Family • Asteraceae - Elephantopus mollis HBK - ELEPHANT'S FOOT - Niu she cao

Scientific names

Elephantopus mollis Kunth
Elephantopus tomentosus L.
Bai hua di dan cao (Chin.)

Common names

Basut (Bon.) Tigalang (Sul.)
Kaburon (Ig.) Elephant’s foot (Engl.)
Malatabako (Tag.) Soft elephant’s foot (Engl.)
Pauikan (If.) Tobacco weed (Engl.)
Tabtabako (Ilk.) Di dan cao (Chin.)


Malatabako is a tall, erect, more or less hairy herb, 0.8 to 1.2 meters in height, unbranched except for the inflorescence. Leaves are scattered along the stem, not basal, oblong to oblong-elliptic, 8 to 20 centimeters long, and pointed at both ends. Branches of the inflorescences are few, usually forked, and subtended by much-reduced leaves. Clusters of head terminating the branches are usually surrounded by three leaflike bracts which are ovate to oblong-ovate, 1 to 1.5 centimeters long, and heart-shaped at the base. Flowering heads are crowded in each cluster, each head usually 4-flowered. Involucral-bracts are 8 to 10 millimeters long. Corolla is purple, 8 to 9 millimeters long. Achenes are ribbed. Pappus is 4 to 6 millimeters long, with rigid bristles.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Chemoprevention Bioactivity of Elephantopus mollis / David Sheng Yang Wang, Hsing-Ning Chang et al / Poster / American Society of Plant Biologists

(2) Assessment of anti-protozoal activity of plants traditionally used in Ecuador in the treatment of leishmaniasis / Gachet MS, Lecaro JS et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Mar 2;128(1):184-97. Epub 2010 Jan 11.

(3) Cytotoxic and Apoptotic Effects of Ethyl Acetate Extract of Elephantopus mollis Kunth. in Human Liver Carcinoma HepG2 Cells Through Caspase-3 Activation / Kheng Leong Ooi, PhD, Tengku Sifzizul Tengku, Lee Yein Lam, BScMuhammad, PhD, Shaida Fariza Sulaiman, PhD / Integrative Cancer Therapies

(4) Chemoprevention Bioactivity of Elephantopus mollis / Wang, David Sheng-Yang, Chang, Hsing-Ning, Ho, Yu-Chi, Lo, Chiu-Ping, Chiang, Yi-Ming, Lu, Chih-ying, Shyur, Lie-Fen / Poster / American Society of Plant Biologists

(5) Study on the chemical constituents of Elephantopus mollis. / Liang N1, Yang XX, Wang GC, Wu X, Yang YT, Luo HJ, Li YL. / Zhong Yao Cai. 2012 Nov;35(11):1775-8.

(7) A new sesquiterpene lactone from Elephantopus mollis / But, P.P.-H., Hon, P.-M.. Cao, H., Che, C.-T. /


– Throughout the Philippines, in open, waste places and grasslands, from sea level to an altitude of 2,000 meters.
– Native of Mexico.
– Also found in the Marianne and Caroline Islands, Taiwan and Borneo.

– Study yielded phenolic compounds, ice.., caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinamic acid methyl ester as the main constituents.
– Air-dried leaves yielded molephantin, molephantinin, 2-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin, stigmasterol, α-amyrin fatty acid ester, and lupeol fatty acid ester.
– Study for chemical constituents yielded nine compounds: 2beta-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin, 2beta-methoxy-2-deethoxyphantomolin, 2beta-methoxy-2-deethoxy-8-O-deacylphantomolin-8-O-tigli-nate, molephantinin, betulinic acid, magnolol, honokiol, dibutly phthalate and tricin.
– Methanol extract of plant yielded a new sesquiterpene lactone, 2-de-ethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin, along with lupeol, lupeol acetate, epifriedelinol, molephantin, and 2-de-ethoxy-2-methoxyphantomolin.


Antiviral, antibacterial, febrifuge, diuretic, vulnerary.

Parts used
Leaves, whole plant.

– Leaves, either fresh and crushed or dried and powdered, are freely applied to wounds as a vulnerary.
– Decoction of whole plant or parts are used as diuretic and febrifuge.

Study Findings
Malatabako4• Melanogenesis Inhibition in Murine Melanoma: Study showed E. mollis extract reduced melanogenesis by down regulating Mitf expression. In addition, melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) expression was downregulated suggesting desensitization to a-melanocyte-stimulating hormone of the cells treated with the extract.
• Free Radical Scavenging: EM extract was found to possess significant free radical and superoxide radical scavenging activity, effectively protecting mouse brain lipid against oxidative stress.
• Phenolic Compounds / Chemopreventive Activity: Study yielded phenolic compounds as main constituents – caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4- dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid methyl ester, and suggested the compounds may play major roles in the chemo-preventive activity of EM.
• Anti-Leishmaniasis: In an Ecuadorean study of 140 extracts, Elephantopus mollis was one that showed anti-leishmaniasis activity.
• Antimicrobial: Air-dried leaves yielded molephantin, molephantinin, 2-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin, among other compounds. The three compounds exhibited moderate activity against Candida albicans. Compound one showed slight activity against S. aureus, and a mixture of 1 and 2, slight activity against B. subtilis.
• Cytotoxic / Apoptotic: Study revealed an ethyl acetate extract as the most potent extract showing dose-dependent and time-dependent growth inhibition in human liver carcinoma HepG2 cells via induction of apoptotic cell death through the caspase-3-dependent pathway in HepG2 cells.
• Chemopreventive / Radical Scavenging Activity: Study evaluated the chemopreventive effects of plant extracts of EM. An aqueous extract showed to possess significant free radical and superoxide radical scavenging activity and effectively protected mouse brain lipid against oxidative stress.Fractionation yielded phenolic compounds, i.e., caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4- dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid methyl ester, are the main constituents in the active ethyl acetate fraction, possibly playing roles in the chemo-preventive activity.