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Family Cycadaceae
Cycas revoluta Thunb.
Su tie

Scientific names Common names
Cycas inermis Oudem. [Illegitimate] Oliba (Tag.)
Cycas miquelii Warb. Oliva (Span.)
Cycas revoluta Thunb. King sago palm (Engl.)
Epicycas miquelii (Warb.) de Laub. Sago palm (Engl.)
  Tie shu (Chin.)
Oliva is a shared name between (1) Cycas revoluta, oliba, oliva (Span.) and (2) Cycas rumphii, pitogo, oliva (Span.)
Cycas revoluta Thunb. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Bi huo jiao, Feng wei jiao, Feng wei song, Feng wei cao, Su tie, Tie shu.
CZECH: Cykas japonsky.
DANISH: Sagopalme.
FINNISH: Saagopalmu.
FRENCH: Cycas du Japon, Cycas sagoutier.
GERMAN: Sagopalme.
ITALIAN: Palma a sagu.
JAPANESE: So-tetsu.
KOREAN: So ch'eol.
RUSSIAN: Sagovnik ponikaiushchii, Sagovnik ponikaiushchii drevovidnyi, Tsikas ponikaiushchii .
SPANISH: Cicas revoluta, Palma sagú, Sagutero.

Cycas revoluta has been called the "living fossil" because of its origin is traced all the way back to the ancient flora of early Mesozoic era, (200 million years ago).

Oliba is a cycad with a stout and cylindric trunk marked with prominent scars, in the Philippines usually not growing more than a meter in height, elsewhere reported to grow as high as 5 meters. Leaves are numerous, crowded, spreading, 0.5 to 1.5 meters long. Leaflets are very numerous, close, and linear; 18 centimeters long in the middle, 4 to 6 millimeters wide, the upper surface glabrous, the lower, hairy. Ovules are hairy. Seeds are on loosely arranged leaves around the stem. Seeds are large, plum-like, and pale-yellow to tan.

- Introduced.
- Now, cultivated for ornamental purposes.
- Native to Japan and southern China.

• Many cycads are toxic because the stems, leaves and seeds contain high amounts of cycasin alkaloids, macrozamin or methylazoxymethanol. Both cycasin and macrozamin are harmful to the liver; cycasin and methylazoxymethanol are neurotoxic and carcinogenic.
• Japanese study isolated a novel leptin from the leaves of CR.
• Seeds have yielded B-N-methylamin-L-alanine (BMAA) used for tonics and poultices.
Study yielded a novel nonprotein amino acid, cycasindene.

Cycad palms produce three toxins: cycasin, beta-methylamino-L-alanine, and an unidentified toxin. (see toxicity below)
• GC-MS analysis of essential oil extracted with petroleum ether yielded 5 components of fatty acids: Linolenic acid (18.47%), Oleic acid (12.96%), Linoleic acids (10.9%), Palmitic acid (8.82%) and Octadecanoic acid (7.85%). (22)
• Phytochemical analysis of ethyl acetate extract of leaves yielded five compounds including two new two new dihydroamentoflavone glucosides, (2S)-I-(2,3)-dihydro-I-7-O-β-d-glucopyranosylamentoflavone (1) and (2S)-I-(2,3)-dihydro-I-7,II-7-di-O-β-d-glucopyranosylamentoflavone (2), in addition to the known compounds prunin (3), vitexin-2″-rhamnoside (4) and protocatechuic acid (5).  (see study below) (23)

• Seeds of Cycas species reported to be toxic and carcinogenic.

• Terminal shoot considered astringent and diuretic.
• Seed considered emmenagogue, expectorant, tonic.

Parts utilized
Fruit, leaves, shoots, seeds.

• Fleshy seeds, leaves, unprocessed flour from stem pith considered poisonous. Considered by some to be toxic only if consumed in large quantities.
• Seeds are widely consumed as food and medicine (as tonic or poultices) in southern Japan, the Chamorros of Guam, and the Auyu people of New Guinea, Australia, and the western Pacific Islands.

• Seeds are dried and ground into powder, and mixed with brown rice and fermented into "date miso" or "sotetsu miso."

• Like the
palaspas, some albularyos have the leaves 'blessed' on Palm Sunday and used for a variety of medicinal uses.
suob, the leaves are dried and powdered, and added to to the insenso kamanyan for the the ritual.
• In China, fruit used as expectorant and tonic.
• Despite known toxicities, Cycad stems and seeds are used for high blood pressure, headaches, congestion, rheumatism and bone pain.
• Leaves used in the treatment of cancer and hepatoma.
• Terminal shoots used as astringent and diuretic.
• In Japan's Kii Peninsula, a "tonic" is made from the dried seeds of CR.
• In Bangladesh, the whole plant used for paralysis, indigestion, snake bites.
• In the Assam district of India, used for painful urination: a piece of young female cone eaten daily until cure.

Palm Sunday: Leaves used for the ritual palms for Palm Sunday.

Presence of aromatase inhibitors in cycads:
Cycas revoluta was one of five species of cycad folia studied for inhibition of cytochrome P-450 aromatase for use in the treatment of estrogen-dependent tumors. All five test Cycas species were found to contain inhibitors of the human enzyme.
Lectin: Study isolated a novel lectin from the leaves of Cycas revoluta. The inhibition analysis of hemagglutinating activity and partial amino acid sequences of lysylendopeptic peptides show it to belong to the jacalin-related lectin family. (5)
Leaves / Antimicrobial / Antioxidant: Hydroalcoholic extracts of leaves showed potent antimicrobial activity against E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Saccharomyces cerevisae. Extracts also showed antioxidant activity. (13)
Peptide / Bactericidal / Proapoptotic / Seeds: Study purified a peptide from the seeds of Cycas revoluta. The peptide showed deleterious effects against human epidermoid cancer (Hep2) and colon carcinoma cells (HCT15), and caused inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis by direct DNA binding. A remarkable bactericidal activity was also observed in the same peptide. (15)
Antibacterial: In a pharmacologic study of selected plants, ethanol and ethanol extracts of C. revoluta showed antibacterial activity against E. coli, S. aureus, Pseudomonas, B. subtilis, Klebsiella and S. typhimurium. (16)
Chitinase-A: Study purified chitinase-A (CrChi-A) from the leaf rachises of C. revoluta. It exhibited transglycosylation activity not previously observed in plant chitinases. Studies have suggested chitinases have roles in plant defenses and interactions with simbiotic microorganisms and developmental processes. (18)
Antimicrobial / Leaves and Female Cones: Study screened C. revoluta for the isolation of a potent molecule responsible for antimicrobial potential against pathogenic and drug resistant strains. Study isolated a novel molecule, 2, 3-dihydro-4′-O-methyl-amentoflavone from the chloroform extract of leaves and female cones which promising antimicrobial activity against MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphyloccocus aureus), E. Coli, Salmonella abony, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, among others. (19)
• Antibacterial Biflavonoids / Leaves: Study of methanolic extract of leaflets of Cycas circinalis and chloroform extract Cycas revoluta yielded one new biflavonoid and 15 known compounds. Compounds 2, 6, and 18 exhibited moderate antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA. (20)
• Antimicrobial / Leaves and Cones: Study evaluated chloroformic and hydroalcoholic extracts of leaves and female cones of Cycas revoluta for antimicrobial potential. Results showed promising antimicrobial activity against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella abony, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, among others. The chloroformic extract of cones showing more activity than the chloroformic extract of leaves. (21)
• Cytotoxic / Anti-Leishmanial / Antimicrobial / Leaves: Study of EA extract of leaves yielded two new dihydroamentoflavone glucosides, along with three known compounds. The EA extract showed weak cytotoxicity against HepG2. Compound 4, vitexin-2"-rhamnoside, showed significant activity against Leishmania donovani. The isolated compounds showed weak antimicrobial activity. (see constituents above) (23)
• Antioxidant / Leaves and Cones: Study investigated different solvent extracts of Cycas female cone and leaves for in vitro antioxidant activity. Results showed chloroform extracts of female cones showed more potent antioxidant activity followed by chloroformic extract of leaves. (24)
• Amentoflavones / Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity / Leaflets: Study of leaves isolated eight compounds. Compounds 5, 6, and 7 (amentoflavone, amentoflavone glucoside, neohesperidin) showed antioxidant activity nearly two to four folds higher than quercetin at dose of 12.5 µg/ml. Compound 6 NS 7 showed very strong cytotoxicity against MCF-7 cell line with IC50 of 5.12 and 4.73 µg/ml, respectively. The cytotoxic and antioxidant activities were likely due to the biflavonoid content. (25)

Toxic / Caricinogenic: Seeds of Cycas species reported to be toxic and carcinogenic. Many cycads are toxic because the stems, leaves and seeds contain high amounts of cycasin alkaloids, macrozamin or methylazoxymethanol. Both cycasin and macrozamin are harmful to the liver; cycasin and methylazoxymethanol are neurotoxic and carcinogenic.
Cycasin / Toxins: Although all parts of the plant are toxic, it is the seed that contains the highest level of toxin cycasin. Cycasin causes gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting, diarrhea and may cause seizures, hepatotoxicity with jaundice, cirrhosis, ascites and liver failure. Other toxins are beta-methylamino-L-alanine and an unidentified toxin. Beta-methylamino-L-alanine is a neurotoxic amino acid known to cause ataxia in rat and neuro-manifestations in humans. The unidentified toxin may cause hind limb paralysis in cattle from CNS axonal degeneration. Besides the excitatory and putative neurotoxin BMAA, Cycas revoluta also yield o-N-oxalylornithine.
Guam Disease: Beta-methylamino-L-alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid, causes ataxia in rats and is implicated in Guam disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Lou Gehrig (ALS) diseases.
Livestock: In cattle, an unidentified toxin may cause hindlimb paralysis, with axonal degeneration the CNS.

Ornamental cultivation.

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Updated March 2018 / September 2015

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Cycad Coralloid Roots Housing Cyanobacteria / M. Caiola / Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology, 2004, Volume 4, VI, 397-409, DOI: 10.1007/0-306-48173-1_25
Presence of aromatase inhibitors in cycads
/ Kowalska MT, Itzhak Y, Puett D. / J Ethnopharmacol. 1995 Jul 28;47(3):113-6.
Cycas revoluta / Wikipedia
Toxicology Brief: Cycad toxicosis in dogs / Hany Youssef, BVSc, DVM, MS • VETERINARY MEDICINE

The lectin from leaves of Japanese cycad, Cycas revoluta Thunb. (gymnosperm) is a member of the jacalin-related family / Fumio Yagi, Toshinobu Iwaya et al / Eur. J. Biochem. 269, 4335–4341 (2002)  FEBS 2002 / doi:10.1046/j.1432-1033.2002.03127.x
A Survey of Medicinal Plant Usage by Folk Medicinal Practitioners in Two Villages by the Rupsha River in Bagerhat District, Bangladesh / Ariful Haque Mollik, Azmal ibna Hassan et al / American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 4(3): 349-356, 2010
Cycas revoluta / Plants For A Future
Cycas revoluta Thunb. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Possible etiologies for tropical spastic paraparesis and human T lymphotropic virus I-associated myelopathy
/ V. Zaninovic / Braz J Med Biol Res vol.37 no.1 Ribeirão Preto Jan. 2004
Identification of nonprotein amino acids from cycad seeds as N-ethoxycarbonyl ethyl ester derivatives by positive chemical-ionization gas chromatography-mass spectrometry / PAN M ; MABRY T. J.; CAO P.; MOINI M. / Journal of Chromatography, 1997, Vol 787, pp288-294.
Cycas revoluta / National Tropical Botanical Garden
Sorting Cycas names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
LEAVES OF CYCAS REVOLUTA: POTENT ANTIMICROBIAL AND ANTIOXIDANT AGENT / Manoj K. Mourya*, Archana Prakash, Ajay Swami, Gautam K. Singh and Abhishek Mathur* / World Journal of Science and Technology 2011, 1(10): 11-20
Cycas revoluta Thunb. / Synonyms / The Plant List
Identification and characterization of a bactericidal and proapoptotic peptide from Cycas revoluta seeds with DNA binding properties. / Mandal SM, Migliolo L, Das S, Mandal M, Franco OL, Hazra TK. / J Cell Biochem. 2012 Jan;113(1):184-93. doi: 10.1002/jcb.23343.
Antibacterial activity in Vitro of medicinal plants / Wardah Shahid, Rabia Durrani*, Saira Iram, Maryam Durrani, Fawad Ali Khan / Sky Journal of Microbiology Research Vol. 1(2), pp. 5 - 21, February, 2013
Medicinal plants of North Cachar Hills district of Assam used by the Dimasa tribe / Jayashree Rout, Albert L. Sajem and Minaram Nath / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 11 (3), July 2012, pp 520-527
A plant class V chitinase from a cycad (Cycas revoluta): Biochemical characterization, cDNA isolation, and posttranslational modification / Toki Taira, Hiroko Hayashi, Yoshiko Tajiri, Shoko Onaga, Gen-ichiro Uechi, Hironori Iwasaki, Takayuki Ohnuma and Tamo Fukamizo / Glycobiology Volume 19, Issue 12Pp. 1452-1461.

/ Rakhi Sharma*, Akriti Katiyar and Abhishek Mathur / Biolife 2(4):1218-1228
Phytochemical Investigation of Cycas circinalisand Cycas revoluta Leaflets: Moderately Active Antibacterial Biflavonoids / Abeer Moawad, Mona Hetta, Jordan K Zjawiony, Melissa R Jacob, Mohamed Hifnawy, and Daneel Ferreira / Planta Med. 2010 May; 76(8): pp 796-802 / doi:  10.1055/s-0029-1240743
Study of the Antimicrobial Profile and Phytochemical Composition of Solvent Extracts of Leaves and Female Cones of Cycas revoluta / Kishori Lal, Nafeesh Ahmed and Abhishek Mathur / Int. J. Curr. Microbio. App. Sci. (2017) 6(4): pp 2514-2522 / https://doi.org/10.20546/ijcmas.2017.604.293
Analysis Chemical Composition in Cycas Revoluta by GC-MS / Ying Xu, Qi-Chang Dai, Zong-Ze Luan, Zheng Xiang, Jian Wu, and Yu-Ling Fan / Medicine and Biopharmaceutical (2016) pp. 950-955. / https://doi.org/10.1142/9789814719810_0122 
Two new dihydroamentoflavone glycosides from Cycas revoluta / Abeer Moawad, Mona Hetta, Jordan K Ziawiony, Daneel Ferreira and Mohamed Hifnawy / Natural Product Research, Vol 28, Issue 1 (2014) / https://doi.org/10.1080/14786419.2013.832675
A New Cytotoxic and Antioxidant Amentoflavone Monoglucoside from Cycas revoluta Thunb Growing in Egypt / Walaa A. Negm, Abd El-Rahim S. Ibrahim, Kamilia A. Abo El-Seoud, Ghada I. Attia , Amany E. Ragab* / J. Pharm. Sci. & Res. Vol. 8(5), 2016, 343-350

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