Family • Taccaceae - Tacca pinnatifida Forst. - EAST INDIAN ARROWROOT - Ju ruo shu

Scientific names

Tacca pinnatifida Forst.
Tacca gaogao Blanco
Tacca leontopetaloides (L.) Kuntze
Tacca pinnatifolia Gaertn.

Common names

Gau-gau (Tag.)
Kanobong (Bis.)
Panarien (Ilk.)
Tambobon (Sbl.)
Tayobong (Bis.)
Yabyaban (Tag.)
Polynesian arrowroot (Engl.)
East Indian arrowroot (Engl.)
Ju ruo shu (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

FRENCH: Arrow-root de Tahiti, Tacca.
GERMAN: Ostindische pfeilwurz., Ostindisches arrowroot, Takka.
NIGERIA: Giginya biri, Gaatarin zoo moo.
SPANISH: Arrowroot De Taití, Yabia

Polynesian Arrowroot (Tacca leontopetaloides)

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Chemical Analysis of Tacca leontopetaloides Peels / S.T. Ubwa, B.A. Anhwange and J.T. Chia / American Journal of Food Technology, 6: 932-938. / DOI: 10.3923/ajft.2011.932.938

(2) Phytochemical Screening and Antioxidant Activity of Tuber Extracts of Tacca pinnatifida J.R.&J.G.Forst / Sanjay Jagtap*, Rajendra Satpute / International Journal of Recent Trends in Science And Technology, ISSN 2277-2812 E-ISSN 2249-8109, Volume 9, Issue 3, 2014 pp 389-396

Gau-gau’s is a wild perennial herb. Rootstock is tuberous, depressed-rounded, up to 30 centimeters in diameter. Petiole is often nearly 1 meter long, hollow, 1.5 to 2 centimeters in diameter, and striate. Leaves are tripartite, spreading, 1 to 1.5 meters in diameter; the segments 2-fid or irregularly pinnatifid or pinnate at the base, often large, irregularly lobed. Scape is up to 1.4 meters long, hollow, tapering, green, erect, 10- to 40-flowered. Flowers are crowded at the apex, pedicelled, drooping, intermixed with very long, filiform bracts, subtended by 4 to 12 oblong, acuminate, 5 to 7 centimeters long, involucrate leaves. Perianth is green and purplish, about 1 centimeter long. Fruits are ellipsoid or ovoid, smooth, yellowish, 6-ribbed, and 3 to 4 centimeters long.

– In sandy soils in thickets near the sea throughout the Philippines.
– Native to Malaysia and the Pacific Islands, occurring from tropical Africa through Asia to northern Australia.

– Analysis of the starch of gau-gau yielded: Moisture, 68%; starch, on wet basis, 24.03%; starch on dry basis, 75.1%; cyanogenetic glucosides, none; alkaloids, none.
– Phytochemical screening yielded alkaloids, saponins, and tannins from the leaf, while only alkaloids were present in the tubers.
– Tubers yield starch, ceryl alcohol, steroid saponins, and a bitter principle, Taccalin.
– Phytochemical screening showed the tubers to be rich in primary and secondary metabolites such as carbohydrates, alkaloids, vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, phenols, glycosides, saponins, and volatile oils.Analysis of coarse tuber powder yielded major mineral contributions of iron (1046.786 ppm), manganese (42.915 ppm), zinc (12.665 ppm) and copper (5.729 ppm).


– Rootstock is bitter when raw.

– Tubers are considered poisonous, but the poison is removed by soaking and washing, and repeated rinsing of the starchy tubers in water.
– Peels have been found to be poisonous to livestock and other animals feeding on them. (See study below)

Parts used

Edibility / Culinary
– Used as food as rhizomes yield a lot of starch. (See caution above)
– In Polynesia, gau-gau used as food for invalids, asserting it to be superior to all others.
– Fruits are sweet tasting.


– Used for dysentery and diarrhea.
– In India, also used for dysentery.
– Used for body aches and headache, to stop internal hemorrhaging in the stomach and colon.
– Also, applied to wounds to stop bleeding.
– In Nigeria, the ground root is put on guinea worm infested area to stop epidemics; also taken as infusion to treat hepatitis. Root preparation used to treat snake bites. Flowers are rubbed on snake bites.
– In the Polynesian Islands, bitter raw tubers are used to treat stomach ailments, especially diarrhea and dysentery.
– In Hawaii, raw tubers mixed with water and red clay are consumed for diarrhea and dysentery, and to stop stomach hemorrhages.
– In the Ivory Coast, leaf decoction is taken orally for scrotal elephantiasis and stomach edema.

– In Nigeria, water in which tuber gratings have been washed is used as a detergent. Tubers are potential starting point for making alcohol. Also, the plant is used in traditional worship and sacrifices.
– Root starch used to stiffen fabrics.
– Glue is produced from the potato-like fruit.

Study Findings
• Phytochemicals: Study Tacca leontopetaloides showed the presence of important secondary metabolites. Screening yielded alkaloids, saponins, and tannins from the leaf while only alkaloids were present in the tubers.
• Chemical Analysis of Peels / High Anti-Nutritional Content: Study of three samples showed a moisture content of 15.4% to28.3%, ash content of 4.13 to 9.6%, lipids 1.1 to 3.8%, fiber 1.1 to 2.07%, protein 0.07 to 0.18%, and carbohydrates 62.94 to 71.2%. Anti-nutrition components showed high cyanogenic glycoside levels. Saponin was 31.5 to 35 mg/k. Study suggests that although the peels has a high content of carbohydrates, it i not suitable for consumption because of high anti-nutritional factors.
• Antioxidant: Study of methanol extracts of tubers by DPPH and scavenging methods showed significant antioxidant activity.