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Sea Mango

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  • Botanical: Cerbera tanghin
  • Family: Apocynaceae
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Sea Mango


Cerbera tanghin



Known as

Cerbera manghas, Tanghin poison nut,

Old Use

cardiac disorders, scabies and itching


Cerbera manghas is a small evergreen coastal tree growing up 12 m tall. The the shiny dark-green leaves
are alternate, ovoid in shape. The flowers are fragrant, possessing a white, tubular, 5 lobed corolla about 3 to 5 cm in diameter, with a pink to red throat. There are 5 stamens, and the ovary is positioned above the other flower parts. The fruits are egg-shaped, 5 to 10 cm long, and turn purple-red at maturity

Properties & Uses

Some of the cardenolides showed antiproliferative activity against human colon cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and epidermoid carcinoma cell lines, as well as anti-oestrogenic activity.

Cerberin acts on plain muscle preparations as a definite stimulant both with regard to tone and peristaltic movements. As such it behaves as a parasympatomimetic poison. It acts on both the rhythm and amplitude of the heart.

In moderate doses cerberin has positive inotropic properties, but in high, toxic doses it produces a negative inotropic and chronotropic effect.

 Ethanolic extracts of Cerbera manghas have shown selective activity against vesicular stomatis virus (VSV). Olivil, carinol and cycloolivil showed antioxidant activities.


Traditional Use

The seeds of Cerbera manghas are used in traditional medicine in Madagascar to treat cardiac disorders. However they are very poisonous and were used until the middle of the 19th century as ordeal poison.

In tropical Asia the seeds are used to treat scabies and itch, to prepare a hair tonic and as fish poison, the bark is used as a laxative and antipyretic and in the treatment of dysuria and ringworm, the flowers to treat haemorrhoids, and roots, bark and leaves to prepare a purgative.

The wood is occasionally used in tropical Asia for mouldings, interior trim, fruit cases, core veneer, matches, shuttering, clogs, plain furniture and carving, and also for charcoal.

Cerbera manghas is planted as an ornamental and the fibrous fruits, of which the skin and soft parts have decayed, are used in flower arrangements.


The leaves and the fruits contain the potent cardiac substance (a glycoside) called “cerberin”, which is extremely poisonous if ingested. People in olden times used the sap of the tree as a poison for animal hunting.

In Madagascar, the seeds were used in sentence rituals to poison kings and queens. The fruit was reportedly eaten to commit suicide in the Marquesas Islands. In Hawaii Cerbera manghas is sometimes called "suicide apple".


Cerbera manghas is naturally distributed from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean eastward to French Polynesia. It occupies lowland and coastal habitats and is often associated with mangrove forests. This tree has been introduced to Hawaii and other tropical locations as an ornamental.


The seeds contain glycosides derived from the cardenolides tanghinigenin and digitoxigenin, such as cerberin, neriifolin, thevetin B and 2’-O-acetyl-thevetin B.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.