Bengal hemp

Family • Leguminosae / Fabaceae - Crotalaria juncea Linn. - SUNN HEMP - Shu ma

Scientific names

Crotalaria juncea Linn.
Crotalaria benghalensis Lam.
Crotalaria fenestrata Sims
Crotalaria porrecta Wall.
Crotalaria sericea Willd.
Crotalaria tenuifolia Roxb.

Common names

Bengal hemp (Engl.)
Brown hemp (Engl.)
Indian hemp (Engl.)
Madras hemp (Engl.)
Sun hemp (Engl.)
Sunn hemp (Engl.)
Shu ma (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

BENGALI: Ghore Sun, Shon, Shonpat
CHINESE: Yin du ma, Tai yang ma, Zi xiao rong.
FRENCH: Chanvre Du Bengale, Crotolaire Jonciforme.
GERMAN: Bengalischer Hanf, Bombay Hanf, Sanhanf.
HAWAIIAN: Sannai, Sunn.
HINDI: Kharif, Sannai, Sannai Sunn, Sunn.
INDIA: San, Sunn.
JAPANESE: Kurotararia Junsea
KHMER: Kâk´tung.
MALAY: Orok-Orok Lembut (Indonesia)
PORTUGUESE: Cânhamo Da India, Cânhamo-Da-índia, Cánhamo Da India, Canhamo-Da-India, Cânhamo-De-Bengala, Crotalária, Crotalária Júncea, Crotalária
RUSSIAN: Krotalyariya Sitnikovaya.
SANSKRIT: San, Sana, Sunn.
SPANISH: Cáñamo De La India, Cáñamo San.
TAMIL: Sanal, Sannappu.
THAI: Po Thueang.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antispermatogenic and hormonal effects of Crotalaria juncea Linn. seed extracts in male mice / B Vijaykumar, I Sangamma et al / Asian J Androl 2004 Mar; 6: 67-70

(2) Antibacterial Activity of Seed and Flower Parts of Crotalaria juncea Linn / Hemendra S. Chouhan and Sushil K. Singh / Am-Euras. J. Sci. Res., 5 (3): 212-215, 2010

(3) Growing Crotalaria juncea, a Multi-purpose Legume, for Paper Pulp / George White and J R Haun / Economic Botany > Vol. 19, No. 2, Apr. – Jun. / 1965 New York Botanical Garden Press

(4) Dehydropyrrolizidine Alkaloids, Including Monoesters with an Unusual Esterifying Acid, from Cultivated Crotalaria juncea (Sunn Hemp cv.’Tropic Sun’) / Steven M. Colegate,* Dale R. Gardner, Robert J. Joy, Joseph M. Betz, and Kip E. Panter / / J. Agric. Food Chem. 2012, 60, 3541−3550

Bengal hemp is an erect, stiff branched, half-woody herb, usually about 1 meter high, with all the parts finely hairy. Leaves are simple, linear-oblong to oblong, 4 to 10 centimeters in length. Flowers are scattered, on terminal racemes, 8 to 20 centimeters long. Calyx has long lobes and densely covered with brown hairs. Corolla is yellow and about 2.5 centimeters long. Hairy pods are oblong, and about 3 centimeters long.

– Occasionally cultivated in the Philippines.
– Naturalized in the Ilocos Norte Province.
– Introduced from India.

– Leaves contain an abundance of mucilage, a little solid fat and a resin soluble in ether.
– Phytochemical screening of ethanol extract of flowers and seeds yielded steroids, triterpenes, flavonoids, phenolics and glycosides.


– Leaves are considered refrigerant, demulcent, emetic, purgative, emmenagogue and abortive.
– Root is astringent.
– Seeds are corrective of blood.

Parts used
Roots, seeds, leaves.

– Infusion of bitter leaves are used externally and internally for gastric and bilious fevers accompanied by skin diseases like impetigo and psoriasis. Also used as emmenagogue.
– Root is used for colic and as astringent in epistaxis.
– Seeds used to purify the blood.
– Powdered seeds, mixed with oil, used to make the hair grow.
– In India, used for anemia, impetigo, menorrhagia, psoriasis.


Study Findings
• Anti-Inflammatory / Anti-Ulcerogenic: Study showed CJ extract significantly inhibited adjuvant induced arthritis in rats. It also possessed anti-ulcerogenic property which may be due to an appetite suppressant effect.
• Toxicological Studies on Seeds: Study showed the administration of a dose of 200 mg/kg of extracts of seeds on liver, kidney, spleen and adrenals of adult rats caused significant alterations. Organ net weight decreased, histology showed disintegration necrosis and degeneration in the liver, renal tubular cell degeneration and exfoliation, zona glomerulosa hypertrophy in the adrenals, and splenic increase in megakaryotic cells and lymphocytes.
• Antispermatogenic / Hormonal Effects: Study evaluated the antifertility activity of various extracts of Crotalaria juncea seeds in male mice. Results showed decrease in testis and accessory organ weights, with spermatogonia, spermatocytes, spermatids and sperm counts were reduced. The ethanol extract showed the most potent antispermatogenic activity. Study concludes that various extracts arrest spermatogenesis and are likely to have antiandrogenic activity.
• Antibacterial / Seeds and Flowers: Study of ethanol extract of flower and seed parts revealed significant antibacterial activity against E. coli, K. pneumonia, P. aeruginosa, S. aureus and V. cholera. The antibacterial activity may be linked to the phenolic content.
• Seed Oil Fatty Acid / Antioxidant / Anti-Inflammatory / Antibacterial: Study showed high amount of linoleic acid (62%) in C. juncea seed oil. concentration-dependent antioxidant activity dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity comparable to diclofenac sodium. Moderate antibacterial activity.
• Paper Pulp: Preliminary screening and small scale pulping tests showed the species to possess good pulping characteristics with a potential for a high macerate yield and prepared pulps suitable for a wide variety of end uses. CJ bast fibers are particularly suitable for cigarette paper use because of high cellulose and low ash content.
• Dehydropyrrolizidine Alkaloids: C. juncea belongs to a genus known to produce toxic dehydropyrrolizidine alkaloids. Extracts of roots, leaves, stems and seeds were analyzed for their presence. The alkaloids occurred mainly as N-oxides in roots, stems and leaves, but mainly as free bases in seeds. Because of disease in humans resulting from exposure to the alkaloids, study suggests a value in determining and assessing routs of potential exposure viz. exposed animal-derived products (meat and milk), bee products (honey and pollen) and seed contamination of grain products.