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Family Asclepiadacea
Asclepias curassavica Linn.

Ma li jin

Scientific names Common names
Asclepias aurantiaca Salisb.             [Illegitimate] Anibung (Bon.)
Asclepias bicolor Moench                 [Illegitimate] Balihig (If.)
Asclepias cubensis Wender. Illegitimate] (Tag.)
Asclepias curassavica Linn. Bulak-bulakan (Tag.)
Asclepias margaritacea Hoffmans. ex Schult. Bulak-damo (Tag.)
Asclepias nivea var. curassavica (L.) Kuntze Bulak-kastila (Tag.)
  Bukitkit (Tag.)
  Kapos de francia (Pang.)
  Koronitas (Bik.)
  Daldal (Iv.)
  Kalalauan (Tag.)
  Kambang-datu (Sub.)
  Kamantiging ligau (Tag.)
  Kapol-kapol (Tag.)
  Ligurias (P. Bis.)
  Pasanglai (Bon.)
  Punganen (Iv.)
  Sabsabrong (Ilk.)
  Curacao milkweed (Engl.)
  Blood flower (Engl.)
  Bloodwort (Engl.)
  Cottonbush (Engl.)
  False ipecac (Engl.)
  Milky cottonbush (Engl.)
  Red butterflies milkweed (Engl.)
  Red cotton (Engl.)
  Red-head cotton bush (Engl.)
  Tropical milkweed (Engl.)
  Wild ipecacuanha (Engl.)
Bulak-bulakan is a shared common name of (1) Merremia peltata, bulakan (2) Thespesia lampas, common mallow, and (3) Asclepias curassavica, bulak-damo
Asclepias curassavica L. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
ARABIC: Marjan, Zahrat el Dam.
BANGLADESH: Si gain da, Kakturi, Ban kapas.
BRAZIL: Algodao-de-seda, Camara-bravo, Capitao-de-sala, Erva de rato.
CHINESE: Fang cao hua, Jin feng hua, Yang jiao li, Huang hua zi, Ma li chin, Tang mian, Shan tao hua.
FRENCH: Ipeca sauvsage.
GERMAN: Curacao seidenpflanze, Indianeer-seidenpflanze.
HAWAII: Laulele, Pua anuhe
INDIA: Kakatundi, Kaura-dodi.
INDONESIA: Kapas Cinde; Mas Sekar.
ITALIAN: Ipecauana delle antille, Pianta della seta a fiori rossi.
MALAYSIA: Bunga emas.
MEXICO: Quiebra muelas.
NEPALESE: Khursani kose phool.
NETHERLANDS: Frederiksbloem.
PORTUGUESE: Oficail-da-sala
SPANISH: Amores de los casados, Algondocillo, Corcalito, Flor de sangre, Yuquillo, Mal casada Niño muerto, Herba de raton, Plantanillo.
THAI: Fai duean haa, Mai cheen, Thian daeng.
TONGAN: Fisi puna, Lou pepe, Tulanga pepe, Tuula pepe, Vave kona.
VIETNAM: Bong tai, Ngo thi.

Bulak-damo is an erect weed, simple or slightly branched, smooth, perennial herb 40 to 60 centimeters in height. Leaves are opposite, lanceolate, or oblong-lanceolate, 7 to 13 centimeters in length, and pointed at both ends. Inflorescences are umbrella-shaped, occurring in the axils of the leaves or terminating the branches. Flowers are orange-red, 1.2 to 1.4 centimeters in length. Sepals are linear and green. Corolla lobes are reflexed, oblong, about 8 millimeters in length. Fruit is a follicle, narrow and pointed on both ends, lanceolate, 6 to 8 centimeters in length, 1 to 1.3 centimeters in diameter at the middle. Seeds are numerous, flat and attached to numerous, long, silky hairs.

- Throughout the Philippines in settled areas, in open waste places, and in about settlements, ascending to at least 1,500 meters.
- Pantropic weed of American origin.

- Phytochemical screening has yielded tannin, phenol, terpenoids, xanthoprotein, among others.
- Plant contains a glucoside, asclepiadin. The physiological action of unaltered asclepiadin was reported to resemble emetin.

- Roots reported to contain vincetoxin, resembling emetine in its action.
- Root contains an active principle, curassavine, identical in therapeutical value to digitalin.
- Study yields a cardenolide glycosides, alpha asclepiadin and beta asclepiadin; beta sitosterol ; seed oil (53% linoleic acid, 1% lenolenic acid).
- Phytochemical screening of leaf and root extracts yielded carboxylic acids, fixed oils, flavonoids, phenols, quinones, resins, steroids, and glycosides. (see study below) (10)
- Study of seeds yielded two cardenolides and 12 glycosides. Four were determined to be 16α-hydroxycalotropagenin, 16α-hydroxycalotropin and its 3'-O-glucoside and 3'-O-gentiobioside. (20)
- Study of aerial parts isolated a new cardenolide, 12beta,14beta-dihydroxy-3beta,19-epoxy-3alpha-methoxy-5alpha-card-20(22)-enolide (6), and a new doubly linked cardenolide glycoside, 12beta-hydroxycalotropin (13), together with eleven known compounds, coroglaucigenin (1), 12beta-hydroxycoroglaucigenin (2), calotropagenin (3), desglucouzarin (4), 6'-O-feruloyl-desglucouzarin (5), calotropin (7), uscharidin (8), asclepin (9), 16alpha-hydroxyasclepin (10), 16alpha-acetoxycalotropin (11), and 16alpha-acetoxyasclepin (12). (see study below) (21)

- The physiological action of A. curassavica is reported to act directly upon the organic muscular system, especially upon the heart and blood vessels, causing great constriction of the latter and distention of the larger arteries.
- Secondarily, reported to cause dyspnea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Toxic principle is a mixture of glucosides of the cardiac type.
- Considered depurative, hemostatic, astringent, purgative.

Parts used
Roots, flowers, stems, leaves.


- In the Philippines, roots, decocted or pulverized, used as emetic, with similar effects to ipecacuanha.
- In the
West Indies and Guiana, plant is employed as an emetic.
- Plant used for dysentery.
- In
Central America, stem, leaves and flowers used as substitute for sarsaparilla, and employed as a depurative.
- Whole plant, dried or in powdered form, used as haemostatic.
- In
Antilles, decoction of roots and stem are reputed to be depurative, used as substitute for sarsaparilla for venereal diseases. Decoction of roots and stems used as purgative and emetic.
- Syrup made from the juice of the plant used as vermifuge.
- In
Mexico, used for cancer of the stomach, intestines, uterus and kidneys.
- Used for treatment of cancers and warts.
- Used for tuberculosis.
- In
Brazil, infusion of roots, with a little sugar, used for blenorrhagia and leucorrhea. In large doses, the drug is emetic.
- Roots used as purgative and astringent. Also, used as remedy for piles and gonorrhea.
- Powdered roots used as ipecacuanha substitute for emetic use.
- Expressed juice of leaves used for intestinal worms.
- Juice of flowers used as styptic.
- In
China, used to disperse fevers, to improved circulation and to control bleeding. Decoction of dried plant used as cardiac tonic; also for tonsillitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, urethritis, internal bleeding, and externally, for wounds.
- Tribes in the western ghats, India, use the plant to treat hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, roundworm infestation, and abdominal tumors.
- In
Perak, flowers bruised in cold water are used as poultice for headaches.
- In South America, root extract used as emetic and laxative. Decoction of plant used as abortifacient.
- In the Peruvian Andes, juice or powder of aerial parts used as antidote for snake bites. (19)
- In Mexico, use for pimples, gonorrhea, warts, headaches, cough, angina, muscle aches, eye infections, fever, scorpion stings, and as oral, topical, vaginal and eye wash. (22)

Thrombin-like Activity:
Study sought to validate the scientific basis of the plant latex to stop bleeding of fresh cuts. Cysteine proteases from Asclepias curassavica latex exhibited strong pro-coagulant thrombin-like action. This could be the basis for the plant latex use in folk medicine.(1)
Calotropin / Cytotoxicity: Study of alcoholic extract showed cytotoxic activity when tested in vitro against cells derived from human carcinoma of the nasopharynx. Calotropin is similar to two cardiac glycosides shown to be responsible for the cytotoxicity of Apocynum cannabinum. (2)
Antioxidant: Study concludes the hydroalcoholic extract of A. curassavica had significant antioxidant activity, which may be useful for use in various oxidative stress-related diseases. (3) Study evaluated a hydroalcoholic extract of aerial parts for in vitro antioxidant activities. Results showed significant antioxidant activity which might be helpful in preventing or slowing the progress of various oxidative stress-related diseases. (17)
Anticancer / Cardenolides / Cytotoxic Principles: Study isolated cardenolides and related compounds from the aerial parts and roots of the ornamental milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Most of the cardenolides showed pronounced cytotoxicity against four cancer cell lines with IC50 0.01 to 2.0 µg/ml. (4)
Asclepin / Cardiac Effect: Study evaluated the in vitro effects of the asclepin, a glycoside, on isolated atrium and heart of guinea pig. Results showed a marked positive inotropic effect evidenced by increase force of contraction.
Antimicrobial: Plant root extracts were screened against bacteria and fungi. The crude extract of of methanol was effective against Clavibacter michiganense. Crude extract of chloroform was more effective against Aspergillus niger. (6)
Asclepain c-II / Cysteine Protease: Study isolated and purified a new cysteine protease, asclepain c-II, from the latex of A. curasavica, which could be useful in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Proteases are enzymes that catalyze the degradation of peptides and proteins, playing a significant role in numerous physiologic processes in living beings and used in various industrial processes. (7)
Chemopreventive Potential / B-Sitosterol / Colon Cancer: ß-sitosterol induced significant dose-dependent growth inhibition of a colon-cancer model, induced apoptosis by scavenging reactive oxygen species, and suppressed the expression of ß-catenin and PCNA in human colon cancer cells. Results suggest a chemopreventive potential and a potential anticancer drub for colon carcinogenesis. (8)
Leaf and Root Extracts / Antibacterial: Study investigated the antibacterial activity of leaves and roots of different solvent extracts. E Coli and Klebsiella pneumonia showed greatest sensitivity against methanol and petroleum spirit root extracts. (10)
Antioxidant / Antiproliferative: Study evaluated 10 traditional medicinal plants for antioxidant and antiproliferative activities. The plants are used in the traditional Indian system of medicine as a cure for cancer. All ten showed significant antioxidant and antiproliferative activities in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. with Asclepias curassavica showing the highest activity. (11)
New C21 Steroidal Glycosides: Study isolated six new C21 steroidal glycosides, named curassavosides A-F from the aerial parts, along with two known oxypregnanes. While all were tested for in vitro cytotoxicity, only compound 3 showed slight inhibitory activity against Raji and AGZY cell lines (12).
Latex / Papain-like Protease: Study isolated a new papain-like endopeptidase (asclepain-c-II) from the latex extracted from petiole. Proteases are enzymes that catalyze the degradation of peptides and proteins, playing significant roles in many physiologic processes in living beings, as well as different industrial processes. Results suggest it may be useful in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. (13)
Antimicrobial / Root Extract: Study evaluated different root extract solvents for antimicrobial activity against three bacteria and three fungi. A crude extract of chloroform was effective against Pseudomonas solanacearum and E coli, and showed antifungal activity against Aspergillus niger. (14)
Silver Nanoparticles / Leaf Extract: Study reports on the fast and convenient method for the green synthesis of silver nanoparticles using the leaf extract of Asclepias curassavica. (16)
Clotting Activity of Latex: The latex of AC contains many proteins and exhibits strong proteolytic activity. Study sought to identify the clotting factor the crude latex extract of A. curassavica and analyze the thrombin like activity of the clotting factor. In-silico studies showed the cysteine protease of A. curassavica interacts with the coagulation factors. The compounds Asclepain cI and cII were readily involved in the clotting activity and were also found to reduce the time of coagulation. (18)
• Cytotoxicity / Cardenolides and Cardenolide Glycosides / Aerial Parts: Study of aerial parts isolated a new cardenolid, a new doubly linked cardenolide glycoside, together with 11 known compounds. All the isolates were evaluated for cytotoxic activity against HepG2 and Raji cell lines. Asclepin (9) showed the strongest cytotoxic activity with IC50 of 0.02 µM against the two cancer cell lines. compound 13 showed significant toxicity with IC50s of 0.69 and 1.46 µM, respectively. (see constituents above) (21)
• Asclepiasterol / Modulatory of Tumor Multidrug Resistance / Down-Regulation of P-gp Expression: Multidrug resistance (MDR) mediated by P-glycoprotein (P-gp) is a major cause of cancer therapy failure. Study identified a novel C-21 steroidal glycoside, asclepiasterol, capable of reversing P-gp-mediated MDR. It enhanced the cytotoxicity of P-gp substrate anticancer drugs in MCF-7/ADR and HepG2/ADM cells. Study suggests asclepiasterol could be developed as a modulator for reversing P-gp-mediated MDR in P-gp-overexpressing cancer variants. (23)

- Wild-crafted.
- Seeds in the cybermarket.

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D. / StuartXchange

Updated July 2018 / November 2015

IMAGE SOURCE: Photograph: File:Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Butterfly Weed) W IMG 1570.jpg / J. M. Garg / 9 Dec 2009 / CC BY 3.0 click on image to see source page / Wikimedia Commons
IMAGE SOURCE: Plate from book / File:Asclepias curassavica Blanco1.71-original.png / Flora de Filipinas / 1880 - 1883 / Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A) / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Thrombin like activity of Asclepias curassavica L. latex: Action of cysteine proteases / H V Shivaprasad, R Rajesh et al /
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 4 May 2009; Volume 123, Issue 1: pp 106-109 /
Calotropin, a Cytotoxic Principle Isolated from Asclepias curassavica L / S Morris Kupchan, John R Knox, Kelsey J E, Saenzrenauld J A / Science 25 Dec 1964; 146:3652: pp. 1685-1686 / DOI: 10.1126/science.146.3652.1685
Exploring the Effect of Asclepias curassavica on Markers of Oxidative Stress in Rats / Raja, Sundararajan / Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 2005 - Volume 2 - Issue 2 - pp 87-93
Cytotoxic Principles from the Formosan Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica / Michael Roy, Fang-Rong Chang et al / J. Nat. Prod., 2005, 68 (10), pp 1494–1499 / DOI: 10.1021/np0501740
Pharmacological investigation on asclepin--a new cardenolide from Asclepias curassavica. Part II. Comparative studies on the inotropic and toxic effects of asclepin, g-strophantin, digoxin and digitoxin) /
Patnaik GK, Köhler E. / Arzneimittelforschung. 1978;28(8):1368-72.
Evaluation of antimicrobial activity of root extract of Asclepias curassavica / Hemavani. C and B. Thippeswamy / Recent Research in Science and Technology 2012, 4(1): 40-43
Biochemical analysis of a papain-like protease isolated from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L. /
Constanza Liggieri, Walter Obregon, SebastianTrejo, and Nora Priolo / Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (2009): 154–162 / https://doi.org/10.1093/abbs/gmn018
Chemopreventive potential of β-Sitosterol in experimental colon cancer model - an In vitro and In vivo study

/ Albert A Baska,Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu, Gabriel M Paulraj and Khalid S Al Numair / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:24doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-24
Asclepias curassavica L. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Phytochemical Screening and Antibacterial Studies on Leaf and Root Extracts of Asclepias Curassavica (L).
/ S. HEMADRI REDDY, M. CHAKRAVARTHI, K. N., CHANDRASHEKARA* AND C.V. NAIDU / Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1 (July-August 2012), PP 39-44
In vitro antioxidant and antiproliferative potential of medicinal plants used in traditional Indian medicine to treat cancer / Baskar, Arul-Albert; Al. Numair, Khalid-S; Alsaif, Mohammed-A; Ignacimuthu, Savarimuthu / Redox Report, Volume 17, Number 4, July 2012 , pp. 145-156(12)
Six new C21 steroidal glycosides from Asclepias curassavica L. / Jun-Zhu li, Hai-Yang Liu, Chang-Xiang Chen et al / Steroids 73, 2008, 594-600
Biochemical analysis of a papain-like protease isolated from the latex of Asclepias curassavica L
. / Constanza Liggieri*, Walter Obregon, Sebastian Trejo, and Nora Priolo / Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (2009): 154–162
Evaluation of antimicrobial activity of root extract of Asclepias curassavica / Hemavani C, Thippeswamy B / Recent Research in Science and Technology, Vol 4, No 1 (2012)
Aeclepias curassavica L / Synonyms / The Plant List
GREEN SYNTHESIS OF SILVER NANOPARTICLES FROM LEAF EXTRACTS OF ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA / Rajesh TP, Narendhar C, Sivakumar Ponambalam A, Mohanambal V, R. Dheeran / Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Special Issue, Oct 2014
Antioxidant potential of aerial part of Asclepias curassavica. Linn (Family – Asclepiadaceae) / S Raja, KFH Nazeer Ahamed, V Kumar, Kakali Mukherjee, Arun Bandyopadhyay and Pulok K Mukherjee* / Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine 2005 5(2), 92-99
Medicinal and magical plants in the northern Peruvian Andes / V. de Feo / Fitoterapia, Vol LXIII, No 5, 1992
Cardenolide Glycosides from the Seeds of Asclepias curassavica
/ Fumiko Abe, Yujiro Mori, Tatsuo Yamauchi / Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 1992; Vol 40, Issue 11 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1248/cpb.40.2917
Cytotoxicity of cardenolides and cardenolide glycosides from Asclepias curassavica. / Li JZ, Qing C, Chen CX, Hao XJ, Liu HY / Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 14 Feb 2009; 19(7): pp 1956-1959 / DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.02.045

Antifungal activities of nine traditional Mexican medicinal plants / V. M. Navarro Garćıa, A. Gonzalez, M. Fuentes, M. Aviles, M.Y. Rios, G. Zepeda, M.G. Rojas / Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2003); 87: pp 85–88
Asclepiasterol, a novel C21 steroidal glycoside derived from Asclepias curassavica, reverses tumor multidrug resistance by down-regulating P-glycoprotein expression / Wei-Qi Yuan, Rong-Rong Zhang, Jun Wang, Yan Ma, Wen-Xue Li, Ren-Wang Jiang, Shao-Hui Cai / Oncotarget. 2016; 7: pp 31466-31483 / https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.8965

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.

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