Palmira is a robust palm that can live up to 100 years, growing to a height of
20 to 30 meters, growing slowly at the beginning and accelerating as it ages. Trunk is large and straight, ringed with leaf scars. Canopy of green-bluish leaves has several dozen fronds spreading 3 meters across. Fruit measures 4 to 7 inches in diameter, has a black husk, and borne in clusters. When cut, the top part of the fruit reveal three sweet, translucent, pale-white jelly seed sockets containing water fluid inside.
- Native to South and Southeast Asia.
- Plant considered a rich source of phytoconstituents: gums, saponins, glycosides, carbohydrates, albuminoids, fats, vitamins A, B, and C.
- Male inflorescence yields spirostane-type steroid saponins (Borassosides and dioscin).
- Yielded flabelliferrins, a bitter compound of steroidal saponins. Spirosterol is a dominant aglycone in odiyal flour and palmyra inflorescence.
- Ungerminated seed embryos
was found to be a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, fat, amino acids, protein.
- Various extracts of seed coat of B. flabellifer yielded tannins, flavonoids, saponins, glycosides, and terpenoids. (see study below) (14)
- Proximate composition and mineral profile of seed embryo (g/100 g) yielded 1,398 kJ energy, 65.6 moisture, 12.5 protein, 1.9 fat, 71.5 carbohydrate, 4.3 fiber, sodium 52 mg/100 g, potassium 68, calcium 48, magnesium 23, iron 0.5. (12)
- Amino acid profile of seed embryo (g/100 g) yielded histidine 5.8, lysine 1.2, leucine 8.7, isoleucine 5.8, methionine+cysteine 1.2, phenylalanine+tyrosine 8.6, threonine 6.2, tryptophan 1.8, valine 8.2. (see study below) (12)
- Inflorescence extracts yielded the presence of tannins, carbohydrate, terpenes, saponins, flavonoids, and alkaloids. (see study below)
- Nutritional analysis of roots yielded
8.54% protein content, 23.53% carbohydrates, 7.29% crude fiber and negligible fat content. Edible roots also contain small amounts of iron (1.38 ppm) and traces of aluminum, arsenic, strontium, lead, manganese, copper, and zinc. Total phenolic content of hexane, chloroform, and methanol extracts were 222.7, 275.25 and 98.48 µg catechin equivalents per 100 g of extract, respectively. (26)
- Phytochemical analysis of fruits yielded saponins, tannins, carbohydrates, amino acids, and phenolic compounds. (see study below)
- Phytochemical screening of various solvent extracts of roots yielded alkaloids, glycosides, terpenoids, steroids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols, and saponins.
(see study below) (32)
- Roots are high in carbohydrates.
- Studies have suggested analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, cytotoxic, anticancer properties.
Roots, leaves, and flowering
Ripened fibrous outer layer of the palm fruit can be eaten raw, boiled, or roasted.
The fruit's yellow viscous fluid is made into various sweet dishes, jams, and cordials.
Roots are edible.
Decoction used for
gonorrhea and respiratory ailments.
Leaf juice used for hiccups, gastric ailments.
Bloom on base of leaves used as styptic for external wounds.
Juice from flowering stalks used for diabetes.
Used with rice as a poultice, fermented, and used for gangrenous
and indolent ulcers and abscesses.
• In Indonesia, the sap is taken
• In India, juice from flowering stalks used for diabetes. (32)
Arrack: Toddy, the sugary sap
is obtained from young inflorescences which can be fermented to make
an arrack beverage or
a concentrated crude sugar called jaggery.
Thatching / Basketry: Leaves are used for thatching, for making mats, baskets, fans, hats and umbrellas.
Paper: In Indonesia, leaves used in the ancient culture of paper making, known as "lontar."
Rope / Fences: In Indonesia, stems of leaves nailed together to make fences, and the skin of stems peeled off and used as rope. Stalks also used for making fences and cordage.
Wood: Black timber is hard and highly valued for construction.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Flowers:
Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of ethanolic extract of Borassus
flabellifer L. male flowers (inflorescences) in experimental animals: Extract showed dose-dependent
anti-inflammatory activity and supports it folkloric use as an anti-inflammatory
• Saponins / Antidiabetogenic: Study of methanolic
extract yielded 6 new steroid saponins: borassosides A-F. Results
showed inhibition of increase of serum glucose in sucrose-loaded rats. (2)
• Neurotoxic Effect / Detoxification: A previous study reported on the neurotoxic effect of shoot flour on Wistar rats. This study showed feeds containing 100% and 70% palmyrah flour resulted in very little feed or no consumption, suggesting the reported deaths may have been due to starvation. A mixture of 50% palmyrah flour and 50% standard feed results in neurotoxic symptoms (spasms, hind limb immobility, etc). The neurotoxic effect of palmyrah shoot flour on Wistar rats showed a neurotoxic effect that appears to be a tissue non-specific damage reflected at a subclinical level. Neurotoxic effect was eliminated by heating detoxification. The nutritional status of the diet influenced the manifestation of the toxic effect. (4)
• Aerobiologic / Aeroallergen: Study investigated the aerobiologic and allergenic significance of the pollen of palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer). Pollen grains were found present in the air from February to May and June, comprising 7% of total airborne pollen of the study area. The pollen is a dominant aeroallergen that can cause respiratory problems. The pollen extract isolated a 90-kD component, one of the major allergens. (8)
• Antioxidant: Study showed the leaves and roots to possess antioxidant activity. The antioxidant potential of leaves to be greater than the roots. The activity was attributed to flavonoids, saponins, tannins and phenolic compounds in the leaf.
• Cytotoxic / Flabelliferin: Palmyrah flour (Odiyal) is known to yield a number of toxins with mutagenic, clastogenic, immunosuppressive, and mosquito larvicidal effects. A pressure liquid chromatography separation for dengue mosquito larvicide yielded a white amorphous solid. Study on a melanoma cell line showed cytotoxic activity on differentiating cancer lines. (9)
• Antibacterial / Seed Coat: Study of antibacterial activity of a methanol extract of seed coat against Gram-positive bacteria (Staph aureus, Bacillus subtilis) and Gram-negative bacteria (Klebsiella pneumonia and Serratia marcescens) showed consistent inhibitory activity on different bacterial species tested. (10)
• Anticancer / Apoptosis of Human Colon Cancer Ht-29 Cells / Inflorescence: An apolar extract from male inflorescence was studied on colon cancer HT29 cells. Phytochemical analysis yielded sterols triterpenes, and saponosids. The extract significantly inhibited cell proliferation by blocking cell population in G0/G1 phase. Results indicated anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities. (11)
• Antioxidant / Nutrients / Potential Food Source: Study showed the plant seed embryo to possess micro/macro nutrients and antioxidant properties with neutraceutical potential for the treatment of malnutrition. (see constituents above) (12)
• Antimicrobial / Seed Coat: Study evaluated various extracts of seed coat of B. flabellifer for antimicrobial activity. Results showed high rate of growth inhibition against some human pathogens. Among all tested organisms, Aspergillus brasiliensis and Bacillus subtilis showed a higher rate of inhibition with ethanolic and methanolic extracts. (14)
• Anti-Tumor / HeLa Cell Line / Seed Coat: Study evaluated the anticancer activity of seed coat of Borassus flabellifer on the HeLa cell line. Results showed significant cytotoxicity in concentration range between 32 µg/ml to 750 µg/ml by MTT assay. Preliminary studies showed even low concentration of the plant extract showed significant antiproliferative activity. (15)
• Antibacterial / Antioxidant / Seed Coat: Study of a methanolic seed coat extract showed significant antibacterial activity against human pathogenic organisms and free radical scavenging activity by ABTS and DPPH radical scavenging assay. (16)
• Dried Fruit Pulp as Antidiabetic Food Component: The fruit pulp of palmyrah has been shown to inhibit intestinal glucose uptake in mice, via inhibition of intestinal ATPase by flabelliferin-II, a steroidal saponin. This study investigated whether dried fruit pulp (pinattu), which has been consumed in NE Sri Lanka for centuries, could reduce serum glucose levels of mild type 2 diabetics. Results suggest pinattu could be used as an anti-hyperglycemic agent. (17)
• Mucilage / Excipient / Gelling Agent: Study evaluated the gelling potential of natural mucilage obtained from the endosperm of Borassus Flabellifer fruit. Results showed BF mucilage can be used as pharmaceutical excipient in gel formulations, with the potential to replace some synthetic gelling polymers. (18) Study evaluated the use of BF mucilage as a natural plant based excipient for pharmaceutical formulations. The mucilage exhibited better disintegrating property at lower concentration viz., 1% w/w, and can be used as a superdisintegrant in tablet formulations. (35)
• Palm Jaggery: Jaggery is a sugar rich product obtained by evaporation of sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) juice, or sap obtained from Palmyrah palm (B. flabellifer), date palm (P. dactylifera) or coconut palm (C. nucifera). It contains 65-85% sucrose, 5-5% reducing sugars, consumed directly of used in the making of sweet confectionaries and ayurvedic/traditional medicines. Study reports provides information on the production of jaggery, the need of developing standard process and greater mechanisation of climbing devices, tapping systems, and improved efficiency in the collection process, decreased contamination and improving of shelf life. (19)
• Hypoglycemic / Inflorescence: Study evaluated the hypoglycemic activity of inflorescence of B. flabellifer extract in STZ-induced diabetic male wistar rats. Treatment caused a significant (p<0.01) reduction in blood glucose levels when compared with control. Results suggest the inflorescence extracts possess an antidiabetic effect. (see constituents above) (20)
• Antioxidant / Leaves and Roots: Study of antioxidant activity of BF leaves and roots by FRAP and Reducing Power Assay methods suggest the plant materials are a viable source of natural antioxidants. Activity may be due to the presence of phytoconstituents like flavonoids, saponins, tannins, and phenolic compounds. (21)
• Biosorption of Methylene Blue: Study evaluated the biosorbent capacity of palm tree flower (male) for removal of MB. Results showed PTMF, a plant waste material, can be a potential biosorbent for removal of MB from aqueous solution. PTMF is an inexpensive and abundantly available material, an alternative to costly adsorbents used for dye removal in waste water treatment. (22)
• Anticancer / Anti-Inflammatory / 5-LOX Inhibitory Activity / Apoptosis in MIA PaCa-2 Pancreatic Cancer Cells / Seed Coat: Study of seed coat extract of Borassus flabellifer found substantial 5-LOX inhibitory activity. Dammarane triterpenoid 1 (Dammara-20,23-diene-3,25-diol) was isolated. It inhibited carrageenan-induced rat paw edema and TNF-a secretion levels in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced THP-1 human monocytes. Anticancer activity study demonstrated the antiproliferative effect of dammarane triterpenoid 1 on various cancer cell lines and showed good antiproliferative activity on MIA PaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cell line with IC50 of 12.36±0.33 µM. (23)
• Antidiabetic / Antihyperlipidemic / inflorescence: Study evaluated Borassus flabellifer inflorescence extracts against STZ-induced diabetic male wistar rats. An ethanolic extract exhibited reduction of blood sugar. There was significant reduction in total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol and improvement in HDL cholesterol of the diabetic rats. (24)
• Antidiabetic / Antioxidant / Flowers: Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of flowers for antidiabetic and antioxidant effects. Results showed 20% blood glucose lowering on acute study and 35% in sub-acute study. The extract exerted significant DPPH radical scavenging effect. The activity may be attributed to active constituents like flavonoids and triterpenoids. (25)
• Phytochemicals / Antioxidant Activity / Dried Fruits: Phytochemical screening of various extracts of dried roots showed 1.61% alkaloids and 0.63% saponins and GC/MS screening of extracts yielded fatty acids, alkanes, alkenes, ketones, aldehydes, diterpenes, phytols, and sterols. A methanol extract of dried roots showed an antioxidant potential of ABTS (IC50=2 mg/ml) by FRAP assay. The highest antioxidant activity was observed in the chloroform extract (129.6 µg BHT/100 mg extract). (see constituents above) (26)
• Antiulcer Activity / Fruits: Study evaluated various extracts of fruits of Borassus flabellifer for antiulcer activity using aspirin Pylorus ligation and ethanol induced models using albino rats. Aqueous extracts of fruits showed significant antiulcer activity compared to other extracts. Results were comparable to standard drug Ranitidine. (see constituents above) (27)
• Alternative Excipient: Study showed B. flabellifer starch was comparable with maize starch and can be used as a pharmaceutical excipient in tablet preparations. (28)
• Anthelmintic / Leaves: Study evaluated the anthelmintic activity of Borassus flabellifer leaves against Indian earthworm Pheretima posthuma. Results showed the methanolic extract with significant concentration dependent anthelmintic activity. A 50 mg/ml extract concentration showed better activity with paralysis time and death time when compared to standard albendazole. (29)
Antibacterial / Antifungal / Antioxidant / Leaves: Study evaluated a methanol extract and fractions from powdered leaves for antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant activities. The methanol extract showed dose dependent radical scavenging activity evidenced by IC50 of 40.19 µg/ml for DPPH and 30.92 µg/ml for H2O2 radicals. The methanol extract and acetone fraction showed potent antibacterial and antifungal activities. (30)
• Antioxidant / Leaves and Roots:Study of ethanolic extracts of Borassus flabellifer leaves and roots showed antioxidant activity by FRAP and Reducing Power Assay methods. Phytochemical screening yielded flavonoids, tannins and phenolic compounds, and saponins. Results suggest leaves and roots of B. flabeliffer have potential as "nutraceuticals" in the preparation of function foods. (31)
• Antibacterial / Roots: Study evaluated various solvent extracts of roots for antibacterial activity against five pathogenic microorganisms viz., E. coli, S. aureus, K. pneumonia, P. aeruginosa and B. subtilis. The methanolic extract of palm root showed consistent significant inhibitory activity against bacterial species tested. (see constituents above) (32)
• Bioactive Compounds / Roots: Study investigated the potential bioactive compounds present in B. flaberllifer roots. GC-MS analysis yielded 28 compounds. Many of the compounds have been associated with with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer activities i.e., resorcinol, phenol, pentanoic acid, glycerin, 10-undecenyl ester, octadecanoic acid and n-hexadecanoic acid. (33)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Antiarthritis / Flowers:Study of ethanolic extract of male flowers (inflorescences) of B. flabellifer showed anti-inflammatory activity using Nystatin-induced rat paw edema model and antiarthritis activity using Freund's Complete Adjuvant (FCA) induced polyarthritis. (34)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Dried Leaves:Study evaluated crude extracts of dried leaves for anti-inflammatory activity male BALB/C mice in formalin induced paw edema. Results showed anti-inflammatory activity and a potential alternative to synthetic drugs. (36)
• Anticonvulsant / Leaves: Study evaluated the anticonvulsant activity of various leaf extracts of Borassus flabellifer in Wistar albino rats using Maximo Electro Shock Seizure (MES) and Pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) testing. A 400 mg alcoholic extract of B. flabellifer showed more potent anticonvulsant activity than other extracts. (38)
• Acute Toxicity Testing / Leaves:Acute toxicity study of leaf extract using OECD guidelines showed no adverse effects or mortality up to 4000 mg/kg p.o. (38)
• Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory / Antioxidant / Cytotoxic / Roots: Study evaluated the antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cytotoxic effects of alcoholic extract of B. flabellifer roots in rodents. The extract showed mild antinociceptive activity in hot plate test and good effect in acetic acid-induced writhing model. Extract inhibited carrageenan-induced leukocyte migration in the peritoneal cavity. There was good antioxidant activity by DPPH radical scavenging assay, and good cytotoxic activity in brine shrimp lethality assay with LC50 of 2.41 µg/ml. (39)
• Diuretic:Study evaluated ethanolic and aqueous extracts of seedling of Borassus flabellifer for diuretic activity in albino rats. Results showed a diuretic effect with significantly increased urinary levels of Na+, K+, and Cl- by both seedling extracts. Lower doses showed significantly elevated Na+ and K+ levels but not the Cl- levels. The diuretic effect at 200 mg/kg was significantly less than standard drug furosemide. (40)
• Antifungal / Sap:Study evaluated the in vitro antifungal activity of sap of Borassus flabellifer against fungal strains C. albicans and A. niger. Sap volumes of 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, and 1.0 ml were used. Results showed significant antifungal activity with 14 to 26 mm zone of inhibition after 36 hours. (41)
• Wound Healing / Steroidal Saponin / Flabelliferin: A pilot study evaluated a steroidal saponin, Flabelliferin B, isolated from palmyrah (B. flabellifer) for wound healing activity on male Wistar rats and allergenic reactions by topical application on healthy human skin. Toxic and other adverse effects were no observed on test animals and allergic reactions were not observed on normal healthy human skin by patch test. Wound healing effects were observed in human volunteers with wounds and ulcers with no subcutaneous involvement. (42)