Thespesia populnea (Linn.) Soland ex Correa - PORTIA TREE - Yang ye xian jin

Scientific names

Hibiscus populneus Linn.
Thespesia macrophylla Blume
Thespesia banalo Blanco
Thespesia populnea (Linn.) Soland
Tong mian (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

FRENCH: Feuilles d’Haiti, Motel debou
GUAM: Kilulo.
HINDI: Bhendi, Gajadanda, Parasipal, Parasipu, Pipal.
INDONESIA: Baru laut, Waru laut.
JAVANESE: Waru laut.
MALAYSIA: Baru, Baru-baru. Bebaru, Baru laut, Waru, Buah keras laut, Tebawan.
SPANISH: Palo de jaqueca.
TAMIL: Cheelanthi.
THAI: Pho thale, Po kamat phrai.

Common names

Balu (Sul.)
Banag (Kuy.)
Banago (Tag., P. Bis)
Banago-pula (Tag.)
Banalo (Tag.)
Banaro (Pang.)
Ba-ot (Sul.)
Iden (Ting.)
Tuba-tuba (Bik.)
Valo (Iv.)
Aden apple (Engl.)
Corktree (Engl.)
Indian tulip tree (Engl.)
Portia tree (Engl.)
Yang ye xian jin (Chin.)


Banago is a tree that grows to a height of about 10 meters. Branchlets and under surface of the leaves are covered with small, brownish scales. Leaves are glossy, broadly ovate, 8 to 15 centimeters long, with pointed tip and very broad, slightly heart-shaped base. Flowers are borne singly on the axils of leaves. Calyx is truncate, about 1.5 centimeters in diameter. Corolla is yellow, dark-purple inside the base, about 5 centimeters long, with strongly imbricate lobes, turning purplish as it ages. Capsules are rounded and flattened, about 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Pharmacological actions of Thespesia populnea relevant to Alzheimer’s disease / Vasudevan M, Parle M / Phytomedicine. 2006 Nov;13(9-10):677-87. Epub 2006 Jul 24.

(2) Synergistic activity of methanolic extract of Thespesia populnea (Malvaceae) flowers with oxytetracycline / Arthanari Saravana Kumar, K Venkateshwaran et al / Bangladesh J Pharmacol 2009; 4: 13-16 / DOI: 10.3329/bjp.v4i1.958

(3) Chemical Investigation and Antihepatotoxic Activity of Thespesia populnea / Annie Shirwaikar, A. Vasanth Kumar, B. R. Krishnanand and K. K. Sreenivasan / Pharmaceutical Biology, 1995, Vol. 33, No. 4 , Pages 305-310 (doi:10.3109/13880209509065383)

(4) ANTI-PSORIATIC AND PHYTOCHEMICAL EVALUATION OF THESPESIA POPULNEA BARK EXTRACTS / Siddharth Shrivastav, Rakesh K Sindhu et al / International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 1, Suppl 1, Nov.-Dec. 2009

(5) Preliminary study on the antiimplantation activity of compounds from the extracts of seeds of Thespesia populnea / K Ghosh, T K Bhattacharya / Indian J Pharmacol | October 2004 | Vol 36 | Issue 5 | 288-291

(6) Anthelmintic Activity of a Polyherbal Preparation / Dwivedi A, Dwivedi S et al / Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 259-62. 2009.

(7) Cytotoxic and Antibacterial Sesquiterpenes from Thespesia populnea / Sompong Boonsri, Chatchanok Karalai et al / J. Nat. Prod., 2008, 71 (7), pp 1173–1177 / DOI: 10.1021/np800055q

(8) Antidiabetic activity of Thespesia Populnea bark and leaf extract against streptozotocin induced diabetic rats / R. Parthasarathy, R. Ilavarasan, C.M. Karrunakaran / International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.1, No.4, pp 1069-1072, Oct-Dec 2009

(9) Antibacterial potential of Thespesia populnea leaves and its corresponding callus against drug resistant isolates / Archana Moon, Aqueel Khan, and Bharat Wadher / Indian Journal of Natural Product and Resources, Vol 1, No 4, Dec 2010, pp 444-449.

(10) Chemopreventive and Antilipidperoxidative Potential of Thespesia populnea (L.) on Experimental Buccal Pouch Carcinogenesis / Sasikumar Dhanarasu, Awdah Masoud Al-hazimi et al / Ibnosina Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2010)

(11) Thespesia populnea / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(12) .Hepatoprotective property of Thespesia populnea against carbon tetrachloride induced liver damage in rats. / Yuvaraj P, Subramoniam A. / J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2009;20(2):169-77

(13) Thespesia populnea (milo) / J. B. Friday and Dana Okano / Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry, April 2006

– Throughout the Philippines along the seashore.
– Pantropic in similar habitats.


Parts utilized
Bark, leaves, fruit.

– Seeds contain water, 10%; raw protein, 24.88%, and fixed oil (Thespesia oil).
– Study reports the ripe seeds to contain phosphoric acid and the heartwood a garnet-red resin.

– Heartwood is hard, smooth and durable, of a dark-red color.
– Considered astringent, antifertility, antibacterial, anti-diarrheal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, purgative,hemostatic, and hepatoprotective.
– Bark considered alterative, depurative.
– Roots considered tonic.
– Leaves considered emollient.


– Young leaves and green fruits said to be edible as vegetables when cooked.
– Decoction of bark used internally as alterative, externally as an embrocation.
– Decoction of leaves used as emollient for itches.
– Juice of fruit used for herpetic diseases.
– In Mauritius, bark is considered depurative and as treatment for dysentery and hemorrhoids.
– Decoction of bark used for washing skin diseases.
– Ground bark mixed with coconut oil used for skin diseases.
– Heartwood used as remedy for bilious attacks and colic; the Malays use it for pleurodynia.
– Leaves applied to inflamed and swollen joints.
– Flowers used for itches.
– Fruit juices used in India as external application for psoriasis.
– Juice of fruit applied to warts.
– In Fiji, decoction of leaves used for coughs and headaches.
– In Tonga, leaf and bark decoction used for treating fevers in teething children.
– In Tahiti, fresh capsules are bruised, applied to the forehead for migraines.
– Yellow sap of peduncles used for insect bites.

– Wood: Craftwood; used since ancient time for making bowls, utensils, jewelry, figurines and other craft items. Hawaiians make “poi” calabashes of it.
– Cordage: In some of the Pacific islands, outer bark used for making rope, inner bark for finer cordage.
– Ornamental: Provides a dense shade with attractive leaves and yellow flowers.
– Dye: Seed capsules yield a yellowish green color. Wood produces a yellow dye used to dye wool . Bark yields tannin used for tanning leather.
– Illuminant: Lamp oil can be made from seeds.
– Ceremonial: In Tahiti religious tradition, the milo tree was associated with the god of prayer, and planted around temples. Leaves are used by priests in ceremonial offerings.

Study Findings
• Wound Healing: Study showed the aqueous extract of the fruits of Tespesia populnea with significant wound healing activity in the excision wound and incision wound models in rats following topical and oral administration.
• Antinociceptive / Anti-Inflammatory / Phytochemicals: Study of ethanolic extract of bark yieldedalkaloids, carbohydrates, protein, tannins, phenols, flavonoids, gums, mucilage, saponins and terpenes. Results showed anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities. Acute toxicity studies showed no mortality even at the highest doses.
• Antioxidant / Hepatoprotective: The aqueous and methanolic extracts of TP bark exhibited significant antioxidant activity against carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury in rats.
• Cognitive Effects / Potential Alzheimer Benefits / Hypolipidemic: Study on the TP extract showed multifarious beneficial effects, as memory improving property, cholesterol lowering, anticholinesterase and anti-inflammatory activities. It presents a promising candidate for improving memory and a worthwhile plant to explore for its possibilities in the management of Alzheimer patients.
• Antibacterial / Flowers: Phytochemical studies of flowers yielded flavonoids, alkaloids, tannins andanthraquinone glycosides. The methanolic extract of flowers was active against 13 of 14 tested bacteria. Results show T populnea is not only an interesting source of antimicrobial activity but also a potential source of phenolic antioxidants.
• Antimicrobial Synergism with Oxytetracycline: Study showed a synergistic activity of oxytetracycline with a methanolic extract of Thespesia populnea. It showed synergistic activity against all 12 tested bacteria, both gram+ and gram-, the highest against Shigella boydii.
• Anti-Hepatotoxic / Rhamnoglucoside: Study on rats of ethanol extract of fractions of TP using a CCl4 model of liver injury showed significant anti-hepatotoxic activity. Study yielded a rare flavonoid, quercetin-7-O-rhamnoglucoside.
• Anti-Psoriatic: Phytochemical study on bark extract yielded carbohydrates, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, triterpenoids, phytosterols, proteins and lipid/oils. Study showed the pet-ether extract with maximum anti-psoriatic activity. Results indicate the plant TP is promising for further investigations to prove its anti-psoriatic activity.
• Memory Enhancing: Study investigating the effects of TP bark on memory in rats showed it to be a promising candidate for memory improving and worthwhile exploring for its potential in Alzheimer management.
• Anti-Implantation: Chromatographic pure principle from PE extract showed significant antiimplantation activity (60%) at 110 mg/kbw, while EAc extract showed a 48.6% effect. The active principles were found to be a mixture of two groups of long-chain fatty acids from GLC.
• Antihelmintic Activity: Study investigating the anthelmintic activity of a polyherbal formulation containing herbs of Thespesia populnea (bark), Terminalia alata (bark), Clematis triloba (roots) and Ceratophyllum demersum (leaves) on adult earthworm Pheritima posthuma showed the ethanol extract to have a marked and potent anthelmintic activity. Individually, all the plants exhibit anthelmintic activity, but with a more potent effect when combined.
• Cytotoxic / Antibacterial Sesquiterpenes: Study isolated eight sesquiterpenoids, populene A-H together with 11 known compounds. The cytotoxic activity was evaluated against four cancer cell lines (MCF-7, HeLa, HT-29 and KB). Antibacterial properties against B subtilis, S aureus, and E faecalis are presented.
• Antidiabetic: Study showed an ethanol extract to have an anti-diabetic effect against STZ-induced diabetic rats through a possible mechanism of inhibition of free radical generation.
• Antibacterial: Study of methanolic leaf and callus extract exhibited significant antibacterial activity against drug resistant strains of E coli, Staphylococcus aureus, K pneumoniae and Salmonella typhi.
• Chemopreventive / Antilipidperoxidative Potential: Study investigated the chemopreventive potential and antilipidperoxidative effect of an ethanolic extract of T. populnea on DMBA-induced hamster buccal pouch carcinogenesis. There was significant prevention of tumor incidence, tumor volume and tumor burden. Results conclude the ethanolic extract of TP bark has potent chemopreventive efficacy and significant antilipidperoxidative effect in DBMA induced oral carcinogenesis.
• Hepatoprotective / CCl4-induced Injury: Study evaluated the hepatoprotective activity of an ethanol extract of the stem bark in carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced liver injury in rats. Results showed hepatoprotective effect almost comparable to silymarin, the reference drug.