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Family Zingiberaceae
Alpinia elegans (C.Presl) K.Schum

Scientific names Common names
Alpinia elegans K. Schum. Bagombon (Tag.)
Alpinia gigantea Fern.-Vill. Bagongbong (Tag.)
Alpinia gracilis (Blanco) Rolfe Katkatan (Bis.)
Hellenia gracilis (Blanco) Hausskn. Katotang (Bis.)
Kolowratia elegans C.Presl Salbak (Tag.)
Languas elegans (C.Presl) Burkill Tagbak (Tag.)
Renealmia gracilis Blanco Tugbak (Tag.)
Kolowratia elegans C.Presl is a synonym of Alpinia elegans (C.Presl) K.Schum The Plant List
Alpinia elegans (C.Presl) K.Schum. is an accepted name The Plant List

Gen info
- Zingiberaceae, also referred to as the gingers, the largest family in the order Zingiberales with 56 genera and over 1,500 species, widely distributed in the tropics, especially in Southeast Asia. The Philippines has about 108 species in 16 genera. (7)

Tagbak is a stout herbaceous plant, growing to a height of 2 to 4 meters, with stout rootstocks. Stems are swollen at the base, and leafy throughout. Leaves are leathery, spreading or reflexed, oblong-ovate to lanceolate, 25 to 60 centimeters long, 5 to 20 centimeters wide, with a pointed tip. Petioles are short and stout. Inflorescence is about 30 centimeters long, the base of the peduncle having oblong-lanceolate, chartaceous, 8 to 12 centimeters long bracts. The branches are about 8, scattered, spreading, stout, about 5 centimeters long, covered with persistent bracts, each branch bearing several to many flowers, opening one at a time. Calyx is about 4 centimeters long. Corolla is pale straw-colored, about 7 centimeters long, with the tube cylindric, and the upper lobe about 4 centimeters long, concave, and erect, while the other two are as long but are reflexed and oblong-ovate. Lip is about as long as the corolla-lobes, and spreading. Capsule is ellipsoid, woody and 3 to 4 centimeters long, split into 3 valves and crowned by a persistent calyx.

- In thickets along streams, at low and medium altitudes in
Apayao, Amburayan, Lepanto, Nueva Viscaya, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, and Sorsogon Provinces in Luzon; in Polilio; in Mindanao; and Leyte.
- Endemic species.

- A study for repellent constituents yielded
α-pinene, α-terpinene, ß-phellandrene, linalool, ß-pinene, p-cymene, camphene, 1,8,cineole, and citronellol. (see study below) (4)
- An ethanol extract of leaves yielded flavonoids, steroids, saponins, tannins, alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides, with absence of anthraquinone. (see study below) (7)

- Studies suggest repellent, antimicrobial, free radical scavenging properties.

Parts utilized
Rhizomes, leaves, stems.

- Fruit rind is edible, a little woody in texture. (3)
- Decoction of rhizomes used for hemoptysis.
- Pounded leaves, mixed with a little salt rubbed on paralyzed extremities.
- Juice from macerated young stems used for urticaria.

- Reported use for musculoskeletal diseases in the Surigao del Sur mountain range. (5)
- Used for musculoskeletal diseases, migraines, stomachaches, and as anti-relapse treatment for women. (7)
- Pounded leaves mixed with a little salt rubbed on paralyzed extremities. (7)

Antimicrobial: Studies on the antimicrobial properties of Zingiber purpureum Rosc. and Kolowratia elegans Presl. (Family Zingiberaceae) (1)
Pacovatinins A-C:: Study isolated three new labdane diterpenoids, pacovatinins A-C from the seeds of the Brazilian plant Renealmia exaltata.
Repellent: Study investigated the mechanism for reduced green leaf hopper population in rice fields with tagbak (Alpinia elegans). Results showed N. virescens, an important vector of tungro, was repelled by the odors released from the leaf discs of tagbak. The repellent chemicals were the green leafhopper were α-pinene, α-terpinene, ß-phellandrene, linalool, ß-pinene, p-cymene, camphene, 1,8,cineole, and citronellol. Results suggest tagbak can be used to reduce dependence of synthetic insecticides, an alternative pest management strategy in organic and low-input rice production. (4)
• Mosquito Repellent
/ Leaves: Study evaluated the efficacy of a crude extract of leaves of Alpinia elegans against Aedes aegypti. (6)
• Free Radical Scavenging Effects / Leaves: Study evaluated an ethanol extract of leaves for in vitro antioxidant activity using DPPH antioxidant assay. Results showed high radical scavenging activity with percent DPPH inhibition of 95.11 ± 1.00 at 500 µg/ml. (see constituents above) (7)
• Antipneumonic Effect / Essential Oil / Leaves: Study evaluated the essential oil isolated from six Philippine plant species for in vitro growth inhibitory effect against pneumonia causing bacteria. Alpinia elegans and A. cumingii showed the most effective antibacterial potential against H. influenza with MIC of 256 µg/ml. GC-MS analysis showed caryophyllene epoxide to be the major leaf oil component of A. elegans. (8)
Vapor Effect on Bioassays: Study of ethanol showed a broad spectrum of biological effects. Due to its volatility, conventional microplate-based bioassays can be significantly affected  by the vapors. Study evaluated the antimicrobial, antioxidant and cytotoxic activities of three essential oils (Alpinia elegans, Cinnamomum iners, and Xanthostemon verdugonianus) one supercritical CO2 extract (Nigella sativa), and four plant-derived compounds (capsaicin,caryophyllene oxide, 8-hydroxyquinoline and thymoquinone). Results showed vapor transition to adjoining wells caused false-positive results of performed bioassays. (9)


Updated February 2022 / October 2021 / April 2017 / July 2015

Photos / © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Studies on the antimicrobial properties of Zingiber purpureum Rosc. and Kolowratia elegans Presl. (Family Zingiberaceae)
/ Oliveros, M.B. , Bruce, B.E. (Philippines Univ. Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines / Plant physiology and biochemistry, v. 42(1-4)L pp 267-287, Jan-Dec 1991
Alpinia elegans / Synonyms / The Plant List
Native wild edible : Alpinia elegans / Balinghasai Farms
Behavioral and Olfactory Responses of Rice Green Leaf Hopper, Nephottetix virescens (Distant) to Volatile Cues from Tagbak (Alpinia elegans (C. Presl) K. Schum) / Susan May F. Calumpang, Gideon Aries S. Burgonio, Marcela M. Navasero and Mario V. Navasero / Philippine Journal of Science, 142 (2): 167-173, December 2013
A Survey of Ethnomedicinal Plants in Surigao Del Sur Mountain Range, Philippines / Freddie A. Blasco *, Gerard Q. De Guzman and Grecebio Jonathan D. Alejandro / INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PURE & APPLIED BIOSCIENCE
Efficacy of the Mosquito Repellent Spray of the Crude Extract from the Leaves of Alpinia elegans (Tagbak) against Aedes aegypti / Padilla, G., Quetua, F., Tapaoan, S., Tropicales, K., Yambao, J / Our Lady of Fatima University (The study won 1st place in the 2016 DOST-PCHRD-Gruppo Medica Award for Oustanding Undergraduate Thesis in Herbal Medicine)
Free radical scavenging effects of the Philippine endemic medicinal plant Alpinia elegans (Zingiberaceae) / M A K Naive, J A G P Dalisay, E P T Maglangit, G C Cafe, O M Nuñeza / Gardens' Bulletin Singapore, 2019; 71(2): pp 435-444 / DOI: 10.26492/gbs71(2).2019-12
Evaluation of Antipneumonic Effect of Philippine Essential Oils Using Broth Microdilution Volatiilization Method nad Their Lung Fibroblasts Toxicity / Marketa Houdkova, Ivo Doskosil, Klara Urbanova et al / Natural Product Commuunications, 2018 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1934578X1801300834
Vapors of Volatile Plant-Derived Products Significantly Affect the Results of Antimicrobial, Antioxidative and Cytotoxicity Microplate-Based Assays / Marketa Houdkova, Ladislav Kokoska et al / Molecules, Dec 2020; 25(24) / DOI: 10.3390/molecules25246004 / PMID: 33353127

DOI: 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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