Family • Family - Rhinacanthus nasuta (Linn.) Kurz. - DAINTY SPURS - Bai he ling zhi

Scientific names

Rhinacanthus nasuta (Linn.) Kurz.
Rhinacanthus nasutus
Rhinacanthus communis Nees
Justicia nasuta Linn.

Common names

Pajarito (Span..)
Ibon-ibonan (Engl.)
Tagak-tagak (Span.)
Dainty spurs (Engl.)
Snake jasmine (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

CHINA: Bai he ling zhi, Pai ho ling chih, Hsuan-tsao.
INIDIA: Juipana (Bengali); Palakjuhi, Jahipani (Hindi); Nagamulla, Puzhukkoli (Malayalam); Gajkami, Gajakarni (Marthi); Yuthikaparni, Yoodhikapami (Sanskrit).
MALAYSIA: Chabai emas.
SPANISH: Pajarito.

Tagak-tagak is a slender, erect, branched, somewhat hairy shrub, up to 1 to 2 meters high. Leaves are oblong, 4 to 10 centimeters long, narrowed and pointed at both ends. Inflorescence is a spreading, leafy, hairy panicle with flowers usually in clusters. Calyx is green, hairy, and about 5 millimeters long. Corolla-tube is greenish, slender, cylindric, about 2 centimeters long. Corolla has two spreading lobes; the upper lip is white, erect, oblong and lanceolate, 2-toothed at the apex, about 3 millimeters in length and width; lower lip is broadly ovate, 11 to 13 millimeters long and wide, 3-lobed, white, with a few, minute, brownish dots near the base. Fruit is a club-shaped capsule containing 4 seeds.


– In Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna Provinces in Luzon.
– In thickets, hedges, and waste places, in and about towns.
– Introduced, now common.
– Also occurs in India to Malaya.


– Phytochemical screening of leaves yielded flavonoids, triterpenoids, polyphenols, steroids, saponins, alkaloids, carbohydrates, anthraquinones, and tannins.
– Roots contain an active principle, rhinacanthin.
– Study yielded rhinacanthin A and B and known lupeol, B-sitosterol, stigmasterol as well as glucosides of B-sitosterol and stigmasterol from the roots.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Hepatoprotective effect of three herbal extracts on aflatoxin B1-intoxicated rat liver / Shyamal S, Latha P G et al / Singapore Med O r i g i n a l A r t i c l e J 2010; 51(4) : 326

(2) Antitumor activity of liposomal naphthoquinone esters isolated from Thai medicinal plant: Rhinacanthus nasutus KURZ / Siripong P, Yahuafai J et al / Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Nov;29(11):2279-83.

(3) Formulation of tablets from the crude extract of Rhinacanthus nasutus (Thai local plant) against Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus larvae: a preliminary study / Rongsriyam Y, Trongtokit Y et al /Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2006 Mar;37(2):265-71.

(4) Antiproliferative activity of Rhinacanthus nasutus (L.) Kurz extracts and the active moiety, Rhinacanthin C./ Gotoh a, Sakaeda T et al / Biol Pharm Bull. 2004 Jul;27(7):1070-4.

(5) Isolation and cytotoxicity of rhinacanthin-A and -B, two; naphthoquinones, from Rhinacanthus nasutus / Tian-Shung Wu et al / Phytochemistry, Volume 27, Issue 12, 1988, Pages 3787-3788 / doi:10.1016/0031-9422(88)83017-6 |

(6) Rhicanthus masutus / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED

(7) Biogenic silver nanoparticles using Rhinacanthus nasutus leaf extract: synthesis, spectral analysis, and antimicrobial studies / Pasupuleti VR, Prasad TNVKV, Shiekh RA, Balam SK, Narasimhulu G, Reddy CS, Rahman IA, Gan SH / International Journal of Nanomedicine, September 2013 Volume 2013:8(1) Pages 3355 – 3364 / DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S49000

(8) New biological activities of Rhinacanthins from the root of Rhinacanthus nasutus. / Horii H1, Suzuki R, Sakagami H, Tomomura M, Tomomura A, Shirataki Y. / Anticancer Res. 2013 Feb;33(2):453-9.

(9) Rhinacanthus nasutus Ameliorates Cytosolic and Mitochondrial Enzyme Levels in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats / Pasupuleti Visweswara Rao,1,2 K. Madhavi,3 M. Dhananjaya Naidu,4 and Siew Hua Gan / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2013 (2013) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/486047

(10) Rhinacanthus nasutus Improves the Levels of Liver Carbohydrate, Protein, Glycogen, and Liver Markers in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats / Pasupuleti Visweswara Rao, K. Madhavi, M. Dhananjaya Naidu, and Siew Hua Gan / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2013 (2013) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/102901


(12) Rhinacanthus nasutus Protects Cultured Neuronal Cells against Hypoxia Induced Cell Death / James M. Brimson and Tewin Tencomnao * / Molecules 2011, 16, 6322-6338; doi:10.3390/molecules16086322

(13) Mechanism-based inactivation of cytochrome P450 2A6 and 2A13 by Rhinacanthus nasutus constituents / Phisit Pouyfung, Aruna Prasopthum, Songklod Sarapusit, Ekaruth Srisook, Pornpimol Rongnoparut / Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics 2014, 29 (1): 75-82

– Rhinacanthin isolated from the roots resemble chrysophanic and frangulic acids in its antiseptic and antiparasitic properties.
– Considered aphrodisiac, wound healing, antidotal.

Parts used
Roots and leaves.

– Sap or decoction of roots and leaves used in obstinate forms of dermatosis, especially dhobie’s itch (buni sa siñgit).
– In Thailand, roots and leaves, in an alcohol tincture or vinegar preparation, used for the treatment of certain forms of ringworm.
– Seeds also efficacious for ringworm.
– Malays mix the juice of roots and leaves with benzoin and sulfur to use for ringworm.
– Dutch Indies apply the leaves on prickly heat, scurf, etc.
– In the Moluccas, young shoots, crushed in vinegar, applied the skin complaint called “cascado.”
– In India, fresh roots and leaves, bruised and mixed with lime juice, used as a remedy for ringworm and other skin affections. In some places, roots also used as antidote for snake bites.
Seeds also used for ringworm. Root-bark also used for dhobie’s itch.
In Pakistan, used as aphrodisiac – the roots boiled in milk by Hindu practitioners.
– In Kerala, used to treat liver diseases. Leaves and roots used for snake bites.
– Used for skin diseases, peptic ulcer, helminthiasis, scurvy, inflammation and obesity.
– Used for herpes and viral infections.
– In Taiwan, plant used for treatment of diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension, and skin diseases.

Study Findings
• Hepatoprotective: Study of herbal ethanol extracts of I coccinea, R nasuta and s ciliata on aflatoxin BI (AFBI)-intoxicated livers of albino male Wistar rats showed significant hepatoprotective activity against toxin-induced liver damage as evidenced by significant lowering of the activity of serum enzymes and enhanced hepatic reduced GSH status.
• Antitumor Activity: Study previously isolated three main naphthoquinone esters – rhinacanthins C, N, and Q – from the roots of R nasutus that induced apoptosis of human cervical carcinoma HeLaS3 cells. Study demonstrated that rhinacanthin-N suppressed tumor growth in vivo, and suggested that liposomes are useful for preparing injectable formulation of hydrophobic drugs.
• Mosquitocidal Activity: Tablet formulations made from the methanol extract of dried root powder of R nasutus showed it has potential use to control mosquito vectors and be part of a mosquito control program
• Antiproliferative / Rhinacanthin C: The ethanol extract of root and aqueous extract of leaves of RN and the active moiety rhinacanthin C was assessed in vitro and in vivo on several cancer cell lines. Results showed rhinacanthin C exhibited in vitro antiproliferative activity, comparable to or slightly weaker than 5FU. Both extracts showed in vivo antiproliferative activity.
• Hepatoprotective Activity: Study of root extracts in Wistar rats with ethanol-induced liver damageshowed a significant reduction of enzymes and lipids indicating a reversal of hepatotoxicity. There was histological confirmation. Mechanism could be the ability of RN to regenerate and stabilize liver cells, and reduce the leakage of marker enzymes.
• Wound Healing: Study of roots of RN in an incision wound model showed potent wound healing promoting activity. Phytochemical screening yielded rhinacanthin and ß- sitosterol.
• Biogenic Nanoparticles / Antimicrobial: Plant extracts are cost-effective, ecologically friendly, and efficient alternative for large scale synthesis of nanoparticles. In this study, silver nanoparticles (AgNps) were synthesized using Rhinacanthus nasutus leaf extract. Results on in vitro antimicrobial testing of the AgNPs synthesized from R. nasutus leaf showed potential antimicrobial activity against all tested organisms viz., B. subtilis, S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, K. pneumonia, E. coli, Aspergillus niger and A. flavus.
• Anti-Diabetic / Leaf: Study evaluated the anti-diabetic effect of a leaf extract of Rhinacanthus nasutus in Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Results showed amelioration of hyperglycemia in STZ-induced diabetic rats and suggest a potential source for isolation of a new oral antidiabetic drug.
• Rhinacanthins / Roots / Anti-Tumor Activity / Rhinacanthin C: A recent study showed tumor-specific non-apoptotic cytotoxicity and antiosteoclastogenic activity. This study evaluated the biologic activities of five rhinacanthins (rhinacanthin C, G, N, and Q, and rhicanthone) isolated from the EtOAc-soluble fraction of the roots of R. nasutus. Rhinacanthin C exhibited the highest tumor specificity, with non-apoptotic cell death, and the most potent inhibition of RANKL-stimulated osteoclastogenesis.
• Amelioration of Cytosolic and Mitochondrial Enzyme Levels in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats:Study evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of R. nasutus on mitochondrial and cytosolic enzymes in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Results showed administration of R. nasutus altered the activities of oxidative enzymes indicating improvement in mitochondrial energy production, and suggests further study on a potential role in the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
• Improved Liver Markers in STZ-Induced Diabetes: Study investigated the total carbohydrate, total protein, and glycogen levels in the liver and measured function liver markers ALT and AST in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Results showed amelioration of altered levels of the liver markers indicating a restoration of overall metabolism and liver function in experimental diabetic rats.
• Antihyperlipidemic Effect: Study investigated the anti-hyperlipidemic effect of a methanolic extract of whole plant in Triton and fat diet induced hyperlipidemic rat models. Results showed significant antihyperlipidemic effect with decrease in TC, triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL-C with increase in HDL.
• Protection of Cultured Neuronal Cells Against Hypoxia Induced Cell Death / Antioxidant Effects:: Study showed a root extract prevented death of HT-22 cells subjected to hypoxic conditions and reduction of reactive oxygen species production in HT-22 cells.
• Anti-Ulcer Effect: Study evaluated the anti-ulcer potential of a methanolic extract in ulcer models induced by pyloric ligation. Results showed potent anti-ulcer activity with dose-dependent inhibition of ulcer index in one model.
• Antioxidant / Leaf: Study showed potential antioxidant properties using various assays for radical scavenging activity. A methanol extract showed more peroxy radical scavenging property. (See Constituents above)
• Antimicrobial: Study assessing the antibacterial activity of R. nasutus showed effective activity against bacterial strains of Bacillus subtilis and Salmonella paratyphi, and high inhibitory activity against fungal strains of Candida albicans and Aspergillus flavus.
• Effect on Colon Carcinogenesis / Tumor Promotion: Study assessed Rhinacanthus nastutus for chemopreventive potential against colonic neoplasms induced by azoxymethane (AOM) combined with dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) in mice. Results showed the water extract of roots had no preventive potential against colon carcinogenesis induced by AOM/DSS in mice, but instead showed tumor promotion activity with increases in the incidence of colonic tumors when given during initiation and promotion phases.
• Immunomodulatory: Study assessed the influence of Rhinacanthus nasutus and Centella asiatica on cell-mediated and humoral immune responses. RN water and ethanol extracts significantly increased proliferation and production of IL-2 and TNF-alpha. Results showed immunomodulating activity to both non-specific cellular and humoral immune responses. The data suggest possible chemopreventive and anticancer potential.
• Cytochrome Inactivation: Study showed rhinacanthins A-C, which are 1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives, irreversibly inhibited CYP2A6 and CYP2A13 in a mechanism-based inhibition mode. Human cytochrome P450 CYP2A6 and CYP2A13 catalyze nicotine metabolisms and mediate activation of tobacco-specific carcinogens.