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Caesalpinia benthamiana (Baill.) Herend. & Zarucchi

Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 77(4): 854 (1990).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae).
Mezoneuron benthamianum Baill. (1866).
Origin and geographic distribution
Caesalpinia benthamiana is widespread in West and Central Africa, where it occurs from Senegal to Gabon.
In Senegal an infusion of the dried roots is drunk or used as a bath against general malaise. In Senegal, Guinea and Nigeria a decoction of roots, bark and leaves is used to cure urethral discharge. In Guinea the young leaves are chewed as a depurative and masticatory. In Côte d’Ivoire Caesalpinia benthamiana stem liquid is dropped in the eye to cure inflammation and cataract. In Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria stems and roots are used for dental hygiene, to sooth toothache and as an aphrodisiac. Leaves are applied as a paste to treat snakebites. In Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana wounds, skin infections, piles and ulcers are treated with a watery macerate of leafy twigs, mashed-up leaves or leaf ash. The leaves are mildly laxative and used to cure colic. Patients suffering from hookworm or Guinea worm eat the young leaves as a treatment. Patients suffering from impotence related to venereal diseases are prescribed a macerate of leafy twigs. A root decoction is drunk to cure dysentery. The roots are added to palm wine to increase the strength or its aphrodisiac properties.
In Gambia Caesalpinia benthamiana is grown in garden fences to make them impenetrable. When cut the stems yield drinking water.
Gallic acid and gallate derivatives have been isolated from the leaves of Caesalpinia benthamiana. Gallic acid and its methyl ester (methylgallate) inhibit the growth of both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, but the other gallate derivatives only suppress Gram-positive bacteria. Petroleum spirit, chloroform and ethanol extracts of the roots of Caesalpinia benthamiana showed antimicrobial activity on a range of organisms. Also, a 4-fold and 2-fold potentiation of the activity of norfloxacin, a standard antibiotic against Staphylococcus aureus, was observed for the ethanol and petroleum spirit extracts, respectively. The petroleum spirit and chloroform extracts display strong free radical scavenging activity.
Climbing or straggling shrub with stems up to 20 m long and up to 8 cm in diameter, armed with recurved spines. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound, with 5–6 pairs of pinnae; stipules small, inconspicuous; petiole 5–10 cm long, swollen at base, rachis 15–20 cm long with recurved spines, especially at base of pinnae; leaflets alternate, c. 5 pairs per pinna, elliptical, 3–4 cm × 1.5–2.5 cm, base and apex rounded, glabrous. Inflorescence a branched or unbranched terminal raceme up to 20 cm long, hairy, densely flowered. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous; pedicel 5–10 mm long; sepals free, unequal, the lower one hood-shaped and embracing the others; petals free, unequal, 2–2.5 cm wide, yellow, the upper one larger; stamens 10, free, c. 11 mm long, hairy; ovary superior, style slender. Fruit a linear-oblong, flattened pod c. 10 cm × 2–2.5 cm, thin, reflexed, indehiscent, winged along upper suture, wing 3–5 mm wide, bright red to pink, 4–6-seeded.
Caesalpinia is pantropical and comprises about 200 species, the majority of them native to tropical America. In tropical Africa about 25 species are indigenous, naturalized or cultivated. The generic delimitations of Caesalpinia have long been disputed. The former genus Mezoneuron, distinguished by the thin, winged pods, is now included as subgenus Mezoneuron within Caesalpinia. Caesalpinia hildebrandtii (Vatke) Baill. is endemic to Madagascar, and is used to counteract poison. Caesalpinia cucullata Roxb., a medicinal plant from Asia, has been introduced in Tanzania where it is used to cure convulsion and cramps. Piceatannol, trans-resveratrol, apigenin and scirpusin A have been isolated from it. The hydroxystilbenes piceatannol and trans-resveratrol have been shown to act as chemopreventive agents of cancer.
Caesalpinia benthamiana is found in humid and ruderal localities in dry deciduous woodland and savanna, but is especially common in gallery forest and on roadsides.
Genetic resources and breeding
Caesalpinia benthamiana is widespread in disturbed habitats and is apparently not threatened by overexploitation. As the main interest is in the leaves, sustainable exploitation is feasible.
The traditional medicinal uses of Caesalpinia benthamiana were linked to its pharmacological properties only recently. Caesalpinia benthamiana and its closest relatives are potential sources of compounds that can overcome bacterial multidrug resistance, and so are likely to become or remain of interest for pharmacologists.
Major references
• Berhaut, J., 1975. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 4. Ficoidées à Légumineuses. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 625 pp.
• Binutu, O.A. & Cordell, G.A., 2000. Gallic acid derivatives from Mezoneuron benthamianum leaves. Pharmaceutical Biology 38(3): 284–286.
• Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
• Dickson, R.A., Houghton, P.J., Hylands, P.J. & Gibbons, S., 2006., 2006. Antimicrobial, resistance-modifying effects, antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of Mezoneuron benthamianum Baill., Securinega virosa Roxb. & Willd. and Microglossa pyrifolia Lam. Phytotherapy Research 20(1): 41–45.
• Keay, R.W.J., Hoyle, A.C. & Duvigneaud, P., 1958. Caesalpiniaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 439–484.
Other 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.
• Adjanohoun, E.J. & Aké Assi, L., 1979. Contribution au recensement des plantes médicinales de Côte d’Ivoire. Centre National de Floristique, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 358 pp.
• du Puy, D.J., Labat, J.N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J., 2002. The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 750 pp.
• Herendeen, P.S. & Zarucchi, J.L., 1990. Validation of Caesalpinia subgenus Mezoneuron (Desf.) Vidal and new combinations in Caesalpinia for two species of Mezoneuron from Africa. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 77(4): 854–855.
• Jain, S.K., 1991. Dictionary of Indian folk medicine and ethnobotany: a reference manual of man - plant relationships, ethnic groups and ethnobotanists in India. Vedams Books, New Delhi, India. 311 pp.
• Lee, S.K., Mbwambo, Z.H., Chung, H., Luyengi, L., Gamez, E.J., Mehta, R.G., Kinghorn, A.D. & Pezzuto, J.M., 1998. Evaluation of the antioxidant potential of natural products. Combinatorial Chemistry and High Throughput Screening 1(1): 35–46.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Tra Bi, F.H., Kouamé, F.N. & Traoré, D., 2005. Utilisation of climbers in two forest reserves in West Côte d’Ivoire. In: Bongers, F., Parren, M.P.E. & Traoré, D. (Editors). Forest climbing plants of West Africa. Diversity, ecology and management. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, United Kingdom. pp. 167–181.
• Wilczek, R., Léonard, J., Hauman, L., Hoyle, A.C., Steyaert, R., Gilbert, G. & Boutique, R., 1952. Caesalpiniaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 3. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 234–554.
C.H. Bosch
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:
Bosch, C.H., 2007. Caesalpinia benthamiana (Baill.) Herend. & Zarucchi. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
flowering branch
obtained from
W.D. Hawthorne