The Discovery and Research of Buah Merah

What is Buah Merah?

Pandanus conoideus is a plant in the pandan family. Its fruit is eaten in Papua, Indonesia. Papuans call them kuansu. Indonesians call them buah merah (“red fruit“). The fruit is typically prepared by splitting it, wrapping it in leaves, and cooking it in an earth oven.

buah-merah3It grows in all Papua regions, especially in Jayawijaya mountain area (Wamena and Tolikara), Jayapura, Manokwari, Nabire, Timika, and Ayamaru Sorong. It is traditionally believed to be a good supplement as a skin and eye medicine, and as worm treatment.

There are around 30 cultivars of Red Fruit, but only four variants have high economy values: merah panjang (long red), merah pandek (short red), cokelot (brown), and kummiming (yellow). The Red Fruit variant used as medicine is merah panjang (long red). The size is around 100 cm in length, 18 cm in diameter length, and 7.5 kg in weight. The fruit has a blunt edge and cylindrical shape.

Fruits of the pandanus family have specific characteristics that distinguish them from other fruits, including their very concentrated red color, indicating that the fruits are rich in beta carotene.

Native highlanders in Papua New Guinea call it Marata fruit and make a red sauce out of it which is called marita sauce. Marita sauce is a ketchup-like substance which is used to flavor food.

Buah Merah Researches

The medicinal properties of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) was discovered by Dr I. Made Budi when he assumed his academic teaching assignment at the University of Cendrawasih in Jayapura, province of Papua, Indonesia. He carried out an extensive research on the nutritional values and medicinal benefits on Buah Merah (Red Fruit). In 2002, Dr I. Made Budi commercialized the results of his research to promote the oil extract of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) in Indonesia as an alternative medicine against cancer, tumor and diabetes. Buah Merah (Red Fruit) products had received overwhelming response from the Indonesia market, and attracted research interest from local and oversea researchers to look into the importance of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) to battle against degenerative diseases.

red-fruit-oilThe success of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) had attracted Professor Elin Yulinah Sykandar from the Pharmacy Department FMIPA of Institute Technology Bandung, Indonesia to investigate the anti-inflammatory properties of Buah Merah (Red Fruit). Professor Elin administered Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil with a dosing of 0.9 ml/kg and 1.8 ml/kg of body weight respectively to Wistar female rats which had undergone inflammation induction. Results had shown that Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil revealed inflammatory inhibition activities with performance as high as 97%. A LD50 Acute Toxicity study was conducted simultaneously to show that overdosage of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil extract do not pose any acute toxicity effect to human. Professor Elin’s research on Buah Merah (Red Fruit) was published on the journal of ACTA Pharmaceutica Indonesia, Volume XXX, No. 3, 2005, page 76.

Many research studies had shown that β-cryptoxanthin is a key carotenoid which fortifies human immune system against chronic and degenerative diseases in modern life. Modern research conducted by Shinshu University of Japan has shown that the oilextract from Buah Merah has extremely high level of β-cryptoxanthin. Epidemiology researchers have conducted in-vitro studies on β-cryptoxanthin to show its significant effect in lowering the risk of lung cancer.

What does β-cryptoxanthin?

cryptoxanthinβ-cryptoxanthin is a class of pro-vitamin A compound in carotenoids. Carotenoids are recognized globally by researchers for its anti-oxidant properties for preventing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Carotenoids such as ά and β-carotene, as well as β-cryptoxanthin have the added advantage of being able to convert to Vitamin A. Many research studies had shown that β-cryptoxanthin is a key carotenoid which fortifies human immune system againstchronic diseases in modern life.

The marketing campaign of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) products in Indonesia emphasizes on the anti-cancer effect of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil, this has led Professor Abdul Mun’im from the Department of Pharmacy Faculty MIPA, University Indonesia to unveil the medicinal claims of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) in the following year, 2006. Professor Adbul’s research objective was to determine the carcinogenesis inhibition effect of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil by examining the effect on 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthrasene (DMBA) induced lung cancer model in female Sprague-Dawley rats. The results showed that Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil improved lung carcinogenesis inhibition. This was the first scientific study conducted to support the medicinal claims and benefits of Buah Merah (Red Fruit). Professor Abdul’s research was published on the journal of Majalah Ilmu Kefarmasian, Volume III, No. 3, 2006, page 153.

Dr Toshiaki NishigakiBuah Merah (Red Fruit), the extraordinary fruit from the Papua has caught the attention of Dr Toshiaki Nishigaki from Japan to conduct a series of systematic investigation to prove the magnificent medicinal properties of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) in 2006. Dr Nashigaki from the School of Medicine, Shinshu University, Japan, who heads M&K Laboratories Inc. Japan, NGO Research Association and Tokyo Noni Research Center was the first to identify the presence of beta-cryptoxanthin in Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil extract. Beta-cryptoxanthin is a key carotenoid which plays an important role as a probable chemopreventive agent against lung cancers, especially associated with smoking.

Dr Nishigaki carried out an in vitro studies to demonstrate the capacity of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil extract to prohibit the growth of human cancer cell line A549 with Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil extract dosing of 500 mg. Dr Nishigaki’s research work was published in the Journal of the Faculty of Agriculture Shinshu University Volume 44, No. 1.2, 2008.

Dr Nishigaki had taken an extra mile to educate about the medicinal properties and benefits by authoring a book titled: Khasiat Buah Merah (Red Fruit) (博士の愛した赤い果実 プアメラ). This book was published in 2007. Buah Merah (Red Fruit) products have earned the credentials to be registered as Functional Health Food and marketed in Japan in 2006.

The success story of patients who recovered from critical illness since the administration of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) oil was advocated by word of mouth, press media, talk shows and seminars had boosted the market demand and confidence of Buah Merah (Red Fruit). The capacity of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) to prevent and cure chronic diseases such as cancer, tumor, diabetes or HIV/AIDS has taken the Indonesia healthcare market by storm.

The huge success of Buah Merah (Red Fruit) products in Indonesia market was truly astonishing, and was featured in the Euromonitor International report of Health and Wellness category in November 2006.


Research on Buah Merah (Red Fruit) and its nutritional content: Carotenoids are intensively carried out around the world. There are many research papers and references published on reputable journals which can be found from data bases such as Medliner, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Web of Knowledge

  1. Southwell K, Harris R. (1992) Chemical Characteristics of Pandanus Conoideus Fruit Lipid. Journal of The Science of Food and Agriculture 58(4): 593-594
  2.  Rao AV, Rao RV. (2007). Carotenoids and Human Health. Pharmacological Research 55; 207-216
  3. Agarwal S, Rao AV. (2000) Carotenoids and Chronic Diseases. Journal of Drug Metabolism and Drug Interactions 17(1-4):189-210
  4. Astrog P (1997). Food Carotenoids and Cancer Prevention: An Overview of Current Research. Trends Food Science Technology 8:406-13.
  5. Ingrid S, Nishigaki T (2008). Indonesian Biodiversities, from Microbes to Herbal Plants as Potential Functional Foods. Journal of the Faculty of Agriculture Shinshu University Vol 44 No.1.2
  6. Bourke, R.M. (2007). Indigenous Fruits in Papua New Guinea. Unpublished paper. Department of Human Geography, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. The Australian National University, Canberra
  7. Mun’im, A. Andrajati, R. Susilowati, H. (2006) Uji Hambatan Tumorigenesis Sari Buah Merah [Red Fruit] (Pandanus Conoideus Lam.) Terhadap Tikus Putih Betina Yang Diinduksi 7,12 Dimetilbenz(a)Antrasen (DMBA). Majalah Ilmu Kefarmasian 3(3): 153-161 {a} Department Farmasi Fakultas MIPA Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta
  8. Sukandar, E.Y., Suwendar, Adnyana, I.K. (2005) Uji Aktivitas Antiinflamasi Minyak Buah Merah [Red Fruit] (Pandanus Conoideus Lamk.) Pada Tikus Wistar Betina. ACTA Pharmaceutica Indonesia XXX(3): 76-79. {a} Department Farmasi FMIPA, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia
Report on Safety and anti-cancer actions of Buah Merah at International Conference of Nutraceutical Functional Foods held in Bali, October, 2010

Report on Safety and anti-cancer actions of Buah Merah at International Conference of Nutraceutical Functional Foods held in Bali, October, 2010