a potential to serve as free radical inhibitor or scavenger. A methanolic extract showed a wide spectrum of inhibition against Gram+ and Gram- bacterial.
• Natural Indicator in Acid Base Titration: Study of flower extract showed potential use as an acid base indicator in different types of acid base titrations.
• Antihyperglycemic Activity / Aerial Parts: Study evaluated the antihyperglycemic activity of a hydroalcoholic extract of aerial parts in streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemic animals. Results showed antihyperglycemic activity probably mediated through pancreatic and extrapancreatic pathways.
• Antimicrobial / White-Flowered Mirabilis jalapa Leaves: Study showed white flowered plant of M. jalapa has strong antibacterial potential with activity against a wide range of microorganisms.
• Seeds / Effects on Clotting Time and Bleeding Time: In traditional use, the plant has been found to stop hemorrhages. Study showed a decrease in prothrombin time, decrease in activated partial thromboplastin time, and decrease in bleeding time. Results suggest M. jalapa is effective in blood disorders associated with increased bleeding.
• Anti-Arthritic Effects: Study evaluated the effect of an ethanolic extract of flowers in formaldehyde and Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in wistar rats. Results showed significant suppression of paw edema in both models suggesting significant anti-arthritic activity.
• Proteins from Ripe Seeds / Antimicrobial / Anti-Cancer: Study evaluated crude proteins extracted from mature seeds. Antibacterial activity was seen against Bacillus subtilis. Potent anticancer activity was exhibited to permanent cell lines L929 (mouse fibroblasts).
• Seed Epicarp / Antioxidant: Study showed a seed epicarp extract to possess strong antioxidant activity and suggests an inexpensive and potential source of natural antioxidants and pharmaceuticals.
• Roots / Cytotoxic Rotenoids: Study yielded four fractions of compounds from the extract roots which include boeravinone B, boeravinone E, and mirabijalone B. Compounds tested indicated important cytotoxic activity against cell lines tested.

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