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Family Agavaceae
Agave sisalana Perrine


Scientific names  Common names
Agave amaniensis Trel. & Nowell Dali 
Agave rigida var. sisalana (Perrine) Engelm. Sisal (Tag.. Engl.)
Agave segurae D.Guillot & P.Van der Meer Hemp plant (Engl.) 
Agave sisalana Perrine Sisal hemp (Engl.) 
Agave sisalana var. armata Trel.  
Agave sisalana Perrine is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
INDIA: Kekti.
ITALIAN: Agave sisalana.
LUGANDA: Kigoogwa.
POLSKI: Sigawa sizalowa, Sizal.

Sisal is a succulent perennial shrub growing up to 2 meters high with leaves extending from basal rosette, with stems that are 1 meter long. Leaves are straight, rigid, and sword-like, narrow lanceolate, up to 50 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide, gray green to green, with a black brown terminal spine. Branched inflorescences forms atop a flower stalk, with yellowish green flowers up to 7 centimeters wide. Fruit is an oblong capsule with black seeds.

- Grown in gardens.
- Landscaping cultivation.

• Phytochemical studies have yielded sterols, steroidal sapogenins, steroidal alkaloids and alkaloidal amines.
• Phytochemical screening of methanol and aqueous extracts yielded secondary metabolites which included saponins, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, steroids, tannins, and flavonoids. (see study below) (11)
• Study has isolated three new steroidal saponins: dongnosides C, D and E from the dried fermented residues of leaf juices.
• Barbourgenin is a steroidal sapogenin from the leaves
Hecogenin, a saponin of A. sisalana, has been transformed to cortisone. Hecogenin is most abundant in the leaves of old plant. Hecogenin and ticogenin have been isolated from leaf juice. Also, three steroidal sapogenins dognosides C, D, and E have been isolated and characterized from dried fermented residues of leaf juice. Further studies have yielded two new additional major steroid saponins named dongnoside B and A. (8)

Studies have suggested immunomodulatory, uterine muscle stimulating, antibacterial, antifungal, antifertility, nickel adsorbent, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic properties.

Parts utilized
Roots. latex.

- No reported folkloric use in the Philippines.
- In West Africa, lightly heated pounded roots used for intercostal pain; also used for nephralgia.

- In Kenya, fibers used as bandage.
- Used to treat high blood pressure; stomach and intestinal infections.
- In the Bahamas, salted decoction of central bud is used for jaundice.
- The Zay people of Ethiopia use the roots of A. sisalana orally for the treatment of blackleg. (
- Sap used as antiseptic and binding agent for powders; gum used for toothache; roots used as diaphoretic and diuretic and for treatment of syphilis. (
- In
India, the Kokani tribals of Nasik district of Maharashtra use the plant for wound healing: root extract is applied on old wounds and root water extract drunk. (9)
- In
Eritrean fold medicine, latex used for diarrhea and ear infection (12)
- Ethnoveterinary: In East Aftrica, decoction of roots of Agave sisalana mixed with Aloe leaves.
In Kenya, herbal combination with M pyriflora roots and Aloe sp. leaves used for fowl pox.
- Rope: Yields a stiff fiber for making twine, rope and dartboards. Sisal ropes are widely used for marine, agricultural, shipping and general industrial use.
- Soap: Contains a saponin useful for soap making.
• Fodder: Study showed potential as feed for sheep. (see study below)

Biologic Activities / Intestinal / Uterine Muscle Stimulant: Pharmacologic study showed that the juice obtained from A sisalana leaves stimulate intestinal and uterine musculature, lowers blood pressure, and produces abortion in pregnant animals.
Immunomodulatory / Flavones / Homoisoflavonoids: Study isolated three known flavones and seven homoisoflavonones from the methanolic extract of A sisalana. Three compounds significantly inhibited the production of IL-2 and IFN-g in activated PBMC in a concentration-dependent manner.
Antifertility Effects: Dinordin and anordin from the steroids of A sisalana have been used for antifertility effects.
Hecogenin (IV): Hecogenin, a saponin from A sisalana has been used in the manufacture of cortisone.
Antibacterial: Study of crude methanolic extract has shown antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus.
Antifungal: Study of hydroalcoholic extract obtained from leaves and sisal waste showed significant inhibition of Candida albicans.
• Immunomodulatory Activity: Flavonoids (+/-)-3,9-dihydroeucomine, dihydrobonducellin and 5,7, dihydroxy-3-(4'-hydroxybenzyl)-4-chromanone exhibited inhibitory effects on human peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PHMC) proliferation activated by PHA and all compounds significantly inhibited production of IL-2 and IUFN-y. (
• Nickel Adsorbent: Study reports on the viability of Sisal fiber from leaves as adsorbent for removal of nickel from aqueous solution. Adsorption process was cheap and effective. Thermodynamic studies showed the adsorption to be exothermic and kinetics showed the adsorption phenomenon was second order. (
• Antimicrobial: Study evaluated methanol and aqueous extracts of A. sisalana plant for phytochemical properties and antimicrobial activities against bacterial and fungal isolates. The MBC (minimum bactericidal concentration) of both extracts ranged between 20-4- mg/ml. MICs started at 20 mg/ml. At concentration of 40 mg/ml, Salmonella typhi were killed by both extracts and E. coli and S. pyogenes were killed by the aqueous extracts. (see constituents above) (
• Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of Agave sisalana hexanic fraction in classic models of inflammation and pain in mice. Acute inflammatory properties were evaluated using xylene ear edema, hind paw edema, and pleurisy while chronic activity used granuloma cotton pellet test. Antinociceptive potential was evaluated using chemical (acetic acid) and thermal (tail-flick and hot plate test) models of pain. Test results showed anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. (
• Anthelmintic / Sisal Waste: Study evaluated the in vivo anthelmintic activity of an aqueous extract from sisal waste (Agave sisalane: AESW) against gastrointestinal nematodes (GINs) in goats. Sisal juice exhibited more than 93% reduction in larval count of genus Haemonchus spp in vitro and in vivo. Sisal juice reduced 4th and 5th stage larvae of Haemonchus Oesophagostomum and Trichostrongylus coluybriformis in goats. The extract had low efficacy for the parasitic stages and was moderately effective against eggs and free-living stages of the parasite. Furthermore, treatment did not cause toxicity to goats.  (
• Potential as Fodder: Study evaluated the processing of sisal pulp into animal feed using sun drying and a feeding trial to evaluate sun dried sisal pulp as a ruminant feed resource in Eritrea. Sisal pulp showed a crude protein of 7.3%, crude fiber of 15.2%, and an NFE of 59.6%, compared to barley straw at 5.2%, 40.2%, and 44.7%, respectively. Voluntary consumption index and average daily weight gains were measured. Study concludes that dried sisal pulp was a good feed for sheep, whose performance improved when it was used to replace barley straw in their feed. (


Updated Aug 2019

IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Agave sisalana / Enrico Banfi / click on image to go to source page / Luirig.AlterVista
IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Agave sisalana / Vito Buono / click on image to go to source page / Liurig.AlterVista

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Agave sisalana / Prelude Medicinal Plants Database
Biotechnological intervention of Agave sisalana: Aunique fiber yielding plant with medicinal property / Mousumi Debnath et al / Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 4(3), pp. 177-187, 4 February, 2010
Agave sisalana / Sigma-Aldrich / Plant Profiler
Isolation and Immunomodulatory Effect of Homoisoflavones and Flavones from Agave sisalana Perrine ex Engelm / Pi Yu Chen et al / Molecules 2009, 14, 1789-1795; doi:10.3390/molecules14051789
Antimicrobial activity of Agave sisalana / Jener D G Santos et al / African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 8 (22), pp. 6181-6184, 16 November, 2009
Ethnoveterinary medicine against poultry diseases in African villages
/ E F Gueye / World’s Poultry Science Journal, Vol. 55, June 1999

Agave sisalana / Synonyms / The Plant List
Agave sisalana: A Plant with High Chemical Diversity and Medicinal Importance / Y C Tripathi, Nishat Anjum, Devesh Tewari / World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 2014; 8(8)
Medicinal plants used by Kokani tribals of Nasik district Maharashtra to cure cuts and wounds / Sachin D Kuvar and U C Bapat / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Jan 2010; 9(1): pp 114-115
Surface Modified Agave sisalana as an Adsorbent for the Removal of Nickel from Aqueous Solutions-Kinetics and Equilibrium Studies / Padmini E, Helen Kalavathy M, and Lima Rose Miranda / Carbon Lett3ers, June 2008; 9(2): pp 97-104
/ Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica-Drug Research, 2011; Vol. 68 No. 4: pp 535-539
Survey of Some Common Medicinal Plants Used in Eritrean Folk Medicine
/ Yemane B, Medhanie G, and Surender Reddy K / American Journal of Ethnomedicine, 2017; 4(2)
Applications of the hexanic fraction of Agave sisalana Perrine ex Engelm (Asparagaceae): control of inflammation and pain screening / Ricardo José Dunder, Anderson Luiz-Ferreira, Ana Cristina Alves de Almeida, Felipe Meira de-Faria, Christiane Takayama, Eduardo Augusto Rabelo Socca, Marcos José Salvador, Gláucia Coelho Mello, Catarina dos Santos, Pedro de Oliva-Neto, Alba Regina Monteiro Souza-Brito / Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, May 2013; 108(3): pp 263-271
In vivo anthelmintic activity of aqueous extract from sisal waste (Agave sislana Perr.) against gastrointestina nematodes in goats / M. B. Botura, G. D. Silva, et al / Veterinary Parsitology, 19 April 2011; 177(1-2): pp 104-110 / https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.11.039

Production of xanthum gum from sisal juice and glycerol / 31st Symposium of Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, May 3-6, 2009
Evaluation of sun dried sisal pulp (Agave sisalana Perrine) as feed for sheep in Eritrea / D Y Gebremariam and D H Machin / Livestock Research for Rural Development, 2008; 20(11)

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. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

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