Dendrophthoe falcata: A Parasitic Plant of Immense Medicinal Importance

Dendrophthoe falcata
Dendrophthoe falcata 
A Parasitic Plant of Immense Medicinal Importance 

-Dr. Arvind Singh

Dendrophthoe falcata (Indian Mistletoe) is a large bushy evergreen parasitic plant species generally found growing on various host plants in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It belongs to the Loranthaceae family of the flowering plants and is native to Asia, Africa and Australia. It is a partial stem parasite which depends on the host for water and minerals while the green leaves of the plant are able to manufacture food through photosynthesis.

Dendrophthoe falcata is distributed more or less throughout India, ascending to 3,000 ft. in the Western Himalaya. There are two varieties of this parasitic plant species found in the country namely Dendrophthoe falcata var. coccinea (Red Honey Suckled Mistletoe) and Dendrophthoe falcata var. falcata (Honey Suckled Mistletoe). The former variety is characterized by the red colour of the flowers while the latter variety is characterized by the white colour of the flowers.

Dendrophthoe falcata is called as 'Banjha' and ‘Banda’ in Hindi while in Sanskrit it is called as ‘Vanda’, ‘Vrikshabhaksha’ and ‘Vriksharuna’. Furthermore, this parasitic plant is called as ‘Baramanda’ in Bengali, ‘Vando’ in Gujarati, ‘Badanika’ and ‘Jiddu’ in Telugu, ‘Plavithil’ and ‘Pulluri’ in Tamil, ‘Ithil’ in Malayalam and ‘Bridhongo’ in Oriya. It is a medicinally important plant species used in indigenous and Ayurvedic system of disease treatment in India.

Dendrophthoe falcata has a wide range of host and is known to parasitize on 401 plant species. Some of its common hosts include Mangifera indica (Mango), Madhuca longifolia (Indian Butter tree), Albizia lebbeck (Lebbeck), Dalbergia sissoo (Sissoo), Syzygium cumini (Jambolana), Achras zapota (Sapota), Punica granatum (Pomegranate), Callistemon lanceolatus (Bottle-brush) and Psidium guajava (Guava).


Dendrophthoe falcata is glabrous and branched perennial shrub. The stem is erect, thick, flattened at the nodes and appears to arise in clusters at the point of attack. This cluster forms a dense and bushy growth which can easily be spotted on the host trees. The point at which the host is attacked and where haustorium penetrates often swells to form tumours which differ in size according to the age of the parasite. The bark of Dendrophthoe falcata is grey in colour.

Leaves are simple, leathery, sub-sessile, entire and evergreen with a smooth texture. Flowers are large, tubular, bisexual and whitish-yellow, red, orange-red or yellowish red and sometimes pink in colour. The plant produces a single-seeded berry type of fruit.

Pollination and seed dispersal is usually accomplished by the birds that thrive on fruits from the parasite and/or host. The sticky and viscous pulp of the berries plays an important role in the dispersal of the seeds.

Medicinal Attributes / Uses:

Dendrophthoe falcata is a plant of immense medicinal value. This parasitic plant is reported to contain biologically active substances such as flavonoid, quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, tannins, -sitosterol, stigmasterol, -amryin and oleanolic acid.

The plant possesses the wound healing, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, anticancer, antinociceptive, anthelmintic, antioxidant and antiseptic properties.

The whole plant of Dendrophthoe falcata is used in indigenous systems of medicine as cooling, astringent, aphrodisiac, narcotic and diuretic. The plant is useful in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma, menstrual disorders, constipation, insanity, diarrhoea, dysentery, arthritis, leucorrhoea, rheumatism, skin diseases, impotency, wound swelling, paralysis, ulcers, haemorrhage, miscarriage, kidney and gall bladder stone.

Dendrophthoe falcata parasitizing on Ficus fistula is used for foetus development in Ayurvedic system of disease treatment. The decoction of the plant is used as an anti-fertility agent by women. The plant is also used for avoiding abortion which occurs during the third month of pregnancy.


Conclusively it can be said that though Dendrophthoe falcata is a parasitic plant causing damage to fruit, ornamental and timber trees, is a plant of immense medicinal importance. The plant is used against several ailments in indigenous and Ayurvedic system of disease treatment. Therefore, there is a need for intensive research on this valuable medicinal plant species for the discovery of its more medicinal properties.
Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with area of specialization in Ecology. He is a dedicated Researcher having more than four dozens of published research papers in the journals of national and international repute. His main area of research is Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India). Furthermore, he is also an active science writer having more than 10 dozens of published science articles in different periodicals of national repute. His email address is: