All about ash-colored fleabane or ironweed



Scientific names Common names
Cacalia cinerea (L.) Kuntze Agas-moro (Ilk.) 
Conyza cinerea L. Bulabod (Sub.) 
Cyanopis erigeroides DC. Kolong-kugon (S.L. Bis.) 
Cyanthillium cinereum (L.) H.Rob. Magmansi (Pang.)
Eupatorium myosotifolium Jacq. Sagit (Bon.) 
Eupatorium myosotifolium Jacq. Tagulinai, tagulinay (Tag.) 
Seneciodes cinereum (L.) Kuntze ex Kuntze Tagulinau (Tag.) 
Serratula cinerea (L.) Roxb. Ironweed (Engl.)
Vernonia cinerea (L.) Less. Ash coloured Fleabane (Engl.) 
Vernonia cyanonioides Walp.
Vernonia dendigulensis DC.
Vernonia diffusa Decne.
Vernonia erigeroides (DC.) DC.
Vernonia lentil Volk. & O.Hoffm.
Vernonia leptophylla DC.
Vernonia montana Hook.f.
Vernonia parviflora Reinw.
Vernonia physalifolia DC.
Vernonia rhomboides Edgew.
Vernonia villosa W.F. Wright
Tagulinau is a common name shared by tagulinaw (Emilia sonchifolia) and agas-moro (Vernonia cinerea).
Cyanthillium cinereum (L.) H.Rob. is an accepted name
Vernonia cinerea Less. is a synonym of Cyanthillium cinereum (L.) H.Rob.

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Jia xian xia cua, Xiao shan hu, Ran se cao, Suo gai ban jiu ju, Guia gun can, Ji se cao.
GERMAN: Kleines Eisenholz, Kleines Scheinaster
INDIA: Sahdei, Sahaderi, Sahadevi, Sandri; Kukseem, Sadori, Naichette, Mukuthipundu, Pirina.
INDONESIA: Buyung-buyung, Sawi Langit, Lidah Anjing, Rumput ekor kuda.
JAPAN: Yambaru-higotai
LAOS: Nya Phaen Din Yen
MALAYSIA: Rumput tahi babi, Tambak-tambak, Tambak bukit.
MYANMAR: Byaing-chay-pin
PUERTO RICO: Yerba Socialista
VIETNAM: Bach Dau Ong

Ironweed is an erect, slender, sparingly branched, somewhat pubescent annual herb, growing up to 20 to 80 centimeters high. Leaves, smaller at higher altitudes, are oblanceolate to obovate, 2 to 6 centimeters long, with pointed or obtuse tips, with shallowly toothed margins. Heads are small, stalked, borne in open, lax corymbs, and about 7 millimeters long and 2.5 millimeters in diameter. Flowers are rather bright-purple, all perfect, the corolla all equal, tubular, slender 5-lobed, about 20 in each head, twice as long as the involucral bracts which are linear and silky. Fruits are achenes, striate, ribbed or angled; pappus hairs numerous.


– Throughout the world in open, waste places in all settled areas at low and medium altitudes.

– A common weed, flowering all the year.

– Occurs in the Old World Tropics.


– Phytochemical screening yielded steroids glycosides, triterpenoids and esters in a methanolic extract of stem bark and leaves. Study also yielded lupeol, 12-oleanen-3-ol-3ß-acetate, stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol in an n-hexane fraction. (15)

– Methanol extract of whole plant yielded 3 major components, i.e., (n- hexadecanoic acid (42-88%) 1,2 benzenedicarboxylic acid, diisoocty ester (23.00) and squalence (11.31%) and six minor compounds, i.e., caryophyllene oxide (2.31%) guaiol (1.75% 3,7,11,15 tetramethyl -2- hexadecen -1-01(2.87) decanoic acid, ethyl ester (2.10%) 9,12 octadecanoic and(z-z)-(9.38) and octadecanoic and (4.,41%). (26)

– Study of hexane extract of flowers isolated a new sesquiterpene lactone, 8a-hydroxyhirsutinolide (2), and a new naturally occur- ring derivative, 8a-hydroxyl-1-O-methylhirsutinolide (3), along with seven known compounds (1 and 4– 9). (See study below) (31)


– Considered cooling, febrifuge, sedating, anti-infectious, stomachic, tonic, astringent.

– Root is bitter; considered anthelmintic and diuretic.

– Seeds considered anthelmintic and alexipharmic.

– According to Ayurveda, the herb is sweet, cold, tonic, stomachic, astringent.

– Studies have shown anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nephroprotective, diuretic, bactericidal, antipyretic, analgesic, larvicidal, antifungal, hepatoprotective, antitumor, antidiarrheal, immunomodulatory, radioprotective, antihyperglycemic properties.

Parts used

Whole plant, leaves, roots, flowers.

Folkloric medicinal uses of ironweed

• In the Philippines infusion of plant taken internally for cough.

• Plant also used for wounds infections and fever.

• Decoction of leaves used against humid herpes, eczema, etc.

• Used for colds and fever; also for acute jaunditic hepatitis.

• Plant decoction used by Hindus to promote perspiration in febrile affections.

• Combined with quinine, used for malarial fevers.

• Expressed juice of plant used for hemorrhoids.

• Plant paste used to treat paralysis.

• In Chuta Nagpus whole plant used as remedy for bladder spasms and strangury.

• Root given for dropsy.

• Flowers used for conjunctivitis; also reported useful for fevers.

• In Patna, leaves employed as alexipharmic and anthelmintic.

• In the Nighantas plant used for asthma, bronchitis, and consumption.

• Neurasthenia, insomnia, night urination among infants, infected sores, mastitis, snake bites, sprains, furuncle.

• Dosage: 15 to 30 gms dried material (among infants, 9 to 15 gms), 30 to 60 gms fresh material in decoction.

• Poultice of fresh material used for eczema, carbuncle and snake bites.

• In India, whole herb juice is used most frequently – for eye problems. Also used for poisonous insect and snake bites. As a tonic, taken twice a month with milk. For ringworm, applied to affected parts with milk. Used for all types of fever and considered one of the best remedies for typhoid.

• In India seeds used for cough, flatulence, intestinal colic. Paste of seeds with lime juice used to treat pediculi. Flowers used for conjunctivitis, rheumatism, fever.

• In Ayurveda, used for consumption, asthma, bronchitis and fevers.

• In Senegal and French Guinea plant infusion used to wash newborn infants; also used for children with incontinence of urine.

• Bitter root used as vermifuge.

• In Ceylon, used for wounds and sores; taken internally to promote sweating.

• In Tamil Nadu, India, root extract taken 3-4 times daily to treat diarrhea. Leaf juice taken twice daily to treat cough. (40) Leaves used for skin diseases: Handful of leaves pound and boiled in coconut oil and oil extract applied three times daily to treat leprosy and scabies. (43)

Scientific studies on ironweed benefits and uses

Anti-Arthritic / Anti-Inflammatory:

An alcoholic extract from the flower of Vernonia cinerea was tested in adjuvant arthritic rats. The extract reversed major histopathological changes in the arthritic hind paws. Phytochemical studies revealed the presence of alkaloids, saponins, steroids and flavanoids. The study concluded that the extract contains a yet-unidentified anti-inflammatory principle. (2)

Free Radical Scavenging:

The levels of oxygen derived free radicals, antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione) were studied in experimental rats. (3)

Nephroprotective/ protects kidney

A study on three extracts from the plant showed promising nephrocurative activity and nephroprotective activity in rat-model of cisplatin-induced renal toxicity. Cisplatin is a potent antitumor agent with limited clinical use because of its renal toxicity. (11)


In a study of extracts of aerial parts in cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity in albino rats, an alcoholic extract showed pronounced curative activity, an EAE showed good prophylactic activity, and a petroleum ether extract showed moderate protection in curative and prophylactic models.

Antioxidant / Anti-Inflammatory:

Methanol extract of VC was found to scavenge hydroxyl radicals and nitric oxide. It also significantly inhibited carrageenan-induced inflammation together with down regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokine level and gene expression. (5)

Diuretic / Anti-Diuretic Effects:

The chloroform extract of leaf induced significant diuresis while the methanol and aqueous extracts induced significant anti-diuresis in rats. In both, the effects were dose-dependent. (6)

Smoking Cessation Treatment:

Veronia cinerea has been used in traditional Thai medicine to relieve cigarette craving. A 24-week, randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial on 64 subjects randomized to an infusion of 3-gm crushed dried whole plant of VC in infusion three times daily or placebo. Results were promising and suggest that VC may be a potential alternative to treatment for smoking cessation with significant cost savings. Large scale trials are needed to verify its efficacy. (7)

Bioactive Constituents:

Study isolated four compounds: (+)-Lirioresinol B, stigmasterol, stigmasterol-3-O-beta-D-glucoside and 4-sulfo-benzocyclobutene. Three of the compounds showed cytotoxicity on PC-12 and three compounds showed inhibition activity. Compound 4 induced NGF-activity. (8)


Methanol extract of the whole plant of VC exhibited significant dose-dependent activity against all phlogistic agents. In the chronic model, it exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity compared with the standard drug phenylbutazone.(9)

Antipyretic / Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory:

Chloroform, methanolic and ether extracts of VC showed to possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects together with changes in behavioral activities. (10)

Bactericidal Against Ocular Pathogen:

VC was one of 40 different medicinal plants that showed bioactivity against Corynebacterium macginleyi. (12)

Toxicity Study:

A methanol extract which exhibited antimicrobial activity was tested for toxicity in mice. The extract did not show toxic effects in mice and brine shrimp in acute toxicity study. (4)

Larvicidal / Quinauefasciatus:

Study of leaf extracts against common filarial vector, Culex quinquefasciatus third instar larvae showed effective results with an LC50 of 1.63 mg/ml after 24 hours. Results show potential for use in filarial and mosquito management programs. (25)

Antifungal / Candia albicans:

Study of methanol extract screened screened for activity against pathogenic yeast Candida albicans showed complete inhibition and prolonged anti-yeast activity. (19)

Antinociceptive / Amelioration of Vincristine-induced Painful Neuropathy:

Study investigated the antinociceptive potential of V. cinerea on vincristine-induced painful neuropathic pain in rats. Pretreatment showed significant dose-dependent attenuation of vincristine-induced painful behavioral, biochemical and histological effects. Results may be due to antioxidative, neuroprotetive, and calcium inhibitory action. (20)

Hepatoprotective / CCl4-Induced Dysfunction:

A herbal powder prepared from leaves showed ameliorative hepatoprotective activity on both pre- and post-treated groups of CCl4-induced hepatic dysfunction in rats. (21)

Antitumor / Dalton’s Ascitic Lymphoma:

Study evaluated various extracts against Dalton’s Ascitic Lymphoma (DAL) in Swiss albino mice. Results suggest an ethanolic extract and chloroform extract possess significant antitumor effect. (23)


Study evaluated the antidiarrheal activity of whole plant of V. cinerea. Results showed a reduction in peristaltic movement of the GI tract of animals., with significant and dose-dependent decrease in the number of wet faeces and total number of faeces compared to control rats. (24) Study evaluated the anti-diarrheal activity of aqueous extract of whole plant of V. cinerea against castor oil-induced diarrhea, enteropooling and small intestine transit models in rats. Results showed anti-diarrheal effects in all test models and substantiates the folklore claim as anti-diarrheal agent. (41)

Antifungal / Anti-Dandruff / Leaves:

Study evaluated an ethyl acetate extract for antifungal activity against Candida albicans, C. parapsilosis and C. tropicalis. Results showed very good antifungal activity at all concentrations tested. It also exhibited excellent anti-dandruff activity against Piturosporum ovale and P. folliculitis. (27)

Immunomodulatory / Human Peripheral Mononuclear Cells:

Study evaluated the toxicity of hexane extract of V. cinerea trunk and its anti-inflammatory effect on peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The hexane extract significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokine level (IL-6) which may be due to inhibition of NF-kB nuclear translocation. Results suggest an immunomodulatory effect on human PBMCs. (28)


A sesquiterpene lactone, Compound 1, possible a Hirsutinolide type, isolated from V. cinerea was evaluated against alloxan induced diabetic rats. Results showed a significant reduction of blood glucose, possibly through potentiation of insulin effect of plasma by increasing pancreatic secretion of insulin from ß cells of the islets of Langerhans or its release from bound form. (29)

Anti-Diarrheal / Anxiolytic / Antimicrobial / Membrane Stabilizing:

Study evaluated a crude extract for anti-diarrhea, anxiolytic, antimicrobial and membrane stabilizing activities. There was significant and dose-dependent anti-diarrheal activity in the castor-oil induced diarrhea model in mice. The anxiolytic effect was compared with standard anxiolytic drug diazepam. There was moderate antimicrobial activity against Blastomyces dermatitidis. There was inhibition of heat-induced hemolysis of RBCs in RBC stability test. (30)

Radioprotective Effect:

Study evaluated the radioprotective effect of VC extract against gamma-radiation induced immunosuppression and oxidative stress in balb/c mice. Treatment reduced enzyme elevations (ALP and GPT) and lipid peroxidation after irradiation. There was reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines that increased with irradiation. Administration of V cinerea did not compromise the anti-neoplastic effects of radiation; rather, there was a synergistic action of radiation and V. cinerea in reduction solid tumors. Results suggest potential as adjuvant during radiation therapy. (31)

Anti-Inflammatory Sesquiterpene Lactone / Flowers:

Study of hexane extract of flowers isolated a new sesquiterpene lactone, 8a-hydroxyhirsutinolide (2), and a new naturally occur- ring derivative, 8a-hydroxyl-1-O-methylhirsutinolide (3), along with seven known compounds (1 and 4– 9). Isolated compounds were evaluated for cancer chemopreventive potential. Compounds 1, 2, 4, 5, and 9 inhibited TNF-a-induced NF-jB activity, while compounds 4 and 6–9 exhibited significant NO inhibitory activity. (32)

Antimetastatic Activity:

Study strongly suggests the antimetastatic potential of V. cinerea and Vernolide-A. VC and vernolide-A inhibited tumor cell invasion and metastasis through stimulation of CMI and regulation of MMPs, VEGF, prolyl hydroxylase, lysyl oxidase, ERK-1, ERK-2, TIMPs, nm23 and proinflammatory cytokine gene expression in metastatic lung tissue. (33)

Safety Evaluation:

Study evaluated the safety of ethanol extract of Vernonia cinerea whole plant in acute and chronic toxicity studies in rats. On acute toxicity study, extract was found safe at doses of 2000 mg/kbw orally with no toxicity or death. In chronic toxicity study in rats in doses of 100, 200, and 400 mg/kg once weekly for six weeks, no significant changes were noted in hematologic, renal, and hepatic parameters at the termination of the study. (36)

Decreased Smoking Rate with Supplementation:

Study showed the supplementation with V. cinerea and exercise provided benefit related to reduced smoking rate, which may be related to oxidative stress and beta-endorphin levels. (37)

Neuroprotective / Ameliorative Potential In Sciatic Nerve Injury and Neuropathic Pain:

Study evaluated the ameliorative potential of ethanol extract of whole plant of VC in chronic constrictive injury (CCI) of sciatic nerve induced neuropathic pain in rats. Results showed dose dependent attenuation in pathologic changes induced by CCI, similar to attenuation of the pregabalin pretreated group. The effect may be due to the presence of flavonoids and attributed to antioxidative, neuroprotective, and calcium channel modulation. (38)

Cytoprotective on Endothelial Cells from Nicotine Toxicity:

Study evaluated the cytoprotective effect and mechanisms of whole plant extract on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) from nicotine toxicity. Results showed a cytoprotective effect possibly via intracellular antioxidant mechanism, catalase. (39)

Anticataleptic in Haloperidol Induced Catalepsy:

Study evaluated the anticataleptic effect of ethanol extract in haloperidol induced catalepsy in rats using block method, locomotor activity in actophotometer and exploratory behavior in hole board apparatus. Results suggest the protective effect against symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (catalepsy) may be due to regulation of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate. (42)

Gold Nanoparticles / Anti-Malarial:

Study reports on synthesis of gold mediated biocompatible nanocomposite of lactone-enriched fraction from Vernonia cinerea. Study showed the ability of lactone-enriched fraction gold nanopartices to restrict parasitaemia and extended mean survival time of mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. Lack of toxicity suggests a potential for application of nanoparticles in malaria therapy. (44)

Anti-Diabetic / Randomized Double-Blind Crossover Clinical Trial:

A randomized, DB crossover clinical trial investigated the effects of an herbal preparation containing V. cinerea in T2DM patients. Results showed significant decrease in glucose, hemoglobin A1c, cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. There was no adverse effect noted on liver and renal function. (45)



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