Family • Campanulaceae - Isotoma longiflora Mill. - STAR OF BETHLEHEM - Tong ban cao

Scientific names

Hippobroma longiflora (L.) G. Don.
Rapuntium longiflora Mill.
Isotoma longiflora Mill.

Common names

Estrella (Tag., Span.,)
Lagrimas de San Diego (Span.)
Revienta caballos (Span.)
Madamfate (Engl.)
Star of Bethlehem (Engl.)
Longflower laurentia (Engl.)
Tong ban cao (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Ma zui cao
FRENCH: Etoile de Bethleem, Lastron blanc
HAWAIIAN: Udel ra badrei
POHNPEIAN: Ehmah, Wahnrohs, Pwetepwet
SPANISH: Lagrimas de San Diego
YAPESE: Adilep

Estrella is a low annual herb, erect, spreading, branched or simple. smooth or slightly hairy, about 30 to 50 centimeters high. Leaves are alternate, soft, and oblanceolate, with short stalks or without stalks, 10 to 20 centimeters long, with serrate margins, narrow at both ends, pointed at the tip. Flowers are fragrant, white, five-lobed and star-shaped, borne singly at the axils of leaves. Calyx is green, 5-angled, and ovoid; tube is about 1 centimeter long. Five lobes are linear, denticulate, about 1.5 centimeter long. Corolla is white; tube is slender, 8 to 10 centimeters long; the lobes spreading, lanceolate, and 2.5 centimeters long. Capsule is nodding, about 2 centimeters long, and slightly protruding from the calyx-tube.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Minor Seed Oils XVIII: Examination of Twelve Seed Oils / Prof. Dr. R. C. Badami, Miss J. K. Thakkar / DOI10.1002/lipi.19840860409 DOI

(2) Isotoma longiflora / Herbal Medicine /

(3) Hippobroma longiflora / Common names / Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)


Cultivated in gardens.
Found along drains, along rice paddies.

Parts utilized 

• Plant yields alkaloid compounds: lobelin, lobelamin and isotomin.
• Leaves contain alkaloid, saponin, flavonoid and poliferol.
• Isotomine, an amorphous toxic alkaloid, can paralyze voluntary muscles, that can affect the heart and respiration.

• Juice is irritating to the eye and is known to cause blindness in animals.
• A burning sensation in the mouth and throat results if the juice of any plant part is tasted.
• Considered anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic, analgesic and hemostatic.


– Counterirritant for aching teeth: leaves are washed, pounded and put on painful carious teeth.
– In the Yucatan used for wounds and treatment of venereal disease, asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy.
– Decoction of leaves used to wash wounds.
– Leaves and flowers are considered antipyretic and decongestant.
– Used for gaseous distention and diarrhea.
– Although known for its poisonous nature, it is sometimes used is small amounts as a tonic for colds.
– In other folk medicinal systems, decoction of leaves used for asthma, bronchitis, cancer.
– Poultice of leaves applied to wounds and wrapped.
– For cataracts, leaves pressed in water, and solution used as eye drops.


Study Findings
• Seed Oils: In a study of 12 seed oils from 10 plants families, nine are reported to be medicinal. The major seed oil component of Isotoma longiflora was oleic acid.

• Contains a toxic alkaloid, isotomine that can cause muscle paralysis and affect cardiorespiratory functions.
• Its dangerous properties limit its medicinal use.
• Used as a component in some hallucinogenic beverages and brews.