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Family Ebenaceae
Diospyros ebenum J.König ex Retz.

He shi

Scientific names Common names
Diospyros assimilis Bedd. Sapote (Tag.)
Diospyros ebenaster Retz. Black persimmon (Engl.)
Diospyros ebenum J. Konig ex Retz. Black sapote (Engl.)
Diospyros glaberrima Rottler Ceylon ebony (Engl.)
Diospyros laurifolia A.Rich.. Chocolate pudding fruit (Engl.)
Diospyros melanoxylon Willd.      [Illegitimate] Chocolate sapote (Engl.)
Diospyros membranacea A.DC.    Ebony persimmon (Engl.)
Diospyros timoriana (A.DC.) Miq.     
Sapote and zapote are common names shared by Calocarpum sapota, chico-mamei and Diospyros ebenaster, zapote negro.
Diospyros ebenaster Retz. is a synonym of Diospyros ebenum J.Koenig ex Retz. The Plant List
Diospyros ebenum J.Koenig ex Retz. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: He shi (Taiwan).
FRENCH: Barbacoa, Barbaquois, Caca poule (Antilles), Ébènier des Antilles, Sapote noire, Sapotier.
GERMAN: Ebenholzbaum, Schwarze Sapote.
INDIA: Tumbi, Karunkaali, Karimaram.
JAPANESE: Diosupirosu nigura.
MAURITIUS: Bois d' ebene.
PORTUGUESE: Ébano das Antilhas.
SINHALESE: Kaluwara gas.
SPANISH: Ébeno agrio, Guayabota, Matasano de mico, Sapote negro, Zapote, Zapote de mico, Zapote negro, Zapote prieto.

Gen info
- Diospyros is a genus of over 700 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. The majority are native in the tropics, with only a few species extending into temperate regions. (1)
- Diospyros species valued for their hard, heavy, dark timber are referred to as ebony trees; while others valued for their fruit are known as persimmon trees, (1)
- Etymology: Diospyros is derived from the Greek word "diospuros", literally "wheat of Zeus", from Dios "Zeus". + "puros" wheat. (3)
- While some Diospyros species are IUCN listed as "endangered", Diospyros ebenum is listed as DD or
data deficient (data inadequate to determine threat category).

Sapote is a tall, smooth tree, 7 to 15 meters high. Leaves are leathery, shiny, thick, oblong to elliptic-oblong, 10 to 20 centimeters long, and borne on rather short stalks. Flowers are judicious, occurring singly in the axis of leaves and measuring from 1 to 1.5 centimeters long. Calyx is greenish, with broad truncate lobes. Corolla is tubular, lobed and white. Fruit is large, smooth, green, rounded, 9 to 12 centimeters in diameter, more or less depressed at its apex, enveloped at its base by a persistent calyx. Flesh of the fruit is yellowish, turning nearly black at maturity. Seeds are usually four, and about 2 centimeters long.

- Occasionally planted in and about towns as an ornamental foliage and for its large edible fruit.

- Nowhere spontaneous, but found in Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, and other Provinces in Luzon, and on other islands.
- Introduced from Mexico during the early colonial period.

- Phytochemical screening of stem extracts yielded flavonoids, tannins, and carbohydrates. (see study below) (5)
- Studies have isolated lupeol, betulin, betulinic acid, ursolic acid, a-amyrin, Bauerenol, ß-sitosterol, stigmasterol, ebenone plumbagin, hexacosanol, 6-hydroxy-4, 5, -dimethoxy-2-naphthaldehyde, 4, 5, 6-trimethoxy-2- naphthalene, 6-hydroxy-4, 5 -dimethoxy-2-naphthoic acid. (7)
- Phytochemical screening of fruit extracts yielded
essential oils, saponins, terpenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids. (10)
- Study isolated ebenone, a biogenetically significant ß-naphthyl-1,4-naphthaquinone derivate. (14)

- Considered astringent, attenuant, lithotriptic.
- Studies have suggested antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective

Superstition snippet
- It has become increasingly difficult to find in some provinces in the Philippines where it used to be a common fruit tree. Folklore tells of a time when the black fruit was deemed a devil's fruit, which sparked a religious campaign to search and hack down all sapote trees. (But, perhaps, it is the commerce for black wood rather than the religious crusade against the "devil's' black fruit that caused its seeming decline.)

Parts used
Fruit, bark, leaves.


- In the Philippines, fruit is eaten in milk, cooked in pies (with lemon to counteract its mawkishness), or made into ice-cream.
- Gummy astringent fruit eaten in times of scarcity.
- In the Philippines, pounded bark and leaves are used as blistering plaster.
- In Yucatan, decoction of leaves used for fevers.
- Used as remedy for leprosy, ringworm and for itching.
- In Tamil Nadu, stem bark used for cough, asthma, and diabetes.
- In Bangladesh, bark used for cuts and wounds to stop bleeding. Bark (1/2 kg) mixed with 1/2 kg of Erythrina variegata is boiled in 2 kg of water and reduced to a volume of 1 kg, and decoction taken 3-4 tsp 3x daily for 15 to 21 days for abdominal pain and diarrhea. (8) Bark decoction taken every morning for treatment of diabetes. (16)
- In Tamil
Nadu, crushed leaves applied to the face to reduce blisters. (12)
- In In the Rodrigues Island, Indian Ocean, infusion of grated bark twice weekly for treatment of diabetes. (13)
- Paste of whole plant applied to skin diseases and for wound healing.

- An important Unani drug for eye diseases.
- Fish poison: In the West Indies, unripe fruit is pounded and thrown into the water to narcotize the fish.

- Black wood: Known for its black wood since ancient times. Considered the best commercial black ebony. Sapwood is light yellowish gray, often streaked with black; heartwood is very black, heavy, with a specific gravity of 1.12. Wood is straight-grained, fine and even-textured with a high glossy finish. Very durable and resistant to insect attack and fungi.
- Commerce:
Wood is exported to China for furniture and to Europe as fancy wood. Used for making musical instruments, ornamental carvings, tool handles, and turnery. (4) Extremely valuable, it is sold in kilograms.

Antioxidant / Stems:
Study evaluated the antioxidant activity from various stem extracts of D. ebenum using DPPH assay. A 70% methanol extract showed the best free radical scavenging activity. (see constituents above) (5)
Antibacterial / Antioxidant:
Study evaluated various extracts for antibacterial activity and DPPH radical scavenging activity. A methanol extract showed activity against all 5 bacterial test strains, viz. B. subtilis, S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, S. typhimurium, and E. enterogenes. The methanol extract also showed the highest total phenolic content and DPPH free radical scavenging activity. (6)
• TiO2 Nanoparticles / Leaves:
Study reports on the eco-friendly, easy, and green synthesis of crystalline anatase titanium dioxide (T1O2) nanoparticles (NPs) using D. ebenum leaf extract as reducing agent. The TiO2Nps synthesized at 600˚C exhibited high photocatalytic efficiency and dye adsorption and showed excellent antibacterial activity. (11)
Antidiabetic / Hepatoprotective :
Study evaluated the hepatoprotective effect of ethanolic extract of Diospyros ebenum in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Oral administration of the extract at dose of 500 mg/kbw resulted in significant reduction of elevated blood glucose and hepatic transaminase enzyme levels. Histopathological study of extract treated rats confirmed significant recovery of liver damage. (15)


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

Updated April 2022 / August 2018 / December 2015


IMAGE SOURCE: Photograph / Black Sapote Diospyros ebenaster Retz./ click on image to go to source page / © Florida Hill Nursery

IMAGE SOURCE: Public Domain / File:Diospyros nigra Blanco2.372-original.png / Flora de Filipinas / Franciso Manuel Blanco (OSA), 1880-1883 / Wikimedia Commons / Modifications by G Stuart

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Diospyros / Wikipedia

Sorting Diospyros names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 - 2020 The University of Melbourne.
Diospyros / Wiktionary
Diospyros ebenum / World AgroForestry
Antioxidant Activity from Diospyros Ebenum Stems Extracts and Phytochemical Profile / Khaled Nabih Rashed / Journal of Applied and Industrial Sciences, 2013, 1 (2): 70-72
Antioxidant and antibacterial activity of Diospyros ebenum Roxb. leaf extracts / Yogesh Barvaliya, Mital Kaneria, Yogeshkumar Vaghasiya, Jigna Parekh, Sumitra Chanda / Turkish Journal of Biology (1.34). 05/2009; 33:159. / DOI: 10.3906/biy-0805-34
A review of phytochemical and biological studies of Diospyros species used in folklore medicine of Jharkhand / B. N. Sinha *, S. K. Bansal / JOURNAL OF NATURAL REMEDIES, Vol. 8/1 (2008) 11 - 17
A Survey of Medicinal Plants Used by Kavirajes of Barisal Town in Barisal District, Bangladesh /
Mohammed Rahmatullah et al / American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 4(2): 237-246, 2010
Diospyros ebenum / Synonym / The Plant List
Preliminary Phytochemical Analysis of Diospyros Species / M. Maridass, S. Ghanthikumar and G. Raju / Ethnobotanical Leaflets, 2008; 12: pp 868-872
Phytosynthesis and Characterization of TiO2 Nanoparticles using Diospyros ebenum Leaf Extract and their Antibacterial and Photocatalytic Degradation of Crystal Violet / Subramanian Senthilkumar, Mahalingam Ashok, Lellala Kashinath, Chinnappanadar Sanjeeviraja and Annamalai Rajendran / Smart Science, 2018; Vol 6, Issue 1
MEDICINAL PLANTS AND THEIR USES: A STUDY OF TWELVE SACRED GROVES IN CUDDALORE AND VILLUPURAM DISTRICTS, TAMIL NADU, INDIA / S. Karthik , J. Subramanian. M, S. Ravikumar. R. Dhamotharan / Research Paper Biotechnology, May 2016; Col 2, Issue 5
Ethnopharmacological analysis of medicinal plants used against non-communicable diseases in Rodrigues Island, Indian Ocean / Anne Kathie Samoisy, M. Fawzi Mahomoodally /Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2015; 173: pp 20–38
Structure of ebenone, a possible biogenetic precursor of elliptinone, from Diospyros ebenum / Akella V B Sankaram, Vaddu V Narayana Reddy / Phytochemistry, 21 Aug 1984; Vol 23, Issue9: pp 2039-2042
Screening of Ethanolic Extract of Diospyros ebenum for Antidiabetic and Hepatoprotective Effects
/ Sayyada Saleha Mpmina, Mohammed Tajuddin et al / NVEO: Natural Volatiles & Essential Oils Journal, 8(6)
Ethnomedicinal plants of folk medicinal practitioners in four villages of Natore and Rajshahi districts , Bangladesh / Fariste Mawla, Mohammed Rahmatullah et al / American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 2012; 6(4): pp 406-416 / IDDN: 1995-0748

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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