Family • Fabaceae - Caesalpinia sappan Linn. - SAPPAN WOOD - Su fang mu

Scientific names

Caesalpinia sappan Linn.
Caesalpinia minutilflora Elm.
Biancaea sappan (L.) Todaro
Su mu (Chin.)

Common names

Hapang (Sbl.)
Sapang (Ilk., Bis., Tag.)
Sappan (Ilk., Tag.)
Sibukau (Tag., Sul., Bis.)
Sibukaw (Bis.)
Sappan wood (Engl.)
Brazil wood (Engl.)
Bukkum wood (Engl.)
False sandalwood (Engl.)
Indian redwood (Engl.)
Su fang mu (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

BURMESE: Teing-nyet
CHAMORRO : Sibukao
CHINESE: Su fang
FRENCH: Bois de sappan
HINDI: Vakam, vakum
INDONESIA: Kayu sekang, secang, soga jawa
LAO: Faang, fang deeng
MALAY: Sepang
SPANISH: Campeche sappan
THAI: Faang, fang som, ngaai
VIETNAMESE: To moc, vang nhuom


Additional info
Caesalpinia sappan shares similarities with C. echinata, a species of Brazilian timber in the pea (Fabaceae) family. Portuguese explorers initially referred to the trees as pau-brasil – pau as Portuguese for “stick,” metonymy for wood, and brasa for brasil, Portuguese for “ember” – for the deep red hue characteristic of the wood. Pau-brasil was also used to described the Asian sappanwood. And besides sharing in the common name brazilwood, C. echinata and C. sappan also share in some botanical features, chemical constituents, and functional uses of dye and wood.


Sapang is a small tree, 3 to 5 meters high, with scattered spines. Leaves are compound, up to 50 centimeters long. Pinnae are about 20, opposite, and 10 to 20 centimeters long. Leaflets are 20 to 30, obliquely oblong to oblong-rhomboid. Flowers are yellow, on terminal panicles, 2 to 2.5 centimeters in diameter with densely wooly filaments. Fruit is a hard, indehiscent, shiny pod, about 7 centimeters long, and 3.5 to 4 centimeters wide, with a hard recurved beak at the upper angle.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Inhibitory effects of Caesalpinia sappan on growth and invasion of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus / Journal of Ethnopharmacology Vol 91, Issue 1, March 2004, Pages 81-87 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2003.11.017

(2) Brazilein, an important immunosuppressive component from Caesalpinia sappan L. / International Immunopharmacology
Vol 6, Issue 3, March 2006, Pages 426-432 / doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2005.09.012

(3) Anticonvulsant compounds from the wood of Caesalpinia sappan L. / Archives of Pharmacal Research. Vol 23, Number 4 / August, 2000 / DOI 10.1007/BF02975445

(4) Anti-allergic activity of principles from the roots and heartwood of caesalpinia sappan on antigen-induced -hexosaminidase release / Phytotherapy Research

(5) Study on Cardioactive Effects of Brazilein / Yu Nan Zhao, Yang Pan, Jia Lin Tao et al / Pharmacology, 2006, vol. 76, no2, pp. 76-83

(6) Sappan, a natural dye yielding ornamental medicinal plant / P. Ravichandran, V. Vinodhini Jochebed / Sci Tech

(7) Study of Caesalpinia Sappan Aqueous Extract Inhibiting Effects in Human Ovarian Cancer Cell / China Papers

(8) Studies on the Chemical Constituents of Caesalpinia Sappan and Bridelia Tomentosa / China Papers /

(9) Hepatoprotective properties of Caesalpinia sappan Linn. heartwood on carbon tetrachloride induced toxicity / V Sathya Srilakshmi, P Vijayan, P Vasanth Raj et al / Indian Journ of Experimental Biology, Vol 48, Sept 2010, pp 905-910.

(10) In vitro Anti-Influenza Viral Activities of Constituents from Caesalpinia sappan / Ai-Lin Liu, Shi-Hui Shu, Hai-Lin Qin et al / Planta Med 2009; 75: 337–339

(11) Antioxidant Activity In Vitro of Three Constituents from Caesalpinia sappan L / Jun Hua, Xiaoling Yana, Wei Wan et al / Tsinghua Science & Technology, Volume 13, Issue 4, August 2008, Pages 474-479 / doi:10.1016/S1007-021(08)70076-2

(12) Extract of the dried heartwood of Caesalpinia sappan L. attenuates collagen-induced arthritis / Wang YZ, Sun SQ, Zhou YB / J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 14;136(1):271-8. Epub 2011 Apr 30.

(13) IN-VITRO EVALUATION OF ANTHELMINTIC ACTIVITY OF BARKS OF CAESALPINIA SAPPAN / Rasheed Ahmed, Ram Kumar Sahu et al / Scholars Research Library

(14) The antibacterial principle of Caesalpina sappan / Hong-Xi Xu, Song F Lee / Phytotherapy Research
Volume 18, Issue 8, pages 647–651, August 2004 / DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1524

(15) Anti-inflammatory activity of an ethanolic Caesalpinia sappan extract in human chondrocytes and macrophages. / Wu SQ, Otero M, Unger FM, Goldring MB, Phrutivorapongkul A, Chiari C, Kolb A, Viernstein H, Toegel S. / J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Nov 18;138(2):364-72. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

(16) Efficacy of Aqueous and Methanol extracts of Caesalpinia sappan L. and Mimosa pudica L. for their potential Antimicrobial activity / G.Mohan, S.P.Anand, A.Doss / South As. J. Biol. Sci. 1(2)2011: 48-57

(17) Common names / PIER

– Locally abundant throughout the Philippines at low and medium altitudes in dry thickets, parang, etc.
– Introduced, and probably of prehistoric introduction.
– Also occurs in India through Burma, Thailand, Indo-China, southern China to Malaysia.

– Coloring matter of sappan wood appears to be identical to the brazilin obtained from brazilwood.
– Study yield a principle resembling haematein.
– Resinous extract yields a crystalline principle, which when fused with potash, yields resorcin.
– Besides brazilin, additional constituents include gallic and tannic acids.
– The coloring matter of sappan wood has been attributed to brazilin.
– Tannin is found in the leaves,19%, bark and fruit walls, 44%.
– Leaves yield volatile oil, 0.16 to 0.25%; d-a-phellandrene, terpene, and methyl alcohol.
– Pods contain 40% tannin.
– Seed on extraction with petroleum ether yield an orange colored fixed oil.
– Sapwood is white. Heartwood, 90% of the total volume, is yellow or deep orange when fresh, turning to dark red.
– Stem yields a gum.
– Bark, pods and roots yield dyes. Pods contain about 40% tannin. Roots yield a yellow dye.
– Study yielded isoflavonoids from the dried heartwood.
– Study isolated 21 compounds: Neocaesalpin A(1), Neocaesalpin B(2); three brazilin derivatives:Brazilein (3), Brazilin (4), brazilide A (5); two dibenzoxocins: Protosappanin A (6),Protosappanin C (7); two lignans: (±)-Lyoniresinol (8), (-)-Syringaresinol (9); twochalcones: 3-deoxysappanchalcone (10), Sappanchalcone (11); one homoisoflavonoid:3-deoxysappanone B (12); two flavonoids: Rhamnetin (13), 3,8-dihydroxy-4,10-dimethoxy-7-oxo-[2]benzopyrano[4,3-b]benzopyran(14); one stilbene: (E)-3,Y-dime-thoxy-4,4′-dihydroxystilbene (15); one chroman: 3,7-dihydroxy-chroman-4-one (16);three sterols: Stigrnasterol (17),β-sitosterol (18), Daucosterin (19); two fatty acid:Dimethyl adipate (20), Stearic (21).

Considered emmenagogue, astringent, sedative, stomachic, tonic, vulnerary.

Parts utilized
Bark, wood, heartwoood, and seeds.

– Decoction of wood and bark used for tuberculosis, atonic diarrhea, dysentery, postpartum tonic, skin infections, wounds, ulcers, and anemia.
– Seeds used for stomach aches and nervous disorders.
– Decoction of wood used by women as tonic after confinement; also used as emmenagogue and and for vomiting of blood.
– Dried heartwood used against inflammation.
– Decoction is used as diuretic.
– Roots, stems and seeds used as sedative and vulnerary.
– In Indo-China, seeds used as stomachic.
– In Thailand, used for arthritis, cancer, and inflammatory complaints.
– In Ayurveda, useful in vitiated conditions of Pitta, burning sensations, wounds, ulcers, leprosy, skin diseases, diarrhea, dysentery, and diabetes.
– In Keral, decoction of heartwood used for blood purifying, antithirst, and anti-diabetic properties.

– Dye: Heartwood yields a valuable red crystalline dye, brazilin. Chiefly used as a dyewood, popular for coloring cotton, silk, and wool fabrics. Elsewhere, used for coloring leather, silk, batik, calico printing, furniture and handicrafts.
– Lambanog: In some parts of the Quezon province, a popular colorant for the coconut liquer,lambanog. Also, strip of sappan wood used to test for purity of lambanog, imparting a yellow coloration.
– Wood: (1) Firewood: has an energy value of 25,000 kj/kg. (2) Source of commercial redwood or Brazilwood. (3) Carpentry. Used for inlaying work, cabinetry, and with its straight grains, of great value in making violin bows and walking sticks.

The Sapan Wood Test
In the Quezon area, rather than medicinal, sapang finds greater use as a test for the purity of lambanog. Sappan wood is known to produce a red dye. Studies have identified brazilin as the wood constituent responsible for the color.
The Traditional Rural Lithmus Test: In rural Quezon, the sapan wood has long been used for testing the purity of lambanog. A strip of sappan wood swirled in unadulterated lambanog will impart a yellow color. Above: (1) Gin, bright pink. (2) Vodka, reddish-brown. (3) Bating, the initial distillate in the lambanog process gives a reddish-orange color. (4) Coconut lambanog with the typical “true” unadulterated yellow coloration (5) Nipa or sasa lambanog with a lighter yellow, probably due to a lower “proof.”

Study Findings
• Antimicrobial: Aqueous extract study showed antimicrobial activity against methicillin-sensitive S aureus (MSSA) as well MRSA and suggests a potential to restore the effectiveness of B-lactam antibiotics against MRSA..
• Immunosuppressive component: Brazilein, an important immunosuppressive component of CS showed inhibition of T cell proliferation and suppress mice humoral immune response.
• Antioxidant: (1) Study results showed significant antioxidant activities of Caesalpinia sappan heartwood extracts. (2) Ethanol extract showed strong superoxide anion radical and nitric oxide scavenging activity. Phenolic compounds were the major constituents for the antioxidant activity. Results suggest CS extract may be proposed as a dietary supplement for the prevention of oxidative damage or DNA damage by hydroxyl radicals. (3) Ethanol extract of the heartwood yielded protosappanin A, protosappanin B and brazelein. All showed antioxidant activity.
• Anticonvulsant:Study of aqueous MeOH extracts isolated pure compounds sappanchalcone and brazilin which showed remarkable anticonvulsant activity.
• Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitors / Protosappanins: (1) Study of MeOH extract of Vietnamese CS isolated neoprotosappanin and protosappanin A dimethyl acetal which showed xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity comparable to allopurinol. (2) Protosappanin A isolated from the heartwood shown to have a mild sedative effect.
• Anti-allergic:Study of extracts of CS showed potent inhibitory activity against B-hexosaminidase release as marker of degranulation in rat basophilic leukemic cells. Among the compounds tested, sappanchalcone showed the most potent anti-allergic effect.
• Hypolipidemic: A methanolic extract showed significant anti-hypercholesterolemic activity.
• Cardioactive effects of Brazilein: Brazilein, a molecule with a non-steroidal skeleton, obtained from CS ethanol extracts showed a positive inotropic action with little effect on heart rate and coronary perfusion, an effect achieved through inhibition of Na-K-ATPase system.
• Hypoglycemic / Brazilin: Brazilin (7,11b-dihydrobenz[b]indeno-[1,2-d]pyran-3,6a,9,10(6H)-tetrol), the principle component of C. sappan, has been found to exhibit hypoglycemic properties and to increase glucose metabolism in diabetic rats.
• Nephroprotective: Study of an ethanolic extract of CS in male albino rats showed nephroprotective and antioxidant activities by histopathological and biochemical observations against acetaminophen-induced renal damage in rats.
• Ovarian Cancer Growth Inhibition: Study showed C. sappan aqueous extract inhibited growth of human ovarian cancer cell line and induce apoptosis by increasing expression of Caspase-3, Caspase-9, and decrease expression of surviving.
• Constituents / Anti-Tumor Activities: Study isolated 21 compounds (see constituents). Neocaesalpin A, brazilein, brazilin, and sappanchalcone exhibited moderate cytotoxicity against seven tumor cell. lines. A stilbene, (E)-3,Y-dime-thoxy-4,4′-dihydroxystilbene, exhibited hepatoprotective activity against D-GaIN-induced toxicity in WB-F344 cells.
• Hepatoprotective: Study of methanol and aqueous extracts of the heartwood of CS in CCl4-induced hepatotoxicty showed potent hepatoprotective activity comparable to standard silymarin.
• Neuraminidase Inhibitory Activity / Anti-Influenza Virus: Study of yielded six constituents with neuraminidase inhibitory activity: Brazilein, brazilin, protosappanin A, 3-deoxysappanchalcone,
sappanchalcone and rhamnetin. Of these, 3-deoxysappanchalcone and sappanchalcone showed the highest activity against influenza virus (H3N2).
• Anti-Arthritic: Study showed CS significantly attenuates CIA in rats by decreasing the levels of IL-1b, IL-6, TNF-a and PGE2 in serum and the expression of COX-2 and transcription factor NF-kB in paw cartilage.
• Antihelmintic: Study evaluating the ethanol and aqueous extracts of CS bark against Pheritima posthuma showed anthelmintic activity with paralysis and death of worms compared to standard reference Albendazole.
• Brasilin / Antibacterial: Study isolated an active antibacterial principle from CS, brasilin, which showed potent activity against antibiotic-resistance bacteria, notably methicillin-resistant Staph aureus and vancomycin-resistant enterococci, multi-drug resistant Burkholderia capacia. Results showed brasilin is bactericidal against MRSA.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated the effects of an ethanolic extract on human chondrocytes and macrophages. Results demonstrated an anti-inflammatory effect in an in vitro cell model of joint inflammation. Blockade of IL-1ß-induced NF-kB signaling and downstream pro-inflammatory targets may be beneficial for reducing cartilage breakdown in arthritis.
• Antibacterial: Study evaluated the antimicrobial activity of C. sappan and Mimosa pudica against S. aureus, B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, E. coli, K. pneumonia, P. vulgaris, C. albicans and A. niger. Extracts of C. sappan showed broad spectrum activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and fungi attributed to the identified alkaloids and tannins.

Tinctures, extracts, powders in the cybermarket.