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Family Araceae
Dieffenbachia
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott.
DUMB CANE

Scientific names Common names
Arum crudele Salisb. Dieffenbachia (Engl.)
Arum seguine Jacq. Dumb cane (Engl.)
Arum seguinum L. Dumb plant (Engl.)
Caladium pictum Lodd. Leopard lily (Engl.)
Caladium seguine (Jacq.) Vent. Mother-in-law plant (Engl.)
Dieffenbachia maculata (Lodd.) Sweet Spotted dumbcane (Engl.)
Dieffenbachia maculata (Lodd.) G.S. Bunting  
Dieffenbachia picta Schott.  
Dieffenbachia picturata L.Linden & Rodigas  
Dieffenbachia plumieri Schott.  
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott.  
Dieffenbachia variegata Engl.  
Dieffenbachia picta Schott.  
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott.  
Dieffenbachia picta Schott is a synonym of Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott The Plant List
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott is a accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
BRAZIL: Aninga para, Aninga uba, Comigo ninguem pode.
PORTUGUESE: Cana de imbe.
GERMAN: Schweigrohrwurzel.
SPANISH: Cana muda, Aro seguino, Pataquina, Oto de lagarto.

Botany
Dieffenbachia picta is a long-lived, evergreen, perennial herb growing to height of 1 to 1.5 meters. Stem is branchless, about 2.5 centimeters thick, cylindrical, tinged with leaf scars, and erect with the base usually reclining. Leaves concentrated towards the apical part of the stem, the stalk elongated, broadly grooved, the lower part forming a sheath around the stem. Leaves are 20 to 40 centimeters long, 10 to 20 centimeters wide, oblong to broadly lanced-shaped, dark to glossy green on both sides, with numerous white or yellowish spots or streaks, the base rounded to acute, the tip narrow. Flower cluster is white, erect, subtended and partly enclosed by a leaflike spathe. Flowers are stalkless, the males crowded on the upper part of the cluster, the females on the lower, the latter enclosed the spathe's tubular base. Fruits are berries, orange when ripe.

Distribution
- The most common cultivated Diffenbachia species of the Philippines.
- Usually grown as a potted plant for its handsome foliage.
- Native to Brazil.

Constituents
- Leaf oil yielded major constituents of pyrimidine-5-carboxylic acid, 4-(1,3-dimethyl-1H-pyrazol-4-yl)-6-methyl-2- thioxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-methyl ester (5.814%), 5-methyl-2-phenylindolizine (2.957%), 1- (3-methylbutyl)-4-(4,4,5,5-tetramethyl-1,3,2-dioxaborolan-2-yl)-1H-Pyrazole (2.764%),
Dichotine, 19-hydroxy-11methoxytriacetate methylpiperazin-1-yl)benzo[1,2,5]diazol-1-oxide methoxycarbonyl-1H-2-benzopyran-3-one ethanediylbis[diphenylphosphine]-p-p']hydro[(1,2,3,4,5-β)-1-methyl-2,4-cyclopentadien-1- yl] Iron (2.067%) and 9,10-dihyro-9,10,11-trimethyl-9,10-methano anthracen-11-ol (1.011%).

Properties
- The common name dumb-cane derives from the acrid and poisonous juice numbs the tongue.
- Considered analgesic, aphrodisiac, caustic, contraceptive, cyanogenic, insecticidal, rodenticide, vesicant.


Uses

Folkloric
- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In Brazil, reported use of leaf decoction as gargle for angina. Root tincture used for genital pruritus and gout. (7)

Toxicity / Concerns
All plant parts are believed to contain lots of needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals, which when chewed can cause painful swelling or blistering of the mouth. When the mouth swelling is severe, talking might be difficult or unintelligible, hence the name "Dumb Cane." The sap can also cause irritation of the eyes, of other unfortunately scratched body parts. In the past, the plants were also used as a means of torture. Plant juices/sap also reported to cause contact dermatitis.(5) (6)
Wash hand thoroughly after cuttings or removing leaves.

Studies
Toxicity:
Toxicity results from brine shrimp lethality test showed a higher level of toxicity in the leaf than the stem essential oils.
Antimicrobial: Essential oil exhibited appreciable antimicrobial activity against E. coli, S. aureus, B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, K. pneumonia, S. typhii, Candida albicans, C. krusei, A. niger and Penicillum aotatum.
Antioxidant: Tests using a DPPH assay showed the essential oils with higher activity than a-tocopherol. Results showed Dp with promising antioxidant activity as a free radical scavenger.
Eugenol / Toxicity: When chewed, the juice from the leaves causes a painful edema of the oral mucous membrane, buccal ulcerations and tongue hypertrophy - severe enough to possibly cause glottis obstruction, respiratory compromise and death. Topical application of essential oil extracted from Caryophyllus aromaticus provides about 70% reduction of edema. (3)
Antiproliferative / Leaves:
Study evaluated alcoholic extracts of four Gabonese medicinal plants for antiproliferative activity against human colon cancer cell line (Ca-Co-2). While roots of P. africanum and leaves of P macrocarpus and stem of C. debilis showed strong antiproliferative activity, only the leaf extract of Dieffenbachia seguine exhibited weak antiproliferative activity with 50% inhibition concentration (IC50) higher than 50 µg/ml. (8)
Amylase Inhibitors / Leaves:
Study of leaves, petoles, and stems of Dieffenbachia maculata all showed amylase inhibitor activity, highest for the mid-section of stems; water was the best extractant. The inhibitor is of non-competitive type and active against human salivary amylase, porcine pancreatic α-amylase, Bacillus subtilis α-amylase and sweet potato ß-amylase. (9)
Rodenticide / Stem:
Study evaluated the ability of dumb cane stem extract in killing black rats. (Black rats are famous for its role in spreading the dreaded bubonic plague in the Midde Ages). Results showed rodenticide activity. The commercial rodenticide Raccumin took earlier effect compared to dumb cane stem extract. (10)

Availability
Ornamental cultivation.

Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Latest Update December 2015
March 2012


IMAGE SOURCE: Sparkles leaves at Walmart Kahului, Maui / Forest and Kim Starr - Plants of Hawaii / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License / alterVISTA

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
(1)
Chemical Composition, Toxicity, Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Leaf and Stem Essential Oils of Dieffenbachia picta (Araceae) / Ganiyat K Oloyede, Patricia Onocha, Sunday Abimbade / European Journal of Scientific Research ISSN 1450-216X Vol.49 No.4 (2011), pp. 567-580
(2)
Studies on Dieffenbachia picta Schott: Toxic effects in guinea pigs / Ângela M. Ladeira, Sylvia O. Andrade, Paulo Sawaya / Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Vol 34, No 3, December 1975, Pages 363–373
(3)
Ability of eugenol to reduce tongue edema induced by Dieffenbachia picta Schott in mice
/ Etyene Castro Dip, Nuno Alvarez Pereira, Patricia Dias Fernandes / Toxicon, Volume 43, Issue 6, May 2004, Pages 729–735
(4)
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott / Synonyms / The Plant List
(5)
Dumb Cane and its Bad Reputation / Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane / Leopard Lily) / Our House Plants
(6)
Dieffenbachia seguine / General Poisoning Notes / Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility
(7)
Dumbcane / Dieffenbachia seguine / James A. Duke / Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America
Dieffenbachia seguine / General Poisoning Notes / Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility
(8)
Antiproliferative Effect of Alcoholic Extracts of Some Gabonese Medicinal Plants on Human Colonic Cancer Cells / Mengome Line-Edwige, Feuya tchouya Guy Raymond, Eba François, and Nsi-Emvo Edouard / Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2009; 6(2): 112–117.
(9)
Studies on amylase inhibitors in Dieffenbachia maculata. / Sriram Padmanabhan; Shastri, N. V. / Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 1990 Vol. 52 No. 4 pp. 527-536 / DOI 10.1002/jsfa.2740520410
(10)
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia seguine) Stem Extract as a Rodenticide for Black Rats (Rattus rattus)
/ Dolino, Alma; Gubalane, Delsan; Miquiabas, Cheryl; Telen, Nikol / Study Mode Research

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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