HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Urticaceae
Pilea microphylla (L.) Liebm.

Xiao ye leng shui hua

Scientific names Common names
Dubrueilia microphylla (L.) Gaudich. Alabong (Ig.)
Parietaria microphylla L. Isang-dakot-na-bigas (Tag.)
Pilea microphylla (L.) Liebm. Angeloweed (Engl.)
Pilea muscosa var. microphylla (L.) Wedd. Artillery fern (Engl.)
Pilea trianthmoides var. microphylla (L.) Wedd. Artillery plant (Engl.)
Urtica microphylla (L.) Sw. Artillery weed (Engl.)
Accepted infraspecifics (4) Creeping charly (Engl.)
Pilea microphylla var. domingensis (Groult) Acev.-Rodr. Gunpowder plant (Engl.)
Pilea microphylla var. microphylla Joypowder plant (Engl.)
Pilea microphylla var. nanophylla Groult Lace plant (Engl.)
Pilea microphylla var. succulenta Griseb. Military fern (Engl.)
  Pistol plant (Engl.)
  Rockweed (Engl.)
Pilea microphylla (L.) Liebm. is an accepted species. KEW: Plants of the World Online

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Tou ming cao, Xiao ye leng shui ma, Xiao ye leng shui hua.
INDONESIAN: Katumpangan, Akar nasi, Jalu-jalu bobudo.
GERMAN: Artilleriepflanze. Kleinblättrige kanonierblume.
JAPANESE: Kogeme-mizu.
LATIN AMERICA: Brilhantina.
MALAYSIAN: Katumpangan.
MEXICO: Frescura.
TRINIDAD: Du thé bethelmay.
VIETNAMESE: Ph[as]o b[oo]ng, L[aw]n t[aw]n.

Gen info
- Pilea, with 600-715 species, is the largest genus of flowering plants in the nettle family Urticaceae.
- Pilea microphylla is an annual plant belonging to the family Urticaceae. It is an annual plant native to Florida, Mexico, the West Indies, and tropical Central and South America. It has been introduced to various tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Philippines. (7)
- It is commonly known as Artillery Plant, because the male flower forcefully eject pollen.

- Etymology: The genus name Pilea is Latin, meaning "felt cap", referring to the calyx covering the achene. (21)

• Alabong is a small,soft, smooth herb, 10 centimeters or less in height. Stems are slender, angular, green with a tint of purple, and angular. Leaves occur in two rows, petioled, somewhat elliptical in shape, 2 to 5 millimeters in length. Flowers are very small and crowded in small inflorescences (cymes) which are greenish or tinged with red and less than 1 millimeter in length.

- Naturalized. (19)
- In and about towns, on damp walls, etc., throughout the Philippines.
- Native of tropical America.
- Now found in most tropical countries.

- Considered an invasive species in many countries.

- Study yielded flavonoids quercetin (reported DPP-IV inhibitor), rutin, chlorogenic acid (reported lipid lowering property) along with others (luteolin-7-O-glucoside, apigenin- 7-O-glucoside, isorhoifolin). (see study below) (9)
- Study of whole plant yielded six phenolic compounds: (1) quercetin-3-O-rutinoside (2) 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid (3) luteolin-7-O-glucoside (4) apigenin-7-O-rutinoside (5) apigenin-7-O-@b-d-glucopyranoside and (6) quercetin. (see study below) (11)

- Studies have suggested antioxidant, antidiabetic, radioprotective, antimicrobial, cytoprotective, antigenotoxic, antidepressant properties.

Parts utilized
Entire plant, stems, leaves.

- Entire plant infusion is used as a diuretic.
- Used for diarrhea and asthma.
- Crushed leaves applied to sores and bruises.
- In the Antilles, sweetened decoction of roots used as diuretic.
- In Jamaica, entire plant used for women in labor; used for infertility and inflammation. (
- In Brazil, used as a diuretic.
- In Guatemala, used for urinary problems.
- In Jamaican and Chinese medicine, used for diabetes.
- In western Panama, stem decoction drunk for diarrhea.
- In Trinidad and Tobago, leaves used for inflammation and as womb cleanser. (18)
- In Indian folk medicine, used for treatment of burns, scalds, and wounds.

- Grown as ground cover.

Antioxidant / Radioprotective:
An ethanolic extract of Pilea microphylla was found inhibit iron-induced lipid peroxidation. In screening for in vivo radioprotection in Swiss albino mice, it showed 80% protection. The fraction also protected livers of irradiated mice from depletion of endogenous antioxidant enzymes, provided general protection to the intestine from acute radiation effects. (1)
Non-Phenolic Antioxidant Activity:
Results indicated that the antioxidant activity was not correlated with phenolic content and suggests that non-phenolic compounds may be responsible for the free radical scavenging activity. DPPH radical scavenging activity % at concentration 1000 µg/ml for methanol, chloroform, diethyl ether, ethyl acetate and butanols extracts were 46.990, 47.161, 60.687, 8.620, and 18.340, respectively, and total phenolic content of 15.20, 36.40, 55.70, 42.10, 23.90, respectively. (
Study found PM active against Staphylococcus aureus. • In one study, P. microphylla exhibited a variety of antimicrobial activity against pathogenic microorganisms. The majority of crude extracts were active against Gram-positive bacteria such as B. cereus, B. subtilis, and methicillin-resistant Staph aureus.
Screening study demonstrated P. microphylla contained different levels of total phenolic, total flavonoid and possessed diverse antioxidant properties. It was most potent when subjected to detailed free radical scavenging.
Antioxidant / Antimicrobial / Toxicity Study:
In a testing of 9 extracts, the methanol extract showed the highest antioxidant activity. A chloroform extract showed highest total phenolic contents. An extract showed antibacterial activity against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria without antifungal and anti-yeast activity. A extract showed no toxicity against brine shrimp (LC50 of 3880 mug/ml). (
Screening in alloxan-induced diabetic rats showed that Pilea microphylla had beneficial benefits on blood glucose levels in normal and diabetic rats and also demonstrated significant protection from other metabolic aberrations cause by alloxan. (
Flavonoid Rich Fraction / Antidiabetic:
Study evaluated the antidiabetic potential of a flavonoid rich fraction in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. Study yielded flavonoids quercetin (reported DPP-IV inhibitor), rutin, chlorogenic acid (reported lipid lowering property) along with others (luteolin-7-O-glucoside, apigenin- 7-O-glucoside, isorhoifolin). An overall antidiabetic effect could be the result of a combination of several constituents acting in concert restoring homeostasis
in energy consumption and utilization. (9)
Radioprotective / Cytoprotective / Antigenotoxicity:
Study compared the cytoprotective and antigenotoxic activity of the polyphenolic fraction with its active polyphenolic constituents against
γ-radiation in V79 cells. Results showed radioprotection probably from a synergistic effect of the phytochemicals present in the herbal extract rather than any single component.
Phenolic Compounds and Prevention of Radiation-Induced DNA Damage / Antioxidant:
Study yielded six phenolic compounds: (1) quercetin-3-O-rutinoside (2) 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid (3) luteolin-7-O-glucoside (4) apigenin-7-O-rutinoside (5) apigenin-7-O-@b-d-glucopyranoside and (6) quercetin. Pre-treatment with compounds 1-3 and 6 in V79 cells attenuated radiation-induced formation of reactive oxygen species, lipid peroxidation, cytotoxicity and DNA damage, correlating the antioxidant activity of polyphenols with their radioprotective effects.
Improvement in Sperm Parameters and DNA Fragmentation:
Study investigated the effects of PM in a rat model of varicocele. Results showed Pilea microphylla improves sperm parameters and DNA fragmentation in varicocelized rats. PM can reduce the damage to sperm DNA but not chromatin condensation. (13)
Study evaluated various crude extracts (methanol, chloroform, and ethyl acetate) of Pilea microphylla on depression in mice. Results showed an antidepressant effect in animal models. The effect of acute or repeated administration was similar to that produced by fluoxetine and haloperidol. (1
4) Study evaluated selected crude extracts of P. microphylla in two models predictive of antidepressant activity i.e., the mouse forced test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST). Results showed significant anti-depressant like effects at high doses, with significant decrease of immobility at 100 mg/kg. Results suggest a potential resource for natural psychotherapeutic agent against depression. (16)
Antidiabetic / Flavonoids: Study evaluated the antidiabetic potential of flavonoid rich fraction of PM and its possible mechanism of action in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. The presence of flavonoids viz., quercetin (reported DPP-IV inhibitor), rutin, chlorogenic acid (reported lipid lowering property) along with others (luteolin-7-O-glucoside, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, isorhoifolin) in PM1 reversed the disturbed metabolic milieu in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. (1
Antidiabetic / Anti-Inflammatory:
Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects of methanolic extract of P. microphylla in mice. Anti-inflammatory effect was observed in doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg with 74.18% and 72.17% inhibition of paw edema respectively, compared  to standard drug Diclofenac-Na with 80.42% inhibition.  Antidiabetic effect was observed in alloxan induced diabetic mice using same doses on oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) with lowering of plasma glucose level compared with standard drug Metformin. (22)
Antidiabetic / Anti-Inflammatory:
Study of methanolic extract of P. microphylla demonstrated moderate antioxidant activity and inhibitory effects on acetylcholinesterase and lipase enzymes, with IC50s of 46.69 mg L-1m 132,531 mg L-1 and 25.148 mg L-1, respectively, for antioxidant, acetylcholinesterase and lipase inhibitory assays. The extract also exhibited phytotoxic activity by inhibiting root growth. (23)

- Wildcrafted.
- Occasionally cultivated as a dish garden plant or cover plant.

- Plants available in the cybermarket.

Updated December 2023 / December 2018 / April 2016

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: / Photograph / Pilea microphylla Images /Flowering plant, showing dense growth habit / Photograph by: Andres Hernandez S. / Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) / click on image to go to source page / Useful Tropical Plants
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Pilea microphylla / Copyright © LEON LEVY Native Plant Preserve / Non-Commercial use / click on image or link to go to source page / LEVYPRESERVE

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Antioxidant and radioprotective effect of the active fraction of Pilea microphylla (L.) ethanolic extract /
K.R. Prabhakara, V.P. Veerapura et al / Chemico-Biological Interactions, Jan 2007; 165(1): pp 22-32 / doi:10.1016/j.cbi.2006.10.007
Antioxidant Activity and Total Phenolic Content of Some Medicinal Plants in Urticaceae Family / Amir Modorresi Chahardehi et al / Journal of Applied Biological Sciences 3(2): 25-29, 2009
Creole Remedies of Trinidad and Tobago / Cheryl Lans
Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for reproductive problems / Cheryl Lans / J Ethnobiol Ethnomedicine. 2007; 3: 13. / doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-3-13.
Antioxidant, Antimicrobial Activity and Toxicity Test of Pilea microphylla / Amir Modarresi Chahardehi, Darah Ibrahim, Shaida Fariza / Int J Microbiol. 2010; 2010: 826830. / DOI: 10.1155/2010/826830
Pilea microphylla / Wikipedia
Pilea microphylla / Vernacular names / GLOBinMED
Flavonoid rich fraction of Pilea microphylla (L.) attenuates metabolic abnormalities and improves pancreatic function in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice / Bansal, P and Paul, P and Shankar, G and Munjal, D and Nayak, PG and Priyadarsini, KI and Unnikrishnan, MK / Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition, 2011, pp. 268-272 / DOI : 10.1016/j.bionut.2011.09.002
Polyphenolic fraction of Pilea microphylla (L.) protects Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts against γ-radiation-induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity. / Paul P, Bansal P, Nayak PG, Pannakal ST, Priyadarsini KI, Unnikrishnan MK / Environmental toxicology and pharmacology, 2012; 33(1): pp 107-119 /
PMID 22196050 / DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2011.09.007
Phenolic compounds isolated from Pilea microphylla prevent radiation-induced cellular DNA damage / Punit Bansal, Piya Paul, Pawan Nayak, Steve Pannakal, Jian-hua Zou, Harmut Laatsch, K I Priyadarsini, and M K Unnikrishnan / Acta Pharm Sin B, Dec 2011; 1(4): pp 226-223 / https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsb.2011.10.006
Pilea microphylla / Synonyms / KEW: Plants of the World Online
Do Pilea Microphylla Improve Sperm DNA Fragmentation and Sperm Parameters in Varicocelized Rats? /
Heidari R, Alizadeh R, Abbasi N, Pasbakhsh P, Hedayatpour A, Farajpour M, Khaleghi MR, Abbasi M, Dehpour AR / Acta Med Iran. 2015; 53(9): pp 547-54.
American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, 2013, 8 (1): pp 75-81 / DOI: 10.3844/ajabssp.2013.75.81
Flavonoid rich fraction of Pilea microphylla (L.) attenuates metabolic abnormalities and improves pancreatic function in C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice P/ . Bansal, P. Paul, G. Shankar, D. Munjal, P.G. Nayak, K.I. Priyadarsini, M.K. Unnikrishnan / Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition, 2011, 1 (4) pp 268-272
Antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic and antioxidant effects of the flavonoid rich fraction of Pilea microphylla (L.) in high fat diet/streptozotocin-induced diabetes in mice / P. Bansal, P. Paul, J. Mudgal, P. G. Nayak, S. Thomas Pannakal, K.I. Priyadarsini, M.K. Unnikrishnan / Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology, 2012; 64(6): pp 651-658 / https://doi.org/10.1016/j.etp.2010.12.009
Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for reproductive problems
/ Cheryl Lans / Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 2007; 3:13 / https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-3-13
Urticaceae: Pilea Lindl. / Edited by Pieter B Pelser, 2023 / Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines
Pilea microphylla / National Parks: FLORA & FAUNA WEB
Pilea / Wikipedia
In vivo Studies of Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Diabetic Activities of the Methanolic Extract of Pilea microphylla on Experimental Mice / Imtiaj Hossain Chowdhury, SM Riajul Wahab et al / Journal of Traditional Medicine & Clinical Naturopathy, 2020; 9(2) / DOI: 10.4172/2573-4555.1000286
Enzyme Inhibitory, Antioxidant, Antifungal and Phytotoxic Properties of Pilea microphylla (Urticaceae) / TMKP Thennakoon, KPNG Kanuwana, HARP Perera, RV Vidhyajini / Journal of Advances in Experimental Therapeutics and Neurotherapeutics, 2023; 1(2): pp 1-6

DOI: It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants
                                          New plant names needed
The compilation now numbers over 1,300 medicinal plants. While I believe there are hundreds more that can be added to the collection, they are becoming more difficult to find. If you have a plant to suggest for inclusion, native or introduced, please email the info: scientific name (most helpful), local plant name (if known), any known folkloric medicinal use, and, if possible, a photo. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL