Family • Araceae - Pistia stratiotes Linn. - WATER CABBAGE - Tian fu ping

Scientific names

Pistia crispata Blume
Pistia stratiotes Linn.
Pistia cumingii Klotz.
Pistia minor Blume
Pistia stratiotes L. var. cuneata Engl.
Da piao (Chin.)

Common names

Kiapo (Tag., Bis.)
Loloan (Ilk.)
Quiapo (Tag.)
Shellflower  (Engl.)
Tropical duckweed (Engl.)
Water lettuce (Engl.)
Water cabbage (Eng.)
Tian fu ping (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Shuo he lian, Shuo fu ping.
FRENCH: Laitue d’eau, Pistie.
SPANISH: Lechuguilla de agua, Lechuguita de agua, Repollo de agua.

Historical note
The Quiapo district of Manila, the home of the Black Nazarene, derived its name from this water lily plant Kiapo, which was in profusion in the canals and rivers of the area, early in the Spanish colonized time when it thrived as a fishing village. (See: Quiapo Market)

Kiapo is an aquatic plant, floating on lakes, streams, stagnant water and in lime-rich water, gregarious and stemless. Leaves are few or many, fanlike, 2.5 to 15 cm long, with a rounded or retuse apex, thickened base, with small, soft hairs on both surfaces. Spathes are few, white, oblique, about 12 mm long, with short peduncles. Spadix is adnate to the back of the tube of the spathe, but free above. Fruit is membraneous and few-seeded. Seeds are oblong or obovoid, albuminous, with rugose testa.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antidermatophytic activity of Pistia stratiotes / Premkumar VG, Shyamsundar D. / Indian J Pharmacol 2005;37:127-8

(2) Pharmacologic activities of Pistia stratiotes / K. J. Achola, A. A. Indalo and R. W. Munenge / Summary Pharmaceutical Biology / 1997, Vol. 35, No. 5, Pages 329-333

(3) Chemical constituents of Pistia stratiotes L. / Y Ling, F Wan, B He, Y Zhang, J Zheng / China journal of Chinese materia medica (1999), Volume: 24, Issue: 5, Pages: 289-290, 318

(4) Pharmacognostic studies of the leaf and stolon of Pistia stratiotes Linn. / Omprakash K K, Rathinamala R, Rajasekaran R, Sasikala Ethirajulu / International Journal of Ayurvedic Medicine, Vol 2, No 3 (2011)

(5) Phytoremediation of Chromium and Cobalt using Pistia stratiotes: A sustainable approach / Santosh Kumar Prajapati, Neelima Meravi, Shivangee Singh / Proceedings of the International Academy of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 2012, 2(2):136-138

(6) Role of Pistia stratiotes on Radiation Induced Genotoxicity : Analysis of Micronucleus and Chromosome Aberrations in vivo / Megha Jha, Versha Sharma & Ganesh Narayan / International Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Technology (IJPPT), Volume-I, Issue-1.

Close up of a water lettuce, showing leaves and roots
– Common in lakes, lazy streams and stagnant waters, even in rice paddies at low altitudes.
– Frequent decorative plant in residential ponds, aquariums and water fountains.
– Pantropic.

– Plant yields steroid, triterpenoid, phenol, flavonoid, tannin, alkaloid, glycoside, and saponin.
– Study on leaves yielded alkanes, flavonoids and sterols.
– Study isolated for the first time: stigmasta-4,22-dien-3-one, stigmasterol, stigmasteryl stearate and palmitic acid.
– Yields 1% ash, chiefly potassium chloride and sulfate.
– Leaves contain stinging crystals of calcium oxalate.
– High potash content.
– Contains salts of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and lime: also, iron, aluminum, and silicic acid.
– Leaves are rich in vitamin A, C and also vitamin B.

– Root is emollient, laxative and diuretic.
– Leaves are demulcent and refrigerant.
– Plant considered antiseptic, antitubercular, antidysenteric.

Parts utilized
Whole plant.

Used as a famine food in India in 1877-1878.
In China, young leaves are eaten cooked.

– Infusion of leaves used for dropsy, bladder complaints, kidney afflictions, diabetes, hematuria, dysentery, and anemia.
– Used for dysuria and as an expectorant.
– Poultice of pounded leaves used in hemorrhoids, tumors and boils.
– The juice of leaves, mixed with coconut oil, is used for a variety of chronic skin conditions.
– Leaves mixed with rice and coconut milk, given for dysentery; with rose water and sugar, used for coughs and asthma.
– Ash of the plant applied to ringworm
– Powdered dry leaves mixed with a little honey used for syphilis, 3 to 4 teaspoons a day.
– Leaves used for treatment of ringworm of scalp, syphylitic eruptions, skin infections, boils and wounds.
– Oil extract used for worm infestations, tuberculosis, asthma, dysentery, piles, ulcers, burns.
– Used for menorrhagia.
– Ash of leaves applied to ringworm of the scalp.
– In Gambia, plant is used as an anodyne eyewash.
– In China, used in various prescriptions for boils, syphilitic eruptions and skin complaints.
– In the Peruvian Amazon, used for arthritis.
– In Indian traditional medicine, leaves are used for the treatment of ringworm infection of the scalp, syphilitic eruptions, skin infections, dysuria, boils and wounds. Oil extract used for worm infestations, TB, asthma, dysentery, hemorrhoids, ulcers, syphilitic infections and burns.
– Owing to high potash content, used as diuretic; also used for gonorrhea.

– Sometimes used for feeding hogs and ducks.
– Used for making soap in West Tropical Africa.


Study Findings
• Antifungal – Antidermatophytic activity of Pistia stratiotes: Study reports the leaves of P. stratiotes possess antifungal properties supporting its folkloric use.
• Hypotensive and bronchodilating activity: Pharmacologic activities of Pistia stratiotes: Study revealed calcium channel blocking activity and dose-related neuromuscular blocking action and bronchodilating effect on isolated guinea pig trachea.
• Cytotoxicity / Larvicidal: Study showed the chloroform extract of P. stratiotes selectively exerted cytotoxic effect on Culex mosquito larvae and recommends that PS be tested for adulticidal and/or mosquitocidal activity as well as studies for toxicity in higher animals and man.
• Anthelmintic / Constituents: Study yielded alkaloids, tanins, flavonoids, saponins, fixed oils, fats and glycosides. Results showed both paralysis and death of adult Indian earthworm, Pheretima posthuma, with effects similar to that observed with standard drugs, piperazine citrate and albendazole.
• Antidermatophytic Activity: Results indicate P. stratiotes methanolic extract was most active against the dermatophytes T. rubrum, T. mentagrophytes and E. flocosum, with lesser activity against M. gypseum and M. manum.
• Antioxidant: Results suggest Pistia stratiotes leaves extract functions as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals and reduces free radical-induced cell injury.
• Chemical Constituents: Study isolated four compounds: stigmasta-4,22-dien-3-one, stigmasterol, stigmasteryl stearate and palmitic acid.
• Anti-Diabetic / Diuretic Activity: Study of leaf extracts of Pistia stratiotes produced significant antihyperglycemic action, as well as diuretic action. The glucose lowering effect may be due to blocking of glucose absorption.
• Phytoremediation / Chromium / Cobalt: Study showed aquatic macrophytes, Pistia stratiotes, may be used for phytoremediation of water bodies polluted with heavy metals, chromium and cobalt, in a sustainable way.
• Radioprotective / Antigenotoxicity: Study evaluated the radioprotective potential and efficacy of Pistia stratiotes against damage induced by 60Co gamma radiation in mice. A methanol leaf extract exhibited significant reduction in micronucleus induction. Bioefficacy was attributed to the presence of large amount of two di-Cglycosylflavones of the vicenin and lucenin and lesser amounts of the anthocyanin cyaniding-3-glucoside and a luteolin-7-glycoside, and traces of the mono- C-glycosyl flavones, vitexin and orientin.