Family • Apocynaceae - Alstonia scholaris (Linn.) R. Br. - WHITE CHEESE WOOD - Tang jiao shu

Scientific names

Alstonia scholaris (Linn.) R. Br.
Alstonia kurzii Hook.f.
Echites pala  Ham.
Echites scholaris Linn.
Nerium tinctorium Perr.
Pala scholaris (L.) Roberty

Other vernacular names

BENGALI: Chattim.
CHINESE: Tang jiao shu.
HINDI: Shaitan ka jhar, Chitvan.
MALAY: Pulai, Pule.
MALAYALAM: Dalvappala.
MARATHI: Satvin.
PAKISTAN: Chhatim.
SANSKRIT: Saptaparna.

Common names

Alipauen (Ilk.)
Alstonia (Engl.)
Andarayan (Ibn.)
Autralian fever bark (Engl.)
Australian quinine bark (Engl.)
Bita (P. Bis.)
Bitter bark (Engl.)
Dalipauen (Ilk.)
Devil’s Tree (Engl.)
Dirita (Ilk.)
Dita (Tag., Bik., Sul.)
Dilupaon (Ibn.)
Lava (Ilk.)
Lipauen (Ilk.)
Milky pine (Engl.)
Oplai (Ibn.)
Pasuit (Pang.)
Polai (Pang.)
Tanitan (Bis.)
Tangitang (Bis.)
Blackboard tree (Engl.)
Devil tree of India (Engl.)
Milkywood pine (Engl.)
White cheese wood (Engl.)
Tang jiao shu (Chin.)

Dita is a smooth tree growing 6 to 20 meters high. Branches are lenticellate. Bark is dark greyish, somewhat rough, yielding an abundant, bitter, and milky sap. Leaves are in whorls,4 to 7in a whorl, leathery, narrowly obovate to spatulate, 10 to 20 centimeters long, 3 to 4.5 centimeters wide, pointed at the base, rounded at the apex, glossy green on the upper surface, white or grayish on the underside. Lateral nerves are very numerous, parallel, and terminating in a intramarginal vein. Flowers are crowded, numerous, somewhat hairy, greenish-white, about 1 centimeter long, hairy in the throat, borne in compact, hairy cymes about 10 centimeters long. Fruits is made up of two slender follicles which are pendulous and cylindric follicles, 20 to 40 centimeters long, 4-5 millimeters in diameter. Seeds are 3 to 4 millimeters long, with brown ciliate hairs on the ends.


– Found from Cagayan in northern Luzon to Palawan and Mindanao, in most or all islands and provinces, in primary and secondary forests at low and medium altitudes.
– Also reported from India to southern China, Malaysia, Laos, and tropical Australia.


• Contains alkaloids, tannins, glycosides, triterpenoids, flavonoids and phenolic acid.
• Bark yield the alkaloids echitenine, ditamine; crystalline and toxic echitamine; ditaine; and an uncrystallizable and bitter principle.
• Study isolated from the mother-liquors of echitamine hydrochloride, a crystalline alkaloid, echitamidine.
• A petroleum ether extract yielded echikautschin, echicerin, and echiretin.
• The bark contains indole alkaloids, including reserpine, echitamine, alstonine, tetrahydroalstonine, alstonidine, yohimbine and others.
• Antihypertensive effect due to reserpine and echitamine.
• A study revealed three new indole alkaloids: nareline ethyl ether, 5-epi-nareline ethyl ether and scholarine-N(4)oxide.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Amelioration of Radiation-induced Hematological and Biochemical Alterations by Alstonia scholaris (a Medicinal Plant) Extract / Uma Gupta et al / DOI: 10.1177/1534735408322850 / Integrative Cancer Therapies, Vol. 7, No. 3, 155-161 (2008)

(2) Effect of Alstonia scholaris in Enhancing the Anticancer Activity of Berberine in the Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma-Bearing Mice / doi:10.1089/1096620041224094. / Ganesh Chandra Jagetia, Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga. Journal of Medicinal Food. June 2004, 7(2): 235-244

(3) Alkaloids from Alstonia scholaris 

(4) Preliminary evaluation of extracts of Alstonia scholaris bark for in vivo antimalarial activity in mice / J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Apr;29(1):51-7.

(5) Immunostimulating effect of Pule (Alstonia scholaris L. R.Br., Apocynaceae) bark extracts / Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation / 1386-0291 / 1875-8622 / Issue Volume 23, Numbers 2-4/2000

(6) Hypoglycemic effect of powdered Alstonia scholaris (Satona) / Professional Med J Jul – Sep 2002;9(3):268-71.

(7) The Evaluation of Nitric Oxide Scavenging Activity of Certain Indian Medicinal Plants In Vitro: A Preliminary Study / Ganesh Chandra Jagetia / Journal of Medicinal Food. Fall 2004, 7(3): 343-348. doi:10.1089/jmf.2004.7.343.

(8) Pharmacological evaluation of Alstonia scholaris: anti-tussive, anti-asthmatic and expectorant activities / Shang JH, Cai XH, Zhao YL, Feng T, Luo XD / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jun 16;129(3):293-8. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

(9) Pharmacological evaluation of Alstonia scholaris: anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. / Shang JH, Cai XH, Feng T, Zhao YL, Wang JK, Zhang LY, Yan M, Luo XD. / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 May 27;129(2):174-81. Epub 2010 Feb 26.

(10) Antidiarrhoeal and spasmolytic activities of the methanolic crude extract of Alstonia scholaris L. are mediated through calcium channel blockade. / Shah AJ, Gowani SA, Zuberi AJ, Ghayur MN, Gilani AH. / Phytother Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):28-32.

(11) Evaluation of anticancer activity of the alkaloid fraction of Alstonia scholaris (Sapthaparna) in vitro and in vivo / Ganesh Chandra Jagetia*, Manjeshwar Shrinath Baliga / Phytotherapy Research, Volume 20, Issue 2, pages 103–109, February 2006 / DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1810

(12) Protective effect of Alstonia scholaris against radiation-induced clastogenic and biochemical alterations in mice. Jahan S, Goyal PK. / J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2010;29(2):101-11.

(13) ANTI MYCOBACTERIAL ACTIVITY OF THE PLANT EXTRACTS OF ALSTONIA SCHOLARIS / Thankamani et al. / Int J Curr Pharm Res, Vol 4, Issue 1, 40-42

(14) IN VITRO CYTOTOXICITY ASSAY OF ALSTONIA SCHOLARIS / Misra Chandra Shekhar, Pratyush Kumar, James Joel, Sagadevan Lipin Dev Mundur, Veettil Arun Kumar Thaliyil, V Thankamani / International Journal of Pharmacology & Toxicology Science 2011; 2: 22-27

(15) Alstonia scholaris R. Br. Significantly Inhibits Retinoid-Induced Skin Irritation In Vitro and In Vivo / Soo-Jin Lee, Sun-A Cho, Su-Sun An, Yong-Joo Na, Nok-Hyun Park et al /Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 190370, 11 pages / doi:10.1155/2012/190370

(16) Sorting Alstonia names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 – 2020 The University of Melbourne

(17) Aerobiological, clinical, and immunobiochemical studies on Alstonia scholaris pollen from eastern India. / Hussain MM, Mandal J, Bhattacharya K / Environ Monit Assess. 2014 Jan;186(1):457-67 / doi: 10.1007/s10661-013-3390-1. Epub 2013 Aug 21.

(18) Post-treatment effects of Alstonia scholaris extract against radiation-induced biochemical alterations in Swiss albino mice / U. Gupta, R. Chaudhary, P.K. Goyal / Iran. J. Radiat. Res., 2010; 8 (3): 169-177

(19) ANTIBACTERIAL ACTIVITY OF TRUNK BARK OF ALSTONIA SCHOLARIS / A HUSSAIN*, M. K. ZAMAN, A, M RAMTEKE / Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research Vol. 3, Issue 4, 2010


• Reported as antimicrobial, antiamoebic, antidiarrheal, antihypertensive, antimalarial, febrifuge, stimulant, hepatoprotective, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer, antiasthmatic, antioxidant, analgesic, antiinflammatory, anti-fertility, anti-diabetic, cardiotonic.
• Bitter bark and latex considered tonic and antiseptic.
• Ditamine or ditanin considered to possess antiperiodic properties equal to the best sulphate of quinine without the latter’s disagreeable side effects

Parts used 
Bark, leaves.

– In the Philippines, the bark is regarded as a remedy for fevers, chronic diarrhea, dysentery.
– Earlier Spanish records report the dita bark alkaloid was used in hospitals as a quinine substitute.
– Tonic wine was prepared by macerating 25 grams on the bark in a bottle of muscatel or sherry.
– Milky latex from the bark placed on cloth and applied as poultice to developing boils.
– Milky juice is applied to ulcers and rheumatic pains.
– Milky juice, mixed with oil, used as drops for earaches.
– Juice of leaves, mixed with fresh ginger root or zedoary, is given to women after confinement.
– Tender leaves, roasted and pulverized, are made into a poultice for unhealthy ulcers and foul discharges.
– Chronic diarrhea, fever: 1% decoction of bark as tea.
– Malaria: 5% decoction of bark as tea.
– Tincture of the bark occasionally used as galactagogue.
– Decoction of the bark used as tonic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, anticholeric and vulnerary.
– In eastern Malaysia, decoction of leaves used for beriberi.
– Decoction of leaves given for liver congestion.
– In Java, bark used as stomachic and is used as ingredient into mixtures used for coughs and vermifuges.
– Bark used as antidote for Antiaris poisoning.
– Late applied to hollow tooth for toothache.
– Powder of Alstonia cortex used for patients with paroxysmal attacks and those positive for malarial parasites in the finger’s blood. (A clinical investigation in Queensland showed contrary results, that the drug has little or no demonstrable action in malaria induced in monkeys or naturally occurring in humans.)
– In India, dita bark is used as astringent, tonic, anthelmintic, alterative, antiperiodic and remedy for diarrhea and dysentery.
– In Ayurveda, infusion of bark soaked overnight used in diabetes.
– Tribal people of Sikkim use bark decoction for treatment of hypertension and cardiac disease.
– Poultice of young leaves used for ulcers.

– Wood: Used for coffins and as plywood core.

Study Findings 
• a-Glucosidase inhibitors / Diabetes: Study showed potent a-glucosidase inhibitory activity in the extract of dried leaves. It suggests further examination of A. scholaris as a medicinal supplement for the treatment and prevention of diabetes.
• Radioprotective: The study showed that A. scholaris extract protected against radiation-induced hematological and biochemical changes in mice.
• Radioprotective / Bark: A study on Alstonia scholaris bark extract to evaluate its radioprotective effect on cytogenetic alterations in the form of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei induction in the bone marrow. Results showed pretreatment provides a radioprotective effect.
• Anti-Cancer / Chemomodulatory: Effect of Alstonia scholaris in Enhancing the Anticancer Activity of Berberine in the Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma-Bearing Mice: The study on the chemomodulatory activity of ASE showed it was effective in the early stages with decreased efficiency in the later tumor developmental stages.
• Anti-Cancer : Study showed the efficacy of AS in inhibiting mutagenic changes induced by benzo(a)pyrene induced forestomach carcinoma in female mice.
• Anti-Cancer: An anticancer study of various doses of an alkaloid fraction was done in cultured human neoplastic cell lines (HeLa, HepG2, HL60, KB and MCF-7) and in Ehrlic ascites carcinoma bearing mice. Results showed a time dependent increase in antineoplastic activity. There was also a dose-dependent decline in viable cells.
• Anti-diarrheal: Study showed the aqueous and alcoholic bark extracts of AS significantly reduced the diarrhea in mice.
• Anti-malarial: A study of extract of bark of AS was found to be devoid of antimalarial activity in mice infected with P berghei. However, a dose-dependent improvement of conditions and delated mortality was found in animals receiving the methanol extract.
• Immunostimulatory: A study of bark extracts of AS cellular immune response and inhibited a delayed type hypersensitivity reaction.
• Anti-diabetic / Hypoglycemic: Study showed hypoglycemic effects attributed to insulin triggering mechanisms and direct insulin-like actions.
• Antioxidant / Free Radical Scavenging: Study of ethanolic extract showed AS possess antioxidant properties with significant free radical scavenging, superoxide anion radical scavenging and significant ferric thiocyanate reducing activities.
• Antioxidant / Nitric Oxide Scavenging Activity: Of 17 Indian medicinal plants, A scholaris showed the most potent NO scavenging activity.
• Comparative Antibacterial Study on Bark: Comparative study was done on the phytochemical and antibacterial activities of the bark of A. scholaris and A. macrophylla. Different solvent extracts showed alkaloids, saponins, phenolics, and tannins in both species. The chloroform extract of A. macrophylla showed broader spectrum of antibacterial activity than A. scholaris.
• Antitussive / Anti-Asthmatic / Expectorant / Picrinine: Study of alkaloid fractions of Alstonia scholaris leaf showed antitussive, anti-asthmatic and expectorant activities. The main antitussive and antiasthmatic effect were attributed to picrinine.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Analgesic: Study of alkaloid fraction of Alstonia scholaris leaf yielded three main alkaloids – picrinine, vallesamine and scholaricine which may produce anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects peripherally based on in vivo assays. In in vitro testing, the alkaloids exhibited inhibition of inflammatory mediators (COX1, COX2 and 5-LOX.
• Antidiarrheal / Spasmolytic: In a castor oil-induced diarrhea model, a crude extract of Alstonia scholaris exhibited antidiarrheal and spasmolytic effects, mediated possibly through the presence of calcium channel blocking constituents, a mechanism that provides mechanistic basis for its medicinal use in diarrhea and colic.
• Antidiabetic / Antihyperlipidemic: A study of an aqueous extract of AS bark in STZ-induced diabetic rats showed significant amelioration in fasting glucose, serum triglycerides, liver glycogen, glycosylated hemoglobin and body weight in diabetic rats.
• Antimycobacterial / Antihyperlipidemic: Study was done to evaluate the susceptibility of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to butanolic extracts of bark and flowers of Alstonia scholaris. Results showed moderate bactericidal activity against clinical strains of sensitive and drug resistant M. tuberculosis. An invitro bioassay showed complete inhibition of the the fast grower MTB. Results show a clear indication of a potent anti-tubercle effect.
• In Vitro Cytotoxicity / Roots: Least studied of the plant parts, an in vitro study investigated the cytotoxic properties of the roots of the plant. Results showed time dependent effect. The cell viability was found to decrease with the increase in concentration of the isopropanol extract.
• Anti-Aging / Anti-Skin Irritation: A. scholaris decreased retinol-induced skin irritation, increased the ability of the retinoids to inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-1, which is strongly associated with anti-aging effects. Results suggest a potential compound that may increase the anti-aging function of retinoids while reducing its ability to cause skin irritation.
• Aerobiological / Clinical / Immunobiochemical Properties: A West Bengal study showed A. scholaris pollen to be present 8.57% in the air from September until November. Among allergic patients, 28.57% showed positive skin reaction to the pollen extract, seven IgE-binding proteins were found; one component of 29.9 kDa was most important, which can be purified and help in the diagnosis and treatment of AS pollen-susceptible patients.
• Anticonvulsant / Sedative: Study concluded an ethanolic extract of A. scholaris possesses antiepileptic and sedative potential, probably through alteration in the GABA mediated chloride channel of neurons associated with sleep activity.
• Antihypertensive Effect: Study of bark decoction of Saptaparna on 30 patients with hypertension showed beneficial effects in reducing elevated diastolic blood pressure.
• Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory: Study of a dichlormethane fraction of leaves showed peripheral analgesic activity, anti-inflammatory activity and lack of ulcerogenicity.
• Antibacterial / Trunk Bark: Study investigated the in vitro antibacterial activity of various extracts of trunk bark of Alstonia scholaris. The extracts showed a broad spectrum of activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. The aqueous extract showed the best antibacterial activity.