Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. Nachtr. 1: 255 (1897).
Adenia gracilis Harms (1897), Adenia gummifera (Harv.) Harms (1897), Adenia guineensis W.J.de Wilde (1971).
Monkey rope, snake climber, wild granadilla (En). Mandali, mkengeti (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Adenia cissampeloides occurs from Senegal east to Somalia, and south throughout Central and East Africa to southern Africa including South Africa. It is also found in the Seychelles.
Adenia cissampeloides has many uses in traditional medicine throughout tropical Africa. Most frequently recorded are the uses of an infusion or decoction of the root, stem or leaves for the treatment of gastro-intestinal complaints, such as stomach-ache, constipation, diarrhoea and dysentery. Such infusions or decoctions are also taken to treat various inflammatory ailments, commonly oedema and rheumatism, and for pain relief, particularly against headache and back pain.
A decoction of the leaves or root is taken to treat fever and malaria, and as a diuretic. Pounded roots, and sometimes other plant parts, are widely used to dress wounds and sores. For leprosy, a decoction of the leaves is applied to the sores, and a root decoction taken orally together with a vapour bath prepared from the leaves. In Kenya and Tanzania ashes of the bark or root are mixed with castor oil to treat scabies. In eastern Africa a root decoction is drunk to treat cholera and, taken with milk, to treat anaemia. An extract of the root and stems is administered orally to treat intestinal worms. A leaf decoction is drunk to treat liver ailments. In Tanzania a paste of the leaves is applied to broken bones and fractures. In DR Congo, eastern and southern Africa the powdered leaf and stem are macerated and taken to treat complaints of the gall bladder. Bronchitis and other lung ailments are treated with the leaves, eaten raw with salt and palm oil or cooked as a vegetable with meat or fish. Infusions of the root or aerial parts are taken to treat venereal diseases and sterility. In the Central African Republic root shavings are introduced into the vagina, or the uterus rinsed with root decoction, as an abortifacient. A root decoction may also be taken to treat excessive menstruation. In Zimbabwe an infusion of the root and leaves is drunk, and the powdered root and leaves eaten in porridge, to prevent threatened abortion. In Nigeria leaves are rubbed on women’s breasts to stimulate milk flow. A decoction of the peeled root is drunk to treat swollen testicles. An infusion of the leaf is used as a stimulant to treat depression, and, in Zimbabwe, insanity. The Mano people of Liberia use the inner bark to induce amnesia. Roots are chewed to treat snakebites and are used as antidote for Acokanthera arrow poison. In West Africa, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia crushed stems are thrown in water as a fish poison. Leaves, branches, bark, wood and roots may also be used in fish or arrow poisons.
In Central, eastern and southern Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable, alone or with other ingredients. The reddish sap is used as a facial cosmetic. In Gabon the stems are made into rope. In Sierra Leone the juice of the stems is used to give a smooth surface to mud floors. Placing crushed twigs near the entrance of a bee hive pacifies the bees for a short time. In Botswana the smoke of burning roots is also used to calm bees before harvesting the honey.
Production and international trade
A 1980s survey in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, showed that some herbal traders purchased more than 450 sacks of fresh wild-harvested Adenia cissampeloides from gatherers in a year.
The stem, leaves, fruit and roots of Adenia cissampeloides contain the cyanogenic glycosides tetraphyllin B (barterin) and epitetraphyllin B (volkenin). The leaves also contain gummiferol, a cytotoxic polyacetylenic di-epoxide, which has shown in vitro anti-cancer activity. Excessive use of Adenia cissampeloides among the Zulu people in South Africa has been associated with liver complaints, and in-vivo tests have confirmed the presence of compounds causing liver damage. Leaves and root bark are rich in iron; the average iron content of the leaves per 100 g dry matter is 32.5 mg, of stem bark 9.9 mg and of root bark 32.1 mg. In a laboratory test aqueous extracts of the plant had a dose dependant depressing effect on the blood pressure of cats. The effect was neutralized by small doses of atropine. A second active principle might be sympathomimetic and have vasoconstrictive action. The effect of the plant against Plasmodium falciparum in vitro is negligable. A diethyl-ether extract from the bark, formulated as an emulsifiable concentrate, is an effective anaesthetic for the African honeybee (Apis mellifera adansonii). Stem pulp showed a significant larvicidal effect on the beet armyworm Spodoptera exigua.
Robust liana up to 30 m long, usually dioecious; stem up to 10 cm in diameter, striped bluish-green, older stems often with whitish powder; stems with simple or 3-fid tendrils 10–20 cm long. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules 0.5(–1) mm long, broadly rounded to triangular, irregularly cleft; petiole (1–)1.5–11 cm long; blade entire or more or less deeply 3(–5)-lobed, orbicular to ovate or rhomboid in outline, (1–)3–14 cm long, base cordate to truncate or cuneate, apex obtuse or retuse, rarely acute, with a single gland at base, up to 4 glands on lower leaf surface and 3–7 glands on the margins. Inflorescence an axillary cyme, often with up to 2 (–4) cm long tendrils between the branches, up to 35-flowered in male, 2–6-flowered in female inflorescence; peduncle (0.5–)1–12(–16) cm long; bracts and bracteoles narrowly triangular, 0.5–1 mm long, acute, minutely toothed. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, pale greenish; pedicel 2–10(–15) mm long in male flowers, slightly shorter in female ones; sepals and petals free; male flowers with sepals up to 8 mm long and petals 8–11 mm long, filaments of stamens fused at base, ovary rudimentary; female flowers with sepals up to 6.5 mm long and petals up to 4.5 mm long, ovary superior, ovoid, 3–6 mm long, 3(–6)-ribbed, stigmas almost sessile, kidney-shaped, stamens rudimentary. Fruit an ovoid capsule 2.5–4.5 cm × 1.5–3 cm, leathery to woody, pale green, 30–50-seeded. Seeds ovoid, 3.5–5.5 mm × 3–4 mm × 2 mm, pitted.
Other botanical information
Adenia comprises about 95 species, with about 60 species on the African continent, 20 in Madagascar and 15 in Asia. The genus is subdivided in 6 sections. Adenia cissampeloides belongs to section Ophiocaulon. Several other species belonging to this section have medicinal properties. Adenia dinklagei Hutch. & Dalziel occurs from Senegal to Ghana; in Côte d’Ivoire the leaves are ground with salt and water and the liquid is taken to treat palpitations. An infusion of the leaves of Adenia tricostata W.J.de Wilde, occurring in Central Africa and Uganda, is used to treat fever. Adenia bequaertii Robyns & Lawalrée occurs in DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda; in DR Congo its leaf sap or a leaf decoction is drunk to treat headache, whereas a leaf decoction and maceration is drunk or used as a bath to treat insanity and possession.
Growth and development
Adenia cissampeloides can be found flowering and fruiting throughout the year.
Adenia cissampeloides occurs in primary and secondary rainforest, forest margins and in gallery, savanna and swamp forest, from sea-level up to 2200 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Adenia cissampeloides is retained or cultivated in Chagga homegardens on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. It can be grown from seed and cuttings. Stem cuttings with 2–3 nodes are treated with growth hormone before being planted in polythene bags, and are watered regularly until sprouting.
Diseases and pests
Adenia cissampeloides is a host plant of passion fruit ring spot virus (PFRSV), to which Passiflora edulis Sims is very susceptible.
Handling after harvest
Adenia cissampeloides roots, stems and leaves are usually used fresh, after collection.
Adenia cissampeloides is widespread in a range of habitats, very common in its area of distribution, and not in danger of genetic erosion. Germplasm of plants used as vegetables has been collected in Malawi.
Adenia cissampeloides has many interesting medicinal uses. More research into the chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the compounds of Adenia cissampeloides and related species is warranted. Adenia cissampeloides could be grown as an attractive ornamental climber.
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Sources of illustration
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Correct citation of this article:
Grace, O.M. & Fowler, D., 2007. Adenia cissampeloides (Planch. ex Hook.) Harms. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, branch with male inflorescence and leaves; 2, dehisced fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman
leafy branch with inflorescences
obtained from B. Wursten
male flower and flower buds
obtained from B. Wursten