Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Cat. afr. pl. 1: 291 (1896).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Cassia angolensis occurs naturally in DR Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique. In South Africa it is planted as an ornamental.
In Tanzania a root decoction of Cassia angolensis is drunk as a remedy for venereal diseases, and the fresh leaves are eaten as a cough remedy. The wood is used as firewood, as a source of charcoal and to make tool handles and spoons. The tree is planted for shade and as an ornamental.
The stem bark of Cassia angolensis contains the anthraquinones chrysophanol, emodin and physcion.
Medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall, deciduous, with straight bole; bark brown, smooth, scaling; young branches almost glabrous to shortly hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, paripinnately compound with 10–13 pairs of leaflets; stipules linear, 1.5 mm long, caducous; petiole and rachis 11–30 cm long; leaflets oblong-elliptical, 3.5–4 cm × 1.5–2 cm, apex emarginate, shortly hairy. Inflorescence an axillary raceme up to 12 cm long, c. 20-flowered; bracts soon falling. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous; sepals rounded at apex; petals unequal, 2–3 cm long, golden-yellow; stamens (9–)10, the 3 lower ones largest, curved and sterile, 4 middle ones fertile, 3 upper ones rudimentary; ovary superior, linear, curved, glabrous, up to 2 cm long. Fruit a cylindrical pod up to 70 cm long, transversely partitioned, indehiscent, up to 60-seeded. Seeds compressed obovoid-cylindrical, 8–10 mm × 5–9 mm, brown. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Until the early 1980s, Cassia was considered a very large genus of about 550 species, but was then split into 3 genera: Cassia s.s. with about 30 species, Chamaecrista and Senna. Cassia mannii Oliv. is very similar to Cassia angolensis but has white or pink petals, the leaflets are not distinctly emarginate and the margin of the leaflets is pubescent. Cassia mannii occurs from Côte d’Ivoire southwards to Gabon and eastwards to Sudan and Uganda. In Congo an infusion of the bark is taken to cure bronchial problems and the crushed seeds are applied to skin scarifications to treat neuralgia. The bark is used for tanning and the heartwood is handsome, hard, heavy and tough and is suitable for turning and polishing. Two other Cassia species occurring in the Guineo-Congolian rainforest zone, Cassia fikifiki Aubrév. & Pellegr. and Cassia aubrevillei Pellegr., are both reported to have medicinal uses. However, all uses on record are from western Côte d’Ivoire and from Liberia where Cassia aubrevillei does not occur and hence, the uses should probably be attributed to Cassia fikifiki. Water or palm-wine extracts of the stem bark and roots of Cassia fikifiki are drunk to treat river blindness (onchocerciasis). A decoction of the bark is used for washing leprosy patients and dry powdered bark is sprinkled on wounds to promote healing. The dried bark dissolved in palm wine is taken to cure stomach-ache. To treat dizziness ash of burned pods is mixed with water and applied to the eyelids. The bark contains chrysophanol, aloe-emodin, physcion and rhein. The alcoholic extract of the bark showed significant microfilaricidal activity in vitro. Cassia aubrevillei and Cassia fikifiki are included in the IUCN Red List of endangered species as vulnerable and endangered, respectively.
Cassia angolensis occurs in lowland rainforest at 800–1100 m altitude.
Cassia angolensis is only cultivated for its ornamental value.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Cassia angolensis is fairly widespread there is no threat of genetic erosion or extinction.
Cassia angolensis will probably remain of local importance only as a medicinal plant.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2007. Cassia angolensis Welw. ex Hiern. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.