Oleander (Nerium indicum) Information, Uses and Warnings

Oleander is found all over India. It is an ornamental plant and commonly seen in gardens and on road sides. There are three common varieties of oleander plant available (with white, yellow, red flowers) and all are poisonous. The leaf intake causes vomiting, lightheadedness, and heart block. It is known as Ashwamarak in Sanskrit which means one that kills horse. The intake of only fifteen grams of fresh leaves of this plant can kill a horse.

All parts of Oleander plant produce poisonous latex. The kernel possess nearly seven times as much glycosides as leaves, stems, flowers or fruit pulp. The roots and bark also contain glycosides. The glycosides of the plant have direct effect on heart. It produces a fall in right arterial pressure and a rise in cardiac output.

In Ayurveda, white Oleander is used in the treatment of functional disorders of the heart, in cardiac insufficiency and skin diseases.

General Information

Kaner/Oleander is a large glabrous, evergreen, woody shrub with milky juice, found throughout the year in upper Gangetic plains, Himalayas from Nepal to Kashmir up to 2000 m, Central and Southern India;also cultivated near the temples and gardens.

Scientific Classification

The white and red-flowered varieties are equated with Nerium indicum, Synonym: Nerium oleander;both possess similar properties. The yellow-flowered variety is equated with Thevetia peruviana.

Below is given taxonomical classification of the plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Asteridae
  • Order: Gentianales
  • Family: Apocynaceae – Dogbane family
  • Genus: Nerium L. – oleander
  • Species: Nerium oleander L. – oleander


Yellow-flowered variety

  • Latin name: Thevetia peruviana (Pers.)
  • English: Yellow Oleander.
  • Ayurvedic: Pita-Karavira, Ashvaghna, Divyapushpa.
  • Siddha/Tamil: Pachiyalari.
  • Hindi: Kaner
  • White-flowered and red-flowered varieties
  • Latin name: Nerium oleander;Synonym: Nerium indicum Mill.;Nerium odorum Aiton.
  • English: Red Oleander, Rose Bay, Rose Laurel.
  • Unani: Surkh Kaner.
  • Sanskrit: Karavirah, Ashvamarak, Hayamara

Vernacular names of Kaner in India

  • Hindi: Karavira, Kaner
  • Bengali: Karabi, Karbbe, Karbee
  • Malayalam: Arali, Kanaveeram
  • Tamil: Sivappu, Arali, Sevvarali, Alari, Aatrulari
  • Kannada: Kanagilu, Kharjahar, Kanigale, Kanagile
  • Assamese: Diflee, Sammulhimar
  • Gujarati: Kaner
  • Marathi: Kanher
  • Punjabi: Kanir
  • Telugu: Kastooripatte, Errugumeru, Ganneru
  • Urdu: Kaner


Ornamental shrub or small, densely branched tree, 1 to 10 m tall in the Dogbane family Apocynaceae. Leaves are in pairs of three or whorled, very green, leathery, narrowly elliptic to linear entire. Flowers grow in clusters in terminal branches, each 2.5 to 5 cm, funnel-shaped with five lobes, fragrant, various colors from pink to red, white, peach, and yellow.

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: roots, leaves and bark of Nerium oleander.

Plant type: Shrub.

Distribution: All over India. Native to Mediterranean region. It is distributed from Mediterranean to Western China.

Constituents of Nerium oleander

The leaves and roots gave a number of active principles including glycosides, terpenoids, sterols and other compounds.

Cardiac steroids, isolated from the leaf, include oleandrin, gentiobiosyl oleandrin, odoroside.

The stem contained alanine arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine and valine. A polysaccharide containing galacturonic acid, rhamnose, arabinose and galactose has been isolated from leaves.

Poisonous plant: Toxic cardiac glycosides, oleandrin, oleandroside, nerioside, digitoxigenin, thevetin, and thevetoxin are present in all parts of the plant.

Symptoms of Oleander Poisoning

Ingestion of any part of the plant causes nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloody diarrhea, irritation to the mucosal membranes, resulting in burning around the mouth and increased salivation, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, visual disturbances, cardiac abnormalities, ventricular dysrhythmias, tachyarrhythmias, bradycardia, and heart block.

Medicinal properties of Oleander

  • Abortifacient: Causes abortion.
  • Adaptogen: help the body adapt to stress.
  • Analgesic: acting to relieve pain.
  • Anticancer: used in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
  • Anti-inflammatory: used to reduce inflammation.
  • Antibacterial, Antiseptic, Antiulcer
  • Bradycardic: slows heart rate.
  • CNS Depressant: slow brain activity.
  • Cyanogenic: Capable of producing cyanide.
  • Emetic: Causing vomiting.
  • Emmenagogue: stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
  • Negative Chronotropic: decrease heart rate.
  • Poison: Capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when introduced or absorbed.
  • Spasmogenic: inducing spasm
  • Fungicide, Insecticide, Larvicide, Parasiticide, Rodenticide (-cide=kills)

Medicinal Uses of White oleander

In Ayurveda, the roots, leaves and bark of Karvira/Nerium oleander are used for medicinal purpose. These are used in very precise dosage. The dried roots powder in dosage of 30-125 mg, is used for head ache, parasites, inflammation, itching and diseases of the skin.

The dried leaf powder in dosage of 30-125 mg, is used for diseases of heart, fever, parasites, diseases of the skin, diseases of eyes, wounds and asthma. The leaves are first detoxified as per Ayurvedic treatise.

An Ayurvedic medicine, Karanjadi Taila contains Kaner as an ingredient. This oil is useful in various kinds of the skin infections, including ringworm (dermatophytes). It consists of seeds of karanj (Pongamia pinnata), kuth, chitrakmul (Plumbago zeylanica), chameli puspa (Jasminum sp.), and Kaner (Nerium oleander).

Below is given few remedies using Nerium oleander/Kaner. These are given just for information purpose. Always remember all parts of oleander plant are poisonous. Always wash your hands after touching any part of the plant.

Face pack

The paste of flowers can be applied on the face.


The paste of roots are applied externally on the hemorrhoids.

Joint pain

The paste of leaves is mixed with oil and applied on the affected joints.

Skin diseases

The decoction of white flowered Kaner is boiled in ‘Rai ka tel’ to make medicated oil. This oil is applied at affected body areas.


The medicated oil prepared from the leaves paste of Kaner is applied externally.

Pain in ear

Juice prepared from the stem bark is boiled with gingelly oil and two drops are poured into ear to treat ear pain.

Leprosy, scorpion sting, snake bite, ulcers, Diseases of the skin

The paste of roots is applied externally.

Swelling ulcers on penis

The decoction of leaves is used to wash the affected areas.

Venomous bite

Externally apply the juice of leaves.


  • All parts of this plant are poisonous.
  • Accidental and therapeutic use of leaf has resulted in partially fatal poisonings.
  • Overdoses may cause arrhythmia, bradycardia, cardiodepression, confusion, cyanosis, diarrhea, headache, hyperkalemia, nausea, neurodepression, stupor, and vomiting.
  • 15–20 g fresh leaf can kill a horse, 1–5g a sheep.
  • Ingesting a handful of flowers is lethal.
  • Most symptoms from oleander poisoning are cardiac and gastrointestinal in nature and appear four hours after the ingestion.
  • Oleander poisoning can be fatal with relatively small amounts ingested.
  • Wash hands carefully after touching the leaves, flower and latex.
  • Educate children about the poisonous properties of the plant.


  1. Frohne DP, Fander HJ. A color Atlass of poisonous plants. London: Wolfe Publishing LTD;1984.
  2. Ansford AJ, Morris H. Fatal oleander poisoning. Med J Aust. 1981;1:360–1.
  3. humaik GM, Wu AW, Ping AC. Oleander poisoning: Treatment with digoxin- specific Fab antibody fragments. Ann Emerg Med. 1988;17:732–5.
  4. Behcet Al, Yarbil P, Dogan M, Kabul S, Yildirm C. A case of non-fatal oleander poisoning. BMJ Case Reports.

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