Gambier: Benefits, Side Effects, and Usage

Medical Review: Dr. Katya Saphira, M.Sc in Nutrition

Gambir contains high levels of antioxidant compounds such as tannins and catechins. Therefore, this fruit may help prevent the onset of chronic diseases. Some studies have shown the potential benefits of gambir for certain illnesses, but further research is needed to explore these effects more comprehensively. It’s important to note that gambir cannot replace medications prescribed by a doctor. If considering its consumption as a remedy, it is advisable to consult with the examining physician first.

Gambir, scientifically known as Uncaria gambir Roxb, is a climbing plant that has been utilized for traditional medicine for quite some time [1,2].

The plant, predominantly found in Sumatra and Kalimantan, has extractions that can address various health issues. It is a perennial plant with an erect and sturdy pale brown stem, usually harvested for the first time at the age of 1.5 to 2 years [1].

Gambir features single elliptical green leaves with pointed tips arranged opposite each other [15]. On the other hand, its flowers are compound, resembling bells. Small white flowers are found on the round flower spikes. Interestingly, the fruit is black, egg-shaped, and only about 1.5 cm in length.

Belonging to the Rubiaceae family, also known as the coffee family, Gambir holds significant economic value due to its leaves, from which extracts or latex are commonly obtained [1].

Around 90% of gambir production comes from West Sumatra, with Bangladesh, Singapore, Pakistan, and India being its main export destinations [2].

While having several beneficial components, tannins and catechins are the most widely utilized compounds from this plant.

Gambir primarily contains catechins, which are frequently utilized due to their significant health benefits. Beyond the anticancer properties offered by catechins, gambir exhibits properties such as antivascular, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, anti-infection, neuroprotective, and hepatoprotective, all of which can be advantageous for human health [4,5].

Catechins are also present in various herbal plants and foods known for significantly inhibiting excessive oxidative stress [5]. The antioxidant properties (polyphenols) of catechins can directly or indirectly address oxidative damage in the colon by activating glutathione and glutathione peroxidase (antioxidants) [3,4,5].

Meanwhile, the tannin content in gambir offers various equally beneficial properties as catechins [5,6]. Tannins can help lower blood pressure, accelerate blood clotting (beneficial for cases of bleeding), induce liver necrosis, reduce body fat levels, and modulate the immune response.

Tannins also possess anticarcinogenic properties, meaning they can act as anticancer agents. Other properties such as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory characteristics help protect the body from infections and inflammation.

Extracts from Bacillus subtilis found in the gambir plant are known to inhibit the development of certain bacteria types (Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus mutans) [9]. The bacteria Helicobacter pylori, a cause of antibiotic resistance, can also be combated by the compounds in the gambir plant.

Various health benefits are offered by Gambir, thanks to its diverse beneficial compounds. Some of the health benefits that users can obtain from Gambir include:

Stomachache and Toothache:

Gambir in Singapore is widely used as a remedy for toothaches and stomachaches [1]. The extract from its leaves can help alleviate pain in the teeth and stomach due to its high antibacterial properties [7].

Diarrhea and Dysentery:

Gambir extract, containing antibacterial properties, serves as an alternative remedy for diarrhea compared to the commonly used oral rehydration solution [8]. In Malaysia, Gambir is frequently employed as a traditional remedy for diarrhea and dysentery [1].

Sore Throat:

Gambir plant extract can be used as a gargle for individuals with a sore throat. Its antibacterial and antioxidant properties help combat bacteria causing inflammation and expedite throat healing. In Japan, the extract is even used in throat lozenges, often consumed by smokers in the country [1,11].

Inflammatory Bowel and Stomach Diseases:

The anti-inflammatory properties in Gambir leaf extract can be utilized as a remedy for stomach pain and inflammatory bowel conditions [4]. Combining Gambir extract with honey can optimize its benefits for stomach ailments.

Dental Plaque:

Aside from addressing toothaches, Gambir is useful in combating dental plaque [7]. Streptococcus mutans bacteria, a common cause of dental plaque, is effectively countered by the antibacterial tannin content, reducing the risk of toothaches.

Heart Disease:

Catechin content in Gambir extract offers antivascular and anti-obesity properties, not only assisting with weight issues but also reducing the risk of serious conditions like heart disease [4,5]. Gambir extract has also demonstrated inhibition of atherosclerosis in rats, reducing the risk of heart disease [10].

Burns and Skin Cancer:

The anticancer property of catechins in Gambir can lower the risk of skin cancer [4,5,6]. Gambir is used in sunscreens to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation, a leading cause of skin cancer. Additionally, in Malaysia, Gambir is commonly used in burn treatments [1,9].

Open Wounds:

Gambir is a trusted remedy for accelerating wound healing due to its antibacterial properties. It effectively fights and prevents bacterial infections, speeding up the blood clotting process [10,11].

Acne, Wrinkles, and Dark Spots:

Gambir extract contributes to facial health and youthfulness with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is effective in tightening the skin, eliminating acne, and reducing dark spots, benefitting both men and women [11,12].

Vaginal Discharge:

Women dealing with vaginal discharge issues can also benefit from Gambir. Its extract contains tannins with astringent properties, promoting feminine hygiene by combating bacteria and other microorganisms causing vaginal discharge [16].

Premature Ejaculation:

For men facing sexual issues like premature ejaculation, Gambir is a suitable herbal remedy. The astringent properties in its leaves are often used as a remedy for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, prolonging the duration of sexual activity with a partner [13].

Gambir, a plant long utilized as traditional medicine, is not known to cause harmful side effects for its users [3].

As long as the usage is moderate, there are no life-threatening side effects associated with it. The potential side effects are related to its content, namely tannins.

One of the effects of excessive tannin consumption is a decrease in the body’s efficiency in converting absorbed nutrients into new bodily substances [6].

Various health issues can be addressed with Gambir plant, and here are some methods of usage or consumption that can be applied:

Stomach Issues, Diarrhea, Sore Throat, and Gum Pain:

Prepare a glass of warm water, mix it with Gambir extract [16]. Add a suitable amount of honey and consume it twice a day until stomach pain subsides. The Gambir extract solution can also be used as a mouthwash.


For external wounds, take a sufficient amount of Gambir extract in powder form and evenly sprinkle it on the cleaned wound. Wait until it dries and then rinse it with clean water.

Acne, Wrinkles, and Dark Spots:

Gambir extract can be applied topically directly to acne-prone skin [11,12]. A paste made by mixing Gambir extract powder with a little water can be applied to acne-prone skin. Wait for half an hour before rinsing it off with face wash and clean water. The beneficial content in Gambir extract aids in wrinkled and inflamed skin tissue during the healing process.

Vaginal Discharge:

For vaginal discharge, prepare a handful of Gambir plant leaves, clean them [16]. Boil them with a sufficient amount of water (400-500 ml) for about 5-10 minutes, then drink it twice a day, one cup each time.

These applications leverage the properties of Gambir for various health benefits.

Gambir plants are predominantly found in secondary forests of Sumatra or Kalimantan, but there are still wild-growing Gambir plants.

After discovering its various health benefits, many people may be interested in cultivating it. It’s essential to understand the planting requirements for Gambir to thrive well and stay fresh and healthy [14].


Gambir plants can only thrive in regions with specific climates, namely B2-type climates. B2-type climates are characterized by 2 to 3 dry months and 7 to 9 wet months, found in areas like Cibitu, Pagelaran, and Goal Para. Higher rainfall is preferable and suitable for the plant’s health, as it helps prevent diseases.


To have Gambir plants that meet expectations, planting should also be done in the right soil. Soil with a pH between 4.8 to 5.5 is optimal for Gambir growth. Additionally, ensure that the soil is podsolik with reddish-brown or reddish-yellow color and free from weeds. The recommended land size is 40 x 40 x 40 cm for satisfactory results.


Another growing requirement for Gambir plants is considering the humidity of the planting area. Gambir plants thrive best in places with a humidity level of 75-85% because this range is the most suitable.


Apart from humidity, temperature needs to be considered before deciding to plant Gambir. Inappropriate temperatures can hinder Gambir’s growth. The ideal temperature for Gambir is 20 to 45 degrees Celsius. However, planting it in places with temperatures of 26 to 28 degrees Celsius is not an issue, as Gambir can still grow well.


Generally, Gambir grows perfectly in regions with an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. However, the ideal growing conditions for Gambir are at an altitude of 100-500 meters above sea level. Lowlands are the most suitable places to plant Gambir, especially if planted at elevations of 200 or 1,000 meters above sea level. It is not recommended to plant Gambir at altitudes exceeding 1,000 meters above sea level. Gambir planting is more successful when the altitude is not too high.

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