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Substances naturelles en Polynésie française

Jean Guezennec
Christian Moretti
Jean-Christophe Simon

Part one. Synopsis and Recommendations

Annex 1. Group 1 data sheets

Texte intégral

Callophyllum inophyllum L. (CLUSIACEAE)


Naturalised tree, sometimes planted, rare to uncommon, localised in coastal forest in calcareous habitats or on basalt, grows equally well in coral sand and in soil.

Pantropical: Tropical Asia, Africa, Melanesia, Polynesia.


Sacred plant in Polynesia (SCHULTES and RAFFAUF, 1990)

Very hard wood, appreciated for fine carpentry, roof structures and canoes.

Medicinal plant. Parts used are the bark, seeds, leaves, resin (latex) and the bitter oil of the seeds. A pigment can be extracted from the fruit for use as an ink for bark cloth designs.

In Java, the seed oil is claimed to have diuretic properties. In Samoa, all parts of the plant are regarded as virulent poisons; it is said that the sap and exudate can blind, or cause death if injected.

Uses of latex (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

The latex, obtained by making incisions in the bark, is emetic (causes vomiting) and purgative, and can also be used to treat wounds and ulcers. It can be mixed with strips of bark and leaves for infusions, the oil appearing on the surface being used to treat sore eyes (Drury, 1873; Nadkarni and Nadkarni, 1999). The resin is said to be responsible for the colour and odour of the oil which may be poisonous: it is said to contain benzoic acid.

Uses of bark (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

The bark is astringent (11-19% tannins) and its juice purgative (Quisumbing, 1951). In Asia it is used to treat orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) (Quisumbing, 1951). Combined with lemon juice it may be useful for treating bromidrosis of the armpits, groin or feet.

The bark acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant. Taken internally, the bark is expectorant and is used in the treatment of chronic bronchitis and phtisis.

The bark juice is astringent, purgative, and is given as a decoction to treat internal haemorrhage.

Uses of root (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

A decoction of the root is employed to treat ulcers. It is also used for cases of stitch in the side (Quisumbing, 1951).

Uses of leaves (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

Leaves soaked in water turn the water blue and release an odour; this maceration is applied to sore eyes (Nadkarni and Nadkarni, 1999). An infusion of leaves is taken orally against sunburn, in addition to root decoction. In Cambodia, leaves are prescribed as an inhalation for migraine and vertigo, and the oil is used to treat scabies. In the Philippines, a maceration of leaves is used as an astringent for haemorrhoids (Quisumbing, 1951; Nadkarni and Nadkarni, 1999), and in Indonesia it is used as an eye lotion.

Use of leaves by primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea in treating skin ailments is very ancient: heated leaves are applied to ulcers, cuts, boils, spots and wounds of all kinds.

Uses of fruit (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

The fruits are more or less toxic and only the endosperm of unripe fruit can be consumed. In fact the ripe fruit is sufficiently toxic to be used as rat bait (Burkill, 1994). The seed oil is used to treat psoriasis and rheumatism.

Uses of sap (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

The bark resin is used for its wound healing properties.

Properties of tamanu oil (according to DWECK and MEADOWS, 2002)

Up to 60% oil can be extracted from tamanu seeds. Called domba oil, it is used to treat rheumatism, itching and scabies. It is also used to treat gonorrhoea.

In most of South Pacific islands tamanu oil is used as an analgesic (as a rub for rheumatism and sciatica) and to treat ulcers and severe wounds. Injected as a solution in alcohol, it has proven effective against neuritis due to leprosy, shingles, etc.

The oil is especially recommended for all kinds of burns, sunburn, etc.


Lederer discovered two main compounds, calophyllic acid and a lactone with antibiotic properties, which are probably the reason for the strong wound-healing properties.

The leaves contain friedelin and triterpenes of the friedelin group: canophyllal, canophyllol and canophyllic acid (Govindachari et al., 1967; Chandler and Hooper, 1979).

The wood and roots contain xanthones such as mesuaxanthone B, calophyllin B and caloxanthones A and B (Govindachari, 1968; Al-Jeboury and Locksley, 1971; Iinuma et al., 1994; Iinuma et al., 1995).

Erythrodiol-3-acetate has been isolated from the wood (Sampathkumar et al., 1970).

Calophyllolide (C25H22O5), a molecule that includes a lactone group and a methoxyl group, has been isolated from nuts (Bhalla et al., 1980). By saponification, this molecule gives calophyllic acid; both these molecules are also derived from coumarin.

4-phenylcoumarins and 4-alkylcoumarins in seeds and leaves (Cavé et al., 1972; Games, 1972). One particular 4-phenylcoumarin, ponalid, in immature seeds (Adinarayana and Seshadri, 1965; Murti et al., 1972).

Callophynic acid: seeds (Gautier et al., 1972).

Myricetin glucoside: flowers (Subramanian and Nair, 1971; Kasim et al., 1974).

Cyanogenic compounds (Nair and Subramanian, 1964), tannins, saponins (Gedeon and Kinel, 1956), pigments, flavonoids (Subramanian and Nair, 1965, 1971), neoflavonoids and biflavonoids (Goh et al., 1992).

Coumarins called canalonides have been isolated from another species of the same genus, Calophyllum lanigerum Miq. These are powerful reverse transcriptase inhibitors. The National Cancer Institute in the USA is studying their action on the AIDS virus.


Vulnerary, wound-healing

Calophyllolide isolated from the nut is anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic. The latter property has been shown in tests on rats in which arthritis was induced with formaldehyde (oral LD50 in rats = 2.5 g/kg) (Bhalla et al., 1980). Also in the rat, ingestion of the substance had no ulcerogenic action up to twice the 50% efficient dose (ED50 = 140 mg/kg).

Dehydrocycloguanandin, calophyllin-B, jacareubin and 6-deoxyjacareubin depress the central nervous system to varying degrees, causing sedation, reduced motor activity, loss of muscular tonus etc. in the rat. All these xanthones show anti-inflammatory activity whether administered orally or parenterally. Jacareubin and 6-deoxyjacareubin also show anti-ulcer activity in the rat (Gopalkrishnan et al., 1980).

In the rat, calophyllolide isolated from seeds reduces histamine inflammation and tissue swelling induced by carragenan. In combination with inophyllide, it reduces œdema. These compounds are often cited as anti-inflammatories (Bhalla et al., 1980; Saxena et al., 1982).

Particular coumarins – inophyllums B and P – can be used against HIV-1, inhibiting the virus’s reverse transcription (Patil et al., 1993; Kawazu et al., 1998; Spino et al., 1999).

Some pyranocoumarins can be used against cancer (McKee et al., 1998; Itoigawa et al., 2001).


Patents already exist in the fields of cosmetics (Boucher et al., 1999) and medicine, particularly as antiviral agents (Jenta et al., 2000; Kashman et al., 2002).


Gathered from the wild and cultivated.



Adinarayana D., Seshadri T.R., 1965 – Chemical components of the Indian seeds of Calophyllum inophyllum. The structure of a new 4-phenylcoumarin, ponnalide. Bull. Nat. Inst. Sci. India, 31: 91.

Al-Jeboury F. S., Locksley H.D., 1971 – Xanthones in the heartwood of Calophyllum inophyllum: a geographical survey. Phytochemistry, 10: 603.

Bhalla T. N., Saxena R. C., Nigam S. K., 1980 – Calaphyllolide – a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 72: 762-765.

Boucher C., Mousny B., Smits J.-J., 1999 – Calophyllum oil extracted at ambient temperature has UV protecting, antiradical, antioxidant, antiaging and therapeutic properties, Patent.

Burkill H. M., 1994 – The useful plants of West tropical Africa. Vol. 2, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Kew (UK), 636 p.

Cavé A., Debray M., Henry G., Kunesch G., Polonsky J., 1972 – The structure of a novel 4-alkylcoumarin isolated from Calophyllum inophyllum. Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Sciences (Paris) – Série C, 275: 1105.

Chandler R. F., Hooper S. N., 1979 – Friedelin and associated triterpenoids. Phytochemistry, 18: 711-724.

Drury C. H., 1873 – The useful plants of India with notices of their chief medicinal value in commerce, medicine and the arts. Higginbotham, Madras (India).

Dweck A. C., Meadows T., 2002 – Tamanu (Callophyllum inophyllum) the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 24 (6): 341-348.

Games D. E., 1972 – Identification of 4-phenyl and 4-alkylcoumarins in Mammea americana L., Mammea africana G. Don and Calophyllum inophyllum by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Tetrahedron Letters, 13 (31): 3187-3190.

Gautier J., Kunesch G., Polonsky J., 1972 – Structure of calophynic acid, a novel constituent of [seeds of] Calophyllum inophyllum. Tetrahedron Letters, 13 (27): 2715-2718.

Gedeon J., Kinel F. A., 1956 – Saponins and sapogenins. 2. Arch. Pharm. (Weinheim), 289: 162.

Goh S. H., Jantan I., Waterman P. G., 1992 – Neoflavonoid and biflavonoid constituents of Calophyllum inophylloide. Journal of Natural Products, 55 (10): 1415-1420.

Gopalkrishnan C., Shankaranarayanan D., Nazimudeen S. K., Viswanathan S., Kameswaran L., 1980 – Anti-inflammatory and CNS depressant activities of xanthones from Calophyllum inophyllum and Mesua ferrea. Indian Journal of Pharmacy, 12 (3): 181-191.

Govindachari T. R., 1968 – Chemical components of the heartwood of Calophyllum inophyllum. Part 1. Isolation of mesuaxanthone B and a new xanthone, calophyllin B. Indian Journal of Chemistry, 6: 57.

Govindachari T. R., Viswanathan N., Pai B. R., Rao R., Srinivasan M., 1967 – Triterpenes of Calophyllum inophyllum Linn. Tetrahedron, 23 (4): 1901-10.

Iinuma M., Tosa H., Tanaka T., Yonemori S., 1994 – Two new xanthones in the underground part of Calophyllum inophyllum. Heterocycles, 37: 833-838.

Iinuma M., Tosa H., Tanaka T., Yonemori S., 1995 – Two xanthones from roots of Calophyllum inophyllum. Phytochemistry, 38 (3): 725-728.

Itoigawa M., Ito C., Tan H. T. W., M. Kuchide, Tokuda H., Nishino H., Furukawa H., 2001 – Cancer chemopreventive agents, 4-phenylcoumarins from Calophyllum inophyllum. Cancer Letters, 169 (1): 15-19.

Jenta T. R., Lin Y. M., Xu Z. Q., Anderson H., Flavin M. T., Williams M., 2000 – Scalable method for the isolation of anti-HIV agents from the tropical plant calophyllum, Patent.

Kashman Y., Cardellina J. H., Soejarto D., Boyd M. R., Cragg G. M., Mcmahon J. B., Fuller R. W., Gustafson K. R., 2002 – Calanolide and related antiviral compounds, compositions, and uses thereof, Patent N° US2002086898 A1.

Kasim S. M., Neelakantan S., Raman P. V., Nair A. G. R., 1974 – Structure of the myricetin glucoside from the flowers of Calophyllum inophyllum. Current Science, 43 (15): 476-477.

Kawazu K., Nitoda T., Kanzaki H., 1998 – An analytical method of inophyllums A, B, C, D, E, and P, anti-HIV constituents of Calophyllum inophyllum by HPLC. Scientific Reports of the Faculty of Agriculture, Okayama University, (87): 13-16.

Mckee T. C., Covington C. D., Fuller R. W., Bokesch H. R., Young S., Cardellina J. H., Kadushin M. R., Soejarto D., Stevens P. F., Cragg G. M., Boyd M. R., 1998 – Pyranocoumarins from tropical species of the genus Calophyllum: a chemotaxonomic study of extracts in the National Cancer Institute collection. Journal of Natural Products, 61 (10): 1252-1256.

Murti V. V. S., Kumar P. S. S., Seshadri T. R., Sampath Kumar P. S., 1972 – Structure of ponnalide. Indian Journal of Chemistry, 10 (3): 255-257.

Nadkarni K. M., Nadkarni A. K., 1999 – Indian Materia Medica with Ayurvedic, Unani-Tibbi, Siddha, allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic and home remedies. Vol. 2/, Popular Prakashan Private Ltd., Bombay (India).

Nair A. G. R., Subramanian S. S., 1964 – Eucocyanidin from the seed coat of Calophyllum inophyllum Linn. Current Science, 33: 336-337.

Patil A. D., Freyer A. J., Eggleston D. S., Haltiwanger R. C., Bean M. F., Taylor P. B., Caranfa M. J., Breen A. L., Bartus H. R., Johnson R. K., et al., 1993 – The inophyllums, novel inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase isolated from the Malaysian tree, Calophyllum inophyllum Linn. Journal of medicinal chemistry, 36 (26): 4131-4138.

Quisumbing E., 1951 – Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Manila, Philippine Islands, Manila Bureau of Printing, Techical Bulletin 16, 1234 p.

Sampathkumar P. S., Murti V. V. S., Seshadri T. R., 1970 – Occurrence of erythrodiol-3-acetate in the sapwood of Calophyllum inophyllum. Indian Journal of Chemistry, 8: 105.

Saxena R.C., Nath R., Palit, Nigam S.K., Bhargava K.P., 1982 – Effect of calophyllolide, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent, on capillary permeability. Planta Medica, 44 (4): 246-248.

Schultes R. E., Raffauf R. F., 1990 – The Healing Forest - Medicinal and toxic plants of the Northwest Amazonia. Dioscorides Press, Portland, Oregon (USA), 484 p.

Spino C., Dodier M., Sotheeswaran S., 1999 – Anti-HIV coumarins from calophyllum seed oil. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 8 (24): 3475-3478.

Subramanian S. S., Nair A. G. R., 1965 – Flavonoids of the flowers of Calophyllum inophyllum. Bull. Natl. Inst. Sci. India, 31: 39.

Subramanian S. S., Nair A. G. R., 1971 – Myricetin-7-glucoside from the andracium of the flower of Calophyllum inophyllum. Phytochemistry, 10: 1679-1680.

Author: F. DEMARNE

Gardenia taitensis DC. (RUBIACEAE)


Cultivated in French Polynesia. No IUCN status.


Bush to small tree; widespread in all South Pacific islands; no accessibility problem owing to its status.


Perfumery, cosmetics.

The sap is reported to be used in traditional medicine (Wilkinson and Elevitch, 2000).


The main oxygenated compounds in concrete of Gardenia taitensis are as follows: linalol (4.4%), methyl salicylate (2.5%), (Z)-3-hexenyl benzoate (2.2%), dihydroconiferyl alcohol (1.1%), (Z)-3-hexenyl salicylate (0.7%), benzyl benzoate (6.2%), dihydroconiferyl acetate (12.2%), 2-phenylethyl benzoate (6.2%), benzyl salicylate (2.5%), geranyl benzoate (2.1%) and 2-phenylethyl salicylate (2.2%). The identification of many dihydroconiferyl esters seems to be unique to this species (Claude-Lafontaine et al., 1992).

Triterpenoids (Davies et al., 1992).


Non-toxic (Pétard, 1986).




Gathered from the wild; small garden plantations; hedges.



Claude-Lafontaine A., Raharivelomanana P., Bianchini J. P., Schippa C., Azzaro M., Cambon A., 1992 – Volatile Constituents of the Flower Concrete of Gardenia taitensis DC. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 4 (4): 335-343.

Davies N. W., Miller J. M., Naidu R., Sotheeswaran S., 1992 – Triterpenoids in bud exudates of Fijian Gardenia species. Phytochemistry, 31 (1): 159-162.

Pétard P., 1986 – Plantes utiles de Polynésie et Raau Tahiti. Ed. rev. et augm. Papeete, Haere Po No Tahiti, 345 p.

Wilkinson K. M., Elevitch C. R., 2000 – Nontimber Forest Products for Pacific Islands. An introductory guide for producers. 30 p.

Author: F. Demarne

Ilex anomala Hook. & Arnott (AQUIFOLIACEAE)


Ilex marquensensis F. Br.

Ilex taitensis (A. Gray) J. W. Moore


Not endangered.


Indigenous tree characteristic of valleys and ridges in upland cloud forest. Geographical distribution: Marquesas, Society and Hawaii.


Traditionally chewed by Tahitians to combat fatigue (comparable to yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis A.St.-Hil.).


Little known: old research.

The research can be compared to that on Ilex paraguensis from which South America’s famous yerba mate is made (there are numerous studies on this plant).

Caffeine: 4% (dry product).

Essential oil.


Gum resin.


Pharmacological properties

Caffeine acts on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Central nervous system: caffeine is a cortical stimulant that maintains the awakened state, facilitates ideation and reduces fatigue. High doses may induce nervousness, trembling and insomnia. It stimulates the bulbar respiratory centre and increases the sensitivity of this centre to the action of carbon dioxide.

Cardiovascular system: caffeine has a positive inotropic action, causes tachycardia, increased cardiac flow and slight peripheral vasodilation. It is mildly diuretic.


No research to my knowledge.


In the medical field

Listed in the pharmacopoeia as a medicinal plant owing to its stimulant properties, as are other caffeine drugs such as coffee, tea, cola, guarana and yerba mate.

Listed in the Cahier de l’agence n° 3 with indications 47, 83, 85, 86, 151, oral administration; 30, 86, local application.

“Traditionally used”:

  • 47: for mild diarrhoea

  • 83: for occasional fatigue

  • 85: to facilitate weight loss in addition to dietary measures

  • 151: to promote renal elimination of water

  • 30: applied locally, to sooth and calm itching from skin ailments, grazed, cracked or chapped skin and insect bites and stings.

  • 86: applied locally, to facilitate weight loss in addition to dietary measures.

Food industry

Owing to its caffeine content, could be used in stimulant drinks (as per Coca-Cola, guarana, tea) or “energy” drinks.


To comply with French legislation, stimulant drinks and energy drinks must not contain more than 150 mg/l of caffeine (legislation is not harmonised within the European Union; some countries accept up to 300 mg/l).

Comment. Caffeine is among the drugs on the list of those banned for sports (decree of 7.10.94). Urine tests are considered positive if they reveal concentrations higher than 12 mm/l.


How obtained: gathered from the wild

Quality control.

It would seem fairly easy to develop quality control for Ilex anomala using techniques and protocols employed for other caffeine drugs (monographs of the European Pharmacopoeia and French Pharmacopoeia).



The toxicological test results are encouraging, but much work remains to be done to reach production stage.


Agence du Médicament, 1997 – Médicaments à base de plantes : septembre 1997. Paris, Agence du médicament, Les cahiers de l’agence n° 3, 81 p.

Author: I. Fourasté

Morinda citrifolia L. (RUBIACEAE)


Bush to small tree, naturalised.

Abundant and widespread. Open coastal vegetation and low-altitude mesic habitats on all rock types.

Geographical distribution: Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Society and Tuamotu islands.





Antihelminthic (humans and animals)


More or less regular consumption as food; on certain islands eaten only in case of famine.


Eye problems.


Treatment of tinea, boils

Rheumatism and rheumatic pain

Inflammatory ailments (external application)

Chills and facial neuralgia (external application)

Chills on the chest, coughs (external application)

Inflammation in the mouth (by chewing)

Treatment of internal bleeding, swelling and liver ailments (external application)

Treatment of ulcers

Treatment of gout

More or less regular consumption as food.


Astringent in treatment of malaria.


Treatment of high blood pressure.



Diterpenes: E-phytol.

Triterpenes: cycloartenol.

Steroids: stigmasta-4-en-3-one, stigmasta-4-22-dien-3-one, β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, campesta-5, 7, 22-trien-3β-ol.

Iridoids: citrifolinin A, citrifolinin A-1, citrifolinoside.


Iridoids: asperulosidic acid, 6-O-(β-D-glucopyranosyl)-1-0-octanoyl-β-Dglucopyranose, aucubin.

Free and bound fatty acids (trisaccharides).

Avonoids: rutin.

Coumarins: scopoletin.

Activity has been attributed to xeronine and prexeronine, but these compounds have never been identified. In the present state of research it seems highly unlikely that they exist.


Anthraquinones: damnacanthal, morindone, rubiadin, rubiadin methyl ether, anthraquinone glucoside, methoxy-formyl-hydroxyanthraquinone.



Active against tuberculosis in vitro (lipophilic compounds).

Inhibits UVB-induced activator protein-1 (iridoids).

Cox-1 inhibitor (weak).

Nematicidal activity.


Inhibition of AP-1 transactivation and cellular transformation in tumorogenesis (iridoids).

Anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of Cox-1 (weak) and Cox-2 (strong).

Anti-cancer activity on implanted Lewis lung carcinoma in mice (via stimulation of immune system, by IP injection), reduced by administration of immunosuppressors.

No cytotoxicity on KB or LLC cells in vitro.

Stimulates mediator production (TNF-α, interferon-γ, interleukins, nitric oxide).

Prevents DMBA adduct formation on DNA in vitro probably by antioxidant activity, breast cancer in mice. This action is produced in the first stages of cancerogenesis.

Antibacterial activity (weak) on various strains.

Hepato-protective activity after CC14 intoxication in the rat.


Cox-1 inhibition (strong).

Inhibition of tyrosine-kinase, increased fragmentation of UV-irradiated DNA and resulting apoptosis (damnacanthal).

Antiviral activity (on HIV).



Antimalarial activity in vitro.


Study conducted on the rat, using scopoletin to trace absorption of the juice. As this is probably not a significant active principle the study is of virtually no interest.

Clinical research

A Phase I study in treatment of neoplasms and metastasised neoplasms is in preparation at the University of Hawaii, organised by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Capsules of 500 mg of dry juice extract are being used. The main aims are to discover the maximum tolerated dose, define the toxicity and gather preliminary data on efficacy.

A clinical study on smokers, with placebo (38 and 30 cases), was conducted to study the antioxidant effects of morinda juice on the antioxidant capacity of plasma (superoxide radicals and peroxide lipids).

Absorption of morinda juice considerably increases the antioxidant capacity of plasma.

A placebo-controlled study on high blood pressure has apparently been conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The results are reported to be positive, but we have no account of the study and the conclusions are hazardous in view of the small number of patients involved (9).



Marketed on a large scale as a food supplement, mainly in the United States, in the form of pasteurised fruit juice but also dried juice or dry extract.


Fruit production should continue, especially with the opening of the European market. Marketing as an antioxidant drink or food should be developed.

The therapeutic aspect, depending on ongoing research, seems less certain, for regulatory reasons and scientific reasons. Almost all the observed effects can be linked to the product’s antioxidant or immuno-stimulant properties. These are non-specific biological properties and not specific therapeutic properties.


The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) authorised marketing of one product, Tahitian noni juice by Morinda Inc., in December 2002.

This authorisation was granted after submission of a mainly toxicological report and justifies the conclusion that the product is non-toxic.

This first authorisation should pave the way for further authorisations using the simplified “substantial equivalence” procedure.

The company US Neways International applied for a marketing authorisation for noni juice in Great Britain in 2003.

Patents relating to morinda

We have identified 63 patents at least partly relating to morinda. They cover all fields: manufacturing, formulation, biological activity, cosmetology, human and animal nutrition, etc.

Most of the patents originated in the United States, Japan or China. The great majority were filed in 2000 and 2001.

A full analysis of their technical and legal validity would be required before any work is undertaken to develop this product.

A study of patents filed for morinda would also be useful with a view to long-term utilisation.

Morinda citrifolia is not covered by regulations on plant-based medicinal products. However, the Netherlands having accepted a food supplement based on morinda, it would seem possible to introduce the product into this category.


How obtained: gathered from the wild. Cultivation trials.



Aalbersberg W. G. L., Hussein S., Sotheeswaran S., Parkinson S., 1993 – Carotenoids in the leaves of Morinda citrifolia. Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, 2 (1): 51-54.

Ancolio C., Azas N., Mahiou V., Ollivier E., Di Giorgio C., Keita A., Timon David P., Balansard G., 2002 – Antimalarial activity of extracts and alkaloids isolated from six plants used in traditional medicine in Mali and Sao Tome. Phytotherapy Research, 16 (7): 646-649.

Brendler T., Gruenwald J., Jaenicke C., 2001 – Herb-CD4 Herbal remedies. Medpharm Scientific Publishers. Stuttgart, Germany.

Commission des Communautés Européennes, 2003 – Décision de la Commission du 5 juin 2003 relative à l’autorisation de mise sur le marché de “jus de noni” (jus du fruit de Morinda citrifolia L.) en tant que nouvel ingrédient alimentaire, en application du règlement (CE) n° 258/97 du Parlement européen et du Conseil (2003/426/CE). Journal officiel n°L 144 du 12 juin 2003.

Daulatabad C. D., Mulla G. M., Mirajkar A. M., 1989 – Ricinoleic acid in Morinda citrifolia seed oil. Journal of the Oil Technologists’ Association of India, 21 (2): 26-27.

Dittmar A., 1993 – Morinda citrifolia L.- Use in indigenous Samoan medicine. Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, 1 (3): 77-92.

Dixon A. R., Mcmillen H., Etkin N. L., 1999 – Ferment This: The Transformation of Noni, a Traditional Polynesian Medicine (Morinda Citrifolia, Rubiaceae). Economic Botany, 53 (1): 51-68.

European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General, Directorate C – Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food on Tahitian NoniR Juice (expressed on 4 December 2002). Scientific Committee on Food, SCF/CS/NF/DOS/18 ADD 2 Final, 11 December 2002.

Farine J. P., Legal L., Moreteau B., Le Quere J. L., 1996 – Volatile components of ripe fruits of Morinda citrifolia and their effects on Drosophila. Phytochemistry, 41 (2): 433-438.

Hirazumi A., Furusawa E., 1999 - An immunomodulatory polysacchariderich substance from the fruit juice of Morinda citrifolia (noni) with antitumour activity. Phytotherapy Research, 13(5): 380-387.

Hirazumi A., Furusawa E., Chou S. C., Hokama Y., 1994 – Anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) on intraperitoneally implanted Lewis lung carcinoma in syngeneic mice. Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society, 37: 145-6.

Hiwasa T., Arase Y., Chen Z., Kita K., Umezawa K., Ito H., Suzuki N., 1999 – Stimulation of ultraviolet-induced apoptosis of human fibroblast UVr-1 cells by tyrosine kinase inhibitors. FEBS Letters, 444 (2-3): 173-176.

Inoue K., Nayeshiro H., Inouyet H., Zenk M., 1981 – Anthraquinones in cell suspension cultures of Morinda citrifolia. Phytochemistry, 20 (7): 1693-1700.

Leach A. J., Leach D. N., Leach G. J., 1988 – Antibacterial activity of some medicinal plants of Papua New Guinea. Science in New Guinea, 14 (1): 1-7.

Levand O., Larson H. O., 1979 – Some chemical constituents of Morinda citrifolia. Planta Medica, 36 (2): 186-187.

Li R.W., Myers S.P., Leach D.N., Lin G.D., Leach G., 2003 – A cross-cultural study: anti-inflammatory activity of Australian and Chinese plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 85 (1): 25-32.

Li Y. F., Gong Z. H., Yang M., Zhao Y. M., Luo Z. P., 2003 – Inhibition of the oligosaccharides extracted from Morinda officinalis, a Chinese traditional herbal medicine, on the corticosterone induced apoptosis in PC12 cells. Life Science, 72 (8): 933-942.

Liu G., Bode A., Ma W.Y., Sang S., Ho C.T., Dong Z., 2001 – Two novel glycosides from the fruits of Morinda citrifolia (noni) inhibit AP-1 transactivation and cell transformation in the mouse epidermal JB6 cell line. Cancer Research, 61 (15): 5749-5756.

Mackeen M.M., Ali A.M., Abdullah M.A., Nasir R.M., Mat N.B., Razak A.R., Kawazu K., 1997 – Antinematodal activity of some Malaysian plant extracts against the pine wood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. Pesticide Science, 51 (2): 165-170.

Mala S., Singh J., Srivastava M., 1993 – A new anthraquinone glycoside from Morinda citrifolia. International Journal of Pharmacognosy, 31 (3): 182-184.

Mansor P., 1988 – Traditional salad vegetables of Malaysia. Teknologi Sayur Sayuran, 4: 1-5.

Mcclatchey W., 2002 – From Polynesian healers to health food stores: changing perspectives of Morinda citrifolia (Rubiaceae). Integrative Cancer Therapies, 1 (2): 110-120.

Mckoy M.L., Thomas E.A., Simon O.R., 2002 – Preliminary investigation of the anti-inflammatory properties of an aqueous extract from Morinda citrifolia (noni). Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society, 45: 76-78.

Morón Rodriguez F.J., Morón Pinedo D., 2004 – Mito y realidad de Morinda citrifolia L. (noni). Revista Cubana de Plantas Medicinales, 9 (3).

Mueller B.A., Scott M.K., Sowinski K.M., Prag K.A., 2000 – Noni juice (Morinda citrifolia): hidden potential for hyperkalemia? American journal of kidney diseases: the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation, 35 (2): 310-312.

Rusia K., Srivastava S.K., 1989 – A new anthraquinone from the roots of Morinda citrifolia Linn. Current Science, 58 (5): 249.

Saludes J.P., Garson M.J., Franzblau S.G., Aguinaldo A.M., 2002 – Antitubercular constituents from the hexane fraction of Morinda citrifolia Linn. (Rubiaceae). Phytotherapy Research, 16 (7): 683-685.

Sang S., He K., Liu G., Zhu N., Cheng X., Wang M., Zheng Q., Dong Z., Ghai G., Rosen R.T., Ho C.T., 2001 – A new unusual iridoid with inhibition of activator protein-1 (AP-1) from the leaves of Morinda citrifolia L. Organic Letters, 3 (9): 1307-1309.

Sang S., Liu G., He K., Zhu N., Dong Z., Zheng Q., Rosen R.T., Ho C.T., 2003 – New unusual iridoids from the leaves of noni (Morinda citrifolia L.) show inhibitory effect on ultraviolet B-induced transcriptional activator protein-1 (AP-1) activity. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 11 (12): 2499-2502.

Sang S.M., Cheng X.F., Zhu N., Stark R.E., Badmaev V., Ghai G., Rosen R.T., Ho C.T., 2001 – Flavonol glycosides and novel iridoid glycoside from the leaves of Morinda citrifolia. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 49 (9): 4478-4481.

Sang S.M., Cheng X.F., Zhu N.Q., Wang M.F., Jhoo J.W., Stark R.E., Badmaev V., Ghai G., Rosen R.T., Ho C.T., 2001 – Iridoid glycosides from the leaves of Morinda citrifolia. Journal of Natural Products, 64 (6): 799-800.

Sang S.M., He K., Liu G.M., Zhu N.Q., Wang M.F., Jhoo J.W., Zheng Q.Y., Dong Z.G., Ghai G.T., Rosen R.T., Ho C.T., 2001 – Citrifolinin A, a new unusual iridoid with inhibition of Activator Protein-1 (AP-1) from the leaves of noni (Morinda citrifolia L.). Tetrahedron Letters, 42 (10): 1823-1825.

Vickers A., 2002 – Botanical medicines for the treatment of cancer: Rationale, overview of current data, and methodological considerations for phase I and II trials. Cancer Investigation, 20 (7-8): 1069-1079.

Wang M., Kikuzaki H., Csiszar K., Boyd C.D., Maunakea A., Fong S.F.T., Ghai G., Rosen R.T., Nakatani N., Ho C., 1999 – Novel trisaccharide fatty acid ester identified from the fruits of Morinda citrifolia (Noni). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 47 (12): 4880-4882.

Wang M., Kikuzaki H., Jin Y., Nakatani N., Zhu N., Csiszar K., Boyd C., Rosen R.T., Ghai G., Ho C.T., 2000 – Novel glycosides from noni (Morinda citrifolia). Journal of Natural Products, 63 (8): 1182-1183.

Wang M.Y., Su C., 2001 – Cancer preventive effect of Morinda citrifolia (Noni). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 952: 161-168.

Wang M.Y., West B.J., Jensen C.J., Nowicki D., Su C., Palu A.K., Anderson G., 2002 – Morinda citrifolia (Noni): a literature review and recent advances in Noni research. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 23 (12): 1127-1141.

Yamaguchi S., Ohnishi J., Sogawa M., Maru I., Ohta Y., Tsukada Y., 2002 – Inhibition of angiotensin I converting enzyme by noni (Morinda citrifolia) juice. Nippon Shokuhin Kagaku Kogaku Kaishi = Journal of the Japanese Society for Food Science and Technology, 49 (9): 624-627.

Younos C., Rolland A., Fleurentin J., Lanhers, M. C., Misslin, R., Mortier, F., 1990 – Analgesic and behavioural effects of Morinda citrifolia. Planta Medica, 56 (5): 430-434.

Author: Y. Barbin

Piper methysticum G. Forst. (PIPERACEAE)


Piper wichmanni C. DC.

Other, older synonyms (Lebot and Cabalion, 1986).


Cultivated or naturalised, no IUCN status.


Varieties in French Polynesia:

14 varieties formerly known in Tahiti but already virtually extinct at the time (Cuzent, 1983 [1860]).

19 cultivars still used in the Marquesas in 1935 (Brown, 1935).


Ritual and medicinal uses, traditionally consumed as a drink (Lebot and Cabalion, 1986; Lebot et al., 1992).

Neo-traditional consumption in New Caledonia and in urban areas of Vanuatu (André, 1999; Chanteraud, 1994, 1999, 2001).


French Polynesia:

  • 4 cultivars studied by Lebot and Levesque (1989).

  • Studies by Isabelle Lechat-Vahirua in Papeete (Malardé Institute).


Main use

Anxiolytic based on kava extract (synergy between the active principles, kavalactones or kavapyrones, which justifies use of natural extracts), or D, L kavain (no synergy in this case).

Main reproach

Kava is said to entail a risk of hepatic toxicity.

Possible causes would be:

  • the presence of pipermethysticine (hepatotoxic in vitro) in medicines made from batches of stem peelings imported from the Fiji islands;

  • absence or much reduced levels in kava extracts made using alcohol or acetone of the glutathione present in the traditional drink (in which it is thought to have a protective role due to its antioxidant effects and the combination of p-OH-kavaquinones formed during metabolism);

  • hepatic defences of vulnerable or weakened patients can be overcome (same reasons as above and/or idiosyncratic reasons due to condition of liver or cytochromes);

  • recent research on this subject in New Caledonia and Futuna funded by Secretariat of State for overseas territories (Cabalion et al., 2003; Warter, 2003).


Production of kava extracts for use as anxiolytic.


L’Oréal: cosmetic uses of kava.

Pernod-Ricard: value of kava in alcohol withdrawal programmes.


In French Polynesia: decree of 1927 forbade the cultivation, preparation, possession, circulation, consumption, donation, trade or sale of Kava in the Marquesas. This was repealed by a decree of the Council of Ministers in 2001 (662 CM of 16 May) on the initiative of the Rural Development Department (SDR).

Pharmacopoeias of industrialised countries: pharmaceutical use banned in 2002 in many industrialised countries (Germany, France, Japan, etc.) but still authorised in the United States. Completely banned in some countries, e.g. Canada.

Changes under way: recent lifting of the ban on food uses of kava (Welsh parliament, 2003).

No ban on traditional or neo-traditional consumption (except in Marquesas, see above-mentioned decree).

Comments by Mrs Fourasté
Two health policy decisions have been taken in France:
a) Official Journal of the French Republic, 12 January 2002: Decision of 8 January 2002 on suspension of marketing and supply, free of charge or for payment, and use of kava (kava-kava, Piper methysticum) and products containing kava for therapeutic purposes, in all forms, except homeopathic medicines at dilutions equal to or greater than the fifth Hahneman centesimal.

b) Official Journal of the French Republic: Decision of 13 March 2003 on prohibition of the marketing and supply, free of charge or for payment, and use of kava (kava-kava, Piper methysticum) and products containing kava for therapeutic purposes, in all forms, except homeopathic medicines at dilutions equal to or greater than the fifth Hahneman centesimal.
These two decisions were taken following the evaluation by the European pharmacovigilance group of an unfavourable risk-benefit relation. Analogous decisions were taken in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. In the USA the FDA has not so far taken any restrictive measures on this plant, but has informed consumers of the risks entailed.

As a result, the use of kava as a medicinal product or food supplement seems to be compromised for many years to come.
Under these conditions it does not seem reasonable to encourage kava production for any other use than a CONVIVIAL LOCAL BEVERAGE.


Propagation only by cuttings.


Kava is currently of interest mainly for two uses: in pharmacy as a natural anxiolytic, and in the food industry as a convivial beverage in the Pacific.

After the discovery of cases of hepatic toxicity attributed to kava in Germany and Switzerland, many studies were conducted to learn more about the question and the possible causes of the problems. Lobbying in Brussels by Pacific countries also enabled a group of expert consultants to give an opinion in favour of the use of the plant (Gruenwald et al., 2003). The ban on kava in 2001 and the following years may have been at least partly or indirectly the result of lobbying against it, but was also an application of the precautionary principle.

No case of fulminating hepatitis has been found in the Pacific and it is reasonable to think that the traditionally made drink is not under threat and will retain its market in the Pacific and perhaps elsewhere. As regards the pharmaceutical market, further research is needed (e.g. role of glutathion, perhaps role of selenium, p-OH-kavaquinones, exploration of hepatic cytochromes linked to metabolisation of kava) to establish a new risk-benefit report on kava in pharmacy (Warter, 2003), or more generally in health, including the effects of use as food (Cabalion et al., 2003). Doses could be revised upwards.

Conclusion. It seems wise to advise French Polynesia not to abandon its agronomic and chemical research into local varieties of kava, to produce an original, high-quality raw material for the local convivial beverage market, the American market (which is still open) and prepare for kava’s likely return to the pharmaceuticals market [perhaps in different forms from those currently known, and which remain to be described (Cabalion et al., 2003; Warter, 2003)].



André M., 1999 – Le phénomène Kava en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Maîtrise de sciences sanitaires et sociales, faculté de médecine de Brest, 100 p.

Brown F.B.H., 1935 – Flora of South Eastern Polynesia. III. Dicotyledons. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin, 130: 1-386.

Cabalion P., Barguil Y., Duhet D., Mandeau A., Warter S., Russmann S., Tarbah F., Daldrup TH., 2003 – « Kava in modern therapeutic uses: to a better evaluation of the benefit/risk relation. Researches in New Caledonia and in Futuna ». 5th European Symposium of Ethnopharmacology, Valencia, Spain, 8th-10th May 2003.

Cabalion P., Laroche S., Edo L. – Enquêtes auprès des consommateurs de kava en Nouvelle-Calédonie (données non publiées).

Chanteraud A., 1994 – L’émergence du kava en Nouvelle-Calédonie : du fait social au phénomène culturel. DEA d’Anthropologie Temps, Espace et Sociétés dans le Pacifique insulaire, Université française du Pacifique, 1114 p.

Chanteraud A., 1999 – La saga du kava du Vanuatu à la Nouvelle-Calédonie, essai de géographie culturelle. Doctorat en géographie culturelle, université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, 331 p.

Chanteraud A., 2001 – La saga du kava, du Vanuatu à la Nouvelle-Calédonie. CRET & DyMSET (U. Bordeaux 3, CNRS), coll. Îles et archipels n° 29, 288 p.

Cuzent G., 1983 [1860] – Archipel de Tahiti ; recherches sur les productions végétales. Édition revue, augmentée et illustrée, Eds Haere po no Tahiti, 208 p.

Gruenwald J., Mueller C., Skrabal S., 2003 – In-depth Investigation into EU Member States Market Restrictions on Kava Products.

Lebot V., Cabalion P., 1986 – Les kavas du Vanuatu, Piper methysticum Forst. Travaux & Documents de l’Orstom, 205: 234.

Lebot V., Levesque J., 1989 – The origin and distribution of Kava (Piper methysticum Forster, Piperaceae): a phytochemical approach. Allertonia, 5: 223-280

Lebot V., Merlin M., Lindstrom L., 1992 – Kava, the Pacific Drug. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven & London, 255 p.

Warter S., 2003 – Étude de populations exposées au kava en Nouvelle-Calédonie et à Futuna ; contribution à la connaissance de la toxicité du kava. Thèse d’exercice Médecine générale, université de Strasbourg I, 267 p.

Author: P. Cabalion

Santalum insulare DC. var. insulare (Tahiti)
Santalum insulare var. marchionense (Skottsb.)
Skottsb. (Marquises)
Santalum insulare var. margaretae (F. Br.)
Skottsb. (Rapa)
Santalum insulare var. raiateense (J. W. Moore)
Fosberg & Sachet (Raiatea, Moorea)
Santalum insulare var. raivavense F. Br.
(Raivavae, Australes)

These varieties represent the polymorphism of this species in French Polynesia. J.-F. Butaud (Rural Development Department (SDR), Tahiti) is currently preparing a thesis on the distribution and taxonomy of the complex in French Polynesia.


Critically endangered to vulnerable.


All varieties other than those in the Marquesas are relicts, their statuses ranging from CR to VU. In the Marquesas, there are locally fairly large populations which are varyingly accessible and available, at least for a preliminary chemical study.

These varieties occupy open areas on ridges and crests at medium to high altitudes.


Massage: sandalwood powder in coconut oil.

Other species in the same genus

Santalum spicatum:
seeds as food (Australia).
Santalum album:
inflammation of urinary system (Kom E), sunstroke, abdominal pain.


For all varieties: essential oil in the wood, α-and β-santalol (60%).

Var. marchionense: sesquiterpenes, α-and β-santaldiol.

Other species of Santalum

Santalum spicatum:
Fatty oil (grain): ximenynic acid (# 50%), oleic acid, stearic acid, linolenic acid.
Santalum album:
Essential oil (3 to 5% in the wood): α-santalol (50%) and β-santalol (20%), epi-β-santalol, α-bergamotol, α-bergamotal.


Other species of Santalum

Santalum acuminatum:
inhibition of 5-hydroxytryptamine release by platelets.
Santalum album:
the essential oil is thought to act on the cardiovascular system.


Essential oil of all varieties of Santalum insulare is reported as an acceptable substitute for essential oil of white sandalwood.


Essential oil of South Asian white sandalwood is becoming scarce on the international market for policy reasons (India has restricted production and exports) and crop health reasons (spike disease). Although no other sandalwood oil can be a direct substitute (e.g. Australian or New Caledonian), there is an undeniable possibility of introducing this oil into the market in new formulae.

A long-term study of Polynesian sandalwood is under way (UPF/SDR/CIRAD).

Points studied:

  • Propagation from seed

  • Inventory of populations

  • Chemical and genetic studies in the Marquesas.

1Points currently being studied:

  • Chemical and genetic studies.

2Points still to be studied:

  • Vegetative propagation

  • Determine composition of essential oil

  • Cultivation methods

  • Progeny studies

  • Acceptability to users (substitution, new raw material, etc.).

This is a long-term research and utilisation programme that will require several decades of sustained effort, but the potential outlets would doubtless be stable ones, unaffected by fashion fads.

Because of the length of this programme, the main focus will have to be on biotechnology, particularly for propagation.

It is also advisable to consider why production is falling in India. This is a species that prefers poor soils, and its growth might rapidly slow down in these environments (Geneviève Michon, IRD ecologist, personal communication).


Check for the absence of allergenic molecules listed in the 7th amendment to the European Directive on cosmetic products.

There is no place for sandalwood either as a medicine or a food additive.


How obtained

Distillation of essential oil in French Polynesia.

Marketing method

Sales to aromatic raw materials manufacturers working with perfume industry.

Quality control

Have the quality of the essential oil recognised by a specific AFNOR/ISO standard.



Alpha T., Raharivelomanana P., Bianchini J.P., Faure R., Cambon A., Joncheray L., 1996 – α-santaldiol and β-santaldiol, two santalane sesquiterpenes from Santalum insulare. Phytochemistry, 41 (3): 829-831.

Banerjee S., Ecavade A., Rao A.R., 1993 – Modulatory influence of sandalwood oil on mouse hepatic glutathione S-transferase activity and acid soluble sulphydryl level. Cancer Letters, 68 (2-3): 105-9.

Benencia F., Courreges M.C., 1999 – Antiviral activity of sandalwood oil against herpes simplex viruses-1 and -2. Phytomedicine, 6 (2): 119-123.

Bianchini J.-P., Bouvet J.-M., Butaud, J.-F., Raharivelomanana P., Verhaegen D., Baron V., 2003 – Caractérisation du santal des Marquises. Projet de recherche du ministère de l’Outre-Mer, UPF-SDR-Cirad.

Bouvet J.-M., Butaud, J.-F., Cardi C., Nasi R., Tassin J., Verhaegen D., 2002 – « Molecular and morphometric diversity in Santalum insulare and Santalum austrocaledonicum. Autécologie et phytosociologie des santals de Polynésie française ». In: Regional Workshop on Sandalwood Research, Development and Extension in the Pacific Islands and Asia, 7-11 October 2002, Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Butaud J.-F., 2002 a – « Autécologie et phytosociologie des santals de Polynésie française ». In: Regional Workshop on Sandalwood Research, Development and Extension in the Pacific Islands and Asia, 7-11 October 2002, Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Butaud J.-F., 2002 b – « Conservation et valorisation de la biodiversité des santals de Polynésie française par l’étude de leurs métabolites secondaires ». In: Regional Workshop on Sandalwood Research, Development and Extension in the Pacific Islands and Asia, 7-11 October 2002, Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Butaud J.-F., Tetuanui W., 2002 – « Le santal en Polynésie française ». In: Regional Workshop on Sandalwood Research, Development and Extension in the Pacific Islands and Asia, 7-11 October 2002, Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Butaud J.-F., Raharivelomanana P., Bianchini J.-P., Baron V., 2002 – « Marquesas Islands sandalwood concrete and biodiversity conservation of a forest species ». 33rd International Symposium on Essential Oils, 4-7 September 2002, Lisboa, Portugal.

Butaud, J.-F., Raharivelomanana P., Bianchini J.-P., Baron V., 2003 – A new chemotype of Sandalwood (Santalum insulare Bertero ex A. DC.) from Marquesas Islands. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 15 (5): 323-326.

Jones G. P., Birkett A., Sanigorski A., Sinclair A. J., Hooper P. T., Watson T., Rieger V., 1994 – Effect of feeding quandong (Santalum acuminatum) oil to rats on tissue lipids, hepatic cytochrome P-450 and tissue histology. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 32 (6): 521-525.

Liu Y., Longmore R.B., 1997 – Dietary sandalwood seed oil modifies fatty acid composition of mouse adipose tissue, brain, and liver. Lipids, 32 (9): 965-969.

Rogers K.L., Grice I.D., Griffiths L.R., 2001 – Modulation of in vitro platelet 5-HT release by species of Erythrina and Cymbopogon. Life Sciences, 69 (15): 1817-1829.

Scartezzini P., Speroni E., 2000 – Review on some plants of Indian traditional medicine with antioxidant activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 71 (1-2): 23-43.

Sykes W.R., 1981 – Sandalwood in the Cook Islands. Pacific science, 1980 publ 1981, 34 (1): 77-82.

Author: Y. Barbin

Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers. var. piscatoria(Ait.) Fosberg (FABACEAE)


T. purpurea sensu Zepernick

T. piscatoria Aiton.


Species cultivated and naturalised in several Polynesian islands where it is locally abundant; more generally, scattered in dry environments at low and medium altitude in the Marquesas and Society islands.

Geographical distribution: Austral, Gambier, Marquesas and Society islands.


Used as fish poison in many parts of the Pacific (Nishimoto, 1969; Pétard, 1986).


Rotenoids, especially in roots.


Flavonoids pongamol, karanjin and lanceolatin B, prenylated flavonoids (purpuritenin and purpureamethide).


Purpurenone, bêta-hydroxychalcone; (+)-purpurin; dehydroisoderricin, and (–)-maackiain. Pseudosemiglabrin and (–)-semiglabrin (Sinha et al., 1982; Ventakata Rao and Ranga Raju, 1984).

Flowers and fruit

7,4’-dihydroxy-3’,5’-dimethoxyisoflavone; (+)-tephropurpurin ((+)-purpurin, pongamol, lanceolatin B, (–)-maackiain, (–)-3-hydroxy-4-méthoxy-8,9methylenedioxypterocarpan and (–)-medicarpin, all active on quinone reductase; inactive compounds: 3’-methoxy daidzein, desmoxyphyllin B and 3,9-dihydroxy-8-meéhoxycoumestan (Chang et al., 1997).


Ichthyotoxic and insecticidal properties

Rotenone and its derivative, the rotenoids, asphyxiate fish. In fact they act on all animals by blocking respiration within the cell mitochondria, but warm-blooded animals are protected by their skins which prevent absorption of the poison, whereas cold-blooded animals (insects, fish, snakes, etc.) are particularly sensitive to it.

Nematicidal activity (BANSODE and KURUNDKAR, 1989)

The aerial parts constitute an excellent green manure (Joshi et al., 2000).

Allelopathic activity of aqueous extracts of leaves on parthenium

Significant inhibition of germination and growth rates in seedlings suggests that the simple extract could be used as a cheap, biodegradable herbicide for weed control (Damme et al., 1994).

Anti-ulcer activity of aqueous extracts of the root demonstrated in the rat, owing to its cytoprotective properties (Deshpande et al., 2003).

Marked antitumoral properties shown by in vitro induction of quinone reductase of isoflavonic compounds isolated from fruit and flowers (Chang et al., 1997).


Could be exploited as an insecticide and fish poison.

Rotenone-based products are used in quite large quantities as insecticides in phytopharmacy, as a plant-based powder used against caterpillars, aphids, Colorado beetle, etc., with the major advantage of being harmless to humans. The tendency is to associate them with pyrethrins, another group of insecticides found in plants, to combine their actions, as pyrethrins act more quickly but more transiently.

Rotenone degrades quickly in the environment (3 to 6 days). As a result, interest in this compound as a biological pesticide is reviving. Some countries authorise its use in organic farming under strictly controlled and regulated conditions. This is not an enormous market but is consistent with the scale of the market for medicinal plants and should increase as organic farming spreads (Tamm et al., 2000). This applies even though rotenones (along with other pesticides) have been associated with Parkinson’s disease. Recent studies have shown that injecting high doses of rotenone (1-12 mg/kg) into rats causes Parkinson-like symptoms, which has aroused some reservations regarding its use. The doses used in the experiment were far higher than any dose likely to be found in humans eating treated foods. The question remains open, and regulations are likely to change (Giasson and Lee, 2000).


The species’ chemical composition is well known (most studies conducted on samples harvested in India). As is usually the case with Tephrosia species, presence of deguelin and derivatives in place of rotenone.

It would be useful to measure the rotenoid content of the French Polynesian variety.

Its allelopathic and nematicidal properties and value as green manure make it an excellent crop health product in agriculture and for vector control, etc.

Biological (and therefore biodegradable) insecticides are of special interest for farming in island environments such as the Loyalties in New Caledonia, to prevent polluting the underlying fresh-water lens which has been jeopardised by highly persistent crop protection chemicals.



Bansode P.T., Kurundkar B.P., 1989 – Efficacy of organic amendments and plant extracts in management of root-knot of brinjal. Indian Journal of Plant Pathology, 7 (2): 160-163.

Chang L.C., Gerhauser C., Song L., Farnsworth N.R., Pezzuto J.M., Kinghorn A.D., 1997 – Activity-guided isolation of constituents of Tephrosia purpurea with the potential to induce the phase II enzyme, quinone reductase. Journal of Natural Products, 60 (9): 869-873.

Damme V. Van, Meylemans B., Damme P. Van, 1994 – Survey on weed management practices in upland crops in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Mededelingen Faculteit Landbouwkundige en Toegepaste Biologische Wetenschappen, Universiteit Gent, 59 (3b): 1345-1350.

Deshpande S.S., Shah G.B., Parmar N.S., 2003 – Antiulcer activity of Tephrosia purpurea in rats. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 35 (3): 168-172.

Giasson B.I., Lee V.M.-Y., 2000 – A new link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Nature Neuroscience, 3 (12): 1227-1228.

Joshi S.D., Jadhav A.S., Patil M.B., Kurundkar B.P., 2000 – Effect of organic amendment and fly ash on root-knot disease of tomato. Journal of Maharashtra Agricultural Universities, 25 (1): 84-85.

Nishimoto S. K., 1969 – Plants used as fish poisons. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society, 3: 20-28.

Pétard P., 1986 – Plantes utiles de Polynésie et Raau Tahiti. Ed. rev. et augm. Papeete, Haere Po No Tahiti, 345 p.

Sinha B., Natu A.A., Nanavati D.D., 1982 – Prenylated flavonoids from Tephrosia purpurea seeds. Phytochemistry, 21 (6): 1468-1470.

Tamm L., Speiser B., Wyss E., Niggli U., 2000 – Use of Rotenon in Organic Agriculture: FiBL Statement. 2 p.

Ventakata Rao E., Ranga Raju N., 1984 – Two flavonoids from Tephrosia purpurea. Phytochemistry, 23 (10): 2339-2342.

Author: C. Moretti

Vanilla tahitensis J. W. Moore (ORCHIDACEAE)


Synonym for V. planifolia Andr., probably a particular cultivar or a hybrid of this species with another. It would appear that several groups of botanists and geneticists are working on the question, but we have no bibliographical references.


No status; cultivated plant.


Vanilla tahitensis is cultivated only in French Polynesia. Several cultivars are recorded and a live collection is being made and maintained by the French Polynesian agriculture services (Dron, 2002).

A fleshy herbaceous twining vine, naturalised at low and medium altitude (old plantations or secondary stations).


Pod; food; spice.

Sap: Comoros; medicinal; haemostatic; wound-healing.


Pod: glucosides, vanillin, p-hydroxybenzoic aldehyde, p-anisaldehyde, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, anisic acid, anisic alcohol (Rives, 2000).

Alkaloids, polyphenols and traces of leucoanthocyans.


Toxicity: vanillism (BÙI-XÙAN-NHÙAN, 1954).


Food and drink industry as standard flavouring, on a targeted market.


Cultivation already established in Tahiti and Leeward Islands (Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, etc.).


Vegetative propagation from cuttings. Attention must be paid to the problem of virus disease transmission.



Bùi-Xùan-Nhùan, 1954 – « Le vanillisme ». In Bouriquet G. (ed.): Le vanillier et la vanille dans le monde, Paul Lechevalie: 647-661.

Dron M., 2002 – Rapport d’évaluation de la composante scientifique du projet vanille du Service de développement rural à Raiatea (période 19982002), 31 p.

Rives M.J., 2000 – Étude des profils aromatiques des différentes variétés de Vanilla tahitensis. École nationale supérieure d’agronomie de Toulouse, 51 p.

Author: F. Demarne

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