Family • Zingiberaceae - Costus speciosus (Koenig) Sm. - SPIRAL GINGER - Zhang liu tou

Scientific names

Banksia speciosa Koenig
Costus speciosus (Koenig) Sm.
Cheiloscostus speciosus (J. Koenig) Specht
Costus formosanus Nakai
Bi qiao jiang (Chin.)

Common names

Tabubungiaw (Bis.)
Canereed (Engl.)
Crepe ginger (Engl.)
Spiral flag (Engl.)
Spiral ginger (Engl.)
Wild ginger (Engl.)
Zhang liu tou (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ASSAMESE: Jom lakhuti.
CHINESE: Guang shang lu, Lao mu guai gun, Shuo jiao hua.
KANNADA: Pushpamoola.
MALAY: Setawar.
TELUGU: Kashmeeramu.
VIETNAMESE: Cây cu chóc.

Spiral ginger is a rhizomatous herbaceous plant. Stems are stout, leafy, up to 2 meters or more in height, and 1.6 centimeters in diameter. Leaves are spirally arranged, oblong, 15 to 30 centimeters long, with pointed tip, short stalks and covered with soft hairs on the lower surface. Flowers occur in very dense, solitary spikes. Spikes are very dense, solitary, terminal, ovoid, 5 to 10 centimeters long; purple bracts ovate, 2.5 to 4.5 centimeters long. Calyx is flattened, purple, 3 to 5 centimeters long, with 3 short, ovate lobes. Corolla segments are white, oblong, 4 to 6 centimeters long. Lip is white, suborbicular, 6 to 8 centimeters long, crinkled, irregularly and rather finely toothed, the margins incurved and meeting. Stamen is flat, and including the broad petaloid connective, is about 5 centimeters long and 12 to 15 centimeters wide.
Fruits are capsules, ovoid to rounded, 1.5 to 2 centimeters long, red, crowned by the persistent calyx.


Widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, sometimes escaping from cultivation.

Parts utilized
· Rhizome and stems.
· Collected during the months of August to October.
· Wash free of soil, remove roots, section into pieces and sun-dry.

– Study yielded steroidal saponins from the rhizome.
– Rhizomes are the main source of diosgenin, tigogenin, and saponins.
– Rhizomes also yield aliphatic hydroxyl ketones, triterpenes, starch mucilage, oxa-acids, fatty acids, abscisic acid, and corticosteroids.
– Phytochemical screening yielded secondary metabolites of alkaloids and flavonoids.
– Study of methanol extract of seeds yielded ß-sitosterol-ß-D-glucopyranoside, spirostanol saponins, and furostanol saponins.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Influence of C speciosus Rhizome Extracts on Biochemical Parameters in Streptozotocin Induced Diabetic Rats / Pitchai Daisy, James Eliza, Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu / Journal of Health Science,54(6)675-681(2008)

(2) Antihyperglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of Costus speciosus in alloxan induced diabetic rats / Bavarva JH, Narasimhacharya AV / Phytotherapy Research / Volume 22 Issue 5, Pages 620 – 626

(3) A New Indian Source of Diosgenin (Costus speciosus) / B Dasgupta et al / Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences • Vol 26 No 5, May 1970

(4) Evaluation of Protective Effects of Ethanolic Extract of Costus speciosus Rhizomes on Carbon Tetrachloride-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats / Nitin Verma and R L Khosa / DOI 10.1007/BF01898450 )

(5) Aliphatic compounds from Costus speciosus roots / Madan Gupta et al / Phytochemistry • Volume 21, Issue 1, 1982, Pages 230-231 / doi:10.1016/0031-9422(82)80053-8

(6) Antidiabetic and antilipidemic effect of eremanthin from Costus speciosus (Koen.)Sm., in STZ-induced diabetic rats / Eliza J et al / Chemico-biological interactions • 2009, vol. 182, no1, pp. 67-72

(7) STEROIDAL SAPONINS FROM COSTUS SPECIOSUS / Chen Changxiang,Yin Huixin / DOI: CNKI:SUN:TRCW.0.1995-04-003

(8) The effects of wild ginger (Costus speciosus (Koen) Smith) rhizome extract and diosgenin on rat uterine contractions. / Lijuan W, Kupittayanant P, Chudapongse N, Wray S, Kupittayanant S. / Sci. 2011 Jun;18(6):516-24. / doi: 10.1177/1933719110391278.

(9)  Phytochemical and Antimicrobial Studies of Medicinal Plant Costus Speciosus (Koen.) / Aparna Saraf / E-Journal of Chemistry, Volume 7 (2010), S1, Pages S405-S413 / doi:10.1155/2010/605735

(10) Effect of Costus speciosus Koen on Reproductive Organs of Female Albino Mice / Chodhury Najma, Kalita Jogen Chandra, and Haque Ansarul / International Research Journal of Pharmacy, 2012, 3(4).

(11) Saponins from the Seeds of Costus speciosus / Sheo B. Singh and Raghunath S. Thakur / Journal of Natural Products, 1982, 25(6), pp667-671.

– Acidic-refrigerant, slightly toxic (especially the fresh material).
– Diuretic, antiphlogistic, antidote, antipyretic, antidermatosis, expectorant, cooling, sudorific.
– Roots are bitter, astringent, stimulant, digestive, anthelminthic, depurative and aphrodisiac.
– Studies suggest anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anti-arthritic, anti-cholinesterase, and ecbolic properties.

– In India, the rhizome has been used as famine food.
– Rhizomes are mucilaginous when boiled.
– In Amboina, tender shoots reportedly used as vegetable.


– In the Visayas, juice of stems used for dysentery.
Tabubungiau3– In Ayurveda, rhizome has been used for diabetes, fevers, asthma, bronchitis, intestinal worms, rashes.
– Roots used for catarrhal fevers, coughs, dyspepsia, worms and skin diseases.
– In Malaya, juice of rhizome used as purgative.
– In Java, rhizome has reported use for syphilis, and the juice of stem used for dysentery.
– Used for nephritis-beriberi-edema due to hardening (sclerosis) of the liver, difficulty in urination, pricking pain in the urinary tract.
– Used for nettle rash, whooping cough.
– Dried or fresh material decoction may be used as external application for nettle rash.
– In Bangladesh, use in the treatment of diabetes.
– In Assam, India used by the rural people for fertility control.


Study Findings
• Anti-Diabetes: Study of crude extract of Costus speciosus rhizomes lowered the plasma glucose in STZ-induced diabetic rats which may be due to potentiation of insulin from B-cells. The rhizome of CS may be beneficial in protection and alleviation of diabetic complications.
• Antihyperglycemic / Hypolipidemic / Antioxidant: Study of in alloxan-induced diabetic rats showed CS root extract to possess anti-hyperglycemic, antihyperlipidemic and antioxidant effects.
• Diosgenin: Study found a new source of diosgenin in the rhizomes of C speciosus, a potential source of commercial for its isolation, with the advantage of abundant growth in the plains.
• Spasmodic Activity / Ecbolic: Fresh juice of rhizomes increased the tone, amplitude and frequency of rhythmic contractions of different models of isolated uterus, an effect that explains its use as an ecbolic in indigenous systems. The extract study yielded a mixture of 5 saponins of two different types.
• Hepatoprotective Activity: Study of ethanolic extract of the rhizomes of C speciosus on carbon tetrachloride treated rats showed significant hepatoprotective activity with a significant fall in liver enzymes supported by histopathological studies on the liver.
• Aliphatic Compounds: Study yielded two new compounds, G and H, from the roots of Costus speciosus characterized as 8-hydroxytriaconta-25-one and Me-tritriacontanoat.
• Anti-Stress / Neurotransmitter Effects: Extracts were found to possess normalizing activity against cold immobilization stress induced changes in NE, DA, 5-HT and MAO. Results provide biochemical evidence for antistress activity.
• Eremanthin / Anti-Diabetic / Hypolipidemic: Study isolated eremanthin from C speciosus. Results showed it possessed hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities and suggests potential use for treatment of diabetes.
• Anticholinesterase: Study showed C specious alkaloids to possess anticholinesterase activity in both in vitro and in vivo methods and may explain the use of the plant in eye diseases and as a dupurative.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Antipyretic: Study in rats of ethanol extract of rhizome of C. speciosus showed significant anti-inflammatory effect and only minimal antipyretic effect at 800 mg/kg dose.
• Uterine Stimulant: Study evaluated the effects of wild ginger (C. speciosus) rhizome extract on uterine contractility. Results conclude the extract stimulates phasic activity in rat uterus, with a uterotonic effect that is nonestrogenic, increasing contraction via calcium entry on l-type calcium channels and sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) calcium release.
• Antimicrobial: Study investigated the in vitro antibacterial activity against E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumonia and P. aeruginosa. The generated data provides basis for its wide therapeutic use in traditional and folk medicine.
• Comparative Antihyperglycemic Effects of Extracts: Study investigated various extracts (petroleum ether, chloroform, methanolic, and aqueous) for antihyperglycemic effect in STZ-induced diabetic rats. The aqueous and methanolic extracts were highly effective in lowering blood glucose levels at par with standard drug glibenclamide treated rats. The extracts were also at par with standard drug in maintaining serum lipid profiles.
• Effect on Female Reproductive / Estrogenic Effect: Study investigated the effect of a methanolic extract of C. speciosus on on ovary and uterus of Gonado-intact female adult mice. Results showed a significant decrease in ovarian weight and increase the uterine weight compared to normal control, indicating endocrine active estrogenic property.
• Antinociceptive: Study evaluated the anti-nociceptive activity of aqueous and ethanol extracts of Costus speciosus rhizome in Swiss albino mice. Both extracts showed significant peripheral anti-nociceptive actions in acetic acid-induced writhing in mice. Only the ethanol extract showed significant activity on the tail-flick method.