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Family Iridaceae
Sisyrinchium palmifolium L.

Scientific names Common names
Bermudiana marginata (Klatt) Kuntze Ahos-ahos (C. Bis.)
Bermudiana palmifolia (L.) Kuntze Bakong sa Persia (Tag.)
Eleutherine palmifolia (Linn.) Merr. Hagusahis (S. L. Bis.)
Glumosia palmifolia (L.) Herb. Mala-bauang (Tag.)
Marica palmifolia (L.) Ker Gawl. Mala-bawang (Tag.)
Moraea alata Vahl Rosas sa Siam (Tag.)
Moraea palmifolia (L.) Thunb. Yellow-eyed grass (Engl.)
Paneguia palmifolila (L.) Raf.  
Sisyrinchium altissimum Ten.  
Sisyrinchium giganteum Linn.  
Sisyrinchium grande Baker  
Sisyrinchium macrocephalum Graham  
Sisyrinchium marginatum Klatt  
Sisyrinchium palmifolium L.  
Eleutherine palmifolia (L.) Merr. is a synonym of Sisyrinchium palmifolium L. The Plant List

Sisyrinchium palmifolium L. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
INDONESIA: Bawang dayak.
SPANISH: Palmilla.

Mala-bawang is a plant with bulbs about 4 centimeters long, ovoid-oblong, and narrowed at both ends, the outer layers thin, and purple. Leaves are lanceolate, 3 to 4 from each bulb, 30 to 50 centimeters long, 1.5 to 3 centimeters wide, narrowed at both ends, and plicate. Scapes are rather slender, as long as the leaves, and green. Spathes are 10 to 12 millimeters long, the outer two are green, the inner ones very much thinner, and greenish-white. Flowers are white, about 2 centimeters in diameter, with obovate spreading lobes.

(Sisyrinchium palmifolium is described as topped with 2.5' tall flower spikes laden with large, quarter-sized, bright yellow flowers that open around 6 o'clock in the evening. Some taxonomists lump this with Sisyrinchium macrocephalum.)

- Introduced, now naturalized.
Occasionally in waste places about towns.
Sometimes, planted for ornamental purposes.

- Indigenous plant in Borneo.

- Phytochemical screening of bulb yielded phenols, sterols, phlobatannins, proteins, steroids, tannins, and reducing sugar.

- Study of bulb extracts for total phenolics and flavonoid content yielded 217.71 mg GAE/g and 65.35 mg GE/g, respectively, for the ethanol extract, higher than the water extract at 139.93 mg GAE/g and 16.95 mg QE/g, respectively. (see study below) (10)

- Traditionally used as diuretic, vermifuge, abortifacient, antifertility agent.
- Studies have shown anti-cancer, radical scavenging, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antimelanogenesis properties.

Parts used


- Macerated bulbs applied on the stomach of children to relieve gas pains.
- Decoction of bulbs used as diuretic.
- Bulbs used by vermifuge, for dysmenorrhea, and as abortive and antifertility agent.
- In Thailand, the herb is one of ten herbal constituents of the prasaplai recipe, used in ancient gynecological practice for relieving dysmenorrhea and controlling mensuration.
- Used for breast cancer and to facilitate breast feeding.
- In Indonesia, the Dayak tribes in Kalimantan Island use the plant for treatment of degenerative diseases and diabetes. (9)

Cytotoxicity / Anti-Tumorigenesis:
Study yielded 15 naphthalene derivatives, including 4 new glucosides, eleutherinosides B-E. Two of the compounds showed dose-dependent inhibition of transcription of TCFB-catenin in SW480 colon cancer cells and selective cytotoxicity against three colorectal cancer cell lines. Aberrant WntB-catenin signaling has recently been implicated in tumorigenesis. (1)
Radical Scavenging Activity / Antimelanogenesis: In a study evaluating medicinal plants from Kalimantan for antimelanogenesis, the bulbs of Eleutherine palmifolia showed DPPH radical scavenging activity and strongly inhibited the melanin production of B16 melanoma cells without significant cytotoxicity suggesting its potential as ingredient for skin whitening cosmetics. (2)
Prasaplai in Dysmenorrhea: E. palmifolia is one of 10 herbal constituents used in ancient Thai medicine for dysmenorrhea. Study showed Prasaplai caps have efficacy in relieving dysmenorrhea, although less than NSAIDs. (3)
Antimicrobial: An ethanol extract of bulb was tested against multidrug resistant pathogens. Extract showed a potential source of antimicrobial agent against methicillin resistant Staphy aureus and Acinebacter baumannii, with an antimicrobial activity higher than standard antibiotics. (4)
Antidiabetic / Bulbs: Study evaluated aqueous and ethanol extracts of eleutherine palmifolia bulbs for antihyperglycemic effects in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Results showed significant reduction of blood glucose levels, higher blood insulin levels, lower cholesterol and LDL levels. The antidiabetic action may be through inhibition of alpha-glucosidase which can reduce postprandial blood glucose, and also by repairing of damaged pancreatic beta cells, thus enhancing insulin secretion. (6)
Health Drink / Effervescent Powder of Water Extract: Study evaluated three different formulations of effervescent compositions containing tartaric acid, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate. Formula B (55%) showed to be the most preferred product. (7)
• Antioxidant / Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitory Property / Bulbs: Study evaluated the antioxidant and antidiabetic properties of water and ethanolic extracts of bawang dayak bulk. Antioxidant and alpha-glucosidase inhibiting (AGI) studies yielded IC50 of 112 and 241 ppm, respectively, higher than the water extract at 526 and 505 ppm. The IC50 for AGI ethanolic extract was lower than acarbose, a commercial antidiabetic agent. (see study above) (10)

- Wild-crafted.
- Seeds in the cybermarket.

Update February 2019 / June 2016

IMAGE SOURCE: Public Domain / File:Sisyrinchium palmifolium Blanco1.100-original.png / Plate from book Sisyrinchium palmifolium / Flora de Filipinas / 1880 - 1883 / Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A) / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
New WntB-Catenin Signaling Inhibitors Isolated from Eleutherine palmifolia / Xiaofan Li, Takashi Ohtsuki et al / Chemistry - An Asian Journal, Volume 4 Issue 4, Pages 540 - 547 / DOI 10.1002/asia.200800354
Evaluation of medicinal plants from Central Kalimantan for antimelanogenesis / Arung E T, Kusuma I W et al / Nat Med (Tokyo). 2009 Oct;63(4):473-80. Epub 2009 Jul 18.
Formulation and satisfaction assessment of Prasaplai in primary dysmenorrhea / Kritsada Chakchai / patientatprimary carecenter: MAHASARAKHAM UNIVERSITY.
Antagonistic activity of Eleutherine palmifolia Linn / Kalidass Subramaniam*, Sembian Suriyamoorthy, Femina Wahab, Febina Bernice Sharon, Gilbert Ross Rex / Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease (2012)S491-S493
Sisyrinchium palmifolium / Synonyms / The Plant List
Hyperglycemic control and diabetes complication preventive activities of Bawang Dayak (Eleutherine palmifolia L. Merr.) bulbs extracts in alloxan-diabetic rats / Febrinda, A.E, Yuliana, N.D, Ridwan, E, Wresdiyati, T, Astawan, M. / International Food Research Journal (Volume 21, No. 4, 2014, Pages 1405 to 1411
FORMULATION OF EFFERVESCENT POWDER OF WATER EXTRACT OF BAWANG TIWAI (Eleuterine palmifolia) AS A HEALTHY DRINK / Eka Siswanto Syamsul, Supomo Supomo / Traditional Medicine Journal, Vool 19, No 3 (2014)

Sisyrinchium palmifolium (palm-leaf yellow-eyed grass) / Plant Delights Nursery
Sisyrinchium palmifolium / Appian Subramoniam / Plants with Antidiabetes Mellitus Properties / eBook
Antioxidant and alpha-glucosidase inhibitory properties of bawang dayak bulb extracts.
/ Febrinda A E, Astawan M, Wresdiyati T, Yuliana N D /  Jurnal Teknologi dan Industri Pangan, 2013; (24)2: pp 161-167

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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