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Family Plumbaginaceae
Blue plumbago
Plumbago auriculata Lam.
Lan zue hua

Scientific names Common names
Plumbagidium auriculatum (Lam.) Spach Blue plumbago (Engl.)
Plumbago auriculata Lam. Cape forget-me-not (Engl.)
Plumbago auriculata f. auriculata Cape leadwort (Engl.)
Plumbago capensis Thunb. Cape plumbago (Engl.)
Plumbago capensis Willd. Plumbago (Engl.)
  Skyflower (Engl.)
Plumbago auriculata Lam. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Lan zue hua.
FRENCH: Dentelaire du Cap.
SPANISH: Plumbago azul.

Gen info
The genus Plumbago comprises 10 species from the warm climate parts of the world. Etymologically, the name derives from plumbum, meaning lead, referring to its use for lead poisoning. Auriculata means ear-shaped, referring to the leaf base. It was originally named Plumbago capensis by botanist Thunberg in 1794 and renamed P. auriculata by Lamarck in 1786.

Plumbago auriculata is a semi-climbing, diffusely branched perennial shrub, growing to 2 meters. Leaves are alternate, simple, entire, oblong or oblong-spatulate, up to 5 centimeters long, with the base tapering to a short petiole. Flowers are short spikelike racemes; calyx is tubular, shorter than the slender corolla. Corolla tube measures 2 to 2.5 centimeters long, five-lobed, azure blue and spreading. Fruit is a capsule that splits into five parts.

- Cultivated in gardens in towns and urban-suburban areas. Used as border plant, ornamental hedge, or ground cover.
- Propagated by seeds and stem cuttings.
- Native to South Africa.

- Crude chloroform extract of roots isolated the naphthoquinones plumbagin and epiisoshinanolone the steroids sitosterol and 3-O-glucosylsitosterol, plumbagic and palmitic acids. (2)
- All parts of the plant yield the naphthoquinone plumbagin (2-methyl juglone), which may blister the skin.
- GC-MS analysis of methanolic extract yielded Z - 11-octadecen-1-yl-acetic acid derivation, C-sitosterol, heptadecanoic acid, 9 methyl, methyl ester, 4,5,7 trihydroxy isoflavone, E, E, Z, 1, 3, 12 nonadecatriene 5, 14 diol, ethanol 2, (9 octadecenyloxyl, (E), 13 docosenoic corrosive Methyl ester, (Z), bis (2 ethyl hexyl) phthalate and 10, 12, 14- nonacosatriynoic corrosive. (see study below)
- Study of flowers of P. auriculata isolated six new anthocyanins based on three new anthocyanidins with 5,7-dimethoxylated A-rings viz. 3-O-?-galactopyranosides (1,2,4) and 3-O-?-rhamnopyranosides (3,5,6) of 5,7-dimethyldelphinidin, 5,7-dimethylpetunidin, and 5,7-dimethylmalvidin. (19)

- Considered styptic, wound healing, analgesic.
- Studies have suggest various activities to Plumbagin: antimicrobial, anticancer, cardiotonic, and antifertility. (1
- Studies have suggested anti-ulcer, antimalarial, anti-H. pylori, cytotoxic, antifungal properties.

Part utilized
Roots, flowers, aerial parts.

- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Name derives from use for lead poisoning.
- In other folklore systems, used for warts, broken bones, headaches.
- Used as an emetic and for wound healing.
- Also used for preventing nightmares and warding off lightning.
- Roots used as toothpaste and for fevers.
- In Maharashtra, India, for acidity, root juice or extract taken before each meal for a week.
- In south Africa, decoction of aerial parts or roots used to treat blackwater fever. Root infusion used as emetic. Root powder used for warts; also used as snuff to relieve headaches. Powdered and roasted root rubbed into scarifications over fractures to promote healing. Rubbed on painful areas of the body caused by strenuous exercise. Root extract used as styptic in scrofula. Excess use may cause irritation, even death. (10)
- In Tamilnanu, India, Roots used for piles, epilepsy and jaundice.
- Fresh cut flowers used for bruises and for soothing sunburn, burns, spots and rashes. (11)
- In Bangladesh, paste of root and bark topically applied with milk to affected areas of the skin. Also used for jaundice, epilepsy and headache. Dried bark is powdered and taken orally with water. (14)
- In South Africa, the roots of P auriculata and Pelargonium reniforme are soaked water for one hour, strained and given to cows to treat diarrhea.

- Ornamental: Flowers used as ritual ornamental.
- Dye:
In East Africa, dye extracted from flowers and leaves are used for textiles: beige, lemon or yellow when combined with alum; or gold when combined with chrome. The sap of roots (grey-blue) used for tattoos. (1

Phytochemical Study / Plumbagin:
Crude chloroform extract study yielded the naphthoquinones plumbagin and epi-isoshinanolone, steroids sitosterol and 3-O-glucosylsitosterol and palmitic acids. Naphthoquinones are typical components of Plumbago species showing interesting biological activities. (2) Study of roots of P. auriculata and P. zeylanica isolated a substance with antibacterial activity, which was found identical to plumbagin.
Antimalarial Activity: Extracts (n-hexane and DMC) of aerial parts of P auriculata showed moderate activity against Plasmodium falcifarum.
Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity: Study in rats investigated the antioxidant properties of the leaves of P. auriculata. Results showed the ethyl acetate and ethanol crude extracts had higher antioxidant activity than petroleum ether and dichlormethane extracts. The EA and petroleum ether extracts significantly inhibited the proliferation of HeLa cells.
Anti-H. Pyloric Activity / Cytotoxicity / Roots: Study evaluated detoxified ethanol root extract of Plumbago auriculata, P. indica, and P. zeylanica for possible activity against H. pylori and cytotoxicity activity. All three plants showed dose-dependent cytotoxicity in HGE-17 cell lines. P. indica showed more anti-H. pylori activity than the other two plants, with P. auriculata having the lowest zone of inhibition. (9)
Antifungal: P. auriculata contains an antifungal protein that inhibits spore germination in Macrophomina phasiolina. (10)
Antiulcer: Study evaluated the antiulcer effect of Plumbaginales P. auriculata, P. indica and P zeylanica. Plumbagin showed cytotoxic activity at 40.16 µg/ml. P auriculata decreased the number of ulcers and increased the percentage of gastric protection. (11)

• Anticancer / Antioxidant: Study evaluated methanolic extract of P. auriculata for antiproliferative and apoptotic activities against lung (!549) and ovarian (PA1) malignancy cell lines. Results showed significant anti-lung and anti-ovarian cancer activity at minimal concentration of 10-40 mcg. Leaves exhibited significant antioxidant activity compared to the root extract. (see constituents above) (15)
• Anti-Obesity: Study evaluated Plumbago auriculata and P. europea for anti-obesity effect through inhibition of adsorption of dietary lipids using in vitro porcine pancreatic lipase inhibitory tests. Both plants showed potential antiobesity activity, with P. europea significantly higher than P. auriculata. Both yielded bioactive compounds that can act as lipase inhibitors with potential for the development of functional foods against obesity. (16)
• Silver Nanoparticles / Antitubercular Activity/ Antioxidant / Leaves: Study reports on the biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles utilizing an alcoholic extract of P. auriculata leaves. The AgNPs showed good antitubercular activity with MIC of 1.6 µg/ml and promising antioxidant activity with IC50 of 28.2. (17)
• Plumbagin / Apoptosis in Her2-Overexpressing Breast Cancer Cells: Study evaluated the anticancer potential of plumbagin toward Her2-overexpressing cell lines SKBR3 and BT474. The antiproliferative activity of plumbagin was associated with apoptosis-mediated cell death through the mitochondrial-
mediated pathway and suggests potential in the treatment of Her2-overexpressing breast cancer. (20)

Toxicity concerns
(1) The plant has been reported to cause skin blistering, and excessive use has been reported to cause death. (2) Because of plumbagin, the use of Plumbago auriculata in traditional medicine is not without risk. Decoction of plant parts should be taken with caution. (10)


© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Updated March 2018 / April 2016

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Plumbago auriculata Lam. / Alice Aubrey • Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden / December 2001
Isolation of secondary metabolites from roots of Plumbago auriculata Lam. by countercurrent chromatography / Selma Ribeiro de Paiva / Phytochemical Analysis Volume 16 Issue 4, Pages 278 - 281 / DOI 10.1002/pca.84
Prelude Medicinal Plants Database (1) Plant used for stress-related ailments in traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho medicine / A J Hurchings • Plants used for headaches. Journal of Etnopharmacology, Volume 43 (1994) pp. 89 - 124 (2) Traditional veterinary medicine in the Alice district of the Eastern Cape Provincen South Africa / A P Dold • South African Journal of Science 97 , 375?379. (2001)
ANTIMALARIAL ACTIVITY OF SOME PLANTS TRADITIONALLY USED IN MOZAMBIQUE / Cátia Ramalhete et al / Plantas Medicinais e Fitoterapêuticas nos Trópicos. IICT /CCCM, 29, 30 e 31 de Outubro de 2008
Ethnomedicinal Uses of Plants in the Plains Area of the Tirunelveli-District, Tamilnanu, India / D Vanila et al / Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 1198-1205. 2008
Antioxidant properties of Plumbago auriculata Lam / Bongai Manyakara / North-West University Institutional Repository
Use of medicinal plants among tribes in Satpuda region of Dhule and Jalgaon districts of Maharashtra-An ethnobotanical survey / D L Jain, A M Baheti, S R Jain, and K R Khandelwal / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 9, No 1, January 2010, Pp 152-157.
Plumbago auriculata Lam. / The Plant List
Anti-Helicobacter Pylori and Cytotoxic activity of detoxified root of Plumbago auriculata, Plumbago indica and Plumbago zeylanica / Ann Shine Paul, Aneesul Islam, P. Yuvaraj / The Journal of Phytopharmacology 2013; 2 (3): 4-8
Plumbago auriculata Lam. / Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1 / Prota
Antiulcer Screening of Selected Plants of Plumbago Species and the Effect of Plumbagin in Gastric Cell Lines (Studies of Plumbago Plants for Ulcer and Inflammation Treatment) / Ann Shine Paul, B. Pharm / Master's Thesis, 2012
Plumbago auriculata Lam. / Synonyms / The Plant List
The constituents in the roots of Plumbago auriculata Lam. and Plumbago zeylanica L. responsible for antibacterial activity. / L M van der Vijer, A P Lotter v/ vPlanta Medica 20(1):8-13 · August 1971
Marufa Yeasmin, Shibu Karmaker, Md. Sakhawath Hossain, Sajal Ahmed, Ashrika Tabassum, Ishita Malek, Mohammed Rahmatullah* / WORLD JOURNAL OF PHARMACY AND PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES, Vol 4, Issue 12, pp 70-78.
Micropropagation and anticancer activity of methanolic extract of Plumbago auriculata Lam
/ G Lakshmanan, Bupesh Giri, A Vignesh, Kandasamy Murugesan / Jan 2016
Investigation of the antiobesity and antioxidant properties of wild Plumbago europaea and Plumbago auriculata from North Palestine / Chemical and Biological Technologies in Agriculture, Dec 2016; 3(31)
Plumbago auriculata leaf extract-mediated AgNPs and its activities as antioxidant, anti-TB and dye degrading agents / Neeraj Jaryal & Harpreet Kaur / Journal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition, Vol 28, Issue 16 (2017)
New anthocyanidin and anthocyanin pigments from blue plumbago.  / Irene Skaar, Monica Jordheim, Robert Byamukama, Angella Mbabazi, Sileshi G Wubshet, Bernard Kiremire, Oyvind M Andersen / J. Agric. Food Chem, 2012 Feb 15; 60(6): pp 1510-5. / doi: 10.1021/jf2048004.
Plumbagin Induces Apoptosis in Her2-Overexpressing Breast Cancer Cells through the Mitochondrial-Mediated Pathway / Anna Kawiak, Joanna Zawacka-Pankau and Ewa Lojkowska / J. Nat. Prod., 2012, 75 (4), pp 747–751 / DOI10.1021/np3000409

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