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Anthocleista nobilis G.Don

Gen. hist. 4: 68 (1838).
Loganiaceae (APG: Gentianaceae)
Vernacular names
Cabbage tree, cabbage palm (En). Anthocleista majestueux, arbre chou (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Anthocleista nobilis occurs from Senegal east to the Central African Republic. It possibly also occurs in Benin, Gabon and Congo.
Anthocleista nobilis 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, bath or vapour bath to treat leprosy, venereal diseases, oedema and scrotal elephantiasis. In Sierra Leone a decoction of the roots with lemon is taken to treat hepatitis.
Bark pulp is used as an enema to treat intestinal parasites. A bark decoction is taken or used as vapour bath to treat fever, stomach-ache, leprosy, gonorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea. In Senegal, Liberia and Ghana stem bark or powdered young green twigs are applied fresh or as a paste on wounds, abscesses or ulcerous wounds. In Côte d’Ivoire the Oubi people use a decoction of twig bark and leaves together with those of Thaumatococcus daniellii (Bennet) Benth. as nose drops to treat headache. Twig bark of Anthocleista nobilis and Zanthoxylum gilletii (De Wild.) P.G.Waterman made into a paste is applied locally to treat rheumatism. In Liberia a bark infusion is given to dogs with diarrhoea.
A poultice obtained by grinding young leaves with soil from a fireplace and water is believed to promote closure of the fontanelle in babies. A decoction of the leaves is taken to treat abdominal pain of uterine origin.
The wood is used for general carpentry, small implements and plywood. The spiny logs are used in Liberia to make falling traps for animals. In Ghana potash from the wood is used to make soap.
In the northern region of Côte d’Ivoire Anthocleista nobilis is planted to protect the soil against erosion.
Production and international trade
Dried bark and roots are sold in local markets. The timber is of some economic value. The seed and bark are exported from Ghana to industrial countries.
Anthocleista nobilis contains xanthones and secoiridoids such as anthocleistol. The bark 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. An alcoholic extract from the root bark has shown a hypoglycaemic effect. Hypotensive and hypoglycaemic activities in the treatment of obese adult diabetics with hypertension have been reported. The bark has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. The ethanol extract of the bark showed a relaxant effect on isolated guinea-pig ileum and antihepatotoxic activity in mice. Accidental poisoning has occurred with the following symptoms: colic, obstinate constipation, weakening of the stomach or spasm of the pylorus, fibrillary trembling, pronounced paleness of the skin and heart weakness.
The wood is creamy or yellowish white, somewhat lustrous, light weight and soft but firm, easy to cut and finishing smoothly; it is not resistant to decay. The grain is straight or irregular, texture moderately coarse.
Adulterations and substitutes
Several Anthocleista species are used for similar medicinal purposes and other West African Anthocleista species may be used as substitutes for Anthocleista nobilis. The dried bark of the different species is very difficult to differentiate when sold in the market.
Small to medium-sized tree up to 18(–30) m tall; bole branchless for up to 15 m long, up to 45(–90) cm in diameter; bark smooth, pale grey, inner bark cream-yellow and granular; twigs with 2 spines above the leaf axils. Leaves opposite, crowded at the end of branchlets, simple; petiole 1–6 cm long, auricled; blade oblong-elliptical, obovate-elliptical to oblanceolate, 7–35 cm × 4–12 cm, in young plants up to 150 cm × 25 cm, base long-decurrent, apex rounded, margin wavy and recurved. Inflorescence an erect terminal dichasial cyme 12–60 cm long, many-flowered; peduncle and branches creamy or green, thickened at the nodes. Flowers bisexual, regular; sepals 4, free, orbicular to ovate-elliptical, 7–10 mm long; corolla with cylindrical tube 30–45 mm long, fleshy, lobes 11–14, oblong-lanceolate, 9–12 mm long, obtuse to rounded, spreading, white; stamens as many as corolla lobes and alternating with them, exserted, filaments fused; ovary superior, obovoid, 6–7 mm × 3–4 mm, 4-celled. Fruit an ellipsoid berry 3–4 cm × 2–2.5 cm, thick-walled, green, many-seeded. Seeds obliquely ovoid-globose, 2–2.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm, dark brown.
Other botanical information
Anthocleista comprises 14 species and occurs in tropical Africa, including Comoros and Madagascar.
Growth and development
Anthocleista nobilis flowers throughout the year.
Anthocleista nobilis is a lower canopy tree of tropical rainforest and semi-deciduous forest. It is common in forest clearings, up to 1200 m altitude. It grows on well-drained soils with 1100–2000 mm annual rainfall, in regions where temperatures do not exceed 35°C.
Anthocleista nobilis is only rarely cultivated. However, in West Africa it is often left standing near houses for medicinal purposes.
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 nobilis is a common constituent of disturbed forest in large parts of West Africa and is not threatened by genetic erosion.
So far, no attempt has been made to cultivate Anthocleista nobilis for medicinal purposes. Improvement of the productivity of the plant and the development of management systems for its sustainable use are desirable. More research into the chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the compounds of Anthocleista nobilis seems warranted.
Major references
• Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
• FAO, 1986. Some medicinal forest plants of Africa and Latin America. FAO Forestry Paper 67. Rome, Italy. 252 pp.
• Jensen, S.R., 1992. Systematic implications of the distribution of iridoids and other chemical compounds in the Loganiaceae and other families of the Asteridae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 70: 284–302.
• 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.
• 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.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Madubunyi, I.I. & Asuzu, I.U., 1995. Pharmacological screening of Anthocleista nobilis root bark. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 34(1): 28–33.
Other references
• 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. & Debray, M., 1974. Plantes médicinales de la Côte d’Ivoire. Travaux et Documents No 32. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 231 pp.
• Dalziel, J.M., 1937. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 612 pp.
• Kerharo, J., 1971. Recherches ethnopharmacognosiques sur les plantes médicinales et toxiques de la pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Thèse de doctorat d’état, Faculté de Pharmacie, Bordeaux, France. 285 pp.
• Oliver-Bever, B., 1986. Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 375 pp.
Sources of illustration
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1961. The Loganiaceae of Africa. 1. Anthocleista. Acta Botanica Neerlandica 10: 1–53.
D.M. Mosango
c/o Laboratory of Natural Sciences, Lycée Français Jean Monnet de Bruxelles (LFB), Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Brussels, Belgium

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:
Mosango, D.M., 2007. Anthocleista nobilis G.Don. 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 bole; 2, portion of branch; 3, part of flowering branch; 4, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

tree habit



young trees

young trees