HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Asteraceae
Elephantopus mollis Kunth

Niu she cao

Scientific names Common names
Elephantopus carolinianus var. mollis (Kunth) Beurl. Basut (Bon.)
Elephantopus cernuus Vell. Kaburon (Ig.)
Elephantopus hypomalacus S.F.Blake Malatabako (Tag.)
Elephantopus martii Graham Pauikan (If.)
Elephantopus martii Graham ex Sch.Bip. Tabtabako (Ilk.)
Elephantopus mollis Kunth Tigalang (Sul.)
Elephantopus pilosus Philipson Elephant's foot (Engl.)
Elephantopus pilosus Philip. Soft elephant's foot (Engl.)
Elephantopus scaber auct. non L. Tobacco weed (Engl.)
Quisumbing's compilation lists Elephantopus mollis and E. serratus as synonyms. Other compilations list them as separate species.
Elephantopus mollis Kunth is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
BRAZIL: Lingua de vaca, Herva grossa, Suacucaa.
CARIBBEAN: Zou mouton.
CHINESE: Di dan cao, Niu she cao.
FIJIAN: Jangli tambaku, Tavako ni veikau.
GUAM: Papago vaca, Papago halom tano.
MALAYSIAN: Litup bumi.
MAURITIUS: Tabac marron.
SPANISH: Alberrania, Mozote, Yerba de caballo, Yerba de pincel.
TONGAN: Lata hina.
YORUBA: Arojoku.

Malatabako is a tall, erect, more or less hairy herb, 0.8 to 1.2 meters in height, unbranched except for the inflorescence. Leaves are scattered along the stem, not basal, oblong to oblong-elliptic, 8 to 20 centimeters long, and pointed at both ends. Branches of the inflorescences are few, usually forked, and subtended by much-reduced leaves. Clusters of head terminating the branches are usually surrounded by three leaflike bracts which are ovate to oblong-ovate, 1 to 1.5 centimeters long, and heart-shaped at the base. Flowering heads are crowded in each cluster, each head usually 4-flowered. Involucral-bracts are 8 to 10 millimeters long. Corolla is purple, 8 to 9 millimeters long. Achenes are ribbed. Pappus is 4 to 6 millimeters long, with rigid bristles.

- Throughout the Philippines, in open, waste places and grasslands, from sea level to an altitude of 2,000 meters.
- Native of Mexico.
- Also found in the Marianne and Caroline Islands, Taiwan and Borneo.

- In some places, considered a noxious weed.

- Study yielded phenolic compounds, i.e., caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinamic acid methyl ester as the main constituents.
- Air-dried leaves yielded molephantin (1), molephantinin (2), 2-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin (3), stigmasterol (4), α-amyrin fatty acid ester (5a), and lupeol fatty acid ester (5b).
- Study for chemical constituents yielded nine compounds: 2beta-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin (1), 2beta-methoxy-2-deethoxyphantomolin (2), 2beta-methoxy-2-deethoxy-8-O-deacylphantomolin-8-O-tigli-nate (3), molephantinin (4), betulinic acid (5), magnolol (6), honokiol (7), dibutly phthalate (8) and tricin (9). (8)
- Methanol extract of plant yielded a new sesquiterpene lactone, 2-de-ethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin, along with lupeol, lupeol acetate, epifriedelinol, molephantin, and 2-de-ethoxy-2-methoxyphantomolin. (9)
- Study of ethanolic extract of E. mollis yielded three novel cytotoxic antitumor germacranolides viz., molephantin, molephantinine, and phantomolin, along with three known triterpenes ß-amyrin acetate, lupeol acetate, and epifriedelanol, as well as stigmasterol. (see study below) (13)

- Antiviral, antibacterial, febrifuge, diuretic, vulnerary.
- Studies have suggested antitumor, antimelanogenesis, chemopreventive, radical scavenging, anti-leishmaniasis properties.

Parts used
Leaves, whole plant.


- In China, plant reportedly eaten as salad. (12)

- Leaves, of whole plant or parts are used as diuretic and febrifuge.
- Leaves macerated between hands and the juice applied topically to relieve itching.
- In Burma, decoction of aerial parts drunk to treat irregular menstruation. (12)
- Used to treat fevers and stimulate urination.
- Used for treating hemorrhoids.
- In Taiwan, used for tiredness and arthritis.
- In Cameroon, plant used to facilitate bone fracture healing.
- In Ecuador, traditionally used in treatment of leishmaniasis. (
- In Vietnam, plant used treat hemostasis and dysentery. (14)
- In Mauritius, oiled crushed leaves applied to facilitate wound healing. (15)
- In the Guianas, used for body itches, athlete's foot; as tonic and diaphoretic. (16)

Melanogenesis Inhibition in Murine Melanoma:
Study showed E. mollis extract reduced melanogenesis by down regulating Mitf expression. In addition, melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) expression was downregulated suggesting desensitization to α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone of the cells treated with the extract. (1)
Free Radical Scavenging: EM extract was found to possess significant free radical and superoxide radical scavenging activity, effectively protecting mouse brain lipid against oxidative stress.
Phenolic Compounds / Chemopreventive Activity: Study yielded phenolic compounds as main constituents - caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4- dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid methyl ester, and suggested the compounds may play major roles in the chemo-preventive activity of EM. (2)
Anti-Leishmaniasis: In an Ecuadorean study of 140 extracts, Elephantopus mollis was one that showed anti-leishmaniasis activity. (3)
Antimicrobial: Air-dried leaves yielded molephantin (1), molephantinin (2), 2-deethoxy-2-hydroxyphantomolin (3), among other compounds. The three compounds exhibited moderate activity against Candida albicans. Compound one showed slight activity against S. aureus, and a mixture of 1 and 2, slight activity against B. subtilis. (5)
Cytotoxic / Apoptotic: Study revealed an ethyl acetate extract as the most potent extract showing dose-dependent and time-dependent growth inhibition in human liver carcinoma HepG2 cells via induction of apoptotic cell death through the caspase-3-dependent pathway in HepG2 cells. (6)
Chemopreventive / Radical Scavenging Activity: Study evaluated the chemopreventive effects of plant extracts of EM. An aqueous extract showed to possess significant free radical and superoxide radical scavenging activity and effectively protected mouse brain lipid against oxidative stress. Fractionation yielded phenolic compounds, i.e., caffeic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,4- dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4-dihydroxy-cinnamic acid methyl ester, are the main constituents in the active ethyl acetate fraction, possibly playing roles in the chemo-preventive activity. (7)
• Cytotoxicity / Human Carcinoma Cell Lines: Study evaluated the cytotoxicity of six medicinal plants towards five human solid cancer cell lines. The methanol extract of whole plant of Elephantopus mollis showed IC50 values from 3.29 µg/mL (DLD-1 colorectal adenocarcinoma cells) to 24.38 µg/mL (small lung cancer A549 cells). EMW induced apoptosis in MCF-7 cells mediated by MMP loss and increased ROS production. (11)
• Germacranolides and Triterpenes / Antitumor: Study of ethanolic extract of E. mollis yielded three novel cytotoxic antitumor germacranolides viz., molephantin, molephantinine, and phantomolin, along with three known triterpenes ß-amyrin acetate, lupeol acetate, and epifriedelanol, as well as stigmasterol. Preliminary invivo tumor assays indicated molephantinin and phantomolin were potent inhibitors of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma and Walker 256 carcinosarcoma. Molephantinin also showed significant antileukemic activity in the P-388 lymphocytic leukemia screen. (13)
• Germacradiendiolides / Antileishmanial: Study evaluated seventeen sesquiterpene lactones (SLs) isolated from five species of the tribe Vernonieae for their in vitro activity against promastigotes of Leishmania amazoniensis and L. braziliensis. The most active compounds against L. braziliensis were 16 and 17 (IC50 values 1.45 and 1.34 µM, respectively). This is the first report of the known germacradiendiolides 16 and 17 from Elephantopus mollis. (17)
• Potential for Enhancing Skin Barrier Function: A US application was made for screening and evaluating agents promoting skin barrier function taking epidermal serine racemase and/or d-serine level as indicator. Of the candidate drugs in the screening, Lempuyang extract and Elephantopus mollis extract promoted serine racemase expression in differentiation-induced kertinocytes. Results suggest potential as an effective drug for enhancing skin barrier function. (18)

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D. / StuartXchange

Updated August 2018 / July 2014

IMAGE SOURCE: Elephantopus mollis / Flowers at Camp Maluhia LZ, Maui / Forest and Kim Starr - Plants of Hawaii / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 / alterVISTA
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Elephantopus mollis (soft elephants foot) / Flowers at Camp Maluhia LZ, Maui. March 31, 2009. / Forest and Kim Starr / Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 / Plants of Hawaii / Click on image to go to source page

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Inhibitory Effect of Elephantopus mollis H.B. and K. Extract on Melanogenesis in B16 Murine Melanoma Cells by Downregulating Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor Expression / Kiyotaka Hasegawa, Rikako Furuya et al / Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Vol. 74 (2010) , No. 9 pp.1908-1912
Chemoprevention Bioactivity of Elephantopus mollis / David Sheng Yang Wang, Hsing-Ning Chang et al / Poster / American Society of Plant Biologists

Assessment of anti-protozoal activity of plants traditionally used in Ecuador in the treatment of leishmaniasis / Gachet, M. S. and Lecaro, J. S. and Kaiser, M. and Brun, R. and Navarrete, H. and Munoz, R. A. and Bauer, R. and Schuhly, W. / Journal of ethnopharmacology, Mar 2010; Vol 128, No 1: pp 184-197.
Elephantopus tomentosus L. / Catalogue of Life, China
Antimicrobial Terpenoids from Elephantopus mollis / Consolacion Y. Ragasa, Agnes B. Alimboyoguen, and Chien-Chang Shen / NRCP Research Journal, 2009, 10(1):33-38
Cytotoxic and Apoptotic Effects of Ethyl Acetate Extract of Elephantopus mollis Kunth. in Human Liver Carcinoma HepG2 Cells Through Caspase-3 Activation / Kheng Leong Ooi, PhD, Tengku Sifzizul Tengku, Lee Yein Lam, BScMuhammad, PhD, Shaida Fariza Sulaiman, PhD / Integrative Cancer Therapies
Chemoprevention Bioactivity of Elephantopus mollis / Wang, David Sheng-Yang, Chang, Hsing-Ning, Ho, Yu-Chi, Lo, Chiu-Ping, Chiang, Yi-Ming, Lu, Chih-ying, Shyur, Lie-Fen / Poster / American Society of Plant Biologists
Study on the chemical constituents of Elephantopus mollis. / Liang N1, Yang XX, Wang GC, Wu X, Yang YT, Luo HJ, Li YL. / Zhong Yao Cai., Nov 2012; 35(11): pp 175-8.
A new sesquiterpene lactone from Elephantopus mollis / Paul Pui Hay But, Po Ming Hon, Hui Cao, Chun Tao Che / Planta Medica, 1996; 62(5): pp 474-476 / DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-957945
Elephantopus mollis / Synonyms / The Plant List
Cytotoxicity of the methanol extracts of Elephantopus mollisKalanchoe crenata and 4 other Cameroonian medicinal plants towards human carcinoma cells / Victor Kuete, Fabrice W Fokou, Oguzhan Karaosmanoglu, Veronique P Beng, and Hülya Sivas / BMC Complementary and Alternative MedicineBMC series, 201717:280 / https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1793-1
Elephantopus mollis / Christophe Wiart / Ethnopharmacology of Medicinal Plants: Asia and the Pacific / Google Books
Antitumor agents XXXVIII: Isolation and structural elucidation of novel germacranolides and triterpenes from Elephantopus mollis/ Kuo-Hsiung Lee, Toshiro Ibuka, Hiroshi Furukawa, Mutsuo Kozuka, Rong-Yang Wu, Iris H Hall, Huan-Chang Huang / Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sept 1980; Vol 69, Issue 9: pp 1050-1056 / https://doi.org/10.1002/jps.2600690917
A survey of traditional medicinal plants used by K’ho people in the buffer zone of Chu Yang Sin national park, Vietnam / Nguyen, Phuong Hanh; Luu, Dam Cu; Nguyen, Quoc Binh / J. Viet. Env. 2014, Vol 6, No 3: pp. 276-280 / DOI: 10.13141/jve.vol6.no3.pp276-280
Ethnopharmacological analysis of medicinal plants used against non-communicable diseases in Rodrigues Island, Indian Ocean / Anne Kathie Samoisy, M. Fawzi Mahomoodally / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2015; 173: pp 20–38
Elephantopus mollis / Medicinal Plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana)
Active sesquiterpene lactones against Leishmania amazonensis and Leishmania braziliensis
/ Bardón, Alicia; M. Sosa, Andrea; Amaya, Susana; Salamanca Capusiri, Efrain; Gilabert, Miguel; Giménez, Alberto; et al / https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.2175980.v1
Method for screening agents promoting skin barrier function and method for evaluating skin barrier function taking epidermal serine racemase and/or d-serine level as indicator / Inventor: Yosuke Tojo, Masato Iino, Chieko Mizumoto, Yuzo Yoshida, Yuko Matsuura, Hisashi Mori / US Application: US20170073751A1

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.

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT