What does science says about Monkey tail uses and benefits?

Scientific names Common names
Acalypha hispida Burm. F Buntot-pusa (Tag.)
Acalypha sanderi N. E. Br. Chenille plant (Engl.)
Acalypha sanderi K. Schum. Monkey tail (Engl.)
Ricinocarpus hispidus (Burm. f.) Kuntze Philippine medusa (Engl.)
  Red cat’s tail (Engl.)
  Red-hot cat tail (Engl.)
Buntot-pusa is a shared common name of (1) Dysohylla auricularia(2) Pennisetum polystachum, foxtail (Engl.) and (3) Acalypha hispida, chenile plant


Other vernacular names
VIETNAMESE: Tai turong duoi chon, Tai turong xanh.
MALAYSIA: Ekor kucing.

monkey tail

What is monkey tail?

Monkey tail or Acalypha hispida is a shrub growing to a height of 1-3meters. Leaves are alternate, petioled 2-11 cm long, broad-ovate, bright green atop, pale green underneath, with crenulate-serrate margins. Inflorescence is axillary, solitary, in long pendant spikes, up to 15-40 cm long. Flowers are small and bright red.


Popular garden cultivation for its decorative red catkins.

Constituents of monkey tail

– Phytochemical screening yielded flavonoids, carbohydrates, phenols and alkaloids.

– Plant has yielded gallic acid, corilagin, cycloartane-type triterpenoids, quercetin and kaempferol derivatives.

– Leaves yielded kaempferol 3-O-rutinoside.

– Phytochemical screening of hexane extract (non-polar fraction) of leaves and twigs yielded flavonoids, carbohydrates, phenols, anthraquinones, cardiac glycosides, proteins, and alkaloids, with an absence of tannins, sterols and saponins.

– Proximate composition of leaves showed moisture (11.02%), crude fate (6.15%), ash (10.32%), crude protein (13.78%), crude fiber (10.25%) and carbohydrate (44.48%). Aqueous and methanolic extracts of leaves yielded phenolics, flavonoids, hydroxyanthraquinones, saponins, steroids, and phlobatannins.

Medicinal Properties of monkey tail

– Diuretic, emollient, expectorant and laxative.

– Studies suggest antidiarrheal, anti-leishmanial, antioxidant, trypanocidal properties.

Parts utilized

Bark, flower, leaves, root

Propagated by stem cuttings.

Folkloric traditional medicinal uses of monkey tail

• In Indonesia, a root and flower decoction is used for hemoptysis. Leaf poultice used for leprosy.

• In Malaya, decoction of leaves and flowers taken internally as laxative and diuretic for gonorrhea.
Bark used as expectorant and for asthma.

• In Africa, bark root used for pulmonary problems; leaf for leprosy, and flower for kidney ailments and as diuretic.

• In West Nigeria, leaves and stems soaked and boiled in water, used for skin rashes. (see source study)

• In India, reported Mawasi tribal use of flowers for diarrhea. (see source study)

Scientific studies on the benefits and uses of the monkey tail


Studies of leaf extracts isolated gallic acid, corilagin and geranin responsible for antimicrobial activity.

Trypanocidal/ antiprotozoal agent:

Aqueous extract of Acalypha hispida leaves suggest trypanocidal effect.

Anti-ulcer / Anti-tumor:

Studies yielded geraniin and dehydroellagitannins which suggest diverse biological properties including anti-ulcer and anti-tumor effects, antibacterial activity against helicobacter pylori and antifungal activity.


Phytochemical studies yield phenolics, flavonoids, hydroxyanthraquinones and saponins. It also detected steroids , phlobatannins and glycosides.


Study isolated three anthocyanins from the red flowers of the chenille plant.

Anti-Leishmanial / Act against Leishmania parasites:

In a study of three Acalypha species, only A. hispida showed to have anti-leishmanial activity with an IC50 of 71.75 µg/mL


Study evaluated a hexane extract for phytoconstituents and antioxidant activity. Study yielded flavonoids, carbohydrates, phenols and alkaloids. Results showed significant antioxidant activities when compared to ascorbic acid. The scavenging activity could be linked to flavonoid and phenol contents.

Toxicity Studies:

Study in mice toxicity of combined extracts of three Acalypha species viz. Acalypha hispida, A. nervosa and A. fruiticosa. Subacute toxicity study showed no mortalities or evidence of adverse effects at highest dose of 2000 mg /kg of crude extracts.


Study evaluated the antidiarrheal potential of combined 70% hydroethanolic extracts of Acalypha hispida, A. nervosa and A. fruiticosa in castor oil-induced diarrhea in wistar rats. Results showed dose-dependent delay in the onset of induced diarrhea and also significant reduction in the number of diarrheal episodes and number of animals exhibiting diarrhea. Loperamide was used as standard drug.

Essential Oil / Larvicidal:

Study of leaves for essential oil yielded main constituents of neral (11.04%), citral (12.87%), 6,10,14, trimethyl-2-pentadecanone (13.43%) and n- hexadecanoic acid (14.69%). On toxicity for brine shrimps larvae (Artemia salina), LC50 value was 122.28 µg/mL, while activity against Anopheles gambiae showed an LC50 of 125 µg/mL.


– Milky sap from the leaves and stems are poisonous.

Symptoms: Ingestion causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; skin contact may cause acute dermatitis which may be severe.

The toxic principle: diterpene esters.


Ornamental cultivation.

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