Polyalthia longifolia


M. longifolium



Local Names

Ulta ashook/ false ashook




Native to southern India and Sri Lanka (Introduced to Pakistan)

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Monoon longifolium, the false ashoka, also commonly known by its synonym Polyalthia longifolia, is an Asian small tree species in the family Annonaceae. It is native to southern India and Sri Lanka but has been widely introduced elsewhere in tropical Asia. This evergreen tree is known to grow over 10 m. in height and is commonly planted due to its effectiveness in alleviating noise pollution. It exhibits symmetrical pyramidal growth with willowy weeping pendulous branches and long narrow lanceolate leaves with undulate margins.
Monoon longifolium is sometimes incorrectly identified as the ashoka tree (Saraca indica) because of the close resemblance of both trees. It can appear to have no branches, but in fact a M. longifolium allowed to grow naturally (without trimming the branches out for decorative reasons) grows into a normal large tree giving plenty of shade.
Common names include false ashoka, the Buddha tree, Indian mast tree, and Indian fir tree. Its names in other languages include Ashoka in Sanskrit, Unboi or Debadaru in Assamese, Debdaru in Bengali and Hindi, Asopalav (Gujarati), Glodogan tiang (Indonesian), Ashok in Marathi and Nettilinkam in Tamil, and araNamaram (Malayalam).
The False ashoka was cultivated and gained popularity in British India for nostalgic reasons because it resembled the tall, harrow Italian cypress; it also was used for ships' masts. It does not require pruning in order to maintain its tall, straight, main trunk with short, drooping branches.
The leaves are used for ornamental decoration during festivals. The tree is a focal point in gardens throughout India. The tree can be pruned into various shapes and maintained in required sizes. Once, the flexible, straight and light-weight trunks were used in the making of masts for sailing ships. Thus, the tree is also known as the Mast Tree. Today, its wood is mostly used for manufacturing small articles such as pencils, boxes, matchsticks, etc. The oil of the seed has been confirmed to possess anti-oxidant, anti-lipooxygenase and antimicrobial (against various microbe strains) activities, among others.
Methanolic extracts of Monoon longifolium have yielded 20 known and two new organic compounds, some of which show cytotoxic properties. The fatty acid composition of the seed has also been reported.
Polyalthia longifolia (Annonaceae family) is native to the drier areas of India and is locally called “Ashoka.” It is also cultivated in Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Polyalthia longifolia is also known as Buddha tree, mast tree, cemetery tree, false Ashoka or green Champa. Generally, Polyalthia longifolia is viewed as a street tree because of its effectiveness in combating noise pollution. Macroscopically, the versatile Polyalthia longifolia can reach over 15.0 m high with symmetrical pyramidal growth and weeping pendulous branches. The term Polyalthia is derived from Greek roots, with “poly” meaning many and “althia" meaning cure, indicating that this plant has been used to treat various diseases/disorders. In traditional and indigenous systems of medicine, Polyalthia longifolia has been commonly used in the treatment of fever, helminthiasis, diabetes and various cardiac problems. Pharmacological investigations have shown that Polyalthia longifolia possesses significant biological and pharmacological activity, which may include antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor, anti-ulcer, antidiabetic and antioxidant properties. To date, more than 30 studies have analyzed extracts from bark, leaves, roots, seeds, etc. of the plant and reported a total of approximately 100 compounds, including steroids, flavonoids, clerodane diterpenes, cleroda-oic acids and alkaloids. In context of the broad medicinal potential of Polyalthia longifolia, this review compiles a detailed exploration of currently available knowledge of the phytochemical and their pharmacological properties of Polyalthia longifolia. Its potential applications in the treatment of various conditions are also discusseds.
The term Polyalthia is derived from Greek roots, with “poly” meaning many and “althia" meaning cure, indicating that this plant has been used to treat various diseases/disorders. In Ayurveda, herbal preparations of P. longifolia have been mainly used to treat duodenalulcers while decoctions of the plant have been used in the treatment of fever, diabetes and skin diseases in various traditional medicine systems. Furthermore, the bark and leaves of P. longifolia have been used to treat microbial infection, inflammation, diabetes and multiple diseases of the digestive system.

Earlier reviews on the genus Polyalthia and plant P. longifolia summary the general phytochemistryand pharmacological activities of Polyalthia extracts. To our knowledge, there is no review on the therapeutic applications of chemical constituents of P. longifolia, till date. Therefore, in the current study, we aim to provide an overview of the phytochemistry and their pharmacological investigations to describe the many uses of this medicinal plant.

P. longifolia extract consists mostly of steroids,flavonoids, clerodane diterpenes, cleroda-oic acids and alkaloids (fig. 1) [5]. To date, more than 30 studies have analyzed extracts from bark, leaves, roots, seeds, etc., of the plant and reported a total of approximately 100 compounds (Table 1). The main compounds of the plant that have been identified and reported in multiple studies are beta (β)-sitosterol (1A), leucocyanidin (2A), proanthocyanidin (2B), 16 Alpha (α)-hydroxycleroda-3,13(14)Z-dien-15,16-olide (3A), (4→2)-abeo-16(R and S)-2,13Z-kolava-dien-15,16-olide-3-al (3K), 16-oxo-cleroda-3,13(14)E-dien-15-oic acid (4A), cleroda-3,13E-dien-15-oic acid (4B), liriodenine (5F), solidagonal acid (4N) and labd-13E-en-8-ol-15-oic acid (4J)
Plants used in traditional systems of medicine have often been a starting point in the search for new and effective pharmaceuticals. This is partly because their history of human use suggests their safety and partly because a significant portion of traditional medicines have been shown to be effective. The investigations into P. longifolia summarized in this review have reinforcedthat it is worthy of further, more in-depth study in terms of potential drug discovery. Future research into P. longifolia and its extracts is needed to determine theirdegree of benefit in the treatment of specific conditions and their mechanisms of action.