Brucea javanica

Herbs gallery - Brucea

Common names

  • Brucea
  • Chinese Gall
  • False Sumac
  • Java Brucea
  • Kosam
  • Macassar Kernels

Brucea (scientific name Brucea javanica) is basically a shrub or a small tree belonging to the family Simaroubaceae. The species name of the plant "javanica" is a Latin term denoting "of Java".

This shrub grows up to a height of 5 meters (15 feet) and bears separate tiny greenish white, greenish red or greenish purple flowers. The flowers appear in panicles and each measure anything between 1.5 mm and 2 mm in diameter. This shrub is a monoecious species, as it bears separate male and female flowers on the same plant.

The anthers of Brucea javanica flowers have a characteristic red color. Typically, this shrub is in bloom during June and July and it bears fruits during July and August. The fruit of this species is a drupe and each of them measure about 0.5 cm (0.2 inch) in length.

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When the fruits are ripe, their color changes to blackish-grey. When they are dry, the fruits become wrinkled. Inside, the seeds are whitish-yellow and they are enveloped by a greasy membrane.

Brucea plants produce compound leaves, which usually have 7 to 9 leaflets. The number of the ovate to ovate-lanceolate shaped leaflets may sometimes vary from three to 15 and they have serrate margins. When mature, each leaflet measures anything between 20 cm and 40 cm in length and has a pointed apex.

The leaves are swathed with delicate hairs, which are most conspicuous at the veins as well as the underside. It is worth mentioning here that all the parts of this shrub have a very bitter flavour.

Brucea javanica is native to Southeast Asia and the northern regions of Australia. In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is well known for its antiseptic properties. Moreover, the seed of brucea has been employed for treating diabetes in traditional folk medicine. The aboriginal tribes of Malaya peninsula also use the seeds of Brucea javanica to cure various types of health conditions.

People in China refer to Brucea javanica as ya tan tze. Several hundred scientific studies and clinical trials have been undertaken with this shrub in China to explore and ascertain its health benefits.

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Parts used

Seeds, bark, fruit.


Almost all parts of Java brucea possess some or the other medicinal properties and, therefore, they are employed to treat various health disorders. For several millennia, people in various regions of the world have been using Brucea javanica for therapeutic purposes.

It has been found that natural remedies and herbal formulations prepared with this shrub are effectual in curing several different types of health disorders, which range from curing malaria and amoebiasis to treating a number of forms of cancer.

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By tradition, people have been employing the fruit of Brucea javanica to treat fever and bleeding, eliminate parasites, cure food poisoning and malaria and even alleviate pain in the lower back (lumbar region).

In vitro studies have revealed that the extract of Brucea javanica has shown anti-fungal action against seven species of oral Candida. The first mention of the Brucea javanica fruit as a herbal remedy is found in Omissions, the Chinese medical monograph, from the Grand Materia Medica, which dates back to 1765.

This shrub encloses a type of quassinoid compounds known as bruceolides, which possess anti-parasitic and anti-cancer properties.

Traditionally, the extract of Brucea javanica has been employed for treating dysentery as well as malaria. Nevertheless, despite findings of various test tube studies have repeatedly shown that this shrub possesses anti-malarial properties; the actions of the herb or its extract are yet to be confirmed by any published report of the clinical trials undertaken with these health conditions.

This plant also yields an oil emulsion which is administered in the form of an injection. Scientists in China have studied this oil emulsion in a number of controlled trials to explore its efficacy in treating people with lung cancer and already undergoing chemotherapy.

The results of these clinical trials are said to be very promising. However, the researchers have emphasized on the need for further superior quality trials on the issue before its use can be confirmed.

The kernels of Java brucea and the active compounds contained by them are known to have a destructive or holding back effect of plasmodia and amoebae. The constituents of these kernels have the ability to expel as well as kill hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and Trichomonas vaginalis. At the same time, they are effective in restraining influenza virus.

The fruits of Java brucea possess anti-malarial as well as anti-neoplastic actions. These fruits have the capacity to influence the verruca cells' nuclei and make them pyknotic, in addition to causing the cells to turn necrotic and eventually fall off.

It has been found that the toxic response to Java brucea is somewhat high in clinical applications. Such toxic reactions are mainly attributed to the potent irritability caused by the volatile oil found in the fruits of this plant.

Even the stem of Brucea javanica possesses astringent along with anthelmintic properties. The seed of this shrub is employed for treating health conditions like dysentery, malaria, fever, jaundice, coughs and even rheumatism.

Fresh Java brucea fruits are also consumed for treating stomach aches. Inhabitants in the East Indies use each and every part of this shrub in the form of a stomachic tonic. In addition, they also use the plant for curing intermittent fever and diarrhea as well as eliminating worms.

It is said that the seed of this plant is effective for treating almost all kinds of pernicious dysentery. In addition, the seeds of this plant are also used for curing malaria. The actions of the seeds are very similar to those of quinine.

In China, people use the Java brucea to cure a number of health issues including chronic dysentery, amebic dysentery, malaria and hemorrhoids. Moreover, it is also used in the form of a potent insecticide.

On the other hand, the seeds of this plant are employed for curing malaria, dysentery and even some forms of cancer. The fruit of Java brucea is also used for curing amebic dysentery, malaria and cancer, in addition to employing it as an insecticide.

People in Indonesia use the fruit of Java brucea to treat fever and malaria. In other places, the plant is used to make poultices which are applied on enlarged spleens, boils, scurf, centipede bites, ringworm and hemorrhoids. The seeds as well as the oil extracted from the plant's seeds are applied on corns and warts. In addition, the seeds of Java brucea are also employed for treating diabetes.

Even the bark of Java brucea root possesses chalagogue properties - it is considered to be an effective gastrointestinal agent that promotes bile flow into the duodenum. At the same time, the root bark stimulates bile production by the liver and, hence, it is said to be choleretic.


Chemical analysis of brucea (Brucea javanica) has shown that this plant encloses alkaloids such as brucamarine and yatanine, in addition to glycosides/ quassinoids (yatanoside A and B, brucealin, bruceantin, bruceantinol, bruceantarin and kosamine).

The seeds of this species enclose brusatol and bruceine. On the other hand the oil obtained from the pulp of Brucea javanica contains oleic acid, fat, linoleic acid, palmitoleic acid and stearic acid. The leaves and the fruits of this plant also contain tannin.

As of today, scientists have reported 153 compounds present in the seeds as well as the other aerial parts of the plant. The primary chemical constituent of this plant is quassinoid.

It is worth mentioning here that quassinoids as well as other compounds isolated from the extract of Brucea have shown a variety of biological properties, in addition to anti-tumour actions. In fact, many of these compounds are selectively toxic to various cancer cells.

Aside from the above mentioned constituents, it has been found that bruceantin, another chemical constituent of Brucea javanica, interferes with the development of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma cells.

Usual dosage

For adults, the usual dosage for brucea (Brucea javanica) is taking anything between 5 and 12 seeds of the herb for a maximum of three times daily.

Some herbal practitioners may also recommend using larger doses (for instance taking as many as 15 seeds to 30 seeds) subject to the condition that one may be suffering from. In addition to the internal use of Brucea javanica seeds, this herb can also be applied topically in the form of an ointment or cream.

Side effects and cautions

Since the Brucea javanica plant also possesses some toxic properties, pregnant women and nursing mother should never use this herb. In addition, this herb should never be administered to small children in any form. Similarly, people suffering from nausea and vomiting should also avoid using this plant or remedies made from it.

Consuming the fruit of Brucea javanica damages the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, in addition to the kidneys and the liver. Hence, one should never use these fruits in excess or continue taking them over a prolonged period. People suffering from any diseases related to the liver or the kidneys as well as those enduring gastrointestinal hemorrhage should strictly avoid the fruits of Brucea javanica.

Some people have also suggested that when the skin comes in contact with sap of plants belonging to this species it may cause skin rashes, especially in susceptible people. However, this claim is yet to be substantiated scientifically.


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