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Chemara Puteri

Cassytha filiformis Linn Sp.Pl. pg 530 – Willd Sp. Pl. v.ii p. 487 1753


Chemara Puteri is a parasitic twining vine that grows well along coastal areas (sandy beaches) of tropical islands. It
is believed to be native of the West Indies. It has no ground attachment or roots, but is attached to the host plants
via a sucker called haustoria which has roots that penetrate into the bark of the host tree and nutrients are
practically sucked up into it via the roots. Linnaeus gave the name Cassytha to the plant after the Arabic and
Aramaic name Kesatha which means tangle wisp of hair. Today 20 different species under this genus has been
identified and mostly in the Old World and Australia. Cassytha filiformis however, has a wide distribution spanning
the globe along the tropical and subtropical belt. Wherever it is found somehow the inhabitants had found use of
the plant and most of the time something quite similar to the others. It is believe there may be human element in
the distribution of the plant. It may be carried buy the Malays when they travel and colonize the islands of the
tropical belt. One significant use of the plant which made it so essential to carry around is its use during the
process of delivery. Most of the island communities made use of this plant for this.

Synonyms: Cassytha senegalensis A. Chev. Fl viv., 1:46 (1938) descript. gall.

Cassytha novoguineensis Kanehira & Hatusima, Bot. Mag. (Tokyo) 57: 190. 1943.
Cassytha archboldiana C. K. Allen, J. Arnold Arbor. 23: 155. 1942.
Cassytha timoriensis Gandoger, Bull. Soc. Bot. France 60: 419. 1913.
Cuscuta baccifera Barbasensium. Pluk. Alm. 126 t. 172 f. 2
Cuscuta altera f.major Camell. Lus.1.n.1.Pet. Gaz. 77 t.49
Cassytha dissitiflora Meisner, Vidensk. Meddel. Dansk Naturhist. Foren. Kjoebnhavn 1870: 145.
Spironema aphyllum (Forsskål) Rafinesque, Fl. Tellur. 4: 93. 1838 ("1836").
Rumputris fasciculata Rafinesque, Fl. Tellur. 4: 92. 1838 ("1836"), nom. illegit.
Cassytha americana Nees von Esenbeck, in Wallich, Pl. Asiat. Rar. 2: 69. 1831.
Cassytha guineensis Schumacher & Thonning, in Schumacher, Beskr. Guin. Pl. 199. 1827.
Cassytha aphylla (Forsskål) Raeuschel, Nomencl. Bot. 116. 1797
Calodium cochinchinensis Lour. Flor. Cochinchin. 247 1790, ed. Willd. 303. 1793
Cassytha zeylanica Gaertner, Fruct. Sem. Pl. 1: 134. 1788
Volutella aphylla Forsskål, Fl. Aegypt.-Arab. 84. 1775.
Cusuta s. cusutha indica Rumph. 5:491. pl. 184. f. 4 1747
Acatsia valli Rheed. Mal. 7 p. 83.t. 44. Ray Suppl. 551 1678

Vernacular names

Malaysia Chemara puteri, Tali puteri, Pangkal mati pucuk hidup (Langkawi), Chemar Batu, Tali
Puteri, Rambut Puteri, Chemar Hantu, Daun Tali tali (in Rhumphius)
Indonesia Akar pengalasan (Bangka), Rambut puteri/Tali Puteri (Melayu), Sangga langit (Sunda),
Tali Puteri (Java), Mas Semasan (Madura), Gumi Garuci (Ternate)
Philippines Kauad-kawaran (Tagalong), Kauad-kauad (Tagalog), Kauat-kauat (Tagalog, Kawat-kawat
(Sulu), Malabohok (Bisayas, Tagalog), Uauaken-irang, Wawaken-irang
South Pacific Boa Lawalawa (Fiji), Techellel achul (Palau), Lu ‘on Ravaka (Rotuma Island), Taino’a
(Marquisas Island), Kaonon (Marshall Islands), Fetai (Tokelau)
Japan Suna-zuru, Niinashi-kanda (Okinawa)
China Wu Ye Teng
India Acatha valli (Malabar Coast), Akas-valli (Sanskrit), Akashvel (Bengali), Akashwel
(Marathi), Achtsjabulli (Malayalam), Amar beli (Hindi), Akas bel (Gujarati)
Sri Lanka Aga-mula-neti-wel (plant without beginning or end)
Maldives Velanbuli
Rodrigues Island Liane jaune, Liane sans fin
Arabia Kesatha, Kuskhut, Kuskhuta
Hawaii Kauna’oa pehu, Kauna’oa, Kauna’oa malolo, Kauna’oa uka, Malolo, dodder
Puerto Rico Benjaro dorado, Cabellos del-angel, Fideillo, Fideos, Live vine, Tante ai el aire
South America Cipo-de-chumbo (Brazil), Liane amitie (Hispaniola, Gaudelope, Martinique), Old man
berry (Cayman Island) Liane sans fin (Gaudelope Maritinique), Alcanfora del Japon,
Bejuco dorado, Corde a violon, Duivelsnaaigaren, Liane ficelli, Tente en aire, Vermicelli
Africa Nooienshaar, Vrouehaar, Luangalala (Venda), Omoniginigin (Nigeria) Otetebilete
English Cascutta, Doder Laurel, Woe Vine, Love Vine, False Dodder

This is a parasitic vine resembling Cuscuta. The stems are yellowish or pale green, entwining, filiform,
climbing and twisting around other plants and around itself. It seldom branches. The stems are glabrous and derive
nourishment from other plants or on itself by sucker like attachment called haustoria. It has a spicy fragrance. The
leaves are reduced to scales which are spirally arranged. It has perfect flowers, subtended by a minute bract and
two bracteoles, two to several at irregular intervals in a slender spike. There are six sepals arranged in two series,
topping the accrescent fruit.. Several inner sepals are triangular ovate about 1.5 mm. long. The fertile stamens are
9 in 3 rows, the innermost 3 with extrose anthers and basal glands, a fourth inner row reduced to 3 cordate
staminodia; anthers 2 –celled and 2-valved; drupe globose, blackish to about 7 mm in diameter.

Cassytha filiformis (L) Willd

Source: Hortus Indicus Malabaricus pg. 83 t. 44
Cassytha filiformis (L) Willd.

a. Stem parasitizing another plant, b. Stem on host with

haustoria, c. Detail of branching, d. Inflorensce, e.
Flower in first (or female) stage, f.Longitudinal section
of first stage, g. Flower in second (or male) stage, h.
Longitudinal section of second stage, i. Staminodal
nectar j. Stamen before dehiscence, l. Stamen dehisce.,
m. Floral Diagram

Source: Florida Ethnobotany by Daniel F. Austin, P. Narodny

Honychurch Pg. 178

Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd. - green stem Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd. - orange stem

Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd. - Flowers Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd. - Fruits
Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd. - Habit
Traditional Uses

All traditional systems consider this plant to be bitter, sweet in taste; cold in constituency and astringent. The
Chinese considers this plant as having the ability to remove pathogenic heat from the blood, detoxifying and
inducing diuresis. Based on these properties they use the plant to treat the following conditions:

1. Stomachache – Fijians use the whole plant fresh which is pounded and a little water is added to it. The
mixture is given to relieve stomachache. In South America the dried and powdered plant is mixed with
nutmeg and used to relieve stomachache and dyspepsia.
2. Dropsy (Ayurveda) – due to its diuretic properties the Vaidyas used it to treat oedema.
3. Liver Problems – The Ayurvedic treatment for biliousness includes the use of this plant. In the Indonesia it
is used to treat hepatitis.
4. Chronic Dysentery (Ayurveda)
5. Infections – It has been used to treat influenze, malaria, gonorrhea and syphilis by the people of
Indonesia. The fruit is eaten with betel leaf to cure cold.
6. Haemostatics – In Ayurvedic practices the plant is used in the treatment of haemoptysis. The Brazilians
use small bundles of it as tea to help purify blood and treat internal or external bleeding. In the islands of
the Malay Archipelago the plant is used to treat haematemesis, haemoptysis and haematuria.
7. Maternity use – To ease childbirth the people of Marshall Island take a length of the plant prepared in a
special manner using the green coconut water and this is given to the mother when labour pains begin. In
Hawaii the plant is pounded and water is added to it and given to the mother during labour to help
remove blood from the uterus. The South Americans use the plant in post partum treatment either by
itself or in combination with Pluchea carolinensis as a drink or bath for the first 9 days. The Malays use
this plant in cases of difficult labour.
8. Suppression of Lactation (Ayurveda)
9. Fish Poison (Ayurveda)
10. Vermifuge – Due to its worm-like appearance there are communities that use the plant to treat worm
manifestations. In Jamaica and Guyana they crushed the plant and consume it as a deworming medicine.
11. Treatment of head lice – It was mentioned in Archiv der Pharmazie in 1854 that the decoction of the
whole plant is used to treat head lice. The Vaidyas recommend the same while people of Malay Peninsula
and Indonesia squeeze out the sap and apply on the head instead.
12. Hair growth stimulant or hair loss tonic – This use is seen amongst the Malays of coastal regions of the
Malay Peninsula and some of the Islands of Indonesia and further eastwards to the Pacific Islands. It is
probably due to its hair-like appearance. A decoction of the stems is being used to wash one’s hair in
order to obtain the effect. The Indians of the Malabar Coast too uses the plant in similar manner; so do
people of the Bahamas, Jamaica and Guyana. In India the plant is dried, pulverized and mixed with
sesame oil and applied on the head to strengthen the hair.
13. Headache – In the Marshall Islands they use the fruits to treat headache whereby the patient consume 3
fruits from a bunch while the rest from the bunch is pounded and squeezed out the juice. This juice is
applied over the area that is aching. In the Caribbean Islands the plant is mixed with sugar and used as a
remedy for headache.
14. Arthritis – In Jabalpur Central India it is used to treat sever pain due to arthritis. 1Kg of the whole plant is
boiled in 3 liters of water until the water level recedes to 1 litre. This decoction is used to be rubbed on
the affected joint for about 25 minutes. It is claimed that it is 60 – 75% pain relieved.
15. Male Impotency – In Langkawi it forms part of a concoction used in treatment of male impotency. The
people of Marshall Islands use the plant as a simple in the treatment of male impotency and sexual
16. Eye ailments – various parts of the plant is used in the treatment of eye ailments including conjunctivitis.
In Lifou Island off the coast of New Zealand the fruits is being used in a preparation for treatment of eye

Dosage of the drug

Generally a safe dose for the drug is as follows:

Dry plants or powder – 10 – 15 G

Fresh plants – 30 – 60 G


Aporphine Alkaloids – (-)-O-methylflavinatine, (-)-salutarine, (+/-)nornuciferine, 1,2,-methylene dioxy-3,10,11-

trimethoxyaporphine, actinodaphnine, boldine, bulbocapnine, cathafiline, cathaformine, cassythic acid, cassythine
(cassyfiline), cassythidine, cassameridine, cassamedine, dicentrine, isoboldine, isofiliformine, launobine,
lysicamine, N-methylactinodaphnine, neolitsine, ocoteine, O-methylcassifiline, predicentrine

Flavinoids – iso-hamnetin-3-o-b-glucoside, iso-hamnetin-3-o-rutinoside

Sugar Alcohol – Dulcitol

Neolignans - 4-O-methyl-balanophonin and cassyformin

Factors affecting the composition and concentration of the plants includes the origin or location of collection, the
host plant upon which it grows, the season of the year of collection.

Pharmacological activities of bioactive compounds in Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd.

1. Cytotoxicicty activity – six aporphine alkaloids isolated from the stem of Cassytha filiformis (L.) Willd.
Showed non selective activity on cancer cell lines with the exception of actinodaphnine which is twice less
toxic to non cancer 3T3 cells. These alkaloids are Neolitsine, dicentrine, cassythine, actinodaphnine,
norneolitsine and cassythidine.
2. Antitrypanosomal activity – three aporphine alkaloid had been shown to inhibit the activities of
Trypanosoma brucei brucei and they are actinodaphnine, cassythine, dicentrine.
3. Topoisomerase I and II inhibition – it was found that dicentrine, actinodaphnine and cassythine exhibiti a
non-specific topoisomerase I inhibition, most likely due to intercalation into DNA. On the other hand
these alkaloids does not seem to inhibit human topoisomerase II.
4. Cytotoxic activities are attributed to the aporphine alkaloids isolated from the plants. The most active one
being Neolistine active against HeLa and 3T3 cell lines while cassythine and actinodephnine are active
against Mel-5 and HL-60 cell lines. Dicentrine has been shown to be cytotoxic to several tumour cells and
also inhibit DNA and RNA biosynthesis. Dicentrine is also found to be an inhibitor to topoisomerase II.
5. Laurotetanine is a toxic compound when taken in large doses.
6. Dulcitol has been detected in the plant. It is a sugar alcohol which is a reduction product of galactose. In
patients with galactose kinase deficiency the excessive formation of dulcitol the lens of the eye could lead
to early cataract.
7. Anti-platelet aggregation activities has been detected amongst some of the aporphine alkaloids found in
the plant notably the following: Actinodaphnine, N-methylactinodaphnine, predicentrine and ocotrine.
8. Ocoteine is also an α1 adrenoreceptor antagonist.
9. Glaucine has cytotoxic activities against HeLa cell lines.

Pharmacological Actions

1. Diuretic
2. Astringent
3. Emmenagogue
4. Vermifuge
5. Laxative
6. Regulates digestion and promote absorption
7. Anti-inflammatory
8. Antipyretic
9. Haemostatic
10. Blood purifier
11. Cytotoxicity
12. Anti-platelet aggregation


In Pregnancy due to its emmenagogue properties it may induce abortions. It is not advisible to be given to infants
and toddlers due to its mild toxicity when the exact dose required cannot be acertain.

Adverse Reaction

In its therapeutic doses there have not been any reports of toxicity. However, convulsions, nausea and vomiting
have been reported when taken in excessive amounts. Those seen climbing poisonous plants like Derris trifoliate,
Nerium indicum should not be used for they would carry the poisonous elements in their stem.

Herb-Drug Interaction

Precautions need to be taken when patients are on diuretic therapy for whatever reason. There could be
cumulative effects due to its diuretic properties. Patients taking anti-coagulant therapy should not take this herb
for it may cause bleeding due to its anti-platelet aggregation activities.


This is a very useful plant with great potentials in providing either therapeutic effect on its own or as an adjuvant
to modern drug therapy. The diuretic effects could be taken advantage of in the treatment of oedema,
hypertension or cardiac failure. Further work need to be done on its emmenagogue properties which could be use
to ease delivery. It has been found to be effective against trypasomiasis and there would be a probable use in the
treatment of Malaria. There could be within the plant a potent anti-malarial compound which could be the answer
to the current resistant malarial parasite. Research in its ability to stimulate and strengthen hair would benefit
many with problems of alopecia. As suggested by Wairt, the possibility of isolating a compound useful in the
treatment of Parkinson’s Disease is always they and research directed towards this would be beneficial to the
human race.

1. Exotic flora Volume III William Jack Hooker 1827 pg 167

2. Aquatic and wetland plants of southwestern United States By Donovan Stewart Correll, Helen B. Correll Volume 1, 1975
3. Transactions, American Philosophical Society (vol. 24, Part 2, 1935-June) pg. 168
4. A Maldivian dictionary By Christopher Hanby Baillie Reynolds pg. 352
5. Descriptive Flora of Puerto Rico and Adjacent Islands By Alain H. Liogier pg. 253
6. Food and Nutrition in Fiji by A A J Jansen, S Parkinson, A F S Robertson pg. 648
7. A new Rotuman dictionary By Hans Schmidt, Elizabeth Kafonika Makarita Inia, Clerk Maxwell Churchward, University of
the South Pacific. Institute of Pacific Studies, Alan Howard pg. 20
8. Alkaloids - secrets of life by Tadeusz Aniszewski pg. 151
9. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America By François Couplan, James Duke pg. 40
10. Archiv der Pharmazie By Deutscher Apotheker-Verein 1854 pg. 195
11. Handbuch der Ethnotherapien By Christine E. Gottschalk-Batschkus, Joy C. Green, ETHNOMED--Institut für Ethnomedizin
12. Traditional Medicine of the Marshall Islands By Irene J Taafaki, Maria Kabua Fowler, Randolph R. Thaman, University of the
South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies Staff, University of the South Pacific. Institute of Pacific Studies
13. Handbook of compounds with cytotoxic activity isolated from plants By Rosa Martha Pérez Gutiérrez pg. 90
14. Florida ethnobotany By Daniel F. Austin, P. Narodny Honychurch pg. 178
15. Dictionary of Alkaloids By Ian W. Southon, John Buckingham, Geoffrey A. Cordell pg. 456
16. Dictionary of natural products By J. Buckingham pg. 466
17. Tohi vagahau Niue By Wolfgang B. Sperlich, Niue, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dept. of Linguistics
18. Aquatic and wetland plants of southwestern United States By Donovan Stewart Correll, Helen B. Correll
19. Flowering plants of the Gambia By Michael Jones pg. 20
20. Flora of Puerto Rico and Adjacent Islands By Alain H. Liogier pg. 60
21. The Book of Aphrodisiacs By Raymond Stark, Stark, Raymond, 1919- pg. 135
22. Alkaloids By S. William Pelletier pg. 116
23. Ethnopharmacology of medicinal plants By Christophe Wiart pg. 131
24. Traditional Medicine of the Marshall Islands By Irene J Taafaki, Maria Kabua Fowler, Randolph R. Thaman, University of the
South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies Staff, University of the South Pacific. Pg. 104
25. Handbook of compounds with cytotoxic activity isolated from plants By Rosa Martha Pérez Gutiérrez pg. 90
26. Phytochemical dictionary By Jeffrey B. Harborne, Herbert Baxter, Gerard P. Moss pg. 230
27. The concise flora of Singapore By Hsuan Keng, Ro-Siu Ling Keng Keng pg. 18
28. Medicinal Plants of East and Southeast Asia – Lilly Perry 1980 pg. 196
29. Chinese Me dicinal Herbs of Hong Kong Vol 2 1981 pg. 28
30. Encyclopedic reference of traditional Chinese medicine By Xinrong Yang, Anmin Chen, Bingyi Fu pg. 234
31. Indian Medicinal Plants By C. P. Khare pg. 130
32. Native American Medicinal Plants By Daniel E. Moerman pg. 123

Scientific Papers

1. Studies on Cassytha filiformis from Benin: isolation, biological activities and quantification of aporphines - J.
Quetin-Leclerq, S. Hoet, S. Block, M.C. Wautier and Stevigny. Proceedings of Bioresources: Towards Drug Discovery and
Development, 2004 pg. 81 – 107
2. Neolignans from the Parasitic Plants. Part 2. Cassytha filiformis - (Jiau-Ching Ho); (Chiu-Ming Chen); (Lie-Ching Row)
Journal of the Chinese Chemical Society 51(1): 221-223(2004/02)
3. Alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis - Yang-Chang, Ya-Chieh Chao, Fang-Rong Chang and Yuan-Yng Chen ;
Phytochemistry Volume 46, Issue 1, September 1997, Pages 181-184
4. Studies on the alkaloids of Formosan lauraceous plants. VII. Alkaloids of Cassytha filiformis linné. Structure of a new
aporphine-type alkaloid "cassyfiline". - Tomita M, Lu ST, Wang SJ Yakugaku Zasshi, 1965 Sep;85(9):827-31
5. Cytotoxic aporphine alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis. Stévigny C, Block S, De Pauw-Gillet MC, de Hoffmann E,
Llabrès G, Adjakidjé V, Quetin-Leclercq J. Planta Med. 2002 Nov;68(11):1042-4
6. Alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis and related aporphines: antitrypanosomal activity, cytotoxicity, and interaction
with DNA and topoisomerases. - Hoet S, Stévigny C, Block S, Opperdoes F, Colson P, Baldeyrou B, Lansiaux A, Bailly C,
Quetin-Leclercq J. Planta Med. 2004 May;70(5):407-13
7. Effect of oral administration of aqueous whole extract of cassytha filiformis on haematograms and plasma
biochemical parameters in rats. - Babayi HM, Udeme JJ, Abalaka JA, Okogun JI, Salawu OA, Akumka DD, Adamu, Zarma
SS, Adzu BB, Abdulmumuni SS, Ibrahime K, Elisha BB, Zakariys SS, Inyang US. J Med Toxicol. 2007 Dec;3(4):146-51
8. Vasorelaxing alkaloids and flavonoids from Cassytha filiformis - Tung-Hu Tsai, Guei-Jane Wang, Lie-Chwen Lin Journal
of natural products. 01/03/2008; 71(2):289-91.
9. Chemical constituents from Cassytha filiformis II F R Chang, Y C Chao, C M Teng, Y C Wu Journal of natural products.
01/08/1998; 61(7):863-6.
10. Alkaloids from Cassytha filiformis and related aporphines: antitrypanosomal activity, cytotoxicity, and interaction
with DNA and topoisomerases - Sara Hoet, Caroline Stévigny, Sébastien Block, Frederik Opperdoes, Pierre Colson,
Brigitte Baldeyrou, Amélie Lansiaux, Christian Bailly, Joëlle Quetin-Leclercq
11. Pharmacological evaluation of ocoteine, isolated from Cassytha filiformis, as an alpha 1-adrenoceptor antagonist in
rat thoracic aorta - C W Chang, F N Ko, M J Su, Y C Wu, C M Teng
12. Studies on the alkaloids of Formosan lauraceous plants. VII. Alkaloids of Cassytha filiformis linné. Structure of a new
aporphine-type alkaloid "cassyfiline" M Tomita, S T Lu, S J Wang Yakugaku zasshi : Journal of the Pharmaceutical
Society of Japan. 01/10/1965; 85(9):827-31.
13. Uji Bioaktivitas Ekstrak Batang Tumbuhan Benalu Mangrove (Cassytha filiformis) : II. Uji Anti Bakteri - Subagiyo ,
Wills Ari Setyati, Ali Ridlo IJMS | Indonesian Journal of Marine Sciences vol. x