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Record Number


PROSEA Handbook Number

12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1


Abrus precatorius L.

This article should be read together with the article on the genus: Abrus in the Handbook volume indicated above in this database.


Syst. nat. ed. 12: 472 (1767).

Vernacular Names

Indian liquorice, jequirity bean, crab's eye (En). Jéquirity, liane reglisse (Fr). Indonesia: saga, saga manis (general), saga telik (Javanese). Malaysia: akar saga. Philippines: saga, kansasaga, bangati (general). Burma (Myanmar): ywe-nge. Cambodia: ângkreem, kre:m krâ:m (Kompong Thom). Laos: khua sa em, makam. Thailand: ma klam taanuu (Bangkok), klam khruea (Chiang Mai), ma khaam thao (Trang). Vietnam: d[aa]y c[uw][owf]m th[ar]o, cam th[ar]o d[aa]y, d[aa]y t[uw][ow]ng t[uw].


Africa, tropical and subtropical America (introduced), tropical Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands; throughout South-East Asia.


The seeds have played an important role in the treatment of conjuctivitis in various parts of the world. An extract of roots and leaves is a traditional cure for aphtha. In coastal areas of Papua New Guinea, leaves are chewed for a week as a traditional treatment for asthma. The leaves are also used in the same way as liquorice. The seeds are used in ornaments.


A woody climber up to 6(-9) m long, stems often attaining 1.5 cm in diameter; leaves with 16-34 oblong, obovate-oblong or ovate leaflets, obtuse to acuminate at apex; inflorescence thick and robust, usually curved, flowers in dense clusters on cushion-like nodes; fruit oblong, inflated, 1-7-seeded; seeds ovoid, scarlet with area around the hilum black, rarely entirely black, whitish or yellowish. The African material has been separated as subsp. africanus Verdc., based on minor differences in pod characteristics from the Asian subsp. precatorius. Abrus precatorius occurs in grasslands, cropped land (also as a weed), thickets, edges of monsoon rain forest and gallery forest up to 1500 m altitude.


Abrus precatorius L. — 1, young shoot; 2, inflorescence; 3, infructescence; 4, seeds

Selected Sources

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[736] Kimura, M., Sumizawa, T. & Funatsu, G., 1993. The complete amino acid sequences of the B-chains of Abrin-a and Abrin-b, toxic proteins from the seeds of Abrus precatorius. Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry 57: 166-169.
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[1060] Nyazema, N.Z., Ndamba, J., Anderson, C., Makaza, N. & Kaondera, K.C., 1994. The doctrine of signatures or similitudes: a comparison of the efficacy of praziquantel and traditional herbal remedies used for the treatment of urinary schistosomiasis in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 32(2): 142-148.
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R.H.M.J. Lemmens & F.J. Breteler

Correct Citation of this Article

Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Breteler, F.J., 1999. Abrus precatorius L.. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. and Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. Database record:

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