Nagkesar oil is extracted from seeds of the nagkesar tree (Mesua ferrea, Hindi: नागकेसर). It belongs to the Calophyllaceae family. It is an East Indian evergreen tree and is often planted as an ornamental for its fragrant white flowers that yield a perfume. It is the source of hardwood used for railroad ties.[1] It is Sri Lanka's national tree.[2]


The generic name is after J. Mesue (777-857) and the specific epithet is from Latin meaning ‘belonging to iron’, in reference to its famed and very hard, durable timber.[3]

Common name in Indian languages[2][4]

  • commonly known as: Ceylon ironwood, cobra's saffron, Indian rose chestnut, ironwood tree, mesua, poached egg tree
  • Hindi− नाग चम्पा (Nag champa, नागकेसर( Nagkesar )
  • Urdu− नर्मिश्क, Narmishka
  • Tamil− Tadinangu, நாகப்பூ( nagappu), நாகேசுரம் (nakecuram)
  • Marathi− Thorlachampa, नागचंपा (nagchampa), नागकेशर (nagakeshara)
  • Malayalam− (Vainavu, ചുരുളി (churuli
  • Assam− নোক্তে (Nokte ), নাহৰ (Nahor), নাগেশ্বৰ (Nageshwar)
  • Meitei− নাগেসৰ (Nageshor )
  • Telugu−నాగకేసరము (nagakesaramu)
  • Sanskrit नागकेशर (nagakesarah), नागपुष्प( nagapuspah)
  • Kannada− ನಾಗ ಕೇಸರಿ( nagakesari), ನಾಗ ಸಮ್ಪಿಗೆ (nagasampige)
  • Bengali− নাগকেশর (nagkesar, পুন্নাগ (punnaga)
  • Gujarati− નાગચંપા( nagachampa)
  • Kashmiri− नागकेसर (nagkesarah)

Common name in other countries[5]

  • English− Ceylon ironwood, Cobra's saffron, Indian rose-chestnut, Iron-wood tree, Sembawang tree (Singapore).
  • Italian− Croco di cobra.
  • German− Nagassamen.
  • Arabic− Narae-kaisar.
  • Russian− Indiiskoe zheleznoe derevo, Mezua zheleznaia, Mezuia zheleznaia, Nagakeshara (from Hindi), Zheleznoe derevo.
  • Burmese− Gungen, Kenga
  • Chinese- : Tie li mu, (Taiwan).
  • Japanese− Tagayasan.
  • Thai- : Bhra na kaw, Bunnak (Boon naak), Ka ko (Karen), Gaa gaaw, Gam gaaw, Kam ko (Shan), Saan phee daawy, Saraphi doi (Chiang Mai).


M. ferrea reaches up to 100 feet (30 m) height.The tree is native to Sri Lanka, India, southern Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sumatra, where it grows in evergreen forests, especially in river valleys. In the Himalayas and India the tree can grow at altitudes up to 1500 meters and in Sri Lanka up to 1000 meters.[6] It is the only ironwood forest in the dry zone with wet zone vegetation.



M. ferrea is a small to medium-size evergreen It grows up to 13 m tall, often buttressed at the base with a trunk up to 90 cm in diameter. It has simple, narrow, oblong, dark green leaves 7–15 cm long, with a whitish underside. The emerging young leaves are red to yellowish pink and droop.[2] The wood is hard, heavy and strong. at about 72 pounds per cubic foot (1.15 g/cm3) . Its density is 1.12 ton/m3.[7] The root of the tree is used as an antidote for snake venom.[8]


Its flowers are terminal or axillary, bisexual, solitary or in an up to 9-flowered open panicle, pedicel with small paired bracts. It has 4 decussate sepals sub-orbicular, persistent and variously enlarged and thickened in fruit. Stamens are numerous, free or connate only at the base, ovary superior (1-2 celled) each cell with 1-2 axillary ovules. They are slender with a peltate to 4-lobed stigma. The flowers are 4-7.5 cm diameter, with four white petals.[3] The flowers are used to make an incense and to stuff pillows.[2] The flowers are acrid, anodyne, digestive, constipating, and used to treat stomachache. They are useful for conditions such as asthma, leprosy, cough, fever, vomiting and impotence. The seed oil is considered to be useful for vata and skin diseases. Dried flowers are used for bleeding hemorrhoids and dysentery with mucus. Fresh flowers are useful remedy for itching, nausea, erysipelas, bleeding piles, metrorrhagea, menorrhagea, excessive thirst, and sweating.[9]


The fruit is a capsule, usually globule, often beaked, thinly woody, usually dehiscing with 2(-4) valves before falling, often exuding resinous droplets. One fruit contains 1-4 seeds. Fruits are reddish, conical hard and ovoid. The fruit diameter is 3.0" and nearly woody. Fruits are ovoid, 2.5 -5.0 cm long with persistent calyx. The seed 1-4, dark brown, cotyledons fleshy and oily.[10] Fruits weigh from 50-60 grams each[11]


The fruit contains one round or three conical brown, shiny, seeds consisting of the kernel (cotyledons, 36.6%) within a fibrous outer cover (50% seed) and brittle shell (13.4%). M. ferrea seeds contained lipids (66.91-70.23 g %), moisture (4.02-5.05 g %), ash (1.46-1.50 g %), total protein (6.99-7.19 g %), water-soluble protein (2.98-3.11 g %), starch (5.51-5.85 g %), crude fiber (1.22-1.98 g %), carbohydrate (15.88-18.68 g %). The energy value is 700.55-724.15 kcal/100 g.[12]

Physical properties and composition

The major fatty acids in nagkesar oil are oleic acid, linoleic acid stearic acid and palmitic acid. Polyphenols and volatiles can contribute an unpleasant odour. These include the 4-phenyl coumarins mesuol, mammeisin, mesuagin and mammeigin.[13]

Fatty acid composition[11][12]
Fatty acid percentage
Myristic acid (C14:0) 0.0-2.8
Palmitic acid (C16:0) 8.0-16.5
Stearic acid (C18:0) 10.0-15.8
Oleic acid (C18:1) 55-66
Linoleic acid (C20:0) 0-1.0
Physical properties[12][14]
Character Range/limit
Refractive Indexat, 400C 1.465-1.475
Iodine value 65-95
Saponification value 195-205
Moisture 1.0-1.5
Color 1/4" cell(Y+5R) 25-35
Unsaponifiable matter % 2.0-2.5


Oil from the seeds has been used in the treatment of sores, scabies, wounds and rheumatism. It has been credited with benefits as a digestant, and to have antivenom, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and anti-helmintic activity. It has also been used in the treatment of fevers, itching, nausea, leprosy, skin disorders, erysipelas, bleeding piles, metrorrhagia, menorrhagia, excessive thirst, and sweating.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "ironwood tree - definition of ironwood tree by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Mesua ferrea - Nag Kesar". Flowersofindia.net. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Species Information". Worldagroforestry.org. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  4. ^ "Nagakeshara (Sanskrit: नागकेशर) Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  5. ^ "Nagkesar, abortifacient herb, herb inducing abortion, Mesua Ferrea, bitter herb, poisonous herb, making railway lines, hard timber". Spicesmedicinalherbs.com. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ "Herb Therapy - Ironwood Tree or Nagkesar". Yousigma.com. 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  9. ^ a b Chakrapani Ayurveda. "Nagkesar, Mesua, Mesua ferrea, Clusiaceae". Nagkesar.com. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  10. ^ Chakrapani Ayurveda. "Nagkesar, Mesua, Mesua ferrea, Clusiaceae". Nagkesar.com. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  11. ^ a b SEA HandBook-2009,By The Solvent Extractors' Association of India
  12. ^ a b c "Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia". Ajol.info. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  13. ^ BALA, K.R.; T.R. SESHADRI (1971). "ISOLATION AND SYNTHESIS OF SOME COUMARIN COMPONENTS OF MESUA FERREA SEED OIL". Phytochemistry. 10: 1131–1134. doi:10.1016/s0031-9422(00)89951-3. 

External links