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Family Basellaceae
Basella alba Linn.

Yan zhi cai

Scientific names  Common names 
Basella alba L. Alugbati (Bis.) 
Basella cordifolia Lam. Arogbati (Bik.) 
Basella crassifolia Salisb. Dundul (Sul.)
Basella japonica Burm.f. Grana (Tag.) 
Basella lucida Linn.  Ilaibakir (Ilk.) 
Basella nigra Lour. Libato (Tag.) 
Basella ramosa J.Jacq. ex Spreng.  Climbing Ceylon spinach (Engl.)
Basella rubra Linn.  Malabar nightshage (Engl.)
Basella volubilis Salisb.  Red vine spinach (Engl.)
Gandola nigra (Lour.) Raf.  Spinach vine (Engl.) 
Gandola rubra Rumph. ex L.   
Basella rubra L. is a synonym of Basella alba L. The Plant List
Basella alba L. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
ARABIC: Malabar.
ASSAMESE: Ronga puroi, Ronga puroi sak.
BENGALI: Puishak, Puin sang.
CHINESE: Mu er cai, Hong teng cai, Hong chan cai, Zi luo kui, Zi ruan teng, Zi bei teng cai, Yan zhi cai.
DANISH: Malabarspinat, Indisk spinat.
DUTCH: Oostindische spinazie, Ceylonspinazie, Malabar spinazie.
FRENCH: Baselle rouge, Epinard de Malabar à tiges rouges.
GERMAN: Malabarspinat, Weisse Beerblume, Indischer Spinat.
GUJARATI: Valchi bhagi.
HINDI: Lalbachlu, poi, Poi saag, Saag.
ITALIAN: Bassella bianca, Spinacio della Cina.
JAPANESE: Kuki no akai shin tsurumurasaki, Shin tsuru murasaki.
KANNADA: Basaḷe kempu.
MALAYALAM: Basella cheera, Vashala cheera.
NEPALESE: Poi saag.
RUSSIAN: Bazella krasnaia.
SANSKRIT: Upodika.
SINHALESE: Vel niviti.
SPANISH: Espinaca de Malabar, Espinaca basela, Espinaca blanca de Malabar, Espinaca de la China.
TAMIL: Kodippasali, Koṭippacaḷi, Pasalai keerai, Vasalakirrai.
TELUGU: Erra allubaccali.
THAI: Phak pang, Phak plang, Phak plang yai, Po deng chai.

Alugbati is a succulent, branched, smooth, twining herbaceous vine, several meters in length. Stems are purplish or green. Leaves are somewhat fleshy, ovate or heart-shaped, 5 to 12 centimeters long, stalked, tapering to a pointed tip with a cordate base. Spikes are axillary, solitary, 5 to 29 centimeters long. Flowers are pink, about 4 millimeters long. Fruit is fleshy, stalkless, ovoid or nearly spherical, 5 to 6 millimeters long, and purple when mature.

- Found in settled areas, in hedges, old cultivated areas, etc., throughout the Philippines.
- Often cultivated.
- Prehistoric introduction.
- Also occurs in tropical Asia, Africa, and Malaya.

• Phytochemical screening of various extracts yielded cardiac glycosides, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, terpenoids, carbohydrates, and reducing sugars.
• Study isolated Basellasaponins A, B, C, and D, oleanane-type triterpenes oligoglycosides, together with betavulgaroside 1, spinacoside C, and momordins IIb and IIc, from fresh aerial parts.

• Leaves yield saponin, vitamin A and B.
• Fruit yields mucilage and iron.

• Study of wild Basella rubra showed it to be abundant in carotene, middle in vitamin C, and low in nitrate. Nitrate in planted B. rubra is about twice that of the wild variety.

• Aperient, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, laxative, rubefacient.
• Mucilaginous when cooked.
• Studies exhibited androgenic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiulcer, antiviral, CNS depressant, hepatoprotective, and wound healing activities.

Edibility / Nutrition
- Common market product, a popular leafy and stew vegetable, and a good substitute for spinach.
- The green and purple cultivated varieties are preferable to the wild ones.
- Both the young shoots and stems are eaten.
- Excellent source of calcium and iron; good source of vitamins A, B, and C, with a high roughage value.
- Roots are employed as rubefacient.
- Poultice of leaves used to reduce local swelling.
- Sap is applied to acne eruptions to reduce inflammation.
- Decoction of leaves used for its mild laxative effects.
- Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration.
- Sugared juice of leaves useful for catarrhal afflictions in children.
- Leaf-juice, mixed with butter, is soothing and cooling when applied to burns and scalds.
- In India, used in hemorrhagic diseases and as tonic. Also used for burns and pruritic skin lesions. In Orissa, India, paste of root in rice water taken in the morning on an empty stomach for a month to cure irregular periods.
- In Nigeria, leaves used for hypertension. In Cameroonian folk medicine, used for malaria.
- Mucilaginous liquid obtained from the leaves and tender stalks used for habitual headaches.
- In Ayurveda, used for hemorrhages, skin diseases, sexual weakness, ulcers and as laxative in children. Leaves applied on the head for half a hour before bathing to help bring about a good refreshing sleep. Sap is applied to acne eruptions to reduce inflammation. Decoction of leaves used for a mild laxative effect. Pulped leaves applied to boils and ulcers to hasten suppuration. Leaf juice mixed with butter applied to burns and scalds for a soothing and cooling effect. Leaves and stems have been used as anticancer for melanoma, leukemia, and oral cancer.
- Roots and leaves used for the removal of after birth, stomach pains, and increase milk production.
- Used orally for anal prolapse and hernia.
- In Nigeria, use for fertility enhancement in women.

- In Nepal, leaf juice is used to treat dysentery, catarrh, and applied externally to boils.
- In Thai traditional medicine, the mucilage is used as application for bruises, ringworm, and laboring. Stem and leaves used as mild laxative, diuretic and antipyretic.
- In Cameroon herbal healers use plant extracts to enhance libido and as remedy for infertility.
- In Antilles leaves considered good maturative as cataplasm.
Cosmetic: Fruit used by women as rouge for cheeks and lips; also as a dye.
Dye: With the anthocyanin content, it makes for a natural food colorant. Fruit provides a dark violet color as food colorant.
Veterinary: Ground leaves rubbed on the human hand to introduce the preparation into the animal vagina every morning for the treatment of sterility.
Pharmaceuticals: Plant mucilage has been proposed for applications in medicine and cosmetics. The mucilage has also been proposed as thickener, water-retention agent, gelling agent, suspending agent and film former.

Anthocyanins / Natural Food Colorant :
Study of pigment extracted from fruits of spinach vine (B. rubra) showed good stability with a potential as a natural food color. (1)
Study yielded two antifungal peptides with potent activity against Botrytis cinerea, Mycosphaerella arachidicola and Fusarium oxysporum.
Antimicrobial / Leaves:
A study of the aqueous, ethanolic and petroleum ether extracts of the leaves of Basella rubra exhibited antimicrobial activity against all test organisms except P aeruginosa. The ethanolic extract showed maximum effect against E coli. Further studies are needed to isolate the active compound responsible for the antimicrobial effect.
Hypoglycemic / Leaf Pulp:
A study of STZ-induced diabetic rats fed with Basella rubra showed the leaf pulp of B. rubra possesses a strong hypoglycemic effect.
Volatile Flavor Components: Study identified volatile flavor components. The major components from the volatile oil were: 1-methoxypropane, (Z)-3-hexen-l-ol, 3-methoxyphenyl acetate, acetophenone, 4-vinylguaiacol, isophytol, and phytol.
Dyestuff / Microbiological Stain: Study showed the anthocyanin extracted from Basella rubra berries produced a stain comparable with synthetic stains like crystal violet and safranin, and can be used as an alternative microbiological stain.
Antidiabetic / Antioxidant:
Study evaluated the action of B. rubra against streptozotocin-induced diabetes in rats. Results showed effective reduction of oxidative stress induced by streptozotocin and potential reduction in blood sugar level.
Antihyperglycemic / Antioxidant:
Study evaluated an aqueous extract of B. rubra for antihyperglycemic activity in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Phytochemical screening showed a rich source of phytonutrients, including enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants. Results concluded the aqueous extract exhibited significant antihyperglycemic activity.
Haematologic Effects / Amylase Activity:
Study evaluated various extracts for hematologic parameters on Swiss mice and amylase activity on Wistar rats. Results showed an increase in the haematological parameters (RBC, WBC, Hb, and PCV). There was also an increase in amylase content. Results suggest potential use to prevent various complications in diabetes.
Antiulcer Activity / Antioxidant:
Study evaluated the antiulcer activity of an aqueous extract of B. rubra leaves on ethanol and pylorus ligated-induced gastric ulcers in rats. Results showed significant and dose-dependent antiulcer activity and present a potential use in the treatment of gastric ulcers.
Fruit / Betacyanin / Antioxidant: Betacyanin extracted from the B alba fruit exhibited excellent antioxidant activity, beneficial in scavenging free radicals.
Antimicrobial / Leaves and Stems: Study evaluated various extracts of leaves and stems for antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. Methanol and aqueous extracts of stems showed maximum activity against S. typhi and P. vulgaris. Ethanol extracts of leaves and stems showed highest inhibition of B. subtilis and S. typhi. Antifungal activity was shown against A. niger, C. albicans and R. stolonifers.
Cytotoxic / Antibacterial: Study evaluated the cytotoxic and antibacterial activity of Basella alba whole plant extract. A methanolic extract showed significant growth inhibition on human cancer cell lines and moderate activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Bacillus subtilis. (23)
Gastroprotective / Leaf Extracts:
Study of aqueous and ethanol extracts of leaves were investigated for antiulcer activity on rats in pylorus ligated and ethanol induced ulcer models. Results showed significant dose-dependent gastroprotective effect substantiated by histopathological examination of ulcerated stomachs of the animals. (24)
Increased Testosterone and Estradiol Production:
Study evaluated a methanol extract of Baselia alba (MEBa) for cell viability, steroid production, and level of aromatase mRNA. Results showed no effect on Leydig cell viability. There was significant stimulation of testosterone and estradiol production and enhanced aromatase mRNA level. (25)
Antiurolithiatic / Leaves:
Study of leaves extract of Basella alba showed admirable dissolving capacity of calcium oxalate crystals in vitro. (27)
Mucilage Suspending Properties / Leaves:
Study evaluated the suitability of mucilage isolated from leaves of Basella alba leaves as suspending agent. Results showed B. alba leaves possess properties to be used as a suspending agent, and superior than both tragacanth and bentonite. (28)
Burn Wound Healing / Leaves:
Study evaluated an aqueous extract of leaves of B. alba formulated as a gel for burn wound healing activity. Results showed significant improvement in burn wound contraction. (29)
Nephroprotective / Gentamycin Induced Renal Toxicity:
Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of B. alba on gentamycin induced nephrotoxicity in Wistar albino rats. Results showed the extract protected GM-induced nephrotoxicity, possibly by enhancing renal antioxidant agent. (30)

Cultivated vegetable market produce.
Seeds in the cybermarket.

Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Last Update December 2015

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE / Public Domain / File:Basella rubra Blanco1.74.png / Flora de Filipinas / Franciso Manuel Blanco (OSA), 1880-1883 / Wikimedia Commons

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Stability of anthocyanin in spinach vine (Basella rubra) fruits / Cien. Inv. Agr. 34 (2):115-120, 2007
Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants
Medicinal foodstuffs. XXIII. Structures of new oleanane-type triterpene oligoglycosides, basellasaponins A, B, C, and D, from the fresh aerial parts of Basella rubra L. / Murakami T et al / Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin 2001;49(6):776-9.
Novel Antifungal Peptides from Ceylon Spinach Seeds / doi:10.1006/bbrc.2001.5822 / Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications / Volume 288, Issue 4, 9 November 2001, Pages 765-770
Phytochemical, nutritional and medical properties of some leafy vegetables consumed by Edo people of Nigeria / J.K. Mensah, R.I. Okoli et al
ANTIMICROBIAL ACTIVITY OF BASELLA RUBRA LEAVES / K Sen et al / International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research / IJPSR (2010), Vol. 1, Issue 2

Hypoglycemic effect of Basella rubra in streptozotocin – induced diabetic albino rats / A Nirmala, S Saroja, H R Vasanthi, and G Lalitha / Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy Vol. 1 (2) pp. 025-030, August, 2009
Volatile flavor components of malabar-nightshade (Basella rubra L.) / Hiromu Kameoka, Kanji Kubo and Mitsuo Miyazawa / Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, Vol 4, Issue 4, December 1991, Pages 315-321 / doi:10.1016/0889-1575(91)90017-Z
Utilization of an indigenous dyestuff from Basella rubra (alugbati) as microbiological stain / Enerva, Lorna T. , et al / Fil Q149.P5 N25 / 28(1) / ISSUE DATE 2006
Basella alba L. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Sorting Basella names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Antidiabetic Activity of Basella rubra and its Relationship with the Antioxidant Property / A. Nirmala*, S. Saroja and G. Gayathri Devi / British Biotechnology Journal 1(1): 1-9, 2011
Phytochemical Screening and Antihyperglycemic Activity of Basella rubra
/ A. Nirmala*, S. Saroja and S. Gayathri Devi / Recent Research in Science and Technology 2011, 3(11): 80-83
Effect of Basella rubra L. leaf extract on haematological parameters and amylase activity
/ Deep Shikha Sonkar,* Rajiv Gupta, Shubhini A. Saraf / Pharmacognosy Communications, Volume 2 | Issue 3 | Jul-Sep 2012
Antiulcer activity of aqueous extract of Basella rubra in albino rats.
/ S. Deshpande, G. B. Shah, I. Deshpande, N. S. Parmar* / Journal of Natural Remedies, Vol. 3/2 (2003) 21
Screening of Wound Healing and Antimicrobial Activity of Basella rubra Plant
/ Thesis / Study Proposal / Jameel Ahma /
Antioxidant analysis of betacyanin extracted from Basella alba fruit / S. K. Reshmi, K.M. Aravinthan and P. Suganya devi / International Journal of PharmTech Research, Vol.4, No.3, pp 900-913, July-Sept 2012
A Review on Medicinal Importance of Basella alba / L. Roshan Adhikari, Naveen Kumar HN, Shruthi SD* / International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research 2012; 4(2): 110-114
Study on Content of Nitrate,Vitamin C and Carotene in Basella Rubra / ZHANG Shu-Xia XIAO Sheng-Hong / Chinese Journal of Spectroscopy Laboratory, 2006-02
Alugbati (Basella Rubra Linn.) Leaves and Stems Extracts Against Pathogenic Microoganisms / BURCE, J.M., MARCELLANA, W.B, & TUANDO / Dept. of Biology, Rizal Technological University
A review of the taxonomy, ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Basella alba (Basellaceae) / S. A. Deshmukh and D. K. Gaikwad* / Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science Vol. 4 (01), pp. 153-165, January, 2014 / DOI: 10.7324/JAPS.2014.40125
Cytotoxic and Antibacterial Activity of Basella Alba Whole Plant: A Relatively Unexplored Plant
/ Rathee Sushila, Ahuja Deepti, Rathee Permender, Thanki Madhavi, Rathee Dharmender* / Pharmacologyonline 3: 651-658 (2010)
Gastroprotective effect of leaf extracts of Basella alba var. alba against experimental gastric ulcers in rats / Vijender KumarI, *; Z. A. BhatI; Dinesh KumarI; N. A. KhanI; I. A. ChashooI; Irfat AraII / Rev. bras. farmacogn. vol.22 no.3 Curitiba May/June 2012 Epub Mar 08, 2012 / http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-695X2012005000032
Effects of the methanol extract of Basella alba L (Basellaceae) on steroid production in Leydig cells. / Nantia EA, Travert C, Manfo FP, Carreau S, Monsees TK, Moundipa PF. / Int J Mol Sci. 2011 Jan 14;12(1):376-84. doi: 10.3390/ijms12010376.
Basella alba / Synonyms / The Plant List
To study the action of Basella alba ethanolic extract on Calcium Oxalate in vitro. / Sudhir Sase*, R . P. Limaye, Navneet Soni, Sudin Gaikwad / International Journal of Ayurvedic and Herbal Medicine 3:5 (2013) 1343–1346
Studies on Basella alba L. leaves mucilage: Evaluation of suspending properties / Dilipkumar Pal, Amit Kumar Nayak, Samir Kalia / Int J Drug Discov Tech 01/2010; 1:15-20.
Formulation and Evaluation of Herbal Gel of Basella alba for wound healing activity / Mohammed Haneefa K.P*, Guru Prasad Mohanta, Chandini Nayar / J. Pharm. Sci. & Res. Vol.4(1), 2012, 1642-1648
Protective effect of Basella alba L. on nephrotoxicity induced by gentamycin in rats
/ Saleh Alqasoumi / Clinical and Experimental Medical Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4 / DOI: 10.1556/CEMED.5.2011.4.6
Sorting Basella names / /Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1995 - 2020 / A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia.

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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