Family • Basellacea - Basella rubra Linn. - MALABAR NIGHTSHADE - Yan zhi cai

Scientific names

Basella rubra Linn.
Basella alba Linn. var. rubra
Basella lucida Linn.
Basella cordifolia Linn.
Luo kui (Chin.)

Common names

Alugbati (Bis.)
Arogbati (Bik.)
Dundul (Sul.)
Grana (Tag.)
Ilaibakir (Ilk.)
Libato (Tag.)
Climbing Ceylon spinach (Engl.)
Malabar nightshage (Engl.)
Red vine spinach (Engl.)
Spinach vine (Engl.)
Yan zhi cai (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ASSAMESE: Ronga puroi, Ronga puroi sak.
BENGALI: Puishak.
CHINESE: Mu er cai, Hong teng cai, Hong chan cai, Zi luo kui, Zi ruan teng, Zi bei teng cai.
FRENCH: Baselle rouge, Epinard de Malabar à tiges rouges.
HINDI: Lalbachlu, po.
JAPANESE: Kuki no akai shin tsurumurasaki, Shin tsuru murasaki.
KANNADA: Basaḷe kempu.
MALAYALAM: Basella cheera, Vashala cheera.
RUSSIAN: Bazella krasnaia.
SANSKRIT: Upodika.
SINHALESE: Vel niviti.
TAMIL: Kodippasali, Koṭippacaḷi, Pasalai keerai, Vasalakirrai.
TELUGU: Erra allubaccali.
THAI: Phak pang, Phak plang, Phak plang yai, Po deng chai.

Alugbati is a succulent, branched, smooth, twining herbaceous vine, several meters in length. Stems are purplish or green. Leaves are somewhat fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, 5 to 12 centimeters long, stalked, tapering to a pointed tip with a cordate base. Spikes are axillary, solitary, 5 to 29 centimeters long. Flowers are pink, about 4 millimeters long. Fruit is fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or nearly spherical, 5 to 6 millimeters long, and purple when mature.


– Found in settled areas, in hedges, old cultivated areas, etc., throughout the Philippines.
– Often cultivated.
– Prehistoric introduction.
– Also occurs in tropical Asia, Africa, and Malaya.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Stability of anthocyanin in spinach vine (Basella rubra) fruits / Cien. Inv. Agr. 34 (2):115-120, 2007

(2) Medicinal foodstuffs. XXIII. Structures of new oleanane-type triterpene oligoglycosides, basellasaponins A, B, C, and D, from the fresh aerial parts of Basella rubra L. / Murakami T et al / Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin 2001;49(6):776-9.

(3) Hypoglycemic effect of Basella rubra in streptozotocin – induced diabetic albino rats / A Nirmala, S Saroja, H R Vasanthi, and G Lalitha / Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy Vol. 1 (2) pp. 025-030, August, 2009

(4) Volatile flavor components of malabar-nightshade (Basella rubra L.) / Hiromu Kameoka, Kanji Kubo and Mitsuo Miyazawa / Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, Vol 4, Issue 4, December 1991, Pages 315-321 / doi:10.1016/0889-1575(91)90017-Z

(5) Utilization of an indigenous dyestuff from Basella rubra (alugbati) as microbiological stain / Enerva, Lorna T. , et al / Fil Q149.P5 N25 / 28(1) / ISSUE DATE 2006

(6) Sorting Basella names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(7) Antiulcer activity of aqueous extract of Basella rubra in albino rats. / S. Deshpande, G. B. Shah, I. Deshpande, N. S. Parmar* / Journal of Natural Remedies, Vol. 3/2 (2003) 21

(8) Antioxidant analysis of betacyanin extracted from Basella alba fruit / S. K. Reshmi, K.M. Aravinthan and P. Suganya devi / International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.4, No.3, pp 900-913, July-Sept 2012

(9) A Review on Medicinal Importance of Basella alba / L. Roshan Adhikari, Naveen Kumar HN, Shruthi SD* / International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research 2012; 4(2): 110-114

(10) Study on Content of Nitrate,Vitamin C and Carotene in Basella Rubra / ZHANG Shu-Xia XIAO Sheng-Hong / Chinese Journal of Spectroscopy Laboratory, 2006-02

(11) Alugbati (Basella Rubra Linn.) Leaves and Stems Extracts Against Pathogenic Microoganisms / BURCE, J.M., MARCELLANA, W.B, & TUANDO / Dept. of Biology, Rizal Technological University

• Phytochemical screening of various extracts yielded cardiac glycosides, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, terpenoids, carbohydrates, and reducing sugars.
• Study isolated Basellasaponins A, B, C, and D, oleanane-type triterpenes oligoglycosides, together with betavulgaroside 1, spinacoside C, and momordins IIb and IIc, from fresh aerial parts.
• Leaves yield saponin, vitamin A and B.
• Fruit yields mucilage and iron.
• Study of wild Basella rubra showed it to be abundant in carotene, middle in vitamin C, and low in nitrate. Nitrate in planted B. rubra is about twice that of the wild variety.


• Aperient, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, laxative, rubefacient.
• Mucilaginous when cooked.

Edibility / Nutrition
– Common market product, a popular leafy and stew vegetable, and a good substitute for spinach.
– The green and purple cultivated varieties are preferable to the wild ones.
– Both the young shoots and stems are eaten.
– Excellent source of calcium and iron; good source of vitamins A, B, and C, with a high roughage value.

– Roots are employed as rubefacient.
– Poultice of leaves used to reduce local swelling.
– Sap is applied to acne eruptions to reduce inflammation.
– Decoction of leaves used for its mild laxative effects.
– Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration.
– Sugared juice of leaves useful for catarrhal afflictions in children.
– Leaf-juice, mixed with butter, is soothing and cooling when applied to burns and scalds.
– In India, used in hemorrhagic diseases and as tonic. Also used for burns and pruritic skin lesions. In Orissa, India, paste of root in rice water taken in the morning on an empty stomach for a month to cure irregular periods.
– In Nigeria, leaves used for hypertension. In Cameroonian folk medicine, used for malaria.
– Mucilaginous liquid obtained from the leaves and tender stalks used for habitual headaches.
– In Ayurveda, used for hemorrhages, skin diseases, sexual weakness, ulcers and as laxative in children. Leaves applied on the head for half a hour before bathing to help bring about a good refreshing sleep. Sap is applied to acne eruptions to reduce inflammation. Decoction of leaves used for a mild laxative effect. Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration. Leaf juice mixed with butter applied to burns and scalds for a soothing and cooling effect. Leaves and stems have been used as anticancer for melanoma, leukemia, and oral cancer.
– Roots and leaves used for the removal of after birth, stomach pains, and increase milk production.
– Used orally for anal prolapse and hernia.
– In Nigeria, use for fertility enhancement in women.
– In Nepal, leaf juice is used to treat dysentery, catarrh, and applied externally to boils.
– In Thai traditional medicine, the mucilage is used as application for bruises, ringworm, and laboring. Stem and leaves used as mild laxative, diuretic and antipyretic.
– In Antilles leaves considered good maturative as cataplasm.

Cosmetic: Fruit used by women as rouge for cheeks and lips; also as a dye.
Dye: With the anthocyanin content, it makes for a natural food colorant. Fruit provides a dark violet color as food colorant.
Veterinary: Ground leaves rubbed on the human hand to introduce the preparation into the animal vagina every morning for the treatment of sterility.
Pharmaceuticals: Plant mucilage has been proposed for applications in medicine and cosmetics. The mucilage has also been proposed as thickener, water-retention agent, gelling agent, suspending agent and film former.

Study Findings

• Anthocyanins / Natural Food Colorant : Study of pigment extracted from fruits of spinach vine (B. rubra) showed good stability with a potential as a natural food color.
• Antifungal: Study yielded two antifungal peptides with potent activity against Botrytis cinerea, Mycosphaerella arachidicola and Fusarium oxysporum.
• Antimicrobial: A study of the aqueous, ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of the leaves of Basella rubra exhibited antimicrobial activity against all test organisms except P aeruginosa. The ethanolic extract showed maximum effect against E coli. Further studies are needed to isolate the active compound responsible for the antimicrobial effect.
• Hypoglycemic : A study of STZ-induced diabetic rats fed with Basella rubra showed the leaf pulp of B. rubra possesses a strong hypoglycemic effect.
• Volatile Flavor Components: Study identified volatile flavor components. The major components from the volatile oil were: 1-methoxypropane, (Z)-3-hexen-l-ol, 3-methoxyphenyl acetate, acetophenone, 4-vinylguaiacol, isophytol, and phytol.
• Dyestuff / Microbiological Stain: Study showed the anthocyanin extracted from Basella rubra berries produced a stain comparable with synthetic stains like crystal violet and safranin, and can be used as an alternative microbiological stain.
• Antidiabetic / Antioxidant: Study evaluated the action of B. rubra against streptozotocin-induced diabetes in rats. Results showed effective reduction of oxidative stress induced by streptozotocin and potential reduction in blood sugar level.
• Antihyperglycemic / Antioxidant: Study evaluated an aqueous extract of B. rubra for antihyperglycemic activity in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Phytochemical screening showed a rich source of phytonutrients, including enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants. Results concluded the aqueous extract exhibited significant antihyperglycemic activity.
• Haematologic Effects / Amylase Activity: Study evaluated various extracts for hematologic parameters on Swiss mice and amylase activity on Wistar rats. Results showed an increase in the haematological parameters (RBC, WBC, Hb, and PCV). There was also an increase in amylase content. Results suggest potential use to prevent various complications in diabetes.
• Antiulcer Activity / Antioxidant: Study evaluated the antiulcer activity of an aqueous extract of B. rubra leaves on ethanol and pylorus ligated-induced gastric ulcers in rats. Results showed significant and dose-dependent antiulcer activity and present a potential use in the treatment of gastric ulcers.
• Fruit / Betacyanin / Antioxidant: Betacyanin extracted from the B alba fruit exhibited excellent antioxidant activity, beneficial in scavenging free radicals.
• Antimicrobial: Study evaluated various extracts of leaves and stems for antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. Methanol and aqueous extracts of stems showed maximum activity against S. typhi and P. vulgaris. Ethanol extracts of leaves and stems showed highest inhibition of B. subtilis and S. typhi. Antifungal activity was shown against A. niger, C. albicans and R. stolonifers.

Cultivated vegetable market produce.
Seeds in the cybermarket.