Review articles

By Ms. Nahdzatul Muslim , Dr. Amin Malik Shah Abdul Majid
Corresponding Author Dr. Amin Malik Shah Abdul Majid
Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, , - Malaysia 11800
Submitting Author Ms. Nahdzatul S Muslim
Other Authors Ms. Nahdzatul Muslim
School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, USM, - Malaysia


Pithecellobium jiringa, Jering, Djenkolism, Renal failure, Complementary medicine

Muslim N, Abdul Majid A. Pithecellobium Jiringa: A Traditional Medicinal Herb. WebmedCentral COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE 2010;1(12):WMC001371
doi: 10.9754/journal.wmc.2010.001371
Submitted on: 23 Dec 2010 12:26:35 AM GMT
Published on: 23 Dec 2010 03:30:54 PM GMT


Pithecellobium jiringa (Jack) Prain is a traditional medicinal plant belonging to the family of Legumnasea originated from the Southeast Asia. P. jiringa is locally known as “jering”, as well as “djengkol” in Indonesia. This plant is a kind of raw vegetable which is normally consumed with rice. P. jiringa is traditionally used to induce urination in which the seeds are crushed and mixed with water before drinking. Old folk has also been using its pounded leaves and bark for chest pains, skin ailments, gum pains and toothache. In the present day, P. jiringa is also being used in the production of organic pesticide as a replacement for synthetic pesticide; since the plant contains djenkolic acid that are able to kill and inhibit pests. In addition, the presence of the acid has also been suggested to cause tearing of renal tissue due to their formation of needle-like crystals. Methanolic extract of P. jiringa was found to inhibit the EBV activation by 30% which underlining P. jiringa in restraining cancer cells. P. jiringa was reported to cause djenkolism or poisoning of jering following intake of its beans  and was shown to be a likely cause of acute anuric renal failure.


Pithecellobium jiringa (Jack) Prain is a traditional medicinal plant belonging to the family Legumnasea originated from the Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, P. jiringa is locally known as “jering”, in Indonesia “djengkol”, in Cambodia “krakos” and in Thailand “niang-yai”. The plant usually stands up to 25 m in height with a smooth, grey coloured bark. Its beans which hang from the branches of the tree as coiled pods contains 3 to 9 beans per pod [1,2]. While the beans possess a large round shape with reddish brown in colour, the outer shell has an attractive purplish brown hue. The beans may measure up to 3.5cm in diameter and 2.0cm in thickness [3].  P. jiringa’s beans are typically taken together  with rice as a side dish either as raw vegetable, roasted, fried or boiled [1,2]. There are also some people who like to consume the boiled beans of P. jiringa which are then mixed with some grind coconut.



Pharmacological properties of P. jiringa

P. jiringa is traditionally used to induce urination in which the seeds are crushed and mixed with water before drinking. Old folk has also been using its crushed leaves and bark for chest pains, skin ailments, gum pains and toothache. In treating wounds and cuts, the young leaves are being burned and its ashes are applied onto the injured area. Back in a few decades ago, the old folk used to colour their silk and other garments by using the colour of the pods. In the present day, P. jiringa is also being used as one of the raw material in the production of organic pesticide in order to replace the synthetic pesticide. P. jiringa is being added with a few more plants and urine. The selection of P. jiringa and the other plants in preparing the pesticide is due to the fact that each plants has the ability to kill and inhibit the growth of pests in a cultivation area. In this case, P. jiringa contains djenkolic acid which is a type of amino acid and sulphur that are able to kill and inhibit pests [4]. The acid has been suggested to form needle-like crystals in the urine after ingestion and have the ability to cut renal tissue which may lead to bleeding and obstruction in kidney [5].
P. jiringa was reported to possess high amount of dietary fibre and also non-cellulosic polysaccharides and this may contribute to greater consumption of the beans to the related particular group of people [6]. The beans of P. jiringa was screened for in vitro anti-tumor promoting activity using the inhibition test of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) activation in Raji cells which was induced by 12-O-hexadecanoylphorbol-13-acetate. Significantly, methanolic extract of P. jiringa was found to inhibit the EBV activation by 30% or more at a concentration of 200mg/mL. This results highlighted the potential of P. jiringa in inhibiting and targeting cancer cells, as most cancer preventive agents used nowadays are derived from edible vegetables or fruits [7].
In addition to having high amount of dietary fibre and non-cellulosic polysaccharides, Pithecellobium spp. have been shown to own some significant biological activities; the presence of saponin in P. racemosum displayed toxicity towards ovaries cancer cell line of A2780 and M109 lung cancer cells. Besides having proteins, dietary fibre and unsaturated fatty acids, legume seeds such Pithecellobium spp. have been stated to also contain the protease inhibitors such as the Bowman-Birk (MW 8-9 kDa) and Kunitz (MW 21 kDa). As such, the inhibitory activity of seeds of some Pithecellobium spp. reported are, for example the trypsin inhibitory activity in P. keyense was found to be higher than the same activity described for soybean [8].
Many previous studies on P. jiringa were done on investigating cases of djenkolism or poisoning of jering. Djenkolism is described by health practitioners as the patients suffer severe vomitting, diarrhea or constipation, intense colic, dysuria, macroscopic hematuria and oliguria that may progress to anuria. Since P. jiringa is a nitrogen-containing compounds, then djenkolism is also often been associated with the abnormally high level of the compounds that leads to azotemia. In addition, patients may also show symptoms of fever. While the urine is normally accompanied by a strong smell of sulphur, the breath is also of no exception [3].
A case study done on djenkolism following intake of P. jiringa’s beans by Wong et al., (2007) has highlighted djenkolism as a cause of acute anuric renal failure. The patients had shown characteristics of djenkolism within 48 hours of ingestion of the beans and presence of needle-like crystals in the urine leading to thick urine sludge formation. The method of treatment by hydration and alkalinization of the urine in order to raise the solubility of the djenkolic acid was opted; whereby most patients recovered with no residual renal impairment and death is rare [9]. Kidney stones may also result from high concentrations of metabolites of P. jiringa [10].
Djenkolism often occurs in males as compared to females (9:1 ratio) and the acute renal failure that follows has appeared to be independent of the manner in which the P. jiringa’s beans are prepared; boiled, fried or even roasted beans [3]. Since P. jiringa is one of favoured traditional delicacy in this region; it is important to highlight to the general population regarding the probable health effects the beans may imposed on them and take suitable measures in their consumption.


NS Muslim would like to thank the USM Fellowship for the support.



1.Barceloux, D.G. (2008) Djenkol Bean [Archidendron jiringa (Jack) I. C. Nielsen]. In Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Toxic Plants, and Venomous Animals. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, vol. 55, pp. 59-61.
2.Yasni, S., Imaizumi, K., Nakamura, M., Aimoto, J. and Sugano, M. (1993) Effects of Curcuma xanthorrhiza Roxb. and curcuminoids on the level of serum and liver lipids, serum apolipoprotein A-I and lipogenic enzymes in rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 31, 213-218.
3.Segasothy, M., Swaminathan, M., Kong, N.C.T. and Bennett, W.M. (1995) Djenkol bean poisoning (Djenkolism): An unusual cause of acute renal failure. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 25, 63-66.
4.Rozaq, P. and Sofriani, N. (2009) Organic pesticide from urine and spices modification.,International Symposium “GoOrganic2009”. Asian Journal of Food and Agro-Industry, Bangkok, Thailand.
5.Vachvanichsanong, P. and Lebel, L. (1997) Djenkol Beans as a Cause of Hematuria in Children.Nephron, 76, 39-42.
6.Candlish, J.K., Gourley, L. and Lee, H.P. (1987) Dietary fiber and starch contents of some Southeast Asian vegetables. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 35, 319-321.
7.Murakami, A., Jiwajinda, S., Koshimizu, K. and Ohigashi, H. (1995) Screening for in vitro anti-tumor promoting activities of edible plants from Thailand. Cancer Lett, 95, 139-46.
8.Delgado-Vargas, F., López-Valdés, H.c.E., Valdés-Rodríguez, S., Blanco-Labra, A., Chagolla-López, A. and López-Valenzuela, E.d.J. (2004) Isolation and Properties of a Kunitz-Type Protein Inhibitor Obtained from Pithecellobium dulce Seeds. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52, 6115-6121.
9.Jin Shyan, W., Hock-Hin, C., Clare, T. and Teng-Aik, O. (2007) Acute Anuric Renal Failure Following Jering Bean Ingestion. Asian journal of surgery / Asian Surgical Association, 30, 80-81.
10.Luyckx, V.A. and Naicker, S. (2008) Acute kidney injury associated with the use of traditional medicines. Nat Clin Pract Neph, 4, 664-671.

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