Family • Plumbaginaceae - Plumbago rosea Linn. - ROSE LEADWORT - Zi hua teng

Scientific names

Plumbago rosea Linn.
Plumbago indica Linn.
Plumbago coccinea Salisb.
Theia coccinea Lour.

Common names

Laurel (Engl.)
Rosy leadwort (Engl.)
Scarlet leadwort (Engl.)
Xie san niang (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ARABIC: Shittermul, Shitarajehmar, Shitturridge.
BENGALI: Rakt-chitrak.
GUJARATI: Kalochitrak.
HINDI: Lai chitrak.
MALAYALAM: Kotuveli.
MALAYSIA: Chelaka merha, Cheraka merah.
MANIPURI: Mukaklei.

Laurel is an erect or spreading, more or less branched, hearbaceous or half-woody plant, 1.5 meters or less in height. Leaves are ovate to oblong-ovate, 8 to 13 centimeters long, smooth, slightly drooping, with entire, undulate or wavy margins, with a pointed or blunt tip and a pointed base. Spikes are 15 to 30 centimeters long. Calyx is tubular, 8 to 10 millimeters long, covered with stalked, sticky glands. Corolla is bright red, tube is slender, about 2.5 centimeters long, and the spreading limb, about 3 centimeters in diameter.


– Cultivated throughout the Philippines for ornamental purposes for its showy red flowers.
– Also occurs in tropical Asia and Malaya.

– Contains plumbagin, sitosterol glucoside.
– Roots are the highest source of plumbagin, a naphthoquinone.
– Aerial parts yielded reducing sugars, alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids, and gums.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) A simple method for isolation of plumbagin from roots of Plumbago rosea / Nayana Kapadia et al / Summary Pharmaceutical Biology 2005, Vol. 43, No. 6, Pages 551-553

(2) In vivo tumor inhibitory and radiosensitizing effects of an Indian medicinal plant, Plumbago rosea on experimental mouse tumors

(3) Antimicrobial Activity in Vitro of Plumbagin Isolated from Plumbago Species 

(4) Antifertility Activity of Stems of Plumbago rosea in Female Albino Rats / E. Sheeja, S.B. Joshi, D.C. Jain / Summary Pharmaceutical Biology • 2008, Vol. 46, No. 12, Pages 920-927 /

(5) Toxic effects of crude root extract of Plumbago rosea (Rakta chitraka) on mice and rats./ Solomon FE, Sharada Ac, Devi PU / J Ethnopharmacol. 1993 Jan;38(1):79-84.

(6) Antiovulatory and estrogenic activity of Plumbago rosea leaves in female albino rats / E Sheeja, S B Joshi, D C Jain / Indian J Pharmacol. 2009 December; 41(6): 273–277. / doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.59927.

(7) Macrofilaricidal activity of the plant Plumbago indica/rosea in vitro / Nisha Mathew*, K. P. Paily, Abidha, P. et al / Drug Development Research, Vol 56, No 1, pages 33–39, May 2002 / DOI: 10.1002/ddr.10056

(8) Lai chitrak / Common names / Flowers of India

(9) Plumbago rosea / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(10) Pharmacognostic Studies of Aerial Part of Methanolic Extract of Plumbago indica L. / Dibyajyoti Saha* , Swati Paul / Asian J. Res. Pharm. Sci. 2012; Vol. 2: Issue 3, Pg 88-90


– Considered vesicant, stimulant, sialagogue, sudorific.
– Roots considered abortifacient and antifertility.
– Juice of the root is acridly pungent to taste, producing a severe, lancinating pain the tongue.
– Juice of the root is blistering to the skin.
– Leaves and stems are pungent in taste, but not as virulent as the root.
– Bark considered antidyspeptic.

Parts used
Roots, bark.

– Poultice of bark scrapping used as poultice for headaches.
– Bark used as blistering plaster; also applied to spine for fevers; antidyspeptic.
– Juice distinctly blisters the skin.
– In India, root is used as abortifacient and antifertility medicine; root is used as irritant, introduced into the vagina and applied directly to the neck of the uterus. Juice of root used as powerful sudorific.
– Taken internally, root is poisonous and acts on the stomach as an acro-narcotic or narcotico-irritant poison. Taken internally or applied to the genital organs, it acts as an abortifacient.
– Juice of leaves and roots, alone or mixed with oil, used as application for rheumatism and paralysis, buboes, glandular swellings, and leprosy.
– Liniment made from bruised roots and mixed with oil used for treating rheumatism, paralysis, leucoderma, abscesses and scorpion stings.
– Milky juice used in ophthalmia and scabies.
– Roots also used for dyspepsia, piles, diarrhea, and to improve the appetite.
– In Myanmar, used for leprosy and syphilis.

Study Findings
• Fetotoxic / Abortifacient:Study evaluated a methanolic root extract of roots on rat uterus and pregnant mice. Study indicated the possible presence of utero-active compounds. Results showed pronounced fetotoxic and mild abortifacient potential, and supports its traditional use in avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
• Plumbagin / Anti-Fertility:Plumbagin, a napthoquinone, has shown to have antifertility activity similar to embelin, an antifertility agent of plant origin.
• Plumbagin / Isolation: Roots are the richest source of plumbagin, a major active compound and potential biomarker. Study presents a simple method for isolation of plumbagin from roots of Plumbago rosea, through precipitation out by addition of water to an acetone extract.
• Anti-tumor: An in vivo study was done for tumor inhibitory and radiosensitizing effects of an Indian medicinal plant, Plumbago rosea on experimental mouse tumors. Results shows PE to have a weakantitumor effect, but may have a potential use in enhancing the tumor-killing effect of radiation.
•Plumbagin / Anti-Tumor: The antitumor and radio-modifying properties of plumbagin were tested on mouse Erlich ascites carcinoma. Plumbagin showed inhibition of exponentially growing tumors. Its mode of anticancer activity was unclear in the study.
Plumbagin / Anti-Tumor: Plumbagin was found to have tumor growth inhibitory effects and contemplated for use in human cancer therapy.
• Antimicrobial: Antimicrobial Activity in Vitro of Plumbagin Isolated from Plumbago Species: PR was shown to exhibit activity against yeast and bacteria suggesting the naphthoquinone plumbagin as a promising antimicrobial agent.
• Antifertility: Study of five extracts of stems of PR in rats showed antifertility activity in female Wistar rats with interruption of the estrous cycle, temporary inhibition of ovulation. The acetone extract showed significant estrogenic and antiestrogenic activity. Results indicated the antifertility activity of stems of P rosea.
• Toxicity Study / Roots: Study of ethanolic root extract of PR in mice showed severe diarrhea at doses above 1250 mg / kg. While a higher dose was tolerated in fractionated administration, it was shown to have growth inhibitory effect in both sexes.
• Antiovulatory / Estrogenic Activity / Antifertility: Study showed the acetone and ethanol extracts to be effective in interrupting the normal estrous cycle of rats, with prolonged diestrous cycle and consequent temporary inhibition of ovulation. Both extracts showed significant estrogenic and antiestrogenic activities. It concludes that both extracts have antifertility effects.
• Macrofilaricidal: Study investigated the macrofilaricidal activity of P. indica in vitro against Setaria digitata, a filarial parasite of cattle. Complete inhibition of motility was observed in various concentrations. The active molecule was identified as plumbagin (5-hydroxy-2-methyl-1,4-naphthalenedione).