Mallotus philippensis is a smll plant known as the kamala tree or red kamala or kumkum tree, due to the fruit covering, which produces a red dye. The term Mallotus is a neo-Latin term coming from the Greek mallōtos lanoso: wool flock.
Originally from the Philippines, it often appears in rainforest margins of South and South East Asia.
The trunk is fluted and irregular at the base. The grey bark is smooth, or with occasional wrinkles or corky bumps. Small branches are greyish brown in colour, with rusty covered small hairs towards the end. Leaf scars evident.
Leaves are opposite on the stem, ovate to oblong in shape, 4 to 12 cm long, 2 to 7 cm wide with a long pointed tip. The upper surface is green without hairs, the underside pale grey in colour. With a magnifying glass, small red glands may be visible. Leaf stems 2 to 5 cm long, somewhat thickened at both ends. Veins raised and evident under the leaf.
Yellow-brown flowers form on racemes. Racemes up to 6 cm long. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Fruit may appear at any time of the year, three months or so after flowering. Usually a three lobed capsule, 6 to 9 mm broad, covered in red powdery substance which produces a golden red dye suited to colouring of silk and wool. One small black globular seed in each of the three parts of the capsule, seeds 2 to 3 mm in diameter.
Mallotus philippensis is a plant cultivated and used to produce red dyes and herbal remedies. From it we extract the rottlerin which is a polyphenol with interesting pharmacological applications. The red Kamala powder, which is found on the leaves of this plant, contains many very interesting natural components such as phenols and polyphenols, flavonoids, coumarins and of course tannins. The roots, stems and leaves contain prussic acid.
The used parts are the glands of the inflorescences and the capsules
Traditionally used as hair dye to give apricot tones, alone or with othe hair plant dyes as Hennè and for dyeing textile for its yellow red color.
In Ayurvedic medecine this plant is traditionally used for antifilarial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory activity and also used as purgative, anthelmintic, vulnerary, detergent, maturant, carminative, alexiteric and is useful in treatment of bronchitis, abdominal diseases, spleen enlargement, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic.