Family • Moraceae - Upas - Antiaris toxicaria (Pers.) Lesch. - SACKING TREE - Jian xue feng hou

Scientific names

Ipo toxicaria Pers.
Antiaris toxicaria (Pers.) Lesch.
Antiaris macrophylla R. Br.
Antiaris africana Engl.

Common names

Dalit (Tag.)
Ipo (Tag., Bis.)
Dita (Ibn., Ap.)
Lata (Neg.)
Mananau (S. L. Bis.)
Salogon (Tag.)
Upas (Tag.)
Poison arrow tree (Engl.)
Sacking tree (Engl.)
Upas tree (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

AFRICA: Bokonko.
BURMA: Aseik, Hymaseik.
CHINESE: Jian duo shu, Jia bu, Jian du mu, Jian xue feng hou.
INDONESIA: Upas, Ancar, Tatai, Bemoe.
JAVA: Upas.
LAOS: Cong, Nong.
THAILAND: Yang nong, Yuan.
VIETNAME: Sui, C[aa]y sui, Thu[oos]c b[aws]n.

Mythology of Bohun Upas – The Tree of Poisons
The first voyagers to Malay brought back grisly tales of a poisonous tree, called Bohun Upas – the tree of poisons. The tree was shunned, fearful that it produced toxic fumes and narcotic effects, killing plants and animals for miles around, and that one might never awaken if he sleeps under the shade of the tree. The legend was probably based on the Bausor Tree (Antiaris toxicaria), known for its poisonous latex used by natives on arrow tips.

The plant is a large, evergreen tree growing to a height of 20 meters or more, with a dome-shaped crown. Trunk is often buttressed; the bark, thick and grey. Leaves are glossy, smooth or hairy beneath, elliptic, 10 to 20 centimeters long, with entire or toothed margins, pointed tip and rounded or heart-shaped base. Flowers are monoecious. Male flowers are crowded, less often on the surface of the pendunculate than on fascicled receptacles. Female flowers are solitary, enclosed in a pear-shaped involucre of numerous confluent bracts, and without a perianth. Fruit is a small fig, purple scarlet or crimson, pyriform, velvety, fleshy and about 20 millimeters in diameter.

– Found in Batanes Islands, Cagayan, and Apayao provinces in Luzon; in Mindoro, Negros, and Guimaras, in forests, at low and medium altitudes.
– Also occurs in India to southern China and Malaya.

• Juice contains antiarol, potassium nitrate, a crystalline resin called antiarresin, a crystalline protein, three active glucosides said to possess strong digitalis-like effect on the heart.
• Bark has a high concentration of tannin used in dyeing and paints.
• Study of leaves yielded three compounds: azelaic acid, succinic acid, and vanillic acid.
• Dried leaves extracted with 80% EtOH and partitioned with butanol yielded four compounds: potassium nitrate, ß-sitosterol, daucosterol and quercetin.

• Sap is dark brown with a gummy consistency, bitter and biting in taste.
• Leaves and bark considered febrifuge.
• Leaf or bark juice considered poisonous.

Parts utilized
Bark, leaves.

• Fruit is edible.
• Leaves and bark are used as febrifuge.
• In Concan and in Canara, bitter seeds used as febrifuge and as remedy for dysentery.
• In Java, leaves and roots used to treat mental illness.
• In Ghana, used for epilepsy and pain.
• In Africa and some Asian nations, seeds, leaves and bark are used as astringent and seeds as antidysenteric.
• In West Africa the sap of A. toxicaria is used for the treatment of cuts, wounds, and skin diseases, eczema and leprosy.
• In Southwest Nigeria leaves are used for epilepsy, wounds, and neurological disorders.

• Arrow poison: The juice from the leaves or bark is poisonous. In Java, Malaya and Burma, reportedly used as an arrow poison. The Mangyans of Mindoro, the Apayaos and Negritos dip their hunting darts into the bark sap. The Negritos of Cagayan make the poison more effective by mixing the juice with putrid meat. An 1878 Regnault experiment on the A. toxicaria juice concludes it was a powerful heart poison; subsequent pharmacological studies corroborate his conclusion. Used with Strychnos ignatii, Antiaris toxicaria is an important component in the manufacture of dart and arrow poisons; its active components are cardenolides and alkaloids with cardiac toxicity and arresting potentials. The poison must enter the bloodstream to be effective; the latex can be ingested without causing cardiotoxic effects. However, there has been a fatal case of rhabdomyolysis and acute oliguric renal failure following ingestion of blowpipe dart poison prepared from Antiaris and Strychnos.
• Timber: Yields a lightweight hardwood; with good peeling properties for veneer production. Also, a marginal fuel.
• Dye: Bark has tannins and is employed in dyeing and paints.
• Provides a dense canopy for shade and shelter. Leaf litter enriches the soil.
• Fiber / Cordage: Bark yields a fiber which is made into a cloth, and is useful for cordage, matting, and sacking. Tribal populations of Keral are experts in preparing Maravuri, a type of cloth fro the bark tree of Aranjai (Antiaris toxicaria).

Study Findings
• Toxicarioside / Cardenolide: Study isolated a new cardenolide, toxicarioside A, from the methanol extract of a dart poison in Borneo derived from Antiaris toxicaria latex. The bioassay involved the inhibition of NaK-ATPase and mimics the suspected mode of action of the “cardiac-glycoside” toxins.
• Cytotoxicity / Cardenolides: Study isolated two new cardenolides, toxicarioside F and toxicarioside G from the latex of A toxicaria. Both compounds showed cytotoxicity against K562, SGC-7901, SMMC-7721, and HeLa cell lines.
• Cytotoxicity / New Nor-Cardenolide: Study isolated a new nor-cardenolide, toxicarioside H from the latex which showed significant cytotoxicity against K562, SGC-7901, SMMC-7721, and HeLa cell lines.
• Cardiotoxicity / Cardenolides: Active principles in the latex are cardiac glycosides – cardenolides, e.g. alfa-,beta- and gamma-antiarin – with digitalis-like effects on the heart, affecting the Na+K+ATPase activity of the heart muscle membrane. In large amounts, they can cause vomiting, convulsions and cardiac arrest.
• New Sesquiterpenoid Glycoside / Antibacterial / Cytotoxicity: Study isolated a new drimane sesquiterpenoid glycoside, named 7-drimen-3β,11-diol 3-O-β-d-glucopyranoside. The compound showed inhibitory activities toward methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, chronic myelogenous leukemia and human hepatoma cell lines.
• Endophytic Fungi / Antimicrobial: Study isolated and identified an endophytic fungi from the phloem in the root of Antiaris toxicaria. Endophytic fungus J6 exhibited strong antimicrobial activity against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus).
• Sap / Inhibition of Na+K+ATPase: Study sap extract showed inhibition of Na+-,K+-ATPase. Results suggest the main components of the milky sap are cardiac glycosides, and glycosides affect the NaKATPase activity of muscle membrane and heart muscle contraction.
• Cardiac Glycosides / Potent Cardiotonic Activity: Study of ethanolic extract of trunk bark exhibited potent in vitro cardiotonic activity on isolated guinea pig atria. Fractionation yielded nine new cardiac glycosides (antiarosides A-I), antiarotoxinin A, and 18 known compounds. Compound 23, Malayoside, showed concentration-dependent inhibition of the sodium pump current.
• Anticonvulsant / Anxiolytic / Antidepressant / Analgesic / Stem Bark: Study of an aqueous extract of stem bark showed anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, antidepressant, and analgesic properties.
• Neuropharmacological Effects / Stem Bark: Study of evauated the neuropharmacological effects of an aqueous stem bark extract of Antiaris toxicaria. Overall results showed CNS depressant, analgesic, and anticonvulsant activity. It can increase spontaneous activity without motor impairment, with an LD50 that may be above 3000 mg/kg.
• Anticonvulsant: Study evaluated the anticonvulsant activity of AT in rodents using MEST, PTZ, PCT, STR- and 4-aminopyridine induced convulsions. An aqueous extract exhibited anticonvulsant activity, possibly through GABA-mediated inhibition and inhibition of glutamate-mediated excitation via activation of potassium ion channels.
• Antidepressant: Study evaluated A. extract for antidepressant activity using various behavioral tests, particularly FST (forced swim test) and TST (tail suspension test). Results showed antidepressant like action in rodents, with increased mobility periods and decreased immobility periods significant in both FST and TST. Mechanism of action was investigated with pretreatment of animal groups with α–MD, PCPA, reserpine, D-serine and 5-HTP.
• Toxicarioside A / Effect on Bone Stromal Cells: Study evaluated the possible mechanism of toxicarioside A in HS-5 bone stromal cells. Results showed toxicarioside A can influence bone marrow stromal HS-5’s function and inhibit HS-5 cell proliferation by alteration of endoglin-related ALK1 and ALK5.
• Antiproliferative Cardiac Glycosides / Latex: Phytochemical analysis of AT latex isolated 15 new antiarosides J-X (1-15) and 17 nown cardiac glycosides. Several of the glycosides induced apoptosis in lung cancer cells probably through the Nur77-dependent apoptotic pathway.
• Antidepressant / Anxiolytic / Anticataleptic / Leaves: Results of a study in mice showed A. toxicaria possesses an antidepressant-like effect involving interactionn with α1-adrenoreceptor, D2 dopamine receptor and nitrergic pathway; an anxiolytic-like effect linked to benzodiazepine system; and a neuroprotective effect.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antiaris toxicaria / Wikipedia

(2) A new drimane sesquiterpenoid glycoside from the seeds of Antiaris toxicaria / Wen-Hua Dong; Wen-Li Mei; You-Xing Zhao et al / Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, Vol 13, Issue 6, 2011, Pages 561 – 565 / DOI: 10.1080/10286020.2011.573479


(4) Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. / E. Boer, M. Brink & M.S.M. Sosef

(5) Studies on the Indonesian Antiaris toxicaria sap / Fujimoto Y, Suzuki Y, Kanaiwa T, Amiya T, Hoshi K, Fujino S. /J Pharmacobiodyn. 1983 Feb;6(2):128-35.

(6) Research on chemical constituents of the Antiaris toxicaria Lesch leaves. / Kang ShengLi; Liu MingSheng; Zhang JunQing; Lai WeiYong; Jin DeJun / Journal of Hainan Medical College 2009 Vol. 15 No. 10 pp. 1191-1192

(7) Cardiac Glycosides from Antiaris toxicaria with Potent Cardiotonic Activity / Li-Shian Shi, Yu-Ren Liao, Ming-Jai Su, An-Sheng Lee, Ping-Chung Kuo, Amooru G. Damu, Sheng-Chu Kuo, Han-Dong Sun , Kuo-Hsiung Lee and Tian-Shung Wu / J. Nat. Prod., 2010, 73 (7), pp 1214–1222 / DOI: 10.1021/np9005212

(8) Antiaris toxicaria / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(9) Anticonvulsant and Related Central Nervous System Effects of the Aqueous Extract of the Stem Bark of Antiaris Toxicaria Pers. Lesch.(Moraceae). / Priscilla Kolibea Mante / Kwame Nkrumah, University of Science and Technology

(10) Mythical Plants of the Middle Ages / Bohun Upas, The Tree of Poisons / Godecookery

(11) Preparation of Maravuri from Antiaris toxicaria (Pers.) Lesch. by Muthuvans of Kerala / Johncy Manithottam & MS Francis / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowlege, Vol 7(1), January 2008, pp 74-76

(12) NEUROPHARMACOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT OF AN AQUEOUS BARK EXTRACT OF ANTIARIS TOXICARIA (PERS.) LESCH. (MORACEAE) IN RODENTS / Priscilla K. Mante, Donatus W. Adongo, Kennedy K.E. Kukuia, Elvis O. Ameyaw and Eric Woode / American Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 2012, 7 (4), 123-134 / doi:10.3844/ajptsp.2012.123.134

(13) Anticonvulsant Effect of Antiaris toxicaria (Pers.) Lesch. (Moraceae) Aqueous Extract in Rodents / Priscilla Kolibea Mante, Donatus Wewura Adongo, Eric Woode, Kennedy Kwami Edem Kukuia, and Elvis Ofori Ameyaw / ISRN Pharmacology, Volume 2013 (2013) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/519208

(14) Antidepressant-like properties of Antiaris toxicaria aqueous extract / Priscilla Kolibea Mante, Eric Woode, Kennedy K. E. Kukuia, Donatus W. Adongo, Elvis O. Ameyaw. / Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol. 2015; 4(1): 111-120 / doi: 10.5455/2319-2003.ijbcp20150220

(15) Toxicarioside A, isolated from tropical Antiaris toxicaria, blocks endoglin/TGF-β signaling in a bone marrow stromal cell line / Yue-Nan Li, Feng-Ying Huang, Wen-Li Mei, Hao-Fu Dai, Jun-Li Guo, Guang-Hong Tan, Peng Zhou / Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, Volume 5, Issue 2, February 2012, Pages 91–97 / doi:10.1016/S1995-7645(12)60002-9

(16) Study on the chemical elements of leaves of Antiaris toxicaria Lesch / Global Journal of Medicine and Hygiene

(17) Antiproliferative Cardiac Glycosides from the Latex of Antiaris toxicaria / Qian Liu, Jin-Shan Tang, Meng-Jie Hu, Jie Liu, Hai-Feng Chen, Hao Gao, Guang-Hui Wang, Shun-Lin Li, Xiao-Jiang Hao, Xiao-Kun Zhang, and Xin-Sheng Yao * / J. Nat. Prod., 2013, 76 (9), pp 1771–1780 / DOI: 10.1021/np4005147

(18) Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing / W.M. Kone, A. Azokou, A. Bakayoko and F.H. Tra Bi / Research Journal of Medicinal Plant, 6: 214-224. / DOI: 10.3923/rjmp.2012.214.224

(19) Antidepressant, anxiolytic, and anticataleptic effects of aqueous leaf extract of Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. (Moraceae) in mice: possible mechanisms of actions / Esther O. Agbaje, Ismail O. Ishola, and Joel A. Oniyire / J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol 2014; 25(4): 429-438 / DOE 10.1515/jbcpp.2013-0054