Family • Piperaceae - Piper umbellatum Linn. - COW-FOOT LEAF - Da hu jiao

Scientific names

Piper umbellatum Linn.
Piper subpeltatum Willd.
Heckeria subpeltata Kunth.
Pothomorphe subpeltata (Willd.) Miq.
Pothomorphe umbellata (L.) Miq.

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Tai wan hu jiao.
INDONESIA: Tombo, Sak-masakan, Lomba.
MALAYSIA: Lemba, Lomba.
NIGERIA: Bini-ebe-ahanbi, Igbo-njam nja, Yoruba-ewe-efon, Iwere, Yawe.
SPANISH: Acoyo, Acuyo cimarrón , Cordoncillo, Hierba santa, Hierba santa loca.
THAILAND: Phluu teen chaang, Rok chaang, Haan mu.
VIETNAM: L[aa]n hoa.

Common names

Balai (Bon.)
Bayag-bayag (C. Bis.)
Dijaran (Ig.)
Gumba (Sol.)
Kamamba (Tag.)
Kubamba (Tag.)
Kubanbang-damo (Tag.)
Kuyo (Bag.)
Kuyok (Bag.)
Pugapong (Buk.)
Tobayag (P. Bis.)
Cow-foot leaf (Engl.)
Wild pepper (Engl.)
Da hu jiao (Chin.)

Gen info
There is an estimated total of 1200 species of Piper in the pantropical and neotropical regions. Works on Philippine wild Piperaceae have been extensive. Candole (1910) reported 133 species of Piper and 26 of Peperomia; Merill (1923), 115 Piper, 25 Peperomia, and Quisumbing (1930), documented 87 Piper and 21 Peperomia.


Kubamba is an erect, suffrutescent plant, 1 to 2 meters high. Leaves are membranaceous with conspicuous, glandular, brown to black dots beneath, broadly ovate to suborbicular-ovate, 17 to 37 centimeters long, 15 to 32 centimeters wide, the base subpeltate, multiplinerved and equilaterally deeply heart-shaped, the apex with a pointed tip, somewhat hairy on the nerves on both surfaces, and the margins ciliate. Petioles are very long, more or less hairy, 11.5 to 27.5 centimeters long. Spikes are numerous, umbellate, axillary, hermaphroditic, 5.5 to 12 centimeters long, 2 to 3.5 millimeters in diameter. Rachis is smooth. Bracts are stalked, peltate, about 1 millimeter long, with semilunar, triangular disk. Fruit is free, crowded, obovoid-trigonous, 0.75 to 1 millimeter long, about 0.5 millimeter in diameter, glandular, with the apex truncate and umbonate. Stigmas are cuspidate. Stamens are two, 0.2 millimeter long and with very short stalks.


– In damp forests at low and medium altitudes throughout the Philippines.
– Introduced from tropical America.
– Pantropic.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Piper umbellatum / Protabase

(2) Inhibitory effects of Piper umbellatum and Piper peltatum extracts towards myotoxic phospholipases A2 from Bothrops snake venoms: Isolation of 4-nerolidylcatechol as active principle / Vitelbina Nuñez, Victor Castro et al / Phytochemistry, Volume 66, Issue 9, May 2005, Pages 1017-1025 / doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2005.03.026

(3) Bioactive aristolactams from Piper umbellatum / Turibio Kulate Tabopda, Joseph Ngoupayo et al /
Phytochemistry, Vol 69, Issue 8, May 2008, Pages 1726-1731 / doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2008.02.018 |

(4) Antioxidant Capacity of Some Herbs/Spices from Cameroon: A Comparative Study of Two Methods / Gabriel Agbor et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2005, 53 (17), pp 6819–6824
DOI: 10.1021/jf050445c

(5) Antiplasmodial activity of seven plants used in African folk medicine / Bidla G, Titanji VPK et al / Indian Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 36, No. 4, August, 2004, pp. 245-246

(6) Sorting Piper names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(7) Piper umbellatum / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(8) Phytochemical screening and antimicrobial evaluation of the methanol extract and fractions of the leaves of Piper umbellatum Linn (Piperaeceae) / LO Okunrobo, KE Imafidon, JO Uwaya, E Oloton, MO Okebhagbe / Journal of Pharmacy & Bioresources.

(9) Effects Of Methanol Extract Of Piper Umbellatum Leaves On Contraceptive And Sexual Behaviour In Rodents / Paul A. Nwafor;* Emem Ekpo, Enobong E. Udofia; And Mandu E. Smith / Nigerian Journal of Pharmaceutical & Applied Science Research, Vol. 1 Number 2.

(10) STUDIES ON THE PHYTOCHEMICAL PROPERTIES AND PROXIMATE ANALYSIS OF PIPER UMBELLATUM (LINN) FROM NIGERIA / Nwauzoma, A. B. and Dawari, Songo L. / American Journal of Research Communication, 2013, 1(7): 164-177.

(11) Nutritional, phytochemical and antimicrobial properties of two wild aromatic vegetables from Edo State / J. K. Mensah, J. O. Ihenyen and M. O. Okhiure / J. Nat. Prod. Plant Resour., 2013, 3 (1):8-14

(12) Anticancer and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of a Standardized Dichloromethane Extract from Piper umbellatum L. Leaves / Leilane Hespporte Iwamoto, Débora Barbosa Vendramini-Costa, Paula Araújo Monteiro, Ana Lúcia Tasca Gois Ruiz, Ilza Maria de Oliveira Sousa, Mary Ann Foglio, João Ernesto de Carvalho, and Rodney Alexandre Ferreira Rodrigues / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2015 (2015) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/948737


– Essential oil from aerial parts contain B-pinene, a-pinene, E-nerolidol and B-caryophyllene.
– Yields safrole, germacrene-D, ß-cadinene,, o-cadinene, and bicyclogermacrene.
– Roots and aerial parts contain 4-nerolidylcatecol.
– Study yielded three pure compounds, viz. isoasarone, 2-(4′-methoxyphenyl)-3-methyl-5-propenylbenzofuran and 2,3-dihydro-2-(4-hydrophenyl)-3- methyl-5-propenylbenzofuran.
– Phytochemical screening of dry leaves indicated the presence of carbohydrates, cardiac glycosides, saponins, tannins, and alkaloids.
– Phytochemical analysis yielded a very high amount of steroid (more than 95%), little traces of tannin and alkaloid; saponin and phenol, slightly 10% each; flavonoid, less than 10%.
– Proximate composition of leaves yielded protein (20%), lipids, ash (17%), high amounts of fiber (55.6%), moisture (less than 10%) and small amounts of carbohydrate and lipid.

– Plant is considered vulnerary, detergent, antiscorbutic, diuretic.
– In Africa, considered emollient, vulnerary and antiseptic.
– Fruits considered rubefacient and diuretic.
– 4-nerolidylcatechol considered antioxidant.

Parts used
Leaves, fruit.

– In many parts of the tropics, young leaves and inflorescences are eaten raw, steam or boiled as vegetable.
– Also used as condiment for fish or meat and rice.
– In Sierra Leone, leaves are a favorite leafy vegetable.
– Sweet and ripe fruits are eaten as delicacy.


– In the Philippines, fresh leaves are applied on the surface of abscesses as topicals.
– Juice of leaves applied to eyes for conjunctivitis.
– In French Guiana, plant is used as remedy for tapeworms.
– In other countries, used as antiscorbutic and diuretic.
– In Africa, used as poultices for swellings, boils and burns. Juice taken as emmenagogue, galactagogue and diuretic. Juice used as eardrops for earaches. Decoction of leaves or roots used for jaundice, malaria, urinary problems, syphilis, gonorrhea, constipation and stomachaches. Also used for migraines. Decoction used as wash for fevers in children.
– In Cote d’ivoire and Central Africa aerial parts used to regulate menstruation and prevent abortion.
– In Guinea, plant used to expel tapeworms; in the Congo, leaves are used a vermifuge.
– In Cameroon, used for toothaches and hypertension.
– In Nigeria, leaves, roots and fruits used for rheumatism, inflammatory tumors, stomach pains, ascites and anasarca. Leaves boiled with local palm kernel oil used as laxative for pregnant women. Root decoction in local dry gin used for inflammation and rheumatism.
– In Madagascar, leaves applied in friction for rheumatism.
– In Brazil, used in baths for treatment of edema and uterine problems.
– In Malaysia, fruits chewed with betel leaves for cough.

In SE Asia and South America, used as an ingredient of arrow poison.

Study Findings
• Anti-Venom: Phospholipases A2 are important constituents of snake venoms, responsible for their toxic actions. Study showed extracts from P umbellatum and P peltatum showed inhibition of the enzymatic activity of myotoxin 1, a PLA2 from Bothrops asper, and isolated 4-nerolidylcatechol which completely inhibited the enzyme activity of B asper myotoxin.
• Aristolactams / Antioxidant / Antifungal: Study isolated four alkaloids, piperumbellactams A-D from the branches of P umbellatum together with three other known compounds. Some compounds showed a-glucosidase enzyme inhibition, DPPH radical scavenging activity and antifungal activity.
• Antioxidant: In a study evaluating the antioxidant capacity of 14 herbs/spices from Cameroon, P umbellatum led the antioxidant activity on one assay method.
• Essential Oil: Major essential oil constituents of the fruits showed to be linalool (14.4%) and (E)-nerolidol (10.0%); from the leaves, B-pinene (10.8%), B-caryophyllene (28.2%) and (E)-nerolidol (16.5%).
• Anti-Plasmodial:  Study of extracts of seven Cameroon plants used by traditional healers showed P umbellatum extract had moderate activity against P falcifarum. Crude methanol extract of leaves showed strong dose-dependent antimalarial activity against P. berghei-infected mice.
• Insecticidal / Anti-Cockroach: Study yielded isoasarone, a compound shown to be capable of causing immediate hyperexcitation and complete inhibition of the cockroach cercal nerve activity.
• Antimicrobial: Study evaluated a methanol extract and fractions of P. umbellatum for antimicrobial activity. Results showed in inhibition of all test microorganisms at the doses used. MIC for the ME and n-hexane fraction was <25mg/ml. Powdered samples extracted in three different solvents showed activity against five pathogenic organisms (Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus mutans, and Candida albicans).
• Contraceptive Effect: Study evaluated the effect of a methanol extract of leaves on conception and sexual behavior in rodents. The extract protected the rodents from conception from one to three gestational periods. There was dose-related inhibition of regular estrus cycle and ovulation. The contraceptive effect may be due, in part, to secondary metabolites which included phenols and saponins.
• Anti-Cancer / Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated the evaluated the anticancer (in vitro antiproliferative activity and in vivo Ehrlich solid tumor model) and anti-inflammatory (carrageenan induced inflammation model) activities of a standardized dichlormethane extract of P. umbellatum leaves. Treatments showed no toxicity. Results showed reduced paw edema and leukocyte migration suggesting that the anticancer activity could involve antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory effects.