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Anthocleista djalonensis A.Chev.

Bull. Soc. Bot. France 54: 47 (1908).
Loganiaceae (APG: Gentianaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 60
Anthocleista kerstingii Gilg ex Volkens (1909).
Vernacular names
Cabbage tree (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Anthocleista djalonensis occurs from Guinea Bissau east to Cameroon.
Anthocleista djalonensis is widely used throughout its distribution area as a strong purgative and diuretic. A root decoction is commonly taken to treat constipation, to regulate menstruation and as an abortifacient. It is used as a wash or bath or as a vapour bath to treat leprosy, venereal diseases, oedema and scrotal elephantiasis. A root infusion is taken to treat intestinal problems, acute inflammations and boils on the skin. In Mali a root maceration is taken alone or with honey to treat malaria and a root decoction or root powder in porridge is taken to treat abdominal pain. A root decoction is also taken to treat hernia of the groin. In southern Nigeria a decoction of the roots with potash is taken to treat fungal skin infections and filarial worm infections, including loa loa filariasis. A tea made from the chopped soft root bark soaked in water is taken to treat thrush. An alcoholic leaf extract is taken to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. In Sierra Leone a decoction of dry fallen leaves is drunk to treat jaundice. In Guinea Bissau a bark infusion is used to treat broken bones in women. In Côte d’Ivoire the Attié people use an extract of twig bark as eye drops to treat diarrhoea in babies. Powdered stem bark mixed with the roots of Aloe buettneri A.Berger is taken to treat hepatitis, jaundice and cirrhosis.
The bark of Anthocleista djalonensis contains the quinoline alkaloid brucine and the monoterpene glycoside loganoside (loganine). Brucine is a strychnine derivative. In chemistry, brucine and strychnine are commonly used as agents for chiral resolution. Loganoside plays an important role in the partial synthesis of alkaloids such as quinine, reserpine and strychnine. The root bark contains irlbacholine, which tested positive for antifungal activity against the pathogens Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus and Trichophyton rubrum. Irlbacholine has been synthesized chemically. The plant also contains triterpenes, the monoterpene-diol djalonenol, the dibenzo-pyrone djalonensone, the iridoid glycosides sweroside (djalonenoside) and amplexine and the xanthone lichexanthone. The stem bark contains the phthalide djalonensin. The cold water and ethanol extracts of the roots have antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. An aqueous extract of Anthocleista djalonensis showed a hypertensive effect in cats and increases the tone and amplitude of rabbit duodenal movement. An alcoholic leaf extract showed in-vitro antispasmodic and smooth muscle relaxant activities.
Adulterations and substitutes
Several Anthocleista species are used for similar medicinal purposes and may be used as a substitute for Anthocleista djalonensis. When sold on the market it is very difficult to differentiate between the dried bark of the different species.
Small tree up to 15 m tall; bole up to 40 cm in diameter; twigs sometimes with 2 erect spines or small cushions above the leaf axils. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole 1–9 cm long, auricled; blade oblong-elliptical to obovate-elliptical, 9–35 cm × 5–17 cm, in young plants up to 115 cm × 50 cm, base cordate, rounded or cuneate, apex rounded. Inflorescence an erect terminal dichasial cyme, 15–50 cm long, many-flowered; peduncle and branches greenish white or pale green and with darker green dots, thickened at the nodes. Flowers bisexual, regular; sepals 4, free, orbicular, 6–10 mm long; corolla with cylindrical tube 20–32 mm long, lobes 11–14, oblong-lanceolate, 10–18 mm long, spreading, white or creamy; stamens as many as corolla lobes and alternating with them, exserted, filaments fused into a ring, anthers creamy or pale yellow; ovary superior, obovoid, 6–7 mm × 3–4 mm, 4-celled, stigma obovoid-cylindrical, apically 2-lobed. Fruit an ellipsoid berry 3.5–5 cm × 2–3.5 cm, rounded at the apex, thick-walled, dark green, many-seeded. Seeds obliquely ovoid, 2.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm × 1 mm, brown.
Other botanical information
Anthocleista comprises 14 species and occurs in tropical Africa, including Comoros and Madagascar. The 4 West African species have the same vernacular names and are used by local practitioners for the same medicinal purposes.
Growth and development
In Ghana Anthocleista djalonensis flowers in April and May, in Nigeria from March to May. Fruits occur in Nigeria in October and November.
Anthocleista djalonensis occurs in rather dry localities, in savanna or thickets, from sea-level up to 500 m altitude.
The leaves are collected from young trees or by climbing older ones. The bark is obtained by slashing or peeling with a cutlass. The roots are dug up when the soil is workable.
Handling after harvest
The collected material is dried in the sun and kept in wrappers or is pounded and made into balls. Sometimes, the plant material is powdered when dry.
Genetic resources
Anthocleista djalonensis grows sparsely in savanna areas and care should be taken to protect it from overexploitation. In Mali and Burkina Faso Anthocleista djalonensis is threatened because of uncontrolled harvesting for use in local medicine and a concerted effort is being undertaken to conserve the species. It is rare in Cameroon where its niche is occupied by Anthocleista schweinfurthii Gilg.
In view of the medicinal uses on record, more research into the chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the compounds of Anthocleista djalonensis seems warranted. In areas where Anthocleista djalonensis is rare, measures should be taken to propagate and protect the species.
Major references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Aké Assi, L., Floret, J.J., Guinko, S., Koumaré, M., Ahyi, M.R.A. & Raynal, J., 1979. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques au Mali. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 291 pp.
• Akubue, P.I., Mittal, G.C. & Aguwa, C.N., 1983. Preliminary pharmacological study of some Nigerian medicinal plants. 1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 8: 53–63.
• Bierer, D.E., Gerber, R.E., Jolad, S.D., Ubillas, R.P., Randle, J., Nauka, E. & Latour, J., 1995. Isolation, structure elucidation, and synthesis of Irlbacholine, 1,22-bis[[[2-(trimethylammonium)ethoxy]-phospinyl]oxy]docosane: a novel antifungal plant metabolite from Irlbachia alata and Anthocleista djalonensis. Journal of Organic Chemistry 60: 7022–7026.
• Jensen, S.R. & Schripsema, J., 2002. Chemotaxonomy and pharmacology of Gentianaceae. In: Struwe, L. & Albert, V. (Editors). Gentianaceae - Systematics and Natural History. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom. pp. 573–631.
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1961. The Loganiaceae of Africa. 1. Anthocleista. Acta Botanica Neerlandica 10: 1–53.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Okoli, A.S. & Iroegbu, C.U., 2004. Evaluation of extracts of Anthocleista djalonensis, Nauclea latifolia and Uvaria afzelii for activity against bacterial isolates from cases of non-gonococcal urethritis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 92: 135–144.
• Okorie, D.A., 1976. A new phthalide and xanthones from Anthocleista djalonensis and Anthocleista vogelii. Phytochemistry 15: 1799–1800.
• Onocha, P.A., Okorie, D.A., Connolly, J.D., Krebs, H.C., Meier, B. & Habermehl, G.G., 2003. Cytotoxic activity of the constituents of Anthocleista djalonensis and their derivatives. Nigerian Journal of Natural Products and Medicine 7: 58–60.
• Togola, A., Diallo, D., Dembélé, S., Barsett, H. & Paulsen, B.S., 2005. Ethnopharmacological survey of different uses of seven medicinal plants from Mali (West Africa) in the regions Doila, Kolokani and Siby. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 1: 7–15.
Other references
• Arbonnier, M., 2002. Arbres, arbustes et lianes des zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest. CIRAD, MNHN, UICN. 573 pp.
• Berhaut, J., 1979. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 6. Linacées à Nymphéacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 636 pp.
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1989. Trees of Nigeria. A revised version of Nigerian trees (1960, 1964) by R.W.J. Keay, C.F.A. Onochie and D.P. Stanfield. Clarendon Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. 476 pp.
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. (Editor), 1980. Angiospermae: Ordnung Gentiales. Fam. Loganiaceae. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien. Second Edition. Band 28 b-1. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, Germany. 255 pp.
• Onocha, P.A., Okorie, D.A., Connolly, J.D. & Roycroft, D.S., 1995. Monoterpene diol, iridoid glucoside and dibenzo-a-pyrone from Anthocleista djalonensis. Phytochemistry 40(4): 1183–1189.
Sources of illustration
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1961. The Loganiaceae of Africa. 1. Anthocleista. Acta Botanica Neerlandica 10: 1–53.
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
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
de Ruijter, A., 2007. Anthocleista djalonensis A.Chev. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, portion of branch; 2, part of flowering branch; 3, flower; 4, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

tree habit

leaves and inflorescences



fruit in transverse section