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Family Acanthacea
Water willow
Justicia procumbens Linn.

Chu wei hung

Scientific names Common names
Ecbolium procumbens (L.) Kuntze Water willow (Engl.)
Justicia procumbens Linn.  
Rostellularia procumbens Nees  
Justicia procumbens L. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Jue chuang, Chu wei hung, Chio-chuang.
MARATHI: Karambal, Pitpapada, Kalmashi.
NEPALI: Bissaune jhaar, Khursaani jhaar, Phuli jhaar.
TAMIL: Arm, Knteyu, Kotakacalai, Kukkum.

Justicia procumbens is a slender, often tufted, prostrate or ascending, branched annual. Stems are 10 to 40 centimeters long. Leaves are elliptic to oblong-ovate or ovate, 7 to 20 millimeters long, 5 to 20 millimeters wide, obtuse at both ends, and entire or with slightly crenated at the margins. Flowers are pink, 6 to 7 millimeters long, and borne in terminal, rather dense cylindric spikes 1 to 5 centimeters long and about 5 millimeters in diameter. Bracts and calyx-teeth are green, linear-lanceolate, and hairy. Fruit is slightly hairy and about 4 millimeters long.

- In open places at low and medium altitudes, from the Batan Islands and northern Luzon to Mindanao, in most islands and provinces.
- Also in China and southward to Australia.

- Contains a bitter alkaloid.
- Study has reported arylnaphthalene lignans as major components; some have shown antiviral and antitumor activities.
- Phytocemical studies yielded justicidin-C and justicidin-D.
- Fractionation studies isolated five 2,3-naphtalide lignans: justicidin-A, neojusticin A, diphyllin, justicidin-D, neojusticin-B and justicidin-E.
- Study yielded three new lignans, Pronaphthalide A, Procumbiene, and Procumbenoside, together with Juspurpudin, a novel natural product, and twelve other known lignans. (see study below) (14)
• Study of whole plant yielded four new lignan glycosides, procumbenosides I, K, L, and M, toghether with cleistanthin B and five over known arylnaphthalene lignan glycosides. (16)

- Plant exudes an unpleasant odor.
- Leaves considered alterative, astringent and expectorant.
- Considered laxative and diuretic.

Parts used
Leaves, whole plant.


- Used as ingredient in a Taiwan herbal tea.
- Boiled young leaves reportedly edible.
- In the Philippines, leaves are used externally as astringent for the treatment of certain skin eruptions.
- Alterative and expectorant, given as Infusion for asthma, coughs and rheumatism.
- Juice of leaves squeezed in the eyes for treatment of ophthalmia.
- Used as laxative and diuretic.
- Whole plant decoction used for backache, plethora and flatulence.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, used for fever and pain associated with pharyngolaryngeal swelling. Also used for cancer.

Cytotoxicity / Lignans / Anti-Cancer:
Study isolated a new lignan glycoside, procumbenoside A. and 11 known compounds. Known compounds justicidin A, diphyllin, and tuberculatin showed potent cytotoxic effects against some cancer cells in vitro. Two compounds strongly enhanced tumor-necrosis factor-a. (1)
Inhibition of Benzo(a)pyrene Hydroxylation: Study isolated five lignans: neojusticin A, neojusticin B, justicidin A, justicidin B and chinensinaphthol methyl ether; in vitro effects on rat hepatic cytochrome P450-catalyzed oxidations were studied. Results showed inhibition of monooxygenase activities differentially and neo B may have a role in diminishing the oxidative activation of benzo(a)pyrene. (2)
Anti-Platelet Aggregation: Study isolated constituents with antiplatelet effect in human platelet-rich plasma. One compound szhoswed strong inhibitgory effect on plate aggregation induced by adrenaline in a concentration-dependent manner. (3)
Anti-Viral Lignans: Study isolated 10 antiviral lignans from the methanolic extract of aerial parts of Justicia procumbens. Some compounds showed strong antiviral activity against vesicular stomatitis virus and low cytotoxicity against cultured rabbit lung cells. (4)
Anti-Inflammatory: Study of alcohol extract of Justicia procumbens showed promising antiinflammatory activity at a dose of 100 mg/kg weight. (5)
Cytotoxicity: Study of a methanolic extract of the whole plant showed significant inhibitory activity in vivo against lymphocytic leukemia growth in male mice and in vitro cytotoxicity in human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell culture assay. (8)
Justicidin / Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibition: Exposure of macrophages to liposaccharide induces release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Study isolated justicidin which was found to inhibit LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha release from RAW 264.7 macrophages in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. (7)
Justicidin A / Apoptosis in Human Colorectal Cancer Cells: Justicidin A, an arylnaphthalide lignan significantly inhibited the growth of human colorectal cancer cells HT-29 and HCT-116, causing cell death by apoptosis. Results of the study in mice suggest a chemotherapeutic potential of justicidin A on colorectal cancer cells. (9)
JR6 / Apoptosis in Human Bladder Cancer: Study identified a new compound 6′-hydroxy justicidin A (JR6) from Justicia procumbens which showed obvious anti-cancer effects. Results showed JR6 may be inducing intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways. JR6 induced apoptosis through caspase-dependent pathway in human bladder cancer EJ cells, presenting a potential novel pathway to bladder cancer therapy. (11)
• Pesticidal Against Plutella xylostella: Plutella xylostella is an agricultural pest of cruciferous vegetables, causing damage throughout the year. Study of methanol extracts of J. procumbens showed strong concentration related contact toxicity to P. xylostella. LC50 against 3rd instar larvae were 5.17, 4.05, and 3.06 mg/mL witin 1, 2, and 3 days after treatment, respectively, while IC50 were 2.02 and 1.40 mg/mL wiithin 1 and 2 days after treatment.The extracts showed strong antifeedant effects and a significant growth inhibitory effect on larval growth of Px. The ME showed a significant dose-dependent repelling effect onn adult oviposition of Px. Overall, results showed significant insecticidal activity against Px and a potential for development of a botanical pesticide with high efficacy and low non-target toxicity. (13)
• Cytotoxicity / Lignans: Study yielded three new lignans, a novel natural product, Juspurpudine, and twelve known lignans. Eight of the compounds showed in-vitro cytotoxic activity against Human LoVo and BGC-823 cell. (see constituents above) (14)
• Suppression of Th2 Cytokines and Amelioration of Induced Airway Inflammation / Anti-Asthma: Study evaluated an anhydrous ethanol extract of J. procumbens (DW2008) for anti-asthmatic activity. Analysis showed major peaks of Justicidin A and B which significantly suppressed Th2 cytokine levels in mouse spleen cells and exhibited a protective effect in ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation and airway responsiveness in a mouse model, suggesting potential as an anti-asthmatic agent. (15)


© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Updated November 2017 / April 2014

IMAGE SOURCE: Justicia procumbens in Narsapur, Andhra Pradesh, India. / File:Justicia procumbens in Narshapur, AP W2 IMG 0854.jpg / GNU Free Documentation License / J M Garg / 18.10.08 / Wikimedia Commons
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Justicia procumbens L.- Water Willow • Marathi/ File:Justicia procumbens W IMG 2983.jpg . / J M Garg / 11.10.09 / GNU Free Documentation License / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Potent Cytotoxic Lignans from Justicia procumbens and Their Effects on Nitric Oxide and Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Production in Mouse Macrophages / Shiow Hwa Day, Yi-Chen et al / J. Nat. Prod., 2002, 65 (3), pp 379–381 / DOI: 10.1021/np0101651
Inhibition of Benzo(a)pyrene Hydroxylation by Lignans Isolated from Justicia procumbens / Yune-Fang Ueng, Chien-Chih Chen and Chieh-Fu Chen / Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2000
Two New Arylnaphthalide Lignans and Antiplatelet Constituents from Justicia procumbens /
Jing-Ru Weng, Horng-Huey K et al / Archiv der Pharmazie, Vol 337, Issue 4, pages 207–212, April 2004 / DOI: 10.1002/ardp.200300841
Antiviral activity of lignans and their glycosides from Justicia procumbens / Asano J, Chiba K, Tada M, Yoshii T /
Phytochemistry. 1996 Jun;42(3):713-7.
Anti-inflammatory activity of alcohol extract of Justicia procumbens (Acanthaceae) / Mruthyunjayasaswamy BHM et al / Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.. 1998 May-Jun; 60(3): 173-5
Chemical constituents and biological activities of species of Justicia - a review / Geone M. Correa, Antonio F de C. Alcantara /
Rev. bras. farmacogn. vol.22 no.1 Curitiba Jan./Feb. 2012 Epub Nov 01, 2011
Justicidin A inhibits the transport of tumor necrosis factor-alpha to cell surface in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages / Tsao LT, Lin CN, Wang JP. / Mol Pharmacol. 2004 May;65(5):1063-9.
Antitumor agents: Justicidin-A and Diphyllin, Two Cytotoxic Principles from J. procumbens / Narihiko Fukumiya and Kuo-Hsiung Lee / Journal of Natural Products, Vol 49, No 2, pp 348-350, Mar-Apr 1986
Justicidin A decreases the level of cytosolic Ku70 leading to apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells /
Jenq-Chang Lee, Chao-Hung Lee, Chun-Li Su, Chung-Wei Huang, Hsiao-Sheng, Chun-Nan Lin and Shen-Jeu Won / Carcinogenesis (October 2005) 26 (10): 1716-1730 / . doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgi133
Water Willow / Common names / Flowers of India
JR6, a new compound isolated from Justicia procumbens, induces apoptosis in human bladder cancer EJ cells through caspase-dependent pathway / Xiao-Li He, Peng Zhang, Xian-Zhe Dong, Mei-Hua Yang, Shi-Lin Chen, Ming-Gang Bi / Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 144, Issue 2
Justicia procumbens / Synonyms / The Plant List
Bioactivity of methanol extracts from Justicia procumbens against Plutella xylostella / M. C. Guo, B. T. Li, L. M. Tang, T. J. Liang / Acta Ecologica Sinica 35(11):3854-3861 · June 2015 / DOI: 10.5846/stxb201307261957
Cytotoxic activity of lignans from Justicia procumbens. / Jin H, Yin HL, Liu SJ, Chen L, Tian Y, Li B, Wang Q, Dong JX / Fitoterapia. 2014 Apr;94:70-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2014.01.025.

Justicia procumbens Extract (DW2008) Selectively Suppresses Th2 Cytokines in Splenocytes and Ameliorates Ovalbumin-Induced Airway Inflammation in a Mouse Model of Asthma. / Youm H, Lee H, Chang HB, Jeon J, Yoon MH, Woo JY, Choi MS, Hwang Y, Seong S, Na K, Yoon J . / Biol Pharm Bull. 2017;40(9):1416-1422 / doi: 10.1248/bpb.b17-00179.
New lignan glycosides from Justicia procumbens / Hong Jin, Shu Yang, and Jun-Xing Dong /
Journal of Asian Natural Products Research, Vol 19, Issue 1 (2017) / http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10286020.2016.1241771

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