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Brucea javanica

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Brucea javanica
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Simaroubaceae
Genus: Brucea
B. javanica
Binomial name
Brucea javanica

Brucea javanica (also known as Macassar kernels)[4] is a plant in the family Simaroubaceae. The specific epithet javanica is from Latin, meaning "of Java".[5] Other common names in English include Java brucea and kosam.[6]


Brucea javanica grows as a shrub or small tree to 5 metres (16 ft) tall. The tiny flowers (1.5–2 mm in diameter) are greenish white to greenish red or purple and occur in panicles.[5] There are separate male and female flowers on each plant, making it a monoecious species. The anthers are typically red.[4] In the northern hemisphere it flowers in June and July and sets fruit in July and August, in Australia it flowers from October to February and fruits from February to July.[7][8] The fruit, which are drupes, measure up to 0.5 cm (0.2 in) long.[5] When ripe they are a black-gray color and they become wrinkled when dry. The seed is whitish yellow and covered with an oily membrane. It has compound leaves with typically 7–9 (but range from 3–15) ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaflets with serrate margins.[7] Each leaflet is 20–40 cm long at maturity and comes to a point at the apex. The leaves are covered with fine hairs that are most prominent on the veins and on the undersides of the leaves. All parts of the plant are intensely bitter.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Brucea javanica occurs naturally from Sri Lanka and India to China, Indochina, Malesia, New Guinea and Australia.[3][5] Its habitat includes open areas, secondary forest and sometimes sand dunes.[5] In Australia it grows as an understory tree from sea-level to 500 metres (1,600 ft) altitude.[4]

Medicinal use[edit]

The fruit of this plant was first mentioned as medicine in the Chinese medical monograph Omissions from the Grand Materia Medica, written in 1765.[9] It contains quassinoid compounds called bruceolides that are anticancer and antiparasitic.[10][11] It is traditionally used to treat dysentery and malaria, though no clinical trials have been published confirming efficacy for these conditions despite test tube studies repeatedly showing anti-malarial activity.[12][13] Moronic acid, another compound found in the plant, shows also potential anti-HIV activity.[14] An injectable oil emulsion from the plant has been studied in China in controlled trials for treating lung cancer patients combined with chemotherapy, with promising results.[15] More high-quality trials are needed to confirm this use.


  1. ^ Liu, B.; Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2019). "Brucea javanica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T88319896A147617680. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Brucea javanica (L.) Merr". The Plant List. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Brucea javanica". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c F.A.Zich; B.P.M.Hyland; T.Whiffen; R.A.Kerrigan (2020). "Brucea javanica". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants (RFK8). Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR), Australian Government. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kulip, Julius; Wong, K. M. (1995). "Brucea javanica (L.) Merr.". In Soepadmo, E.; Wong, K. M. (eds.). Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak. (free online from the publisher, lesser resolution scan PDF versions). Vol. 1. Forest Research Institute Malaysia. pp. 429, 431. ISBN 983-9592-34-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  6. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (1999). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Vol. 1. CRC Press. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-849326-73-8.
  7. ^ a b c "Brucea javanica (Linnaeus) Merrill, J. Arnold Arbor. 9: 3. 1928". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  8. ^ Cooper, Wendy; Cooper, William T. (June 2004). Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest. Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia: Nokomis Editions. p. 514. ISBN 978-0958174213.
  9. ^ Bensky, Dan; Clavey, Steven; Stöger, Erich; Gamble, Andrew (2004). Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica (3rd ed.). Eastland Press. ISBN 0-939616-42-4.
  10. ^ Roberts, M. F. (1994). "Brucea SPP.: In Vitro Culture and the Production of Canthinone Alkaloids and Other Secondary Metabolites". Medicinal and Aromatic Plants VI. Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry. Vol. 26. pp. 21–45. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-57970-7_2. ISBN 978-3-642-63420-8.
  11. ^ Chen, MW; Chen, R; Wang, SP; Tan, W; et al. (2013). "Chemical components, pharmacological properties, and nanoparticulate delivery systems of Brucea javanica". Int J Nanomed. 8: 85–92. doi:10.2147/IJN.S31636. PMC 3540955. PMID 23319860.
  12. ^ WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants. World Health Organization. 2006. hdl:10665/42052.
  13. ^ Kefe, A; Giday, M; Mamo, H; Erko, B (2016). "Antimalarial properties of crude extracts of seeds of Brucea antidysenterica and leaves of Ocimum lamiifolium". BMC Complement Altern Med. 16: 118. doi:10.1186/s12906-016-1098-9. PMC 4831165. PMID 27075995.
  14. ^ Yu, Donglei; Sakurai, Yojiro; Chen, Chin-Ho; Chang, Fang-Rong; Huang, Li; Kashiwada, Yoshiki; Lee, Kuo-Hsiung (1 September 2006). "Anti-AIDS Agents 69. Moronic Acid and Other Triterpene Derivatives as Novel Potent Anti-HIV Agents". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 49 (18): 5462–5469. doi:10.1021/jm0601912. PMC 2512972. PMID 16942019.
  15. ^ Nie, Yan-li; Liu, Ke-xin; Mao, Xuan-yue; Li, Yu-lin; Li, Jing; Zhang, Ming-ming (November 2012). "Effect of injection of brucea javanica oil emulsion plus chemoradiotherapy for lung cancer: a review of clinical evidence: Brucea javanica oil emulsion for lung cancer". Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine. 5 (4): 216–225. doi:10.1111/jebm.12001. PMID 23557502. S2CID 23514313.