Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Journ. Bot. 2: 327 (1864).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
n = 13
West African hardwood, Yoruba ironwood, fever leaf (En). Mkarati (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Bridelia atroviridis occurs from Sierra Leone east to Ethiopia and south to Angola and Mozambique.
Throughout West Africa a bark infusion or maceration is drunk as a purgative and diuretic, to treat urethral discharges, fever, abdominal pain, dysentery, diarrhoea and rheumatic pain. The bark infusion is also used as a mouth wash to treat thrush in children and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are also purgative and sudorific, and are taken in decoction to treat diarrhoea and fever. The leaf infusion is also used for bathing and as vapour baths. In DR Congo a bark macerate or decoction of bark scrapings is taken to treat cough, asthma and venereal diseases. The mouth is rinsed with a twig or root bark maceration to treat caries.
In Nigeria, DR Congo and Uganda the leaves are used as food for African silkworm larvae (Anaphe spp.). The wood is used in house building, for tool handles and wooden spoons, and as fuelwood. In southern Nigeria the seeds are reported to be eaten. The roots are used as chew sticks. In Togo the bark is used to produce dyes of different colours, using various mordants to achieve the desired colour.
Production and international trade
In Nigeria the bark of Bridelia atroviridis is sold in markets in the form of pale soft pieces with weak prickles. The bark from all Bridelia spp. has similar medicinal uses in West Africa. In Nigeria 1 kg of bark is sold for US$ 1.30–1.50, and between 1999 and 2003 the estimated value of marketed Bridelia bark was c. US$ 146,000. Regional trade values are not known, but considerable amounts of bark are transported.
Bridelia atroviridis contains triterpenes, flavonoids and tannins, but the exact chemical composition has not been determined. The total tannin content of the bark is about 31%.
The methanol extract of the root showed toxicity to the freshwater snail Bulinus globosus and also reduced the number of eggs laid. The extract showed moderate toxicity to the freshwater snails Biomphalaria glabrata and Archachatina marginata. The alcohol extract of different plant parts showed depressive effects on mitotic division in onion (Allium cepa L.). A lyophilized leaf decoction caused a decrease of arterial pressure and a decrease of heart rate in rats. The extract did not appear to interact with adrenergic receptors or with cholinergic receptors and might act through potential-dependent calcium channels.
The aqueous leaf extract induced contractions of the isolated rat uterus in a dose-dependent manner.
The heartwood is dark brown, very hard and durable.
Adulterations and substitutes
In West Africa the bark of all Bridelia spp. is used and traded in a similar way as that of Bridelia atroviridis.
Deciduous, much-branched, monoecious shrub or tree up to 12(–20) m tall; bole up to 45 cm in diameter; bark pale grey, smooth or rough; branches spiny, twigs brown to dark purplish brown, young shoots shortly hairy to glabrous. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules narrowly lanceolate, 3–8 mm long, acuminate, soon falling; petiole 2–8 mm long, shortly hairy; blade elliptical to oblanceolate, (2–)6–12(–22) cm × (1–)3–10 cm, base rounded to cuneate or almost truncate, apex acuminate, membranous, sparingly shortly hairy along the midvein, pinnately veined, with 10–22 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary fascicle; bracts ovate, acute, keeled, shortly hairy. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1–2 mm long; sepals ovate to triangular, c. 2 mm long, acuminate, greenish or pink to reddish; male flowers with obtriangular, spoon-shaped petals, c. 0.5 mm long, irregularly toothed in upper half, disk annular, entire, glabrous, staminal column c. 1 mm long, anthers c. 1 mm long, rudimentary pistil flask-shaped, c. 1 mm long, apex 2-fid; female flower with elliptical to rhombic petals c. 1 mm long, almost entire, shortly hairy, disk 3-lobed, lobes triangular, c. 1 mm long, toothed at apex, ovary superior, ovoid, 2-celled, styles 2, c. 1 mm long, stigma 2-fid. Fruit a small, ovoid drupe 6–8 mm × 5–6 mm, 1-celled by abortion, indehiscent, greenish, ripening blackish, smooth becoming rough when dry; pyrene c. 4 mm long, smooth, shiny, chestnut-brown, 1-seeded.
Other botanical information
Bridelia is paleotropical and comprises about 50 species, of which about 15 species occur in tropical Africa and 3 in Madagascar. Most Bridelia spp. in Africa have medicinal uses, but they are more important for their fruit, timber or fuel. Bridelia brideliifolia (Pax) Fedde occurs at higher altitudes in DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi and is only used for medicinal purposes. In DR Congo the crushed stem bark or root bark in water is given as an enema or taken orally as a purgative to treat intestinal worms. To stimulate digestion the root and twig powder is sniffed. The sap of leafy twigs is drunk to treat elephantiasis. A leaf decoction is used as an enema to hasten childbirth. An infusion of the twig bark or a leaf and root maceration is taken to treat insanity. In DR Congo and Tanzania leaf powder or cooked roots with chicken is eaten or leaf sap is used as an enema to treat female infertility. In Rwanda a leaf extract is drunk to treat gastro-intestinal problems, gastric ulcers and migraine. A leaf or bark decoction of Bridelia ripicola J.Léonard, endemic to DR Congo, is taken as a purgative to treat stomach-ache, diarrhoea, liver problems and also to treat female sterility. The crushed bark is used to colour pottery red. A leafy stem decoction of Bridelia pervilleana Baill., endemic to Madagascar, is taken to treat syphilis.
Growth and development
In Benin Bridelia atroviridis fruits from August to November.
Bridelia atroviridis occurs in secondary forest, forest edges, associated bushland and thickets, also near lakes and rivers, from sea-level up to 1700 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Bridelia atroviridis is propagated by seed. Mature seeds are dried and stored in air-tight containers at room temperature. Two to three weeks after planting the germination rate is 50–60%. Propagation by stem cuttings is possible.
Bridelia atroviridis stands occur only in the wild; it has not been domesticated or planted on a large scale. Some wild populations are protected from destruction by annual bush fires through weeding, but further information on cultivation and management is lacking.
Bark and fresh leaves are regularly harvested for medicinal preparations and roots for use as chew stick. Bark pieces are peeled off the bole and bark strips are removed from branches throughout the year. Roots are harvested especially during the rainy season when the ground is soft for digging. Harvesting activities are locally done in a sustainable way, ensuring that the trees are not killed. The fruits or seeds are rarely collected.
Handling after harvest
The harvested bark and roots are thoroughly sun dried for 3–4 days. After drying, the materials are packed in jute bags and stored until they can be taken to the markets.
In West Africa Bridelia atroviridis is widely harvested for its bark and for firewood production. Although some wild populations are more or less protected from bush fires, the numbers are diminishing and the genetic diversity could become threatened in the future.
The bark of Bridelia atroviridis is widely used for medicinal purposes and is sold in local markets. Although some pharmacological tests have been done, virtually nothing is known on the chemical composition. More phytochemical and pharmacological research is needed to evaluate the potential of the species. Silvicultural studies are needed to promote its domestication and develop management techniques.
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• Adebisi, A.A., Ladipo D.O. & Oyeleke, G.O., 2003. Market survey and price evaluation of some phytomedicinal trees and plants in Southwest Nigeria. CENRAD Development Series. CENRAD, Ibadan, Nigeria.
• Adewunmi, C.O., Segun, O. & Ashaolu, S.O., 1983. The effect of prolonged administration of low concentrations of Bridelia atroviridis methanolic extractive on the development of Bulinus globulus. International Journal of Crude Drug Research 20(3): 101–111.
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• Corallo, A., Savineau, J.P., Tricoche, R. & Foungbe, S., 1991. The uterotonic action of the aqueous extract of Bridelia atroviridis in the rat. Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology 5(4): 319–329.
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• Chifundera, K., 2001. Contribution to the inventory of medicinal plants from the Bushi area, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fitoterapia 72: 351–368.
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Sources of illustration
• Carter, S. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1988. Euphorbiaceae (part 2). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. pp. 409–597.
Correct citation of this article:
Adebisi, A.A. & Ladipo, D.O., 2007. Bridelia atroviridis Müll.Arg. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, part of male flowering branch; 2, male flower; 3, female flower; 4, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin
obtained from B. Wursten
obtained from B. Wursten