Bangkok calachuche

Family • Apocynaceae - Adenium obesum (Forsk.) Roem. Schult. - DESERT ROSE - Sha mo mei gui

Scientific names

Adenium obesum (Forssk.) R & S.
Adenium multiforum
Adenium somalense Balf. f.
Adenium arabicum

Common names

Kalachuchi (Tag.)
Bangkok calachuche (Engl.)
Impala lily (Engl.)
Desert rose (Engl.)
Sha mo mei gui (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

FRENCH: Rose du desert, baob chacal, faux baobab, lis des impalas, pied d’elephant
INDONESIA: Adenium merah.
MALAY: Adenium merah.
PORTUGUESE: Rosa do deserto, Baoba exotica, djindje pete
SWAHILI: Mdagu, Mdaguwande, Mwanja
THAILAND: Chuan chom.


Gen info 
Due to its resemblance to plumeria (Plumeria obtusa, white calachuche) and being introduced from Bangkok, Thailand, the plant is called Bangkok kalachuchi in the Philippines.

Bangkok calachuche is a succulent shrub or small tree, with a thick or swollen trunk, sometimes with fleshy tap roots, growing up to 3 meters high. Bark is smooth, shiny green to pale brown, with green slashes in color. Stems exude a milky sap. Leaves are spatulate, dark green, deciduous, fleshy, and arranged in alternate spiral, and clustered at the tips of the shoots. Nerves are pinnate, hardly prominent, 6 to 15 pairs laterally. Flowers are showy, funnel-shaped, with five distinct pinkish or light red lobes. Fruit is a follicle occurring in clusters to two or three, 15 to 25 centimeters long, 1 to 1.5 centimeters across, with elongated acuminate tips, finely pubescent. Seeds are linear, with a pappus on both ends.


– Native to South African countries.
– Introduced to Thailand, and from there, to the Philippines.
– Common garden cultivation.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Phytochemical investigation of Adenium obesum Forskal (Apocynaceae): isolation and identification of cytotoxic agents / Joseph J Hoffman et al / J Pharm Sci. 1977 Sep;66(9):1336-8. / DOI10.1002/jps.2600660935

(2) Handbook of Arabian medicinal plants / Shahina A. Ghazanfar

(3) Cardiac glycosides and pregnanes from Adenium obesum (studies on the constituents of Adenium. I). / Yamauchi T and Abe F / Chem-Pharm-Bull-(Tokyo). 1990 Mar; 38(3): 669-72

(4) Screening of tropical medicinal plants for molluscicidal, larvicidal, fungicidal and cytotoxic activities and brine shrimp toxicity / F Cepleanu et al / International journal of pharmacognosy / 1994, vol. 32, no3, pp. 294-307 / DOI 10.3109/13880209409083007

(5) STUDIES ON ANTIBACTERIAL ACTIVITY OF Adenium obesum (Apocynaceae) STEM-BARK / Tijani A, IG Ndukwe and R G Ayo / Archive.Org

(6) In vitro anti-influenza virus activity of a cardiotonic glycoside from Adenium obesum (Forssk.). / The Free Library by Farlex

(7) Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult. Syst. / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(8) Biosynthesis and Electrochemical Characterization of Silver Nanoparticles from Leaf Extract of and Its Application to Antibacterial Effect / Ying Li, Shen-Ming Chen* , M. Ajmal Ali, Fahad M. A. AlHemaid / Int. J. Electrochem. Sci., 8 (2013) 2691 – 2701

(9) Antibiotic-Plant Synergy as a New Strategy for Combating Drug Resistant Bacteria / A. Tijjani / Microbial pathogens and strategies for combating them: science, technology and education (A. Méndez-Vilas, Ed.)

(10) Cosmetic composition containing an adenium obesum extract, use thereof and method for cosmetic care including the use thereof / Patent / US 8377486 B2

(11) Toxicological Evaluation of Ethanol Extract of Adenium obesum Stem Bark in African Catfish, Clarias gariepinus / *SAMSON ENEOJO ABALAKA; MUHAMMAD YAKASAI FATIHU; NAJUME DOGUWAR GIGINYA IBRAHIM; SULEIMAN FOLORUNSHO AMBALI / J. Appl. Sci. Environ. Manage. March 2014 Vol. 18 (1) 49-52


– Study has yielded some 30 cardiotoxic glycosides with actions similar to digitalis.
– Roots and stems contain the same glycosides.
– Ethanol extract yielded the cardenolides somalin, hongheloside A, 16-acetylstrospeside, and honghelin and the flavonol 3,3′-bis(O-methyl)quercetin.
– Phytochemicals of stem-bark yielded alkaloids, steroids, saponins, glycosides, anthraquinones, tannins, and flavonoids.

Oleandrigenin has been shown to have cytotoxic effects.

Parts utilized
Bark, roots, sap.

No recorded folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
In Arabian traditional medicine, sap and bark are used to treat bone dislocations, rheumatism, sprains, paralysis, swellings, wounds, skin infections.
In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the juice from the stem and crushed bark is applied on wounds.
In Sahel, Africa, a decoction of roots, alone or in combination with other plants, is used for treatment of venereal diseases. Root or bark extract is used as bath or lotion for skin diseases and lice. Latex is used for decaying teeth and septic wounds.
In Somalia, root decoction used as nose drops for rhinitis.
In Kenya, latex is rubbed on the head for lice. The bark is chewed as abortifacient.

In Senegal and Ethiopia, used as arrow poison.
In Kenya, used for ethnoveterinary control of lice and fleas in livestock. Powdered stems used for skin parasites of camels and cattle.
Used in magic potions.

Study Findings
• Cytotoxicity / Antitumor / Human Epidermoid Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma: Phytochemical study yielded cardenolides somalin, hongheloside A, 16-acetylstrospeside, honghelin and flavonol quercetin. Ethanol extract exhibited activity against human epidermoid carcinoma of the nasopharynx test system.
• Cytotoxicity / Human Colon Cancer Cell Lines: Study showed AO exhibited very strong cytotoxicty against 2 human colon carcinoma cell lines.• Cytotoxic Pregnane / Leaves: Study yielded two pregnanes possessing a 16-en-20-one system from the leaves of A obesum which exhibited a cytotoxic activity against murine leukemia P388/S cells.
• Phytochemicals / Cardiac Glycosides: Roots and stems of A obesum yielded 30 cardiac glycosides – 15 know glycosides and 15 new combinations of aglycones and sugars. Oleandrigenin-beta-gentiobiosyl-beta-D-thevetoside was the main glycoside.
• Antibacterial: Extracts of stem-bark of Adenium obesum were tested against selected strains of gram negative bacteria – E. coli, K. pneumonia, S. typhi, N. gonorrhea, P. aeruginosa. Extracts showed significant zones of inhibition against 80% of the tested organisms.
• Molluscicidal: Study of a methanol extract showed molluscicidal activity which increased as the temperature increased. Results conclude application of sublethal concentration of methanol extracts may be helpful in snail control through interference with snail biochemistry and physiology.
• Antiviral / Cardiotonic Glycoside: Study screened the methanolic extracts of six Saudi plants for in vitro antiviral activity using influenza virus A/PR/8/34 (H1Nl) and MDCK cells in an MTT assay. Extracts of Adenium obesum was one of two plants that showed antiviral activity. A chloroform fraction yielded active compound A identified as oleandrigenin-[beta]-D-glucosyl [right arrow] 4)-[beta]-D-digitalose.
• Nanoparticles from Leaf Extract / Application to Antibacterial Effect: Study reports the synthesizing of AgNPs (silver nanoparticles) leaf extracts of A. obesum. Results suggest an environmentally friendly method of biological AgNPs production for application in nanatechnology based industries: cosmetics, foods, medical and antibacterial applications.
• Antibiotic Plant Synergy for Resistant Bacteria: Study investigated the synergistic activity of methanolic extract of plant stem bark with oxytetracycline against some drug resistant bacterial isolates.Results showed synergistic activity and suggests the plant can be a source of bioactive substances with broad spectrum of activity when combined with antibiotic.
• Cosmetic Component / Invention: Patent application was submitted for use of Adenium obesum extract in a cosmetic product to help strengthen cutaneous barrier, reinforce cohesion of the dermal-epidermal junction, prevent and delay effects of skin aging, and to provide a protective and hydrating moisturizing effect.
• Toxicological Evaluation / Stem Bark / African Catfish: Study evaluated the toxicity of ethanol extract of A. obesum stem bark as tool for aquaculture pond management prior to stocking with catfish, Clarias gariepinus. The toxic nature of the extract in the exposed hardy fish can be exploited for effective aquaculture pond management against unwanted predatory and weed aquatic organisms. However, indiscriminate use of higher concentrations can jeopardize the aquatic biodiversity.
• Phenolic Content / Flavonoids / Radical Scavenging Activity: Study investigated the antioxidant activities of 10 Arabian herbs and spices, including Adenium obesum flowers. A. obesum showed considerable concentration of total phenolics and a considerable amount of total flavonoids. It is a rich source of anthocyanins. The 100% methanol extract showed the best free radical scavenging activity due to its high content of anthocyanins.

Caution / Toxicity Concerns
– Leaves and flowers are poisonous to goats and cattle.
– Source of fish and arrow poison prepared from the latex of the bark and fleshy parts of the trunk, but always in combination with other poisons. In Africa, despite its toxicity, is used in medical applications and magic potions. source
– In a wide area of Africa, arrow poison is prepared from the root sap; sometimes from the wood or stem latex. It provides a quick kill for big game hunting. In Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon, fish poison is prepared from a decoction of the bark and leaves.