Home Herbal Monograph Ironwood Tree

It grows in the Himalayas from Nepal eastwards, in north-eastern India, the Deccan Peninsula and the Andaman Islands, ascending to an altitude of 1,500 m.

Morphology Description (Habit)

A medium-sized to large evergreen tree with short trunk, often buttressed at the base. The bark is greyish or reddish brown; the leaves are lanceolate, coriaceous, generally covered with a waxy bloom underneath, red when young; the flowers are large, white and fragrant; the fruits are ovoid, nearly woody; the seeds are dark brown.

Principal Constituents

The stamens which yield the drug Nagakesara contain mesuferrone-A and B, mesuaferrol, mesuanic acid, a- and ß-amyrin, and ß-sitosterol. The seeds and heartwood contain a number of xanthones and coumarins1.


Xanthones isolated from the plant given orally or intraperitonially have been shown to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory activity in normal as well as adrenolectomised rats. The Ethanolic extract of the plant showed diuretic and hypotensive activity. Volatile oil from the flowers showed antibacterial, antifungal and anthelmintic activities1.

Clinical Studies

The essential oil from the stamen showed antifungal activity against C. tropicalis2. Essential oil from the seeds exhibited antifungal activity against a number of pathogenic fungi3. Phenolic extract of seed oil of M. ferrea revealed potent antiasthmatic effect4.


LD50 in mice is 400mg/kg, i.v. and 800mg/kg, i.p. and non-toxic upto 1600mg/kg, p.o.


The volatile oil from the flowers shows antibacterial, antifungal and anthelmintic activities. It exhibits significant anti-inflammatory and styptic activity.

  1. Banerjee & Chowdhury, J Chem Soc Pakist, 1993, 15, 207; Handa et. al., Fitoterapia, 1992, 63, 3; Chem Abstr, 1989, 110, 170185; Bhattathiri et. al., J Res Ayur Siddha, 1989, 10, 153.
  2. Kakrani, H.K.: Antimicrobial and anthelmintic activity of essential oil of Mesua ferrea Linn. Ind. Drugs 21(6): 621-262, 1984.
  3. Jain, S.R. and Jain, H.R. Effect of some common essential oils on pathogenic fungi. Planta Med. 24: 127, 1973.
  4. Bhide, M.B. et. al., Studies on the antiasthmatic activity of Mesua ferrea. Bull. Haff. Inst. 5: 27, 1977.