Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
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.
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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.