Family • Fabaceae - Intsia bijuga (Colebr.) O. Kuntze - IRONWOOD

Scientific names

Intsia bijuga (Colebr.) O. Kuntze
Intsia amboilensis DC.
Intsia retusa (Kurz.) O. Kuntze
Intsia palembanica (Kurz.) O. Kuntze
Afzelia bijuga A. Gray
Afzelia retusa Kurz
Eperua decandra Blanco
Macrolobium bijugum Colebr.
Tamarindus intsia Spreng

Common names

Ipil (Ibn., Tag., Bik., Mag., Bis.)
Ipil-lalao (Tag.)
Ipil-laut (Tag.)
Itil (Mag.)
Labnig (Tag.)
Mulato (C. Bis.)
Nala (Sbl.)
Taal (Tag.)
Tigal (Tagb.)
Borneo teak (Engl.)
False teak (Engl.)
Moluccan ironwood (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

FIJIAN: Vesi, Vesi dina.
FRENCH: Cohu, Faux teck.
INDONESIAN: Merbaoe, Merbau, Merbo, Taritish.
PALAUAN: Dort, Wantal.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Kwila, Iban, Mboan, Bon, Menau.
SAMOAN: Ifilele.
THAI: Lumpho-thale, Praduu thale.


Ipil is a medium-sized tree reaching a height of 20 to 45 meters and a diameter of 150 to 180 meters.
Mature trees have steep rounded buttresses. Bark is 5 to 8 mm thick, gray in color with an orange tinge. The inner bark is light brown and mottled with brown specks. Leaves are alternate and simply compound with usually two pairs of leaflets, 8 to 12 centimeters long and 5 to 8.5 centimeters wide. Flowers are fragrant, white or reddish, borne in panicles 6 to 10 centimeters long. Pods are 10 to 25 centimeters long and 4 to 6.5 centimeters wide, with 3 to 6 orbicular seeds.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Intsia bijuga (vesi) / Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry / Randolph R. Thaman, Lex A. J. Thomson, Robin DeMeo, Francis Areki, and Craig R. Elevitch

(2) Fijian Medicinal Plants / RC Cambie, J Ash / Google Books

(3) ANTI-ULCER ACTIVITY OF LEGUMINOSAE PLANTS / Noemi D. PAGUIGAN, Darryl Hannah B. CASTILLO, Christine L. CHICHIOCO-HERNANDEZ / Arquivos de Gastroenterologia, vol.51 no.1 São Paulo Jan./Mar. 2014 / http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0004-28032014000100013

(4) Xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity of some Leguminosae plants / Leomel E. Argulla, Christine L. Chichioco-Hernandez* / Asian Pac J Trop Dis 2014; 4(6): 438-441 / doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(14)60602-2


– Along the seashore, and in some localities, in inland forests, from the Babuyan Islands and northern Luzon to Mindanao and Palawan.
– Also occurs in Madagascar, across Malaya to the Caroline and Fiji Islands.


– Bark yields tannin.
– Wood yields a khaki-colored dye.
– Phytochemical screening of leaves yielded anthrones, flavonoids, glycosidic flavonoids, phenolic compounds, steroids, tannins, triterpenes, anthraquinones and coumarins.


Parts utilized
Leaves, bark, fruit.

• Seeds can be eaten after careful preparation: soak in salt water for 3-4 days, and then boiled.
• Bark, which contains tannin, used for diarrhea.
• Fruit used as laxative.
• Bark used for urinary conditions.
• In Fiji, decoction of bark used for rheumatism, chills, diarrhea, muscle rigidity and rheumatoid arthritis; mixed with the extracts of other plants, used for broken bones. Juice of stems used for asthma.
• Decoction of leaves used when body is possessed by spirits.
• Mixed with other plant extracts, used for toothache and sore tongue. Also used for scabies and headaches.
• Bark infusion given to women after delivery.
• In the Solomon Islands, used to treat very dark urine caused by sorcery; also used for rheumatism, diarrhea and dysentery.
• In Samoa, bark used for treating enlarged lymph nodes.
• In Vanuatu, the inner bark of Intsia bijuga, squeezed in coconut water, is taken as a remedy for asthma. The leaves or inner bark are squeezed in salt water and the solution is ingested for diabetes.


• Ritual: In Fiji, once considered a sacred tree. The traditional drinking bowl for yagona was made from the wood of the tree. Also, leaf decoction drank to rid the body of evil spirits.
• Wood: Known for its hard and durable wood; used for timber, furniture making or carving craftwood. Durable against dry-wood termites.
• Dye: Wood yields a khaki colored dye. Fresh sap makes indelible stains on paper or cloth.
• Repellent: An insect repellent is made from the seeds.

Study Findings
• Anti-trypanosomal: The ethanol extract showed good and specific activity against Trypanosoma cruzi. However, it also exhibited high cytotoxicity which might explain its observed activity. Study has also suggested immuno-modulatory activity.
• Phytochemicals / Radical Scavenging Activity: In a study of four Philippine medicinal plants, phytochemical screening of Intsia bijuga revealed anthrones, flavonoids, glycosidic flavonoids, phenolic compounds, steroids, tannins and triterpenes. The tannins may justify its folkloric use for dysentery (leaves). Results showed radical scavenging activity, but with the highest EC50 value.
• Cytotoxicity: On brine shrimp lethality assay, I. bijuga leaves had an LC50 value of 86.5 µg/ml. All crude methanol extracts of the four Philippine medicinal plants tested had 100% mortality to brine shrimp at 1000 µg/mL.
• Anti-Ulcer: Study evaluated methanol extracts of leaves of nine plants, including Intsia bijuga, for anti-ulcer activity using HCl-ethanol as ulcerogen. All extracts showed inhibitory activity with I. bijuga among those that showed more than 50% inhibition.
• Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitory Activity: Xanthine oxidase inhibitors is a urate lowering agent, blocking the synthesis of uric acid, and used in the treatment of hyperuricemia and gout. Study evaluated the xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity of methanol leaf extracts of 10 plants, including Intsia bijuga. All the extracts inhibited the action of xanthine oxidase.