Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. - WATER SPINACH - Hong jing weng cai

Other scientific names

Ipomoea reptans Linn.
Ipomoea subdentata Miq.
Convolvulus reptans Linn.
Convolvulus repens Vahl
Convolvulus adansoni Lam.

Common names

Balañgog (Ilk.)
Galatgat (Ilk.)
Kangkong (Bik., Tag., Pamp.)
Kangkung (Sul.)
Tangkong (Ilk., Kuy., Bis.)
Tangkung (Sul.)
Karmatta (India)
Potato vine (Engl.)
Swamp cabbage (Engl.)
Swamp morning glory (Engl.)
Water spinach (Engl.)
Hong jing weng cai (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ASSAMESE: Kalmou. KOREAN: Kong sim chae, Da yeon chae, Mo ning geul lo ri.
BENGALI: Kalami, Kalmi shaak, olamni (Manipur). LAOTIAN: Bôngz.
BURMESE: Kan-swun. MALAY: Kankung, Kangkong, Kangkung, Kankong.
CHINESE: Weng cai, Kong xin cai, Tong cai, Ong choi, Ong choy, Ohng choy. MALAYALAM: Ballel.
CZECH: Čínský vodní špenát . MARATHI: Naadi shaak, Nali chi bhaj.
DANISH: Vandspinat. NEPALESE: Kalaamii saag.
DUTCH: Waterspinazie. ORIYA: Kalama saga.
FRENCH: Liseron d’eau, Patate aquatique. PORTUGUESE: Cancon, Batata aquática
GERMAN: Wasserspinat. PUNJABI: Nali bel.
GUJARATI: Nali ni bhaji. RUSSIAN: Ipomeia vodianaia.
HINDI: Kalmua, Kalmi, Kalmisaag, Patuasag. SANSKRIT: Kalamba, Kalambi, Kalambika, Naalikah.
ITALIAN: Vilucchio d’acqua, Convolvolo d’acqua, Patata acquatica. SPANISH: Espinaca acuática, Batata acuática, Espinaca de agua.
JAPANESE: Asagaona, Ensai, Kankon, Kuushin sai, Tsuu sai, You sai. SWEDISH: Vattenspenat.
KANNADA: Niru hambu. TURKISH: Su ıspanağını.
KHMER: Trâkuön.

Kangkong is a smooth, widely spreading vine, with the stems trailing on mud or floating on water. Leaves are oblong-ovate, 7 to 14 centimeters long, with a pointed tip and heart-shaped or arrow-shaped base, long petioled, the margins entire or angular, and sublobed. Peduncles are erect, 2.5 to 5 centimeters long, with 1 or 2 flowers, borne in the axils of the leaves. Sepals are green, oblong, about 8 millimeters long. Corolla is narrowly bell-shaped, about 5 centimeters long, and purplish; limb nearly white or pale pink purple, about 5 centimeters in diameter, the tube deeper purple inside. Capsules are smooth and ovoid, about 1 centimeter long.


– Throughout the Philippines in stagnant streams, fresh-water swamps, and pools.
– Probably introduced.
– Found throughout the tropics of the Old World.
– Extensively cultivated in southern China.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Oral hypoglycaemic activity of Ipomoea aquatica / T. Sugandhika Malalavidhan et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology / Volume 72, Issues 1-2, 1 September 2000, Pages 293-298 / doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00217-8

(2) An aqueous extract of the green leafy vegetable Ipomoea aquatica is as effective as the oral hypoglycaemic drug tolbutamide in reducing the blood sugar levels of Wistar rats / S. Malalavidhane et al / Phytotherapy Research Volume 15 Issue 7, Pages 635 – 637 / DOI 10.1002/ptr.851

(3) Inhibitory effect of Ipomoea aquatica extracts on glucose absorption using a perfused rat intestinal preparation / S.D. Sokeng, B. Rokeya et al / Fitoterapia Volume 78, Issues 7-8, December 2007, Pages 526-529 / doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2007.06.011

(4) Oral hypoglycaemic activity of Ipomoea aquatica in streptozotocin-induced, diabetic Wistar rats and Type II diabetics / MALALAVIDHANE T. S. et al / PTR. Phytotherapy research / 2003, vol. 17, no9, pp. 1098-1100

(5) Evaluation of Diuretic Activity of Ipomoea aquatica (Kalmisak) in Mice Model Study / M.M. Mamun, M.M. Billah et al / Journal of Medical Sciences, 2003 | Volume: 3 | Issue: 5 | Page No.: 395-400 / DOI: 10.3923/jms.2003.395.400

(6) Isolation of a free radical-scavenging antioxidant from water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica Forsk) / K Nagendra Prasad et al / Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Volume 85 Issue 9, Pages 1461 – 1468 / DOI 10.1002/jsfa.2125

(7) NOOTROPIC EFFECT OF IPOMOEA AQUATICA FORSK IN RAT HIPPOCAMPUS / Dhanasekaran Sivaraman and Palayan Muralidaran / International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.2, No.1, pp 475-479, Jan-Mar 2010

(8) Anxiolytic activity of Ipomoea aquatica leaves / Mohd. Jishan Khan, Vipin Saini, Varun S. Bhati, Manvendra S. Karchuli, Sanjay B. Kasture / European Journal of Experimental Biology, 2011, 1 (1):63-70

(9) Lead and Cadmium Contents in Ipomoea aquatica Forsk. Grown in Laguna de Bay / Marieta C. Baysa, Rachelle Rose S. Anuncio et al / Philippine Journal of Science, 135 (2): 139-143, December 2006

(10) Evaluation of the Leaves of Ipomoea aquatica for its Hypoglycemic and Antioxidant Activity / Hamid, Kaiser /Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, July 2011

(11) Ipomoea aquatica Extract Shows Protective Action Against Thioacetamide-Induced Hepatotoxicity / Salim Said Alkiyumi, Mahmood Ameen Abdullah,* Ahmed Salim Alrashdi, Suzy Munir Salama, Siddig Ibrahim Abdelwahab and A. Hamid A. Hadi / Molecules 2012, 17, 6146-6155; doi:10.3390/molecules17056146


– Plant contains protein 1.6 %, fat 0.2%, and vitamins C3 and B2.

– Considered purgative, diuretic, antiepileptic, CNS depressant, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, antidiabetic.

Parts used 
Young leaves and stems

Edibility / Nutritional
– Young leaves and shoots eaten raw in salads, or steam and boiled like spinach.
– Young stems popular as achara (native pickles) ingredient.
– Good sources of iron, calcium, vitamins B and C and amino acids.


– Tops are mildly laxative.
-The purplish variety used for diabetes because of assumed insulin-like principle it contains.
– Juice used as emetic.
– Dried latex is purgative.
– Poultice of buds used for ringworm.
– Used as laxative and sedative; used for piles, nervous conditions, headache, insomnia.
– In Burma, the juice is employed as an emetic in cases of arsenical or opium poisoning.
– In Cambodia, used as poultice for fever with delirium; buds applied to ringworm.
– In Ayurveda, extracts of leaves are used for jaundice and nervous debility.
– Juice used as emetic in opium and arsenic poisoning.
– In Sri Lanka, used for liver disease, eye problems, constipation.


– Leaves used as food for gurami fish and pigs.

Study Findings
• Hypoglycemic / Anti-Diabetic: Study showed the boiled whole extract of I. aquatica to exert an oral hypoglycemic effect in healthy, male, Wistar rats after a glucose challenge.
• Hypoglycemic / Comparable to Tolbutamide: An aqueous extract of the green leafy vegetable Ipomoea aquatica is as effective as the oral hypoglycaemic drug tolbutamide in reducing the blood sugar levels of Wistar rats.
• Hypoglycemic / Glucose Absorption Inhibitory Effect: Inhibitory effect of Ipomoea aquatica extracts on glucose absorption using a perfused rat intestinal preparation: Study showed a significant inhibitory effect on glucose absorption. Furthermore, results suggest the inhibition of glucose absorption is not due to the acceleration of intestinal transit.
• Hypoglycemic / Oral Consumption Study showed the consumption of shredded, fresh, edible portion of IA for one week, effectively reduced the fasting blood sugar of Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.
• Antioxidant / Antiproliferative: Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica Forsk) constituents: Study showed the water extract of stems had the highest antiproliferative activity. The ethanol extract of the stems had the highest total phenolic compounds. The ethanol extract of leaves had the highest amount of flavonoids.
• Diuretic: Study on the diuretic activity of the methanol extract of Ipomoea aquatica in Swiss albino mice showed good diuretic activity. In all cases, the excretion of electrolytes and urine volume increase was higher than the standard diuretic, furosemide.
• Antioxidant: Study of a methanol extract yielded a compound ( 7-O-B-D-glucopyronosyl-dihydromquercetin-3-O-a-D-glucopyranoside) that exhibited antioxidant activity with an EC50 value of 83 and showed very strong lipid peroxidation-inhibitory activity in a liposome model system.
• Antimicrobial: Study investigating the antimicrobial efficacy of the leaf extract of three herbs – A longifolia, I aquatica and E fluctuans – on four pathogenic bacterial strains (E coli, P aeruginosa, S aureus and M luteus). Ipomoea aquatica exerted the higher amount of antimicrobial activity against the bacterial strains, better than the two other herb extracts.
• Antiulcerogenic: Study in an aspirin-induced ulcer model in rats found Ipomoea aquatica to possess potent anti-ulcerogenic and ulcer-healing properties and can act as a potent therapeutic agent against peptic ulcer disease.
• Cytotoxicity: Study isolated a purified bioactive compound from the leaf of Ipomoea aquatica – 7-O-B-D-glucopyranosyl-dihydroquercetin-3-O-a-D-glucopyranoside (DHQG). Results showed DHQG showed cytotoxicity towards cancer cell lines tested.
• Nootropic / Memory Enhancing Potential: Study suggests that MEIA markedly improves brain Ach level. MEIA treatment may be of value in reinforcing depressed cholinergic transmission in certain age related memory disorders and to improve memory and learning in normal individuals.
• Anxiolytic: Study evaluated the anxiolytic activity of Ipomoea aquatica leaves. A methanol-ethanol extract significantly potentiated ketamine-induced sleep by reduction in latency to sleep and increased duration of sleep, suggesting the interaction of I. aquatica with CNS depressants.
• Hypoglycemic/ Antioxidant: Study evaluated the hypoglycemic and antioxidant activity of methanolic extract of leaves in Swiss albino mice. Results showed potent hypoglycemic activity compared with control. Extract also showed potent free radical scavenging activity with vitamin C as standard.
• CNS Depressant / Antiepileptic: Study on various animal models evaluated the CNS depressant and antiepileptic activities of a methanol extract of leaves of Ipomoea aquatica. Results showed dose-dependent and significant increases in onset to clonic and tonic convulsions or complete protection against seizures induced by strychnine and picrotoxin. There was also dose-dependent prolongation of pentobarbitone sleeping time and suppression of exploratory behavior.
• Hepatoprotective / Thioacetamide-Induced Hepatotoxicity: Study evaluated the protective effects of ethanol extract of I. aquatica against liver damage induced by thioacetamine in rats. Results showed a protective effect in TAA-induced liver damage probably by contributing to its modulation on detoxification enzymes, antioxidant, and free radical scavenger effects.
• Lead and Cadmium Content: Study was conducted to determine the concentrations of lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) in the top, middle, and bottom of edible portions of I. aquatica. Pb concentration showed a decreasing trend from the roots to the leaves, and from bottom to top section to shoot apex. The concentrations of Pb and Cd in the edible portions were far below the maximum tolerable daily intake for man set by the WHO. The bottom of the edible portion of the plant should be removed to minimize Pb intake.