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(Loosestrife family)


500 species in 25 genera are found in all except frigid zones.

[Summary yet to be added]

Ammannia L.
(syn. Amannia Blume)

This is a genus comprising about 25 species, which are of cosmopolitan distribution. The majority of species are to be found in Africa; they are mostly found growing in or by water (Mabberley 1997).

The leaves of some species are used for blistering the skin. Ammannia multiflora Roxb. is apparently innocuous after drying since the plant is eaten (Bailey 1906-7).

Ammannia baccifera L.
(syns Ammannia indica Lam., Ammannia vescicatoria Roxb.)
Blistering Ammannia, Monarch Redstem

The plant is acrid and vesicant (Burkill 1935). Application of the leaf to the skin for half an hour will produce a blister (Quisumbing 1951). The plant is common in rice-fields and has irritant properties (Behl et al. 1966).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Ammannia senegalensis Lam.
Cognac Plant, Copper Leaf Ammannia, Red Ammannia, Kleine Kognakpflanze

The plant is used as a blistering agent in Indian traditional medicine (Behl et al. 1966, Usher 1974, Nadkarni 1976). It is an aquatic plant that is often grown as an aquarium plant in other parts of the world.

Cuphea urens Koehne

This species has irritant properties (Pardo-Castello 1923).

Heimia salicifolia Link
(syn. Nesaea salicifolia Kunth)
Shrubby Yellowcrest, Sun-Opener, Willow-Leaf Heimia

Ingestion of Nesaea salicifolia is said to cause violent perspiration (Bailey 1906-7).

Lawsonia inermis L.
(syns Lawsonia alba Lam., Lawsonia speciosa L., Lawsonia spinosa L.)
Egyptian Privet, Henna Tree, Hina, Jamaica Mignonette, Mehndi, Mendee, Mignonette Tree, Smooth Lawsonia, Hennastrauch, Henné

The powdered leaves form henna, used in the East to stain the finger nails to a red colour. For relatively permanent dyeing with henna, the pH must be about 5.5; this may be achieved by the addition of citric, boric or adipic acid (Budavari 1996). When used as a dye for the eyebrows and eyelashes there is a risk of injury to the eyes, possibly from an astringent effect of tannin present in the leaves (Irvine 1961).

Behl et al. (1966) observed contact dermatitis of the palms and soles from henna applied for cosmetic purposes and henna dust can irritate the face and exposed skin surfaces. Henna may be adulterated with other acrid and vesicant plants. Patch tests carried out using the leaves crushed in a small quantity of normal saline elicited a positive reaction in 1 of 6 contact dermatitis patients tested in New Delhi, India (Singh et al. 1978).

The leaves are applied, topically, to control perspiration (Oliver 1959).

Extraction of the leaves with weak alkali yields 2-hydroxynaphthaquinone (lawsone) (Budavari 1996). Imported powdered leaves are often contamined. For dyeing, henna is often combined with indigo (Indigofera). Contact reactions attributed to henna dye (Abramowicz 1930, Bab 1933, Touton 1932) were possibly due to paraphenylenediamine also present in the dye solution (Greenberg and Lester 1954, Grant 1962). Lawsone has been used as a topical sunscreen (Johnson et al. 1973).

The genus Lawsonia L. is monotypic. However, botanical varieties are recognised.

Sonneratia L.f.

Mabberley (1997) classifies this genus in the Sonneratiaceae, a small family of just two genera. However, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2003) now includes the Sonneratiaceae within the Lythraceae.

Sonneratia apetala Buch.-Ham.
(syn. Kambala pendula Raf.)
Kambala, Chinese Mangrove

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sonneratia caseolaris Engl.
(syns Rhizophora caseolaris L., Sonneratia acida L.f.)
Crabapple Mangrove, Berembang

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sonneratia griffithii Kurz
Apple Mangrove

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Woodfordia fruticosa Kurz
(syns Grislea tomentosa Roxb., Lythrum fruticosum L., Woodfordia floribunda Salisb., Woodfordia tomentosa Bedd.)
Dhataki, Dhawai, Fire Flame Bush, Shiranji Tea

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Abramowicz, I. (1930) Klinische und experimentelle Untersuchungen über Augenschädigungen durch das Haarfarbmittel Henna. Klin. Oczna 8: 153 (Abstr. ZbL.f. g. Ophth. 25: 674 (1931)).
  • Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2003) An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 141(4): 399-436 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Bab, W.L. (1933) Schädigung des Auges durch Wimpernfärbung. Deutsche Med. Wchnschr. 59: 1041.
  • Bailey, F.M. (1906-7) Weeds and suspected poisonous plants of Queensland, Brisbane quoted by Hurst (1942)
  • Behl PN, Captain RM, Bedi BMS, Gupta S (1966) Skin-Irritant and Sensitizing Plants Found in India. New Delhi: PN Behl [WorldCat]
  • Budavari S (Ed.) (1996) The Merck Index. An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 12th edn. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Burkill IH (1935) A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, Vols 1 & 2. London: Crown Agents [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Hurst E (1942) The Poison Plants of New South Wales. Sydney: NSW Poison Plants Committee [WorldCat]
  • Irvine FR (1961) Woody Plants of Ghana. With special reference to their uses. London: Oxford University Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Johnson, J.A., Czaplewski, R.R. and Fusaro, M.M. (1973) Protection against long ultraviolet light with dihydroxyacetone-naphthoquinone. Dermatologica 147: 104.
  • Mabberley DJ (1997) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Nadkarni AK (1976) Dr. K. M. Nadkarni's Indian Materia Medica. With ayurvedic, unani-tibbi, siddha, allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic & home remedies, appendices & indexes, Revised enlarged and reprinted 3rd edn, Vols 1 & 2. Bombay: Popular Prakashan [WorldCat] [url]
  • Oliver, B. (1959) Nigeria's Useful Plants. Nigerian Field 24: 70.
  • Pardo-Castello V (1923) Dermatitis venenata. A study of the tropical plants producing dermatitis. Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology 7(1): 81-90 [doi] [url]
  • Quisumbing E (1951) Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Technical Bulletin 16, Philippines Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Manila, Philippine Islands: Manila Bureau of Printing [WorldCat]
  • Singh R, Siddiqui MA, Baruah MC (1978) Plant dermatitis in Delhi. Indian Journal of Medical Research 68(Oct): 650-655
  • Touton K (1932) Hauterkrankungen durch phanerogamische Pflanzen und ihre Produkte (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes) [Skin Diseases Caused by Phanerogamic Plants and their Products (Toxicodermia et Allergodermia phytogenes)]. In: Jadassohn J (Ed.) Handbuch der Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten. Band IV, Teil I. Angeborene Anomalien. Lichtdermatosen. Pflanzengifte. Thermische Schädigungen. Einfluss Innerer Störungen auf die Haut [Handbook of Skin and Venereal Diseases. Volume IV, Part I. Congenital abnormalities. Photodermatoses. Plant toxins. Thermal injuries. Influence of internal disorders on the skin], pp. 487-697. Berlin: Julius Springer [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Uphof JCT (1959) Dictionary of Economic Plants. New York: Hafner Publishing Company [WorldCat]
  • Usher G (1974) A Dictionary of Plants used by Man. London: Constable [WorldCat]

Richard J. Schmidt

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