Med Plant Data Base


Moldo-german project 10.820.09.09GA
Evaluation of the pharmaceutic potential
of medicinal plants from natural habitats from Republic of Moldova


Ailanthus altissima

KINGDOM: Plantae » Class: Magnoliopsida » Order: Sapindales » Family: Simaroubaceae

Ailanthus altissima


Ailanthus altissima


Kingdom: Plantae

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Sapindales

Family: Simaroubaceae

Genus: Ailanthus

Species: Ailanthus altissima

Plant description

Tree-of-heaven, also known ailanthus, Chinese sumac, and stinking shumac,
is a deciduous tree in the mostly tropical quassia family. Mature trees can
reach 80 feet in . Ailanthus has smooth stems with pale gray bark and
twigs which are light chestnut brown, especially in the dormant season. Its
large compound leaves are 1-4 feet in length, alternate, and composed of
10-41 smaller leaflets. Each leaflet has one or more glandular teeth along
the lower margin. The leaf margins are otherwise entire or lacking teeth.
Ailanthus is a dioecious (two houses) plant meaning that male and female
flowers occur on separate plants. Flowers occur in large terminal clusters
and are small and pale yellow to greenish. Flat, twisted, winged fruits each
containing a single central seed are produced on female trees in late summer
to early fall and may remain on the trees for long periods of time. The wood
of ailanthus is soft, weak, coarse-grained, and creamy white to light brown
in color. All parts of the tree, especially the leaves and flowers, have a
nutty or burned nut odor.

Look-alikes: It is important not to confuse native shrubs and trees with
ailanthus. Native sumacs (Rhus) and trees like ash (Fraxinus), hickory
(Carya), black walnut, butternut and pecan (Juglans) can be distinguished
from tree-of-heaven by having completely serrated (toothed) leaf margins.

Ecological threat

Tree-of-heaven is a fast-growing tree and a prolific seeder, that can
take over sites, replacing native plants and forming dense thickets. Ailanthus
also produces chemicals that prevent the establishment of other
plant species nearby. Its root system may be extensive and has been known to cause damage to
sewers and foundations.

Diffusion area

A. altissima is native to
northern and central China, Taiwan and northern Korea. In Taiwan it is
present as var. takanai. In China it is native to every province except
Gansu, Heilongjiang, Hainan, Jilin, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Tibet.

The tree prefers moist and loamy soils, but is adaptable to a very wide
range of soil conditions and pH values. It is drought-hardy, but not tolerant
of flooding. It also does not tolerate deep shade. In China it is often found
in limestone-rich areas. The tree of heaven is found within a wide range of
climatic conditions. In its native range it is found at high altitudes in
Taiwan as well as lower ones in mainland China. In the U.S. it is found in
arid regions bordering the Great Plains, very wet regions in the southern
Appalachians, and cold areas of the lower Rocky Mountains. Prolonged cold and
snow cover cause dieback, though the trees re-sprout from the roots.


Is both a cultivated and wild species in the whole country. Grows in the yards, on the village
and forest edges, especially in sunny places, on slight soils.

Therapeutic actions

Nearly every part of A.
altissima has some application in Chinese traditional medicine. One of the
oldest recipes, recorded in a work from 732 AD, is used for treating mental
illness. It involved chopped root material, young boys' urine and douchi.
After sitting for a day the liquid was strained out and given to the patient
over the course of several days.

Another source from 684 AD, during the Tang dynasty and recorded in Li
Shizhen's Compendium of Materia Medica, states that when the leaves are taken
internally, they make one incoherent and sleepy, while when used externally
they can be effectively used to treat boils, abscesses and itches. Yet
another recipe recorded by Li uses the leaves to treat baldness. This formula
calls for young leaves of ailanthus, catalpa and peach tree to be crushed
together and the resulting liquid applied to the scalp to stimulate hair

The dried bark, however, is still an officinal drug and is listed in the
modern Chinese materia medica as chun bai pi (Chinese:
椿白皮; pinyin: chūnbáipí), meaning
"white bark of spring". Modern works treat it in detail, discussing
chemical constituents, how to identify the product and its pharmaceutical
uses. It is prepared by felling the tree in fall or spring, stripping the
bark and then scraping off the hardest, outermost portion, which is then
sun-dried, soaked in water, partially re-dried in a basket and finally cut
into strips. The bark is said to have cooling and astringent properties and
is primarily used to treat dysentery, intestinal hemorrhage, menorrhagia and
spermatorrhea. It is only prescribed in amounts between 4 and 10 grams, so as
not to poison the patients. Li's Compendium has 18 recipes that call for the
bark. Asian and European chemists have found some justification for its
medical use as it contains a long list of active chemicals that include
quassin and saponin, while ailanthone, the allelopathic chemical in the tree
of heaven, is a known antimalarial agent. It is available in most shops
dealing in Chinese traditional medicine. A tincture of the root-bark has been
used successfully in treating cardiac palpitation, asthma and epilepsy.

The samaras are also used in modern Chinese medicine under the name feng
yan cao (simplified Chinese: 凤眼草; traditional Chinese:
鳳眼草; pinyin: fèngyǎncǎo), meaning
"herbal phoenix eye". They are used as a hemostatic agent,
spermatorrhea and for treating patients with blood in their feces or urine.
It was clinically shown to be able to treat trichomoniasis, a vaginal
infection caused by the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis. In occident, an
extract of the bark sold under the synonym A. glandulosa is sometimes used as
an herbal remedy for various ailments including cancer.

Thus, The bark is used to treat dysentery and other bowel ailments. A
tincture of the root-bark has been used successfully in cardiac palpitation,
asthma and epilepsy. The leaves are also used to feed silkworms of the moth
Samia cynthia, which produces silk that is stronger and cheaper than mulberry
silk, although with inferior gloss and texture. There are also records of the
wood from this tree being used in China. Under the synonymous name "A.
glandulosa", an extract of the bark is sometimes touted as an herbal
homeopathic remedy for various ailments. However, taken in large doses, the
bark extract is highly toxic.

Biologically active substances

Anecdotal evidence suggests that
the plant may be mildly toxic. The noxious odours have been associated with
nausea and headaches, as well as with contact dermatitis reported in both
humans and sheep, who also developed weakness and paralysis. It contains a
quinone irritant, 2,6-dimethoxybenzoquinone, as well as active quassinoids
(ailanthone itself being one) which may account for these effects, but they
have, however, proved difficult or impossible to reproduce in humans and
goats. In one trial a tincture from the blossom and foliage caused nausea,
vomiting and muscular relaxation.

Indigenous medicinal plants in databases

Albastrele Centaurea cyanus L.

Albumeala Gnaphalium

uliginosum L.

Alun Corylus avellana L.

Angelica Angelica arhangelica L.

Ardei Capsicum annuum L.

Arin Alnus incana Moanch.

Armurariu Silybum marianum


Aronie Aronia melanocarpa

(Michx.) Elliot

Centers, institutes, research labs of medicinal plants


Genetic characteristics


Gathering place (figure should be increased)

Ailanthus altissima

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