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What is Alstonia?

Alstonia is a genus of flowering plants, often recognized by their lush foliage and medicinal properties. These trees, found in tropical climates, have been used in traditional remedies for generations. Intriguingly, they hold secrets to natural healing that modern science is just beginning to unlock. How might Alstonia's hidden benefits enhance your well-being? Join us to uncover its potential.
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Alstonia is a genus of evergreen trees and shrubs in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. There are Alstonia species native to tropical areas of Africa, Australia, Central America, Polynesia, and southeast Asia. The trees can reach 200 feet (60 meters) in height. There are five sections within the Alstonia genus: Alstonia, Blaberopus, Dissuraspermum, Monuraspermum, and Tonduzia. The bark, leaves, and sap have many uses in traditional medicine.

These plants feature small, fragrant flowers that may be white, pink, yellow, or green. They mature into dark blue, pod shaped fruits. A. macrophylla, commonly called devil tree, is also called wig banyan in Sri Lanka because the flowers are thought to resemble a woman's long wig.

The sap of Alstonia species may have to treat a fever, cough, and sore throat.
The sap of Alstonia species may have to treat a fever, cough, and sore throat.

A. longifolia, the only species growing in Central America, is usually a shrub, but can reach heights of 66 feet (30 meters). A. constricta, commonly called quinine bush or bitterbark, grows only in Eastern Australia and is the only subtropical member of the genus. Its bark is used in homeopathic and traditional medicine to treat dysentery and diarrhea, fever, and parasitic worms. A. angustifolia, native to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, is used to treat headache. The sap of various Alstonia species is sometimes used to treat cough, fever, and sore throat, though it is poisonous.

A. angustifolia is used to treat headaches.
A. angustifolia is used to treat headaches.

A. scholaris, native to South and Southeast Asia, China, and Australia, is another important medicinal species. Commonly called blackboard tree, Indian devil tree, and pulai, A. scholaris is used to treat malaria, as an alternative to quinine. The bark has also historically been used to treat diarrhea and fever, to promote blood flow, and to heal wounds, while the leaves have been used to treat beriberi.

A. scholaris may be used to treat malaria.
A. scholaris may be used to treat malaria.

The wood of A. scholaris is used in coffins in Sri Lanka and for net floats and utensils in Borneo. Other species are used as commercial timber in Indonesia and Malaysia. Timber from plants of the Alstonia section are light, while those of the Dissuraspermum and Monuraspermum sections are heavier.

Some Alstonia species are very rare. A. annamensis grows only in Vietnam and is endangered. A. beatricis is of vulnerable conservation status and grows only in Indonesia. Other vulnerable species are A. breviloba, limited to Papua New Guinea, A. henryi, which grows only in China, and A. penangiana, endemic to Malaysia. A. marquisensis is endemic to French Polynesia, and A. rupestris is endemic to Thailand, but neither of these is a threatened species.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a AllThingsNature editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Learn more...
Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a AllThingsNature editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Learn more...

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    • The sap of Alstonia species may have to treat a fever, cough, and sore throat.
      By: MarcoBagnoli Elflaco
      The sap of Alstonia species may have to treat a fever, cough, and sore throat.
    • A. angustifolia is used to treat headaches.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      A. angustifolia is used to treat headaches.
    • A. scholaris may be used to treat malaria.
      By: Dmitry Knorre
      A. scholaris may be used to treat malaria.