Water willow

Family • Acanthacea - Justicia procumbens Linn. - WATER WILLOW - Chu wei hung

Scientific names

Justicia procumbens Linn.
Dianthera americana Blanco
Dianthera ciliata Blanco
Rostellularia blancoi Hassk.
Rostellularia mollissima Nees
Rostellularia procumbens Nees
Justicia molissima Wall.

Common names

Water willow (Engl.)
Chio-chuang (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Jue chuang, Chu wei hung.
MARATHI: Karambal, Pitpapada, Kalmashi.
TAMIL: Arm, Knteyu, Kotakacalai, Kukkum.

Justicia procumbens is a slender, often tufted, prostrate or ascending, branched annual. Stems are 10 to 40 centimeters long. Leaves are elliptic to oblong-ovate or ovate, 7 to 20 millimeters long, 5 to 20 millimeters wide, obtuse at both ends, and entire or with slightly crenated at the margins. Flowers are pink, 6 to 7 millimeters long, and borne in terminal, rather dense cylindric spikes 1 to 5 centimeters long and about 5 millimeters in diameter. Bracts and calyx-teeth are green, linear-lanceolate, and hairy. Fruit is slightly hairy and about 4 millimeters long.

Water willow

– In open places at low and medium altitudes, from the Batan Islands and northern Luzon to Mindanao, in most islands and provinces.
– Also in China and southward to Australia.

Water willow2

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Potent Cytotoxic Lignans from Justicia procumbens and Their Effects on Nitric Oxide and Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Production in Mouse Macrophages / Shiow Hwa Day, Yi-Chen et al / J. Nat. Prod., 2002, 65 (3), pp 379–381 / DOI: 10.1021/np0101651

(2) Two New Arylnaphthalide Lignans and Antiplatelet Constituents from Justicia procumbens /
Jing-Ru Weng, Horng-Huey K et al / Archiv der Pharmazie, Vol 337, Issue 4, pages 207–212, April 2004 / DOI: 10.1002/ardp.200300841

(3) Antiviral activity of lignans and their glycosides from Justicia procumbens / Asano J, Chiba K, Tada M, Yoshii T / Phytochemistry. 1996 Jun;42(3):713-7.

(4) Chemical constituents and biological activities of species of Justicia – a review / Geone M. Correa, Antonio F de C. Alcantara / Rev. bras. farmacogn. vol.22 no.1 Curitiba Jan./Feb. 2012 Epub Nov 01, 2011

(5) Justicidin A inhibits the transport of tumor necrosis factor-alpha to cell surface in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages / Tsao LT, Lin CN, Wang JP. / Mol Pharmacol. 2004 May;65(5):1063-9.

(6) Antitumor agents: Justicidin-A and Diphyllin, Two Cytotoxic Principles from J. procumbens / Narihiko Fukumiya and Kuo-Hsiung Lee / Journal of Natural Products, Vol 49, No 2, pp 348-350, Mar-Apr 1986

(7) Justicidin A decreases the level of cytosolic Ku70 leading to apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells / Jenq-Chang Lee, Chao-Hung Lee, Chun-Li Su, Chung-Wei Huang, Hsiao-Sheng, Chun-Nan Lin and Shen-Jeu Won / Carcinogenesis (October 2005) 26 (10): 1716-1730 / . doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgi133

(8) Water Willow / Common names / Flowers of India

(9) JR6, a new compound isolated from Justicia procumbens, induces apoptosis in human bladder cancer EJ cells through caspase-dependent pathway / Xiao-Li He, Peng Zhang, Xian-Zhe Dong, Mei-Hua Yang, Shi-Lin Chen, Ming-Gang Bi / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 144, Issue 2

Water willow3Constituents
– Contains a bitter alkaloid.
– Study has reported arylnaphthalene lignans as major components; some have shown antiviral and antitumor activities.
– Phytocemical studies yielded justicidin-C and justicidin-D.
– Fractionation studies isolated five 2,3-naphtalide lignans: justicidin-A, neojusticin A, diphyllin, justicidin-D, neojusticin-B and justicidin-E.

– Unpleasant odor.
– Leaves considered alterative, astringent and expectorant.
– Considered laxative and diuretic.

Parts used
Leaves, whole plant.

– Used as ingredient in a Taiwan herbal tea.

– In the Philippines, leaves are used externally as astringent for the treatment of certain skin eruptions.
– Alterative and expectorant, given as Infusion for asthma, coughs and rheumatism.
– Juice of leaves squeezed in the eyes for treatment of ophthalmia.
– Used as laxative and diuretic.
– Whole plant decoction used for backache, plethora and flatulence.
– In traditional Chinese medicine, used for fever and pain associated with pharyngolaryngeal swelling. Also used for cancer.

Study Findings
• Cytotoxicity / Lignans / Anti-Cancer: Study isolated a new lignan glycoside, procumbenoside A. and 11 known compounds. Known compounds justicidin A, diphyllin, and tuberculatin showed potent cytotoxic effects against some cancer cells in vitro. Two compounds strongly enhanced tumor-necrosis factor-a.
• Inhibition of Benzo(a)pyrene Hydroxylation: Study isolated five lignans: neojusticin A, neojusticin B, justicidin A, justicidin B and chinensinaphthol methyl ether; in vitro effects on rat hepatic cytochrome P450-catalyzed oxidations were studied. Results showed inhibition of monooxygenase activities differentially and neo B may have a role in diminishing the oxidative activation of benzo(a)pyrene.
• Anti-Platelet Aggregation: Study isolated constituents with antiplatelet effect in human platelet-rich plasma. One compound szhoswed strong inhibitgory effect on plate aggregation induced by adrenaline in a concentration-dependent manner.
• Anti-Viral Lignans: Study isolated 10 antiviral lignans from the methanolic extract of aerial parts of Justicia procumbens. Some compounds showed strong antiviral activity against vesicular stomatitis virus and low cytotoxicity against cultured rabbit lung cells.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Study of alcohol extract of Justicia procumbens showed promising antiinflammatory activity at a dose of 100 mg/kg weight.
• Cytotoxicity: Study of a methanolic extract of the whole plant showed significant inhibitory activity in vivo against lymphocytic leukemia growth in male mice and in vitro cytotoxicity in human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell culture assay.
• Justicidin / Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibition: Exposure of macrophages to liposaccharide induces release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Study isolated justicidin which was found to inhibit LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha release from RAW 264.7 macrophages in a concentration- and time-dependent manner.
• Justicidin A / Apoptosis in Human Colorectal Cancer Cells: Justicidin A, an arylnaphthalide lignan significantly inhibited the growth of human colorectal cancer cells HT-29 and HCT-116, causing cell death by apoptosis. Results of the study in mice suggest a chemotherapeutic potential of justicidin A on colorectal cancer cells.
• JR6 / Apoptosis in Human Bladder Cancer: Study identified a new compound 6′-hydroxy justicidin A (JR6) from Justicia procumbens which showed obvious anti-cancer effects. Results showed JR6 may be inducing intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways. JR6 induced apoptosis through caspase-dependent pathway in human bladder cancer EJ cells, presenting a potential novel pathway to bladder cancer therapy.