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Family Rubiaceae
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack

Hua roi ru

Scientific names Common names
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack Banghai (Bis.)
Hydnophytum montanum Blume Ant nest (Engl.)
  Ant plant (Engl.)
  Hua roi ru (Chin.)

Other vernacular names
MALAYSIA: Dedalu api laut, kepala berok
INDONESIA: Urek-urek polo
THAILAND: Hua roi ruu, pum pao

Gen info
Ant nest is a plant name, and not referring to a nest of ants. Ant nests are plants from the Hydnophytinae. They are epiphytes, attached to other plants, but no parasitic (living on the host) but merely using it to stick on. Hydnophytum consists of 45 species, with 26 species from Myrmecodia, make up 71 species of ant nests. All have hollow stem bubble-like fruit cavities inhabited by ants.

Banghai is an epiphyte. Lower stem is very greatly swollen into a large, rounded, fleshy, tuberous structure containing numerous labyrinthine cavities which are inhabited by ants. Leaves are opposite, thick, elliptic-obovate, 4 to 10 centimeters long, rounded or very bluntly pointed at the tip, and wedged-shaped at the base. Flowers are solitary or few fascicled, borne in the leaf axils, pale white, about 6 millimeters long. Corolla is salver-shaped, about 5 millimeters long, cylindric, with four tufts of hairs in the throat. Fruit is juicy, yellowish-red when ripe, broadly ovoid, and about 5 centimeters long.

- In mangrove swamps in Luzon (Quezon) and Polillo.
- Also occurs in Indo-China, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, to the Solomon Islands and northern Australia.

- Contains flavonoids and tannins.
- Ethanol extract has yielded histone deacetylase inhibitors reported to have anticancer properties.

Parts used
Tuber, woody base.


- Decoction of swollen, woody base used as remedy for liver and intestinal complaints.
- In the Dutch Indies, poultice of pounded tubers used for headaches.
- In Indonesia, used to treat swelling, headaches and rheumatism.
- Decoction of rhizomes used for cholera.

- In Thailand, used for the treatment of cancer.

Antimicrobial / Antioxidative:
Study isolated flavonoid and phenolic compounds: isoliquiritigenin, protocatechualdehyde, butin and butein. The ethyl acetate extract showed to be a potent antioxidant. and exhibited activity against many Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. (2)
Antioxidant: Study showed the high total phenolic content and strong DPPH radical-scavenging activity.
Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity: Study on cytotoxicity showed less cytotoxicity against all types of cancer lines but high antioxidant activity.
Constituents / Antioxidant Activity: Extract analysis yielded 22 elements -- Be, Al, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, Zn, Ba, P, Li, Sr, Rb, Hg, Tl, In, Pb, Cd, As, Cs, Na, K and Mg. ß-sitosterol was isolated. Significant radical scavenging activity was demonstrated. (6)
Antiproliferative Activity: Seventy-seven Vietnamese medicinal plants were studied for their antiproliferative activities against human HT-1080 fibrosarcoma cells. Fifteen extracts, including the methanol extract of Hydnophytum formicarum exhibited antiproliferative activities in a concentration-dependent manner. H. formicarum also showed selective activity against human tumor cell lines, He La and A549. Morphological changes and DNA fragmentation suggested induction of apoptosis. (7)
Antiproliferative and HDAC (Histone deacetylase) Inhibitory Activity:: Study evaluated the ability of ethanolic and phenolic-rich extracts and its its major phenolic compound, sinapinic acid in inhibiting the proliferation of 5 human cancer cell lines. Results showed the rhizome extracts to possess both antiproliferative activity and HDAC activity in HeLa cells. Sinapinic acid inhibited the growth of HeLa and HT29 cells more effectively than sodium butyrate. The growth inhibitory effects were mediated by the induction of apoptosis. (8)


Last Update April 2014

IMAGE SOURCE: Public Domain / File:Hydnophytum formicarum 001.jpg / Die_Gartenlaube_(1897)_211.jpg / Wikimedia Commons
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: RUBIACEAE / Hydnophytum formicarum / Panicking ants / Copyright © 2011 by Leonardo L. Co / (contact: pieter.pelser@canterbury.ac.nz) [ref. DOL29576] / PelserPB / Click on image to go to source page

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Papua Anthill medicine / Health & Medicine /
Antimicrobial and Antioxidative Activities of Bioactive Constituents from Hydnophytum formicarum Jack / Supaluk Prachayasittikul et al / Molecules 2008, 13, 904-921
Evaluation of antioxidant potential of medicinal plants from Malaysian Rubiaceae (subfamily Rubioideae)
/ Ahmad R, Mahbob E N M, Noor Z M et al / African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 9(46), pp. 7948-7954, 15 November, 2010
Research on Thai medicinal plants for cancer treatment / A. Itharat and B. Ooraikul / Advances in Medicinal Plant Research, 2007: 287-317 ISBN: 81-7736-255-0 / Ch 13
Hydnophytum formicarum Jack / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED
Chemical Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Hydnophytum formicarum Jack.
/ S. Prachayasittikul, R. Pingaew, V. Yamkamon, A. Worachartcheewan, S. Wanwimolruk, S. Ruchirawat and V. Prachayasittikul / International Journal of Pharmacology, 2012, Vol 8, Issue 5, pp: 440-444 / DOI: 10.3923/ijp.2012.440.444
Antiproliferative activity of Vietnamese medicinal plants / Ueda J.-Y., Tezuka Y., Banskota A.H., Le Tran Q., Tran Q.K., Harimaya Y., Saiki I., Kadota S. / Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2002, Vol 25, Issue 6, pp 753-760.
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitory and antiproliferative activities of phenolic-rich extracts derived from the rhizome of Hydnophytum formicarum Jack.: sinapinic acid acts as HDAC inhibitor / Thanaset Senawong*, Suwatchai Misuna, Somprasong Khaopha, Suporn Nuchadomrong, Prasan Sawatsitang, Chanokbhorn Phaosiri, Arpa Surapaitoon and Banchob Sripa / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:232 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-232
Potential of Ant-Nest Plants As An Alternative Cancer Treatment / Hamsar, M. N., and Mizaton, H. H / .Journal of Pharmacy Research 2012,5(6),3063-3066

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