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Safed Moosli (Chlorophytum borivilianum L.): Medicinal and Wonder Crop

Pankaj Oudhia
Society for Parthenium Management (SOPAM)
28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur - 492001 India

Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

safed moosli flowers

India is bestowed with a wealth of medicinal plants, most of which have been used in Ayurveda, Unani systems of medicines, and by tribal healers. Safed moosli (Chlorophytum borivilianum L., Liliaceae) holds an important position in Indian herbal medicine. The roots are widely used as a natural "sex tonic" and is an integral part of more than 100 herbal drug formulations (Oudhia 2001a). Although Indian forests are rich in safed moosli demand is increasing rapidly in Indian and international drug markets. Foreign demand has been estimated as 300-700 tonnes annually (Bordia et al. 1995), a quantity that Indian forests cannot sustain. This has created a pressure on Indian forests and if steps for timely conservation are not taken, the Indian forests will lose this valuable plant (Oudhia 2001b). At present the availability of Chlorophytum is decreasing and obnoxious weeds like Parthenium hysterophons and Lantana are taking its place (Oudhia 1996).

Dried roots of Chlorophytum contain 42% carbohydrate, 80–9% protein, 3–4% fiber and 2–17% saponin (Bordia et al. 1995). Research studies on Chlorophytum conducted in India and elsewhere indicate that saponins are responsible for medicinal properties. Saponins are thought to be highest in roots of forest origin.

More than 175 species of Chlorophytum have been reported in the world. Chloophytum comosum is widely used as ornamental plant where it is commonly known as spider ivy, spider plant, aeroplane plant, or walking anthericum. Thirteen species of Chlorophytum have been been reported in India. All these species differ in appearance, native species are sold as sufed moosli in the Indian drug market. Chlorophytum boriviliahum produces the highest yield and highest saponin content. Other native Indian Chlorophytum species (Table 1) include C. arundinaceum, C. tuberosu, C. laxum, and C. breviscapum (Oudhia 2000a).

Table 1. Different species of Chlorophytum available in India.



C. arundinaceum Baker

All districts of Chota Nagpur, Vindhya, Satpura and Aravali Hills, parts of Central India. Taria region of N-E Himalayas in Assam. West Bengal and Bihar.

C. attenuatum Baker

Western Ghats, southwards to Comibatore, West Peninsula.

C. borivilianum

Dangs Forests (Gujarat). Aravali Hills

C. laxum R.Br.

Katki Hills, Belgaum, Dharwar, North and South Kanara, Deccan peninsula in India.

C. tuberosum (Rox b.) Baker

Parts of Konkan to Travancore in Kerala, Eastern Himalaya, Bihar and West Bengal.

C. hreviscapum

Sikkim Himalaya, Belgaum and South Peninsula.

In nature, Moosli propagates vegetatively through its fleshy roots., rarely by seed. The black angular seed is similar to onion seed in appearance. Seed have poor germination and low viability. Seed rates of 3 quintals/hectare is considered optimum for growers.

Chlorophytum is found in soils rich in organic matter. It requires bright sunlight for good growth (Oudhia and Tripathi 2001). Many tribal communities of India use the fresh leaves of Safed Moosli as potherb. (Oudhia and Joshi 2000) but the roots are the useful part of the plant for medicinal purposes. Once the root is harvested reseeding rarely occurs.

Innovative Indian farmers have initiated commercial cultivation of safed moosli. The crop is a popular rainy season (kharif crop) in India and a commercial root harvest can be obtained in 3–4 months. Spacing 30 × 15 cm is optimum. The crop seems adapted to a wide range of conditions. Few insect pests have been reported (Oiudhia 2000b, 2001e). Saponin content may be affected by fungicides and synthetic phyrethroides. Many moosli farms have started selection of cultivars.

There is now a heavy demand of organically grown safed moosli with high saponin content in national and international drug market. In India moosli-based products are coming regularly to the market. The area under this crop is increasing rapidly in India.


Bordia, P.C., A. Joshi, and M.M. Simlot. 1995. Safed moosli. p. 429ö451. In:. K.L. Chadha and Rajendra Gupta (eds.), Advances in horticulture Vol. II. Medicinal and aromatic plants. Malhotra Publ. House, New Delhi.

Oudhia, P. 1996. Parthenium: A curse for the bio-diversity of Chhattisgarh Plains. National Reen. R.D. Govt. P.G. College, Mandla, Indian, 30ö32 July. p. 26.

Oudhia, P. 2000a. Can we save the endangered medicinal plant Safed Moosli (Chlorophytum borivilianum) in Indian forests?, July–August, 2000.

Oudhia, P. 2000b. Record of Orange Banded Blister Beetle Zonabris pustulata Thunb (Coleoptera: Meloidae ) on Safed Moodli (Chlorophytum borivilianum L.). Insect Environment, 6(3):138.

Oudhia, P. 2001a : My experiences with wonder crop Safed Moosli. In: Souvenir. International Seminar on Medicinal Plants and Quality Standardization, VHERDS, Chennai, India, 9–10 June.

Oudhia, P. 2001 b. Problems perceived by Safed Moosli (Chlorophytum borivilianum) growers of Chhattisgarh (India) region: A study. J. Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Sci. 22/4A & 23/1A:396–399.

Oudhia, P. 2001c. My experiences with worldâs top ten Indian medicinal plants : Glimpses of research at farmerâs field in Chhattisgarh (India). In: Abstract. Workshop ö cum ö Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture for 21st Century, IGAU, Raipur, India, 20–21 Jan: 46.

Oudhia, P. 2001e. Medicinal insects of kharif crops and weeds of Chhattisgarh (India). In : Abstr. VII National Science Conference, Bhartiya Krishi Anusandhan Samitee, Directorate of Cropping System Research, Meerut, India 12–14 April.

Oudhia, P. and B.S. Joshi. 2000. The decreasing availability of natural medicinal plants in Chhattisgarh: A study. In: Abstr.. VI National Science Conference, Mahatma Gandhi Gramoday Chitrakut Vishwavidyalaya, Chitrakut, India : 18.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi. 1999. Scope of cultivation of important medicinal plants in Chhattisgarh plains. p. 71–78. In: Proc. National conference on Health care and Development of Herbal Medicines, IGAU, Raipur (India), 29-30 Aug. 1997: 71–78.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi. (2001). The possibilities of commercial cultivation of rare medicinal plants in Chhattisgarh (India). VII National Science Conference, Bhartiya Krishi Anusandhan Samitee, Directorate of Cropping System Research, Meerut, India, 12–14 April.

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