Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Syst. nat. 1: 514 (1818).
Origin and geographic distribution
Burasaia madagascariensis occurs throughout eastern Madagascar, from Antsiranana in the north to Toliara in the south. It also occurs on the Comoros, Réunion and Mauritius.
A tea prepared from the roots of Burasaia madagascariensis is one of the oldest medicines against malaria in Madagascar, and is also used to treat enlarged spleen and hepatic affections. A decoction of the root bark is taken as a cholagogue against nausea and retching. A leaf decoction is drunk against fever and gonorrhoea.
The bitter leaves and stem bark are added to alcoholic beverages drunk during circumcision ceremonies. The fruit is edible. The root yields a bright yellow dye.
From an alcohol extract of the stem N-acetylnornuciferine was isolated as were the clerodane-type diterpenes epicordatine and penianthic acid-methylester. From an alcohol extract of the wood the quaternary protoberberine alkaloids palmatine (burasaine), columbamine and jatrorrhizine were isolated. Palmatine was isolated also from the root. The root decoction has a slow-action antimalarial effect in humans. It causes a contraction of the spleen and is believed to force the Plasmodium parasites to stay in the bloodstream, where they can be controlled by smaller doses of chloroquine or quinine. Palmatine has mild DNA-binding properties. At high concentrations it has a very modest effect on the progression of the cell cycle, but does not promote DNA cleavage by topoisomerases.
The sap from the wood is irritant to the skin.
Dioecious shrub up to 4 m tall. Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate but usually simple at stem apex; petiole 7–14 cm long, swollen and bent at the apex; petiolule up to 1 cm long; leaflets elliptical, up to 10 cm long, base cuneate, apex acuminate, pinnately veined. Inflorescence a panicle in the leaf axils or on older stems. Flowers unisexual, small, pedicellate; sepals usually 9 in 3 whorls, pale green, fleshy; male flowers c. 4 mm long, stamens 6, filaments enlarged, triangular below, fleshy; female flowers with rudimentary stamens, ovary superior, composed of 3 free carpels c. 2.5 mm long. Fruit generally a single, ovoid, fleshy drupe c. 2 cm long, 1-seeded, pale yellow to pink or orange; stone hard and brittle. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons leafy and spreading.
Burasaia comprises about 5 species, all endemic to Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Revision of the genus may lead to the distinction of additional species. Burasaia madagascariensis is a variable species and easily confused with the other Burasaia spp. Burasaia congesta Decne. occurs in eastern Madagascar up to 1000 m altitude, Burasaia gracilis Decne. is endemic to northern Madagascar up to 1200 m altitude, and Burasaia australis Scott-Elliot is endemic to south-eastern Madagascar up to 700 m altitude. Burasaia nigrescens Capuron is also endemic to Madagascar. The roots of these Burasaia spp. are used for similar medicinal purposes as those of Burasaia madagascariensis. They yield a bright yellow dye. From the stem bark the protoberberine quaternary alkaloids palmatine, jatrorrhizine and columbamine were isolated, as well as clerodane diterpenes.
Burasaia madagascariensis is an adaptable species occurring in humid, intermediate and dry forest, from coastal sand dunes up to 1600 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Burasaia madagascariensis is common and widespread. There are no indications that it is in danger of genetic erosion.
The antimalarial properties of Burasaia species were studied and active compounds have been identified. Subsequently, research was discontinued probably because alternative sources of these compounds were available. However, the interaction of the Burasaia alkaloids and quinine or chloroquine deserves further study.
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Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2008. Burasaia madagascariensis DC. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.