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King of the Forest

King of the forest is a shrub that is native to the tropical regions of the Americas, but is now grown in other regions of the world. King of the Forest has large leaves up to 20cm long which are coarse to the touch. The shrub bears pretty, erect, yellow flowers which look like candles.

Traditional Uses

King of the forest

Scientific Name:

{Cassia alata - Caesalpiniaceae)
Other Names:
Candle Bush, Impetigo Bush, Ringworm Cassia, Christmas Candle, Guajava, Nsempii, Desay, Fleur Dartre, Akapulko, Gelenggang
Parts Used:
Leaves, Roots

A tea made from the leaves of king of the forest is used in Jamaica to clean and build the system and the leaves are crushed and applied to the skin for various skin conditions. In other parts of the Caribbean, it is used for hypertension and to treat skin problems such as ringworm and impetigo. The leaves are steeped in water to make a gargle. The pulp around the seeds can be used as a purgative but the seeds are said to be poisonous.

In Suriname the leaves are used as a laxative, but their main use is for skin problems. The roots are used there to treat uterine disorders. In other parts of South America, king of the forest is used to treat fevers, stomach problems, asthma and sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis.

Modern Research

Research in Ghana showed that an extract from king of the forest was active in lab tests against MRSA bacteria and gonorrhoea. King of the forest has been shown to have antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti fungal, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Japanese trials confirmed the presence of an active compound which has anti-inflammatory activity. In a recent clinical trial in Thailand the leaf extract of king of the forest was reported as being an effective laxative. The plant was also reported to have antimicrobial activity in lab tests.

Recent findings indicate that adenine, one of the active plant chemicals in king of the forest, can reduce sticky blood and the build-up of plaque in the arteries. In Jamaica, studies indicate that king of the forest could also be effective in reducing blood pressure, confirming one traditional use.

Plant Chemicals

Among the plant chemicals identified in king of the forest are: Adenine; anthraquinones; flavonoids; narengenin; saponins; kaempferol 3-O-gentiobioside(K3G) and chyrsopanic acid.

Other Uses

In The Philippines, king of the forest leaf extracts are used in the commercial production of soaps, shampoos and skin creams


  • Ayensu, ES – Medicinal Plants of the West Indies – (1981) – Reference Publications Inc.
  • Honeychurch, PN Caribbean wild plants & their uses - (1986) - Macmillan Caribbean
  • Mitchell & Ahmad - A Review of Medicinal Plant Research at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica 1948-2001 - WI Med J (2006);55(4):243
  • Moriyami, H et al - Anti-inflammatory activity of heat-treated cassia alata leaf extract and its flavonoid glycoside - Yakugaku Zasshi (2003); 123(7): 607-611
  • Somchit, M & Reezal, I - In vitro anti-microbial activity of ethanol and water extracts of Cassia Alata - J Ethnopharmacology (2003) vol 84(1): 1-4
  • Thamlikitkul, V et al - Randomized controlled trial of Cassia Alata for constipation - J Med Assoc Thailand (1990) Apr; 73(4):217-222
  • Wickstrom, Christopher - Anti-cancer, anti-microbial activity of selected Hawaiin and Sonoran Desert species
  • Tan, Ria – (2001) – www.naturia.per.sg/buloh/plants/candlesticks
  • www.rain-tree.com