Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Tent. fl. abyss. 2: 247 (1851).
Mchakati, mjiakhati, mckakari, mchacha (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Acalypha ornata occurs from Nigeria east to Eritrea and south to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
In southern Nigeria the leaves are pounded together with those of other plants in water, and the liquid is given to children with rabies. In the Central African Republic cooked leaves are eaten to relieve post-partum pain and a root decoction is taken as a laxative. In Tanzania water in which leaves have been soaked is used to wash children with scabies. A leaf decoction is used as a bath to treat haemorrhoids, and a root decoction is also drunk for the same purpose. An infusion of the aerial parts is applied to an infected navel in new-born babies. A fresh root decoction is drunk and used as a wash to treat leprosy and menstruation pain. Plant ash is rubbed on the chest to treat pain. Powdered leaves together with powdered flowers of Psorospermum febrifugum Spach are sprinkled on circumcision wounds.
In Tanzania the stems are woven into baskets and fish traps. The leaves are chopped and cooked and eaten with rice or pounded maize; sometimes groundnut, coconut milk, onion or tomato are added to improve the taste. In East Africa the foliage is browsed by livestock. The leaves are used for bedding material. In DR Congo the stems are used to make arrow shafts. The wood is sometimes used as firewood. Acalypha ornata is sometimes planted as an ornamental.
Leaf and root extracts show slight molluscicidal activity against the fresh water snail Bulinus globulus.
Monoecious, much-branched, perennial herb or lax shrub up to 2.5(–5) m tall; stems almost glabrous to hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules linear-lanceolate, 4–10 mm long, soon falling; petiole (2–)3–10(–15) cm long; blade ovate to elliptical-ovate, 5–16 cm × 3–10 cm, base cuneate, rounded, truncate or shallowly cordate, apex acuminate, margins coarsely toothed, membranous, sparingly shortly hairy to almost glabrous on both surfaces, more hairy along the midrib, 5-veined at base and with 4–7 pairs of lateral veins. Male inflorescence an axillary, solitary raceme up to 15 cm long, many-flowered, peduncle short; female inflorescence a terminal, solitary spike up to 17 cm long, peduncle short, bracts ovate-rhomboid, c. 1.5 cm × 2.5 cm, toothed, enlarging in fruit. Flowers unisexual, petals absent; male flowers with pedicel c. 1.5 mm long, calyx 4-lobed, minute, almost glabrous, green to reddish, stamens 8, free, anthers curled, yellowish white; female flowers sessile, sepals 3, triangular, c. 1 mm long, ciliate, ovary superior, c. 1 mm in diameter, 3-lobed and 3-celled, styles 3, free, c. 3 mm long, fringed, red. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 3 mm × 4 mm, apex sparingly hairy, splitting into 3 cocci, each 2-valved and 1-seeded. Seeds ovoid-globose, c. 2 mm × 1.5 mm, smooth, purplish grey, caruncle elliptical, brownish yellow.
Acalypha comprises about 460 species and occurs throughout the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate regions, excluding Europe. In tropical Africa about 65 species occur and in Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands about 35 species. Several other shrubby Acalypha species with male and female flowers on separate inflorescences have medicinal uses. The leaf sap of Acalypha chirindica S.Moore, known from DR Congo, Tanzania and southern Africa, is taken in Tanzania to treat dizziness; a root decoction is drunk to treat kidney pain. A leafy stem decoction of Acalypha manniana Müll.Arg., occurring from Ghana east to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, is taken by the Abayanda people of Uganda to treat diarrhoea. Acalypha racemosa Baill. occurs in tropical Africa, India, Sri Lanka and some islands of Indonesia. In East Africa a leaf poultice is applied to the back to treat kidney pain and hernia. Leaf ash is rubbed into cuts to relieve body pain. Root and leaf decoctions are taken as an emetic and antidote. In India Acalypha racemosa is grown as a vegetable.
Acalypha ornata occurs in forest undergrowth and forest margins, wooded grassland, deciduous woodland and thickets, often in riverine or rocky localities, or in secondary vegetation, from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude.
The leaves and roots of Acalypha ornata are mainly collected from the wild during the rainy season. Plants can be propagated by seed and cuttings. In Central Africa Acalypha ornata is a host of the cotton helopeltis (Helopeltis schoutedeni), one of the most important pests of cotton and Eucalyptus spp.
Genetic resources and breeding
Acalypha ornata is common throughout its large distribution area and therefore not threatened by genetic erosion.
Acalypha ornata has several medicinal uses, but nothing is known on the chemistry and pharmacology of the plant. Unless more research is done, the species will remain of local importance only. Its uses as a vegetable, fibre plant and ornamental deserve further research.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Acalypha ornata Hochst. ex A.Rich. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.