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Albertisia villosa (Exell) Forman

Kew Bull. 30(1): 84 (1975).
Epinetrum villosum (Exell) Troupin (1962).
Origin and geographic distribution
Albertisia villosa occurs in Gabon, Congo, DR Congo and Cabinda (Angola).
In DR Congo a root bark decoction is taken to treat malaria and a root decoction to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. The crushed leaves are applied to burned skin and ground leaves as a haemostatic to wounds. Albertisia villosa is considered to have abortive activity.
Production and international trade
In DR Congo Albertisia villosa is commonly sold in local markets as a medicine.
The root bark of Albertisia villosa contains the bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids cycleanine, cocsoline and norcycleanine, of which cycleanine is the most abundant (85%). Aqueous and methanol extracts of the root have shown strong antibacterial properties in in-vitro screening tests. The methanol extract was also effective against castor-oil-induced diarrhoea in mice. In-vitro tests of cycleanine and the alkaloidal extract of the root bark revealed potent antibacterial, antifungal, antiplasmodial, and cytotoxic activities. Cycleanine was found to cause inhibition of 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate-induced ear tumours in rat. These results may partly explain and support the use of Albertisia villosa root bark for the treatment of malaria and other infectious diseases in traditional medicine in DR Congo.
Dioecious liana; branches red-hairy. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 3–10 cm long, hairy; blade ovate, 9–20 cm × 6–18 cm, base cordate, apex long-acuminate, hairy at both sides, pinnately veined with 4–5 pairs of lateral veins but also with 5–7 basal veins. Male inflorescence an axillary 2–5-flowered cyme with short peduncle, female flowers solitary. Flowers unisexual, regular, nearly sessile; male flowers with 9 sepals, 6 outer sepals lanceolate, up to 10 mm long, very hairy, 3 inner sepals lanceolate to ovate, 6–10 mm × 2–4 mm, leathery, hairy, petals absent or 6 and very small, stamens up to 30, fused into a staminal column up to 1 mm long, anthers fused into a conical head 1.5–4 mm long; female flowers with 9–12 sepals, the outer 6–9 lanceolate, up to 10 mm long, very hairy, the 3 inner ones c. 7 mm long, petals 6, 1–2.5 mm × 1.5–3 mm, deeply cordate, with a tuft of red hairs at apex, ovary superior, consisting of 8–12 carpels 3–5 mm long, densely reddish hairy. Fruit composed of 2–6 ellipsoid drupes, each 3–4.5 cm × 2.5–3 cm, densely hairy, 1-seeded. Seeds ellipsoid, 2–2.5 cm × 1–1.5 cm.
Albertisia comprises 18 species, 13 in Africa and 5 in tropical Asia. Another species that occurs in Congo, DR Congo and Angola (and maybe also in Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania) is Albertisia undulata (Hiern) Forman, which is also used as an abortifacient in DR Congo. Crushed leaves in palm oil are applied to treat wounds.
Albertisia villosa occurs in dense humid forest, also in secondary forest and in gallery forest at low to medium altitudes.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although the habitat of Albertisia villosa is shrinking, there are no indications that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
Because of the potent antiplasmodial, bactericidal, cytotoxic and fungicidal activities of its main active ingredient cycleanine, further research on medicinal applications of Albertisia villosa is warranted.
Major references
• Lohombo-Ekomba, M.L., Okusa, P.N., Penge, O., Kabongo, C., Choudhary, M.I. & Kasende, O.E., 2004. Antibacterial, antifungal, antiplasmodial, and cytotoxic activities of Albertisia villosa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 93(2–3): 331–335.
• Longanga-Otshudi, A., Vercruysse, A. & Foriers, A., 2000. Contribution to the ethnobotanical, phytochemical and pharmacological studies of traditionally used medicinal plants in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea in Lomela area, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71(3): 411–423.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Troupin, G., 1951. Menispermaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 2. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 202–255.
• Troupin, G., 1962. Monographie des Menispermaceae africaines. Mémoires in-8. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, Classe des Sciences Naturelles et Médicales, Nouvelle série 8(2), Brussels, Belgium. 313 pp.
Other references
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
• Longanga-Otshudi, A., Apers, S., Pieters, L., Claeys, M., Pannecouque, C., De Clerck, E., Van Zeebrouck, A., Lauwers, S., Frédérich, M. & Foriers, A., 2005. Biologically active bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids of the root bark of Epinetrum villosum. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 102: 89–94.
• Longanga-Otshudi, A., Foriers, A., Vercruysse, A., Van Zeebroeck, A. & Lauwers, S., 2000. In vitro antimicrobial activity of six medicinal plants traditionally used for the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Phytomedicine 7(2): 167–172.
• Wome, B., 1985. Recherches ethnopharmacognosiques sur les plantes médicinales utilisées en médecine traditionnelle à Kisangani (Haut-Zaïre). PhD thesis, Faculty of Sciences, University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium. 561 pp.
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
de Ruijter, A., 2008. Albertisia villosa (Exell) Forman. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.