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Family Gentianaceae
Cyrtophyllum fragrans (Roxb.) DC.
Xiang hui li

Scientific names Common names
Cyrtophyllum fragrans (Roxb.) DC. Dolo (Tagbanua)
Cyrtophyllum peregrinum Reinw. Urung (Philippine)
Fagraea fragrans Roxb. Susulin (Tag.)
Fagraea peregrina (Reinw.) Blume Tapotasa (Tag.)
Fagraea ridleyi Gand. Burma yellow heart (Engl.)
Willughbeia fragrans (Roxb.) Spreng. Ironwood (Engl.)
Cyrtophyllum fragrans (Roxb.) DC. is accepted. KEW: Plants of the World Online
Note: Some plant compilations provide very different scientific names for Aidia racemsa and Cyrtophyllum fragrans, along with a confusing use of similar common names (Dolo, Susulin) for both A. racemosa and C. fragrans (Fagraea fragrans).
Note: For now, I am using Susulin as common name for Aidia racemosa and Urung for Cyrtophyllum fragrans. Dolo is a local name shared by both species.

Other vernacular names
CAMBODIA: Tatraou, Ta trao.
FIJI: Buabua.
INDONESIA: Ki badak, Kayu tammusu, Ambinaton.
LAOS: Man pa.
MALAYSIA: Tembusu, Tembusu hutan, Pokok tembusu padang, Tembusu tembaga, Temasuk.
MYANMAR: Anan, Ahnyim, Anama.
THAILAND: Kankrao, Man pla, Mun pla, Thamsao.
VIETNAM: Trai, Tatrao.

Gen info
- Cyrtophyllum is a genus of tropical Asian tree species i the family Gentianaceae and the tribe of Potalieae. Species were previously placed in the genus Fagraea. Plants of the World Online currently lists five species: C. caudatum, C. fragrans, C. giganteum, C. lancelatum, C. minutiflorum.  (2)
- In Thailand, it is the provincial tree of Surin Province and the university tree of Ubonratchathani. It is pictured on the Singaporean five-dollar bill. (4)
- Etymology: The genus name Fagraea honors the Swedish naturalist Jonas Theodor Fagraeus (1729-1797). The species epithet fragrans is Latin, meaning perfumed or fragrant, referring to the flowers. (10)

Cyrtophyllum fragrans is a tree up to 30 m tall, growing irregularly shaped, with deeply fissured dark bark, and with buttress roots up to 2.5 m tall. Branches are distinctive, extending outwards and upwards like fingers. Leaves are opposite, oval-shaped, light green; stalked leaves have thinly leathery to leathery leaf blades that are usually elliptic, distinctly tipped, and 5–13 by 2–5.5 cm.. Flowers are bisexual in 4–12 cm wide flowering clusters (inflorescence) that develop at the leaf axils; cream-white turning yellow, fragrant, and about 2 cm across. Fruits are orange or red, broadly ellipsoid, bitter tasting, containing numerous tiny seeds of less than 1 mm. (5)

Fagraea fragrans is a medium-sized or occasionally large tree up to 25(-55) m tall. Bole measures up to 135(-250) cm in diameter, occasionally fluted or with buttresses up to 2.5 m high. Bark surface is deeply irregularly fissured and dark brown while the inner bark is brown to yellow. Leaves are oblong-Iance-shaped to obovate-oblong, measuring 4-15 cm x 1.5-6 cm and usually with short to long, broadly acuminate apex; secondary veins are slightly prominent to indistinct below, 1-2.5 cm long petiole while the stipules are rounded and partly free from the petiole. Inflorescence is axillary while the pedicel and bracteoles are at or below the middle. Flowers are fragrant, with narrowly funnel-shaped petal tube, measuring 0.7-2.3 cm long, with headed stigma and faintly 2-lobed. Fruit is 0.7-1 cm long, broadly ellipsoid and orange or red. (GLOBinMED) (8)

- Native to the Philippines.
- Grows primarily in the wet tropical biome.
- Also native to Andaman Is., Borneo, Cambodia, Jawa, Laos, Malaya, Maluku, Myanmar, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam.

- GC-MS study of essential oil of flowers identified 118 volatile constituents, dominated by 3-octadecyne, catalponone, and elemicin. A dichloromethane extract of flowers yielded ß-bisabolenol, occidol, and eugenol as major constituents. A hexane extract showed 3-octadecyne, catalponone, and sempervirol as major components while the methanol extract yielded grandiflorene, himachalol and occidol as dominant components. (see study below) (7)
- Study isolated a dimeric pyridine alkaloid, oliveramine, from diethyl ether extracts
from Fagraea fragrans barks. (9)
Study of stem bark of Fagraea fragrans isolated seven new compounds constituted by three secoiridoids (13), two isocoumarins (4 and 5), an iridoid (6), and an aromatic derivative (7) in addition to 24 known compounds. (see study below) (12)
- Study of roots and flowers isolated a new secoiridoid glycoside, 3'-O-p-trans-coumaroylsweroside (1), together with 29 compounds (2-30). (see study below) (13)
- Study of methanol crude extract from stem bark isolated 14 compounds: Benzoic acid, E-stilbene, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethylbenzealdehyde, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxybenzaldehyde, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxybenzyl alcohol, 4-hydroxy-2-methoxycinnamaldehyde, 4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxycinnamaldehyde, palmitic acid, methyl 9,12-octadecadienoate, linoleic acid, stearic acid, stigmastan-3,5,22-triene, stigmasterol, and ß-sitosterol. (14)
- Study of fruits identified three alkaloids: gentialutine, gentianine, and isaindigotone. (15)
- Study of crude methylene chloride extract from stem bark yielded four aromatic derivatives, (2E)-nonacosyl ester (1), cinnamaldehyde (2), vanillin (3) and syringaldehyde (4). (19)
- Study of bark and leaves of F. fragrans isolated a secoiridoid aglycone, fagraldehyde (1), together with several known secoiridoids, gentiopicroside (2), sweroside (3), and swertiamarin (4). (see study below)   (20)
- Study of stem bark isolated a new lignan, fagraenolide (1), along with 14 known compounds. ß-boswelic acid (4), gentiogenl (5), 3-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-acrylic acid octacosyl ester (7) and pinoresinol (14) were isolated from the plant for the first time. (21)

- Studies have suggested antibacterial, antioxidant, antimycobacterial, anticancer, antiplasmodial properties.

Parts used
Bark, leaves, roots.


- Fruits are bitter tasting, eaten by Pteropus fruit bats.

- Decoction of bark used as febrifuge in malaria.
- Decoction of twigs and leaves used to control dysentery and severe diarrhea.
- The Kadazan treat pancreatitis and gastric pains by applying pounded leaves and bark over the lesion and drinking the decoction at the same time. Bark used for treatment of jaundice. Decoction of bark used in neonatal jaundice. Decoction of leaves, bark, or root used for treatment of malaria. Decoction of F. fragrans together with roots of Amaranthus sp. used to ease menstrual flow. Decoction of bark used as febrifuge. (8)
- The Daya people of South Sumatra use leaves of Cystophyllum fragrans to treat diabetes mellitus. (1
- Used in treatment of malaria, asthma, cough, breathing difficulties, anemia, hemorrhoids.
- Wood: Main source of tembusu timber. Heartwood is light yellowish brown. Wood is medium weight, very hard and durable, and can last over a hundred years; resistant to termites and weevils. Used to make chopping boards, flooring, posts and piles, railway sleepers, barrels, furnitures, doors, and wood carvings.
Yields first-class turnery timber. (4)
- Fuel: Provides high quality fuel wood and charcoal.
- Latex: Latex under the skin of fruits used as adhesive.

Antibacterial / Antioxidant / Essential Oil / Flowers:
Study evaluated the essential oil of flowers for phytoconstituents and antibacterial activity. The essential oil showed to be a remarkable bactericide. Dichloromethane, hexane, and methanol extracts showed MICs ranging from 125 to 1000 µg/ml against  gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. The EO also showed superior antioxidant activity (IC50 of 35.32 µg/ml) compared to extracts (IC50s 72.69-154.99 µg/ml) by DPPH radical scavenging assay. (see constituents above) (7)
From Fagraea to Cystophyllum: A molecular phylogenetic study reported that Cystophyllum Reinw., one of several distinct lineages among the Fagraea complex, is the correct genus to which fives species of South East Asian trees should be assigned, including widespread F. fragrans. (6)
Antimycobacterial / Combination with Erythromycin / Stem Bark: Study of stem bark isolated seven new compounds: three secoiridoids, two isocoumarins, an iridoid, and an aromatic derivative in addition to 24 known compounds. 5-Formylisochromen-1-one (4), (-)-mellein (8), and swermacrolactone C (9) exhibited potent antimycobacterial activities against Mycobacterium smegmatis when combined with antibiotic erythromycin. (12)
Anticancer / Roots and Flowers: Study of roots and flowers isolated a new secoiridoid glycoside, 3'-O-p-trans-coumaroylsweroside (1), together with 29 compounds (2-30). Compounds 2, 3, 6, 11, and 13-15 showed weak to moderate cytotoxicity against cholangiocarcinoma cancer cell lines (KU-213, KKU-055, and KKU-214). (13)
Herbal Cosmetic Ingredients / Flowers: Study evaluated F. fragrans fruits as potential source of material for herbal cosmetic formulations. Study identified 3.1% ursolic acid and its isomeric oleanolic acid and a number of other compounds such as alkaloid, flavonoid, ginsenoside, and tannin-trimer as important bioactive cosmetic ingredient having potential benefits for skin and other body parts. (16)
Derivatization of Ursolic Acid and Oleanolic Acids / Anticancer Activity / Fruits: Study sought to derivative the inseperable ethyl ursolate 3-ethyl ether and evaluate their anticancer activity against P-388 murine leukemia cells. Results are 71% of the derivatives have been successfully made from the inseperable ursolic acids by in situ reaction. The anticancer activity of ethyl ursolate 3-ethyl ether against P-388 murine leukemia cells showed IC50 of 31.36 µg/ml, which is twofold (1.7) more potent than mother compounds, the inseperable ursolic acids with IC50 of 53.5 µg/mL. (17)
Cytotoxicity on MCF-7 Mammary Cancer Cell Lines: Study evaluated 21 extracts of Thai medicinal plants used in rejuvenating  medicine for cytotoxic and estrogenic activity on MCF-7 mammary cancer cells. Fagraea fragrans exhibited lowest (0.00%) cell growth. (18)
Fagraldehyde / Weak Antiplasmodial / Bark and Leaves: Study of bark and leaves isolated a secoiridoid aglycone, fagraldehyde (1), together with several known secoiridoids. Fagraldehyde was weakly active in vitro against Plasmodium falcifarum (see constituents above) (20)
Antioxidant / Leaves: Study evaluated F. fragrans for phytoconstituents and antioxidant activity by DPPH assay. Results showed the active antioxidant fractions were n-hexane and ethyl acetate fractions. Antioxidant compounds isolated were terpenes (N1, N2, N4, E8), phenols (N5), and flavonoids (E11). Results showed antioxidant bioactive compounds in tembesu leaf have potential to be developed into standardized herbs and pharmaceuticals. (22)
Anti-Inflammatory / Leaves: Study evaluated different fractions of F. fragrans for inhibition of Nitric Oxide (NO) overproduction on LPS-stimulated murine macrophages. The best anti-inflammatory potency (10 µg/ml=80% inhibition) was provided by a fraction from the leaf polar extract. (23)


January 2023

                                                 PHOTOS / ILLUSTRATIONS
IMAGE SOURCE: Photograph: Fagraea fragrans / 阿橋 HQ  / CC by SA 2.0 / click on image to go to source page / Wikipedia

OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Tembusu tree /  / Mokkie / CC by SA 3.0 Unported / click on image to go to source page / Wikimedia Commons

OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Photo: Cyrtophyllum fragrans -- fruiting twigs / Cerlin Ng / CC by NC SA 2.0 Unported / click on image to go to source page / flickr

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Cyrtophyllum fragrans / KEW: Plants of the World Online

Cyrtophyllum / Wikipedia
Fagraea fragrans / PROSE: Pl@ntUse
Tembusu / Wikipedia
Cysstophyllum fragrans / National Parks: FLORA & FAUNA WEB
Studies in Malesian Gentianaceae III: Cyrtophyllum reapplied to the Fagraea fragrans alliance
/ K M Wong, Sugumaran Manickam / Gardens' Bulletin Singapore, 2012; 64(2): pp 497-510
Antibacterial Activity and Chemical Composition of Essential Oil and Various Extracts of Fagraea fragrans Roxb. Flowers / Patcharee Pripdeevech, Jarupux Saansoomchai / Chiang Mai J Sci., 2013; 40(2): pp 214-223
Fagraea fragrans Roxb. / GLOBinMED
Oliveramine: An Isolated Alkaloid from Fagraea fragrans (Tembesu) Bark / Dasril Basir, Jefri Liasta, Annisa Amelia et al / Jurnal Kimia Sains & Aplikasi (Journal of Scientific & Applied Chemistry), 2022; 25(7): pp 264-269 / DOI: 10.14710/jksa.25.7.264-269
Fagraea fragrans / Pietro Puccio, Mario Beltramini / Monaco Nature Encyclopedia
Research About Cyrtophyllum fragrans for Metabolic Disease / Bunga Anggreini Sari
Constituents of Fagraea fragrans with Antimycobacterial Activity in Combination with Erythromycin / Suwaibah Madmanang, Naseebah Cheyeng, Suda Chakthong et al / J Nat Prod., 2016; 79(4): pp 767-774 / DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00691
A new secoiridoid glycoside and other constituents from the roots and flowers of Fagraea fragrans Roxb. (Gentianaceae) / Watchara Sangsopha, Ratsami Lekphrom, Florian T Schevenels et al / Natural Product Research, 2021; 35(21): pp 3908-3917 / DOI: 10.1080/14786419.2020.1749611
Phytochemical Characterization of Extracts from Fagraea fragrans and Juglans regia by GC-MS Analysis / Manoharan Karuppiah Pillai, David James Young / Fine Chemical Engineering, 2022; 3(1) /
DOI: 10.37256/fce.3120221334
Alkaloids of Fagraea fragrans (Tembesu) Fruits / Dasril Basir, Miksusanti Miksusanti , Dian Dwita Maizur, Susilawati Susilawati / IJFAC: Indonesian Journal of Fundamental and Applied Chemistry, 2021; 6(3) / pISSN: 2540-9395 / eISSN: 2540-9409
Secondary metabolite profile of Fagraea fragrans fruits identified with LCMS/MS: The fruits for herbal cosmetic / D Basir, Harmida, Julinar / AIP Conference Proceedings 2243, 020004 (2020) /
DOI: 10.1063/5.0001088
Derivatization of Inseperable Ursolic and Oleanolic Acids of Fagraea fragrans Fruits to Enhance their Anticancer Activity / Dasril Basir, Miksusanti Miksusanti, Susilawati Susilawati / Molekul, 2022; 17(2) /
DOI: 10.20884/1.jm.2022.17.2.5425
Cytotoxic and estrogenic activity of the Thai rejuvenating medicinal plants on MCF-7 mammary cancer cell / R Panriansaen, W Cherdshewasart / Planta Med 2009; 75 / DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1234601
Chemical Constituents from the Stem Bark of Fagraea fragrans Roxb. / Suwaibah Madmanang, Suda Chakthong
Fagraldehyde, a Secoiridoid Isolated from Fagraeafragrans / Marie-Caroline Jonville, Evelyne Ollivier et al / Journal of Natural Products, 2008; 71(12): pp 2038-2040 / DOI: 10.1021/np800291d

A new lignan from the stem bark of Fagraea fragrans Roxb
/ Suthida Rattanaburi, Kaodeeya Kaikaew, Wilawan Mahabusarakamb et al / Natural Products Research, 2022; 36(7): pp 1851-1856 /
DOI: 10.1080/14786419.2020.1821020
Antioxidant activity of tembesu (Fagraea fragrans Roxb.) leaf / Budi Eko Wahyudi, Salni Salni, Arum Setiawan /  Biovalentia: Biological Research Journal, 2022; 8(2) /
DOI: 10.24233/biov.8.2.2022.250 / eISSN: 2477-1392
Anti-Inflammatory potency of the traditionally used antimalarial plant Fagraea fragrans / M Jonville, B Bahdikian, E Ollivier, L Angenot, M Frederich, J Legault / Planta Med 2010; 76 /
DOI: 10.1055/s0030-1264210

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)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

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