Four o’clock proven benefits, uses

Four o'clock

Scientifric names Common names
Jalapa congesta Moench    A las cuatro (Tag.)
Mirabilis jalapa L. Gilala (Tag.)
Mirabilis lindheimeri (Standl.) Shinners Oracion (Tag.)
Nyctago jalapa L. Talang (Sul.)
Nyctago jalapa (L.) DC. Four o’clock (Engl.)
Nyctago versicolor Salisb. [Illegitimate] Marvel of Peru (Engl.)
Mirabilis jalapa L. is an accepted name


Other vernacular names
AYURVEDA: Gulambasa.
BENGALI: Sandhya malati.
BRAZIL: Maravilla, Bonnia.
CHINESE: Yan zhi hua, Fen dou hua, Ye fan hua, Zhuang yuan hua, Ding xiang ye, Ku ding xiang, Xi zao hua, Zi mo li.
GERMAN: Wunderblume
INDONESIA: Kembang Pagi Sore, Kembang Pukul Empat, Bunga Waktu Kechil (Melayu); Kederat, SegeratTegerat (Java); Noja (Bali); Bungga Ledonosko (Roti); Loro Laka (Timor); Bunga-bunga Paranggi (Makasar); Pukul Ampa (Minahasa); Kupa Oras (Ambon); Cako Rana (Ternate)
HINDI: Gul-abbas, Gulbakshi.
KANNADA: Gulamaji, Naalku ghante hoo.
KOREAN: Punkkot
MALAYALAM: Anthimalari, Antimantaram, Naalu mani poovu.
MALAYSIA: Kembang Pukul empat, Kembang Lohor, Kembang Dzohor
MARATHI: Gulabas, Gulabaas.
MANIPURI: Murak lei.
NEPAL: Maritidhs, Nakajali; Lankaphul, Lankasoni, Malati; Labujana, Langasani; Barka gurubands.
ORIYA: Rangini.
PERU: Marvel of Peru.
SANSKRIT: Krishnakeli.
SPANISH: Clavellina, Clavillia, Maravilla, Hoja de Xalapa, A las cuatro, Suspiros.
TAMIL: Pattarashu, Andhi mandarai.

Four o’clock is an erect, nearly or quite smooth, branched plant, about 20 to 80 centimeters in height. Leaves are narrowly ovate, 4 to 10 centimeters long. Involucres are crowded, calyxlike, about 1 centimeter long or less, with one flower. Perianth is white, purple, or yellow, 3 to 4 centimeters long, with a cylindrical tube which is slightly enlarged and upward, and with a spreading limb. Fruit is narrowly ovoid, about 8 millimeters long, black and finely ribbed.


– Throughout the settled areas.

– In cultivation; also frequently spontaneously.

– Introduced from Mexico by the Spaniards.

– Now pantropic.


– Roots contain oxymethylanthroquinone.

– Plant contains trigonelline, an alkaloid, that possess a purgative action.

– Also contains galactose and arabinose.

– Phytochemical screening yielded steroids, alkaloid, flavonoid, carbohydrates, glycosides, and proteins in the total alcoholic extracts.

– Phytochemical screening yielded ten compounds: chrysophanol, physcion, stigmasterol, mirabijalone A, boeravinone C, Aurantiamide acetate, glycerin monoeicosate, β-sitosterol, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzoic acid. (14)

– Roots isolated eleven compounds identified as astragaloside II, astragaloside II, astragaloside IV, astragaloside VI, flazin, 4′-hydroxy-2, 3-dihydroflavone 7-beta-D-glucopyranoside, gingerglycolipid A,, 3, 4-dihydroxybenzaldehyd, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, beta-sitosterol, and daucosterol. (16)

– Leaves water and alcoholic extracts yielded glycosides, tannins, phenolic acids, resins, alkaloids and proteins; while saponins and flavonoids were not found. Trace elements were K 161.2 µg/ml, Na 19, Fe 18.7; Cd 0.8, Cu 0.3, and Pb 0.1 µg/ml. (31)

– Study to investigate the anti-HIV constituents from roots isolated and identified eleven compounds viz. astragaloside II (1), astragaloside II (2), astragaloside IV (3), astragaloside VI (4), flazin (5), 4′-hydroxy-2, 3-dihydroflavone 7-beta-D-glucopyranoside (6), gingerglycolipid A (7), 3, 4-dihydroxybenzaldehyd (8), p-hydroxybenzaldehyde (9), beta-sitosterol (10) and daucosterol (11). (36)


– Considered diuretic, purgative, vulnerary.

– Tubers are weakly purgative and emetic.

– Root is believed to be aphrodisiac; also reported to be purgative, emetic and cathartic.

– Studies have shown anticancer, antispasmodic, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-viral, antihyperglyceic, antilipidemic, antioxidant, anti-arthritic properties.

Parts used

Leaves, roots, tubers.


– Leaves are used as emergency food.

– Used as condiment. Crushed seed used as pepper substitute.

Folkloric traditional medicinal uses of Four o’clock plant

– Juice of leaves are soothing when applied to areas of urticaria.

– In India and Java bruised leaves used as poultices for boils and abscesses, and the juice used for uterine discharges.

– Juices of leaves used internally for gonorrhea.

– Infusion of leaves used as a diuretic and for dropsy.

– Roots used as mild purgative, emetic and cathartic.

– Leaves are anti-inflammatory. Decoction used for abscesses.

– Leaf juice used for wounds.

– In China, used in traditional medicine in treatment of diabetes.

– In Peru, root decoction used as diuretic.

– In India and Java, bruised leaves used for poulticing boils and abscesses; juice used for uterine discharges.

– In Brazil, Kayapo indians inhale the powdered dried flowers for headaches; the Assurani Indians grate the tuberous seeds and drink it for intestinal parasites. Poultice of leaves and flowers used for eczema, skin infections and itching.

– In south Brazil, leaves used to treat inflammatory and painful diseases; also used as laxative.

– In Mexico, the decoction of entire plant is used vaginal discharge, dysentery, diarrhea, abdominal colic and muscle pains.

– In Thailand, seed powder used for infections.

– In South Africa, used as a purgative.

Other uses


Edible crimson dye from flowers; used as colorant for cosmetics, cakes and jellies.


Pounded seeds used in Malaya, China and Japan for making cosmetic powder. Powdered root, likewise used for cosmetic preparations, mixed with rice powder and sandalwood. In China, flowers are also used for cosmetic purposes.

Proven Scientific studieson benefits, uses of Four o’clock plant


Extract of Mirabilis jalapa exhibits an inhibitory effect on gut smooth muscle contractility probably through a serotoninergic mechanism interacting with other adrenergic systems. (2)


(1) The ethanol extract of Mirabilis jalapa tested against five pathogenic bacterial strains (E. coli, S. aureus, S. typhi, B. cereus, K. pneumoniae) and toxins showed antimicrobial activities comparable to conventional antibiotics suggesting a potential as agents for biocontrol and chemotherapy.

(2) The methanol extract of MJ showed stronger and broader spectrum of microbial activity compared to other extracts, using amikacin as the standard bacterial agent.

Cytotoxicity / Antitumor / Anticancer:

(1) Study of protein fractions with ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) properties from the leaves of MJ showed cytotoxic activity6 against a breast cancer cell line. (6)


Study isolated from the leaves of MJ, a 30 kD protein fraction named MI-30, with the properties of a ribosome-inactivating protein. It produced cytotoxic effect, more toward breast and cervical cancer cells as compared to normal mononuclear cells (12).

Antibacterial / Diarrhea-Causing Pathogens:

Study of roots showed antibacterial activity against diarrhea-causing pathogens: Staph aureus, Strep pyogenes, E coli, Enterobacter sp., V cholera, Shigella flexner and S typhi.

Phytochemicals / Pharmacognosy:

Study yielded the presence of triterpenoids, alkaloids, glycosides and flavonoids. Diagnostic features are multicellular trichomes, anisocytic stomata and calcium oxalate.

Analgesic / Antinociceptive Activity:

Study demonstrated antinociceptive activity in mice, supporting its folkloric use as an analgesic. (4)

• Protein Biochemical Properties / Anticancer / Antibacterial:

Study of crude proteins showed to be active against B subtilis. Proteins also exhibited anticancer activity to permanent cell lines L929 (mouse fibroblasts).

Antiviral / Antiproliferative / Abortifacient:

Purified protein from the root tubers of Mirabilis jalapa exhibited antiviral, abortifacient and anti-proliferative activities.


Total alcoholic extract exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity in the carrageenan-induced paw edema model. (13)


Evaluation in Wistar albino rats showed dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity in a carrageenan-induced paw edema model. (17)

Antioxidant / Cytotoxicity:

Various extracts of leaves and bark of Mirabilis jalapa were evaluated for cytotoxicity and antioxidant activity. On brine shrimp lethality bioassay, a petroleum ether extract sowed significant cytotoxic activity, with an LC50 of 8.132 compared to vincristine sulfate. A crude methanol extract showed mild antioxidant activity. (18)

Free Radical Scavenging / Antibacterial:

Study showed significant antioxidant properties and a potential to serve as free radical inhibitor or scavenger. A methanolic extract showed a wide spectrum of inhibition against Gram+ and Gram- bacterial. (19)

Natural Indicator in Acid Base Titration:

Study of flower extract showed potential use as an acid base indicator in different types of acid base titrations. (20)

Antihyperglycemic Activity / Aerial Parts:

Study evaluated the antihyperglycemic activity of a hydroalcoholic extract of aerial parts in streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemic animals. Results showed antihyperglycemic activity probably mediated through pancreatic and extrapancreatic pathways. (21)

Antimicrobial / White-Flowered Mirabilis jalapa Leaves:

Study showed white flowered plant of M. jalapa has strong antibacterial potential with activity against a wide range of microorganisms. (22)

Seeds / Effects on Clotting Time and Bleeding Time:

In traditional use, the plant has been found to stop hemorrhages. Study showed a decrease in prothrombin time, decrease in activated partial thromboplastin time, and decrease in bleeding time. Results suggest M. jalapa is effective in blood disorders associated with increased bleeding. (23)

Anti-Arthritic Effects:

Study evaluated the effect of an ethanolic extract of flowers in formaldehyde and Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in wistar rats. Results showed significant suppression of paw edema in both models suggesting significant anti-arthritic activity. (24)

Proteins from Ripe Seeds / Antimicrobial / Anti-Cancer:

Study evaluated crude proteins extracted from mature seeds. Antibacterial activity was seen against Bacillus subtilis. Potent anticancer activity was exhibited to permanent cell lines L929 (mouse fibroblasts). (25)

Seed Epicarp / Antioxidant:

Study showed a seed epicarp extract to possess strong antioxidant activity and suggests an inexpensive and potential source of natural antioxidants and pharmaceuticals. (26)

Roots / Cytotoxic Rotenoids:

Study yielded four fractions of compounds from the extract roots which include boeravinone B, boeravinone E, and mirabijalone B. Compounds tested indicated important cytotoxic activity against cell lines tested. (27)

Natural Dye / Flower:

Study suggests Mirabilis jalapa flower, abundantly available, can be exploited as a good source of natural dye for wool and cotton dyeing, from olive green to brown depending on the choice of mordant. (30)

Antibacterial / Leaves:

Water and alcoholic extract of leaves at concentration of 0.5 mg/ml showed effective inhibition of growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Proteus mirabilis. (see constituents) (31)

Mirabilis Antiviral Protein (MAB) / Potential Applications:

RIPs (ribosome inactivating proteins) have been isolated from plants. An RIP has N-glycosidase activity, which can modify large mRNA and inhibit further translation. MAB (Mirabilis Antiviral Protein), a type I RIP, is a frequently used RIP for medicinal purposes, isolated from roots, leaves, and seeds of M. jalapa. MAP exhibits a wide range of biologic activities viz. antiviral, anticancer and antibacterial. It is highly rigid, thermostable, and maintains antiviral activity at high temperature. (32)

Hypoglycemic / Hypolipidemic / Roots: Study of ethanolic extract of roots of Mirabilis jalapa in streptozotocin induced diabetes in mice showed hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects. Repeated admministration of root extract lowered blood glucose level, decreased serum insulin, and improved insulin sensitivity index, and also lowered serum total cholesterol, triglyceride levels. (33)

Anticancer Proteins / Apoptotic Pathway:

Study evaluated partially purified proteins for mechanisms of anticancer and cytotoxic effects. Brine shrimp cytotoxicity showed an LD50 of 95.50-489.78 µg/ml at 24 and 48 hourse. Testing the proteins on vero cells showed potent anticancer activity through apoptotic pathway. (34)

Hepatoprotective / Antitubercular Drug Hepatotoxicity / Leaves:

Study evaluated the protective effect of ethanol extract of MJ leaves on anti-tubercular drugs induced hepatotoxicity. Results showed a hepatoprotective effect with significant reduction of liver biomarker enzymes and restored antioxidant levels to pretreatment status. (35)

Mild Steel Corrosion Inhibition / Flowers: Study showed efficient corrosion inhibition of acid extract of Mirabilis jalapa flowers for mild steel in iM HCl. (37)



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Research reference studies link for this article

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