The Botanical Review

, Volume 85, Issue 3, pp 185–251 | Cite as

A Review of the Economic Botany of Sesbania (Leguminosae)

  • Saowalak Bunma
  • Henrik BalslevEmail author


Sesbania is a genus in the family Leguminosae that has been widely used by people in tropical and subtropical regions, especially in Southeast Asia. Information about Sesbania uses and their characteristics such as chemical compounds were obtained from 233 papers, reports and books. We found evidence for 22 Sesbania species being used. They were used for human food (10 species), animal food (9), poisons (1), medicines (10), environments (8), materials (7), fuel (2) and social purposes (1). Sesbania grandiflora and S. sesban were used more than the other species. Sesbania grandiflora was the only species with uses in all categories. Sesbania sesban was used in six categories. Sesbania grandiflora had the highest number of use records in almost all categories, except for fuel in which S. sesban had more records. The aerial parts, especially the soft, young parts were consumed by both humans and animals. Some Sesbania species contained high amounts of proteins (41% of protein in S. javanica), vitamin C (145 mg/100 g in S. grandiflora) and high amounts of calcium (666 mg/100 g in S. grandiflora). Sesbania species have been used to treat 20 subcategories of human disorders, and also as veterinary medicines. Sesbania possessed 1-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-2-hydroxy-N-pentadecanamide, 2-hydroxy-N-decanamide, betulinic acid, isovestitol, medicarpin, oleanolic acid 3-β-D-glucuronide, pinitol, saponin, sativan, sesbanimide, stigmasterol and triterpene acid 3-O-α-L-rhamnopyranoside for which pharmacological properties had been tested. Sesbania also has cardioprotective, antidiabetic, antiurolithiatic, hypolipidemic, anticancer, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Sixteen microorganisms were found to be inhibited by Sesbania. Sesbania species are well-known for their use as green manures and seven species were recorded for this purpose. Sesbania also have properties that make them useful for pollution control. Regarding material uses, five Sesbania species were used for their fibers and Sesbania bispinosa was used in the production of fabrics. Besides the uses, Sesbania species also have other economic importance as weeds, pest host, and host for an economic plant. Eight species of Sesbania appear to have negative effects as weeds and pest-host and one species (Sesbania grandiflora) was the host for sandalwood. There was evidence that Sesbania could inhibit growth of animals and plants. Moreover, Sesbania seeds in too large doses are lethal to some animals. According to the vast advantages, the knowledge of Sesbania uses, including the safe dosages, should be passed on for the welfare of humans.


Food Traditional medicines Traditional knowledge Useful weeds Food security Health security 



We thank the Thai Government for a PhD stipendium to Saowalak Bunma to study at Aarhus University. Henrik Balslev thanks the Carlsberg Foundation for support to his studies of the Thai flora.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity Group, Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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