Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Syst. veg. 3: 884 (1826).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Andrachne aspera occurs throughout northern Africa east through the Arabian peninsula to Turkey, Pakistan and India. In tropical Africa it occurs in Cape Verde and from Cameroon east to Somalia and Kenya.
In Ethiopia the roots are eaten as an anti-emetic. An extract of the aerial parts is drunk as a poison antidote, and to treat headache and stomach-ache. In Pakistan and India a decoction of the bitter root is used as eye drops to treat eye infections and improve eyesight.
From the aerial parts a number of piperidine alkaloids were isolated: aspertine A–D, andrachcinine, andrachcinidine, andrachamine, andrachcine, as well as the alkaloids (+)-allosedridine, (–)-8-epi-8-ethylnorlobelol I and (–)-8-epihalosaline. Terpenes isolated from the aerial parts are lupeol acetate, α-amyrin, β-amyrin, α-taraxerol, stigmasterol, β-stigmasterol, lupeol, oleanolic acid and germanicol.
In preliminary laboratory tests, an alcoholic extract of the aerial parts showed stimulatory activity on respiration and blood pressure of dogs and cats. It also showed spasmolytic activity on isolated guinea-pig ileum and rat ileum, as well as antihistaminic activity on guinea-pig ileum. Root extracts showed significant antibacterial activity against several human pathogens, but methanol extracts of the aerial parts were inactive. Toxicity studies with rats showed low toxicity.
Monoecious, prostrate or decumbent perennial herb up to 35 cm tall; stems hairy. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules oblong to lanceolate, c. 1 mm long; petiole 1–10 (–15) mm long; blade broadly ovate to almost kidney-shaped, 0.5–1.5(–2.5) cm in diameter, base rounded to shallowly cordate, apex rounded to notched, glabrous to sparingly short-hairy above, short-hairy beneath. Inflorescence axillary; male inflorescence a few-flowered fascicle, female flowers solitary. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5(–6)-merous; male flowers with pedicel 1.5–2 mm long, sepals oblanceolate-oblong, c. 1.5 mm long, slightly toothed at apex, yellowish green with membranaceous margins, petals rhombic-elliptical, c. 1 mm long, acute, white, disk glands kidney-shaped, flattened, stamens c. 1 mm long, free or fused in the lower third; female flowers with pedicel c. 2 mm long, extending to 4–8 mm in fruit, sepals lanceolate, c. 2 mm long, almost acute, green with narrow membranaceous margins, petals subulate, c. 1 mm long, acute, whitish, disk glands free, fleshy, ovary superior, c. 1 mm in diameter, shallowly 6-lobed, densely short-hairy, styles 3, c. 0.5 mm long, apex 2-fid. Fruit a deeply 3-lobed capsule 2–2.5 mm × c. 3.5 mm, sparingly short-hairy, dull green or purplish tinged, 6-seeded. Seeds irregularly compressed-trigonous, c. 2 mm × 1.5 mm, greyish brown, minutely whitish warty.
Andrachne comprises about 45 species and occurs throughout the tropics and subtropics; 2 species occur in Madagascar and 6 in continental Africa, 2 of which extend their distribution area to Pakistan.
Andrachne aspera occurs in open dry woodland or bushland and in dry, sandy or stony river beds, from sea-level up to 2000(–2400) m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Andrachne aspera is extremely widespread and there are no signs that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
Although the roots of Andrachne aspera are used medicinally, nothing is known about their chemistry and pharmacology. The aerial parts were active in preliminary pharmacological tests, but it is not known whether the alkaloids and terpenes in the aerial parts are associated with these activities. Further research is justified on both the roots and aerial parts of the species.
• Geyid, A., Abebe, D., Debella, A., Makonnen, Z., Aberra, F., Teka, F., Kebede, T., Urga, K., Yersaw, K., Biza, T., Haile Mariam, B. & Guta, M., 2005. Screening of some medicinal plants of Ethiopia for their anti-microbial properties and chemical profiles. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 97(3): 421–427.
• Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
• Mill, S. & Hootelé, C., 2000. Alkaloids of Andrachne aspera. Journal of Natural Products 63(6): 762–764.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.
• Ikram, M. & Haq, I., 1980. Screening of medicinal plants for antimicrobial activity. Part II. Fitoterapia 51(6): 281–284.
• Kamal, A., 2001. Studies in the chemical constituents of Andrachne aspera Spreng. (Euphorbiaceae). PhD thesis, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. 175 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2008. Andrachne aspera Spreng. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.