HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Arecaceae
Lady palm
Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry
Zhong zhu

Scientific names Common names
Chamaerops excelsa Thunb. Rapis (Tag.)
Chamaerops kwanwortsik Siebold ex H.Wendl. [Invalid] Rhapis (Engl.)
Rhapis aspera W.H.Baxter [Invalid] Bamboo palm (Engl.)
Rhapis cordata W.H.Baxter [Invalid] Broadleaf bamboo plant (Engl.)
Rhapis divaricata Gagnep. Broadleaf lady (Engl.)
Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry Fern rhapis (Engl.)
Rhapis flabelliformis L'Hér. ex Aiton [Illegitimate] Ground rattan (Engl.)
Rhapis kwamworzick Siebold ex Linden Lady palm (Engl.)
Rhapis major Blume Little lady palm (Engl.)
Trachycarpus excelsus (Thunb.) H.Wendl.  
Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) Henry is an accepted name The Plant List
Related article: A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Zhong zhu.
DANISH: Horpalme.
DUTCH: Chinese windmolenpalm.
FRENCH: Palmier éventail, Rhapis en éventail, Rhapis à feuilles larges.
GERMAN: Rhapispalme, Steckenpalme.
INDONESIAN: Palem wregu
ITALIAN: Palma ventaglio.
KOREAN: Gwan eum jook, Gwan eum juk.
SPANISH: Palmera bambu.

Rhapis excelsa is an erect, slender, suckering and clustering palm, erect and slender, growing up to 3 to 4 meters tall. Stem is cane-like, up to 4 centimeters in diameter, densely wrapped with dark-brown mats of coarse fiber. Leaves are palmately divided into broad, ribbed segments, appearing like a dissected fan. Leaf ends are saw-toothed in slender petioles up 20 to 50 centimeters long, smooth, stiff or arching. As the lower leaves fall off, stems are left with scars that give a bamboo-like appearance. New foliage emerges from fibrous sheath which remains attached to the base. Small inflorescences occur at the top, with spirally-arranged fleshy flowers with three petals fused at the base.

- Introduced to the Philippines in the early 1900s.
- Ornamental cultivation.
- Used for dense hedges.
- Probably native to China and Japan.

- Methanol extract of leaves yielded terpenoids, steroids and triterpenoids, saponins, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, phytosterols, resins, phenols, flavonoids, and oxalic acid. (see study below) (3)
- Chromatographic fractionation of R. excelsa leaves isolated four flavonoids:
Apigenin-8-C-glucoside (vitexin), Apigenin-6,8-Di-C-β- glucopyranoside (vicenin-2), Luteolin-6-C-glucoside (isoorientin) and Luteolin-8-C-glucoside (orientin). (see study below) (4)

- Considered hemostatic, antidysenteric, and circulatory tonic.
- Studies have shown anti-viral, bacteriostatic, cytotoxic, antioxidant properties.

Parts used
Bark, roots.


- No known folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Burned or charred bark applied externally to stop bleeding. (1)
- Decoction of roots or ashes from burnt bark used for rheumatism; also used to stimulate blood circulation. (1)
- Used as hemostatic and antidysenteric. (12)
- Air-cleaning Indoor Plant: Used as air-filtering plant.

Air-Filtering Property:
Included in the NASA list of 10 Best Air Filtering House Plants, Raphis excelsa is considered capable indoor air purification—eliminating formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene from indoor environment. (1)
Phytochemicals / Antioxidant / Leaves: Study evaluated leaves of Rhapis excelsa for phytochemical composition, antioxidant activity and FTIR evaluation. Total phenolics and terpenoids in the methanolic extract showed 11 mg GAE/g and 130 mg/g, respectively. Hydrogen peroxide and reducing power scavenging assays were used to evaluated antioxidant activity. Results showed moderate to significant antioxidant activity. (see constituents above) (3)
Flavonoids / Antioxidant / Antibacterial Potentiation / Leaves: Study of leaves extract yielded four flavonoids. Ethyl acetate and butanol fractions showed remarkable antioxidant activity (86.2 and 75.6 respectively) on DPPH radical scavenging assay. The extracts had no antimicrobial activity alone, but revealed an ability to potentiate the antibacterial activity of ciprofloxacin, tetracycline and oxacillin. (see constituents above) (4)
Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity / Antifungal / Bacteriostatic: Study investigated the antimicrobial and antiviral potential of three medicinal plants viz., Catunaregam spinosa, Houttunyia cordata, and Rhapis excelsa. All the extracts showed bacteriostatic activity. The ethanol extract of R. excelsa exhibited the strongest fungicidal activity against C. albicans, C. parapsilosis and T. mentagrophytes with minimum fungicidal concentration (MFC) of 0.04-0.08 mg/mL. Only the chloroform and ethyl acetate extract of R. excelsa showed significant antiviral activity against Chikungunya virus with 50% effective concentrations (EC50) of 29.9 and 78.1 g/mL. (6)
Cytotoxicity / Anti-CHIKV Testing: Study investigated a total of 30 crude extracts from leaves and aerial parts of five Malaysian plants (Ipomoea aquatica, Persicaria odorata, Rhapis excelsa, Rhoeo spathacea, and Vernonia amygdalina) for anti-CHIKV activity. On cytotoxicity testing on Vero cells in a 72 hour NRU (neutral red uptake) assay, the ethanol extract of R. excelsa showed the highest cytotoxicity with CC50 of 51.67±2.89 µg/mL. In post-inoculation antiviral assay, all the extracts did not achieve the half-maximal effective concentration (EC50). (7)
• Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity: Chikungunya virus is a reemerging arbovirus transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti mosquito. Study investigated 120 extracts from 20 selected medicinal plants for anti-Chikungunya activity. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed the chloroform extract of Rhapis excelsa leaves exhibited the highest percentage of viral load reduction (98.1%) with EC50 of 29.9 ± 0.9 and selectivity index of 5.4. (10)
• Comparative Indoor VOC Absorption: Study evaluated the effectiveness of VOC (volatile organic compounds) absorption between Rhapis excelsa, Nephrolepis exaltata, and Dracaena fragrans in small rooms. Among the three plants, R. excelsa was identified as the best indoor plant to absorb VOC with the highest decrement when using six plants. (11)
• Antidermatophytic / Leaves: Study evaluated the antidermatophytic activity of 48 extracts obtained from medicinal plants and marine algae. Ethanol and methanolic leaf extracts of R. excelsa and methanol and water extracts of S. myrtifolium were highly active (MFC <0.1 mg/mL) with highly selective indices (SI>2.8) against reference strains T. rubrum and T. interdigitale, and most of the clinical isolates of T. tonsurans. Phytochemical analysis showed presence of alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, phenolics and triterpenoids in the extracts. (13)

- Wildcrafted.
- Ornamental cultivation.
- Plant and seeds in the cybermarket.

Updated December 2019 /July 2017
September 2016

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Raphis excelsa / Medicinal Plants in Singapore
NASA Clear Air Study / Wikipedia
A STUDY ON PHYTOCHEMICALS, ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY AND FT-IR ANALYSIS OF RHAPIS EXCELSA (THUNB.) A. HENRY / D. Vanaja and Dr. S. Kavitha* / European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research (ejpmr) 2016,3(7), 390-394.
Polyphenolic constituents and antimicrobial activity of Rhapis excels (Arecaceae, Coryphoideae). / Hassanein HD*, Elsayed WM, Abreu AC, Simões M, and Abdelmohsen MM / Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences, 6(1): pp 1714-1722
A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings / Revision of Rhapis Volume 47(2) 2003
Evaluation of Medicinal Plants, Catunaregam spinosa, Houttuynia cordata, and Rhapis excelsa from Malaysia for Antibacterial, Antifungal and Antiviral Properties / Yik Sin Chan, Bee Ling Chuah, Wei Quan Chan, Ri Jin Cheng, Yan Hang Oon, Kong Soo Khoo, Nam Weng Sit / International Journal of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol 1, No 11 (2014)
/ ARVIND DEVAR RAMACHENDRIN / A project report submitted to the Department of Biomedical Science Faculty of Science Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman
Raphis excelsa / Synonyms / The Plant List
Sorting Rhapis 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.

Investigation of Twenty Selected Medicinal Plants From Malaysia for Anti-Chikungunya Virus Activity / YS Chan et al. / Int Microbiol 19 (3), 175-182. 9 2016.
Effectiveness of voc absorption between Rhapis excelsa (Thunb.) A. Henry, Nephrolepis exaltata (L.) and Dracaena fragrans (L.) in small rooms / Ghazalli, Aini Jasmin (2012)  / Master Thesis / Universiti Putra Malaysia
Traditions and plant use during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery by the Kry ethnic group in Lao PDR / Vichitt Lamsay et al / Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Dec 2011 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-7-
In vitro antidermatophytic activity and cytotoxicity of extracts derived from medicinal plants and marine algae / N.W. Sit, Y.S. Chan, S.C. Lai, L.N. Lim, G.T. Looi, P.L. Tay, Y.T. Tee, Y.Y. Woon, K.S. Khoo,  and HC Ong / Journal of Mycologic Medicale, Sept 2018; 28(3): pp 561-567

A Revision of Rhapis, the Lady Palms / Laura H. Hastings

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)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT