Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Kew Bull. 43(2): 336 (1990).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Cassia falcinella Oliv. (1871).
Origin and geographic distribution
Chamaecrista falcinella occurs in DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda,Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
In Kenya a decoction of the pounded leaves of Chamaecrista falcinella is drunk as a remedy for rheumatism. Pounded leaves mixed with ghee are rubbed on the skin to promote healing of broken bones. In Tanzania pounded roots are mixed with water and drunk to treat diarrhoea.
No data have been published on the properties of Chamaecrista falcinella. Several interesting compounds with pharmacological activities have been isolated from other Chamaecrista spp.
Annual or perennial herb up to 60 cm tall. Leaves alternate, paripinnate with 5–17 pairs of leaflets; stipules falcate, slightly cordate at base; petiole with sessile gland, rachis without gland; leaflets sessile, elliptical, up to 17 mm × 3 mm, midrib asymmetrical, apex acute with prickle-like point bent sideways. Inflorescence a 1–3-flowered raceme. Flowers bisexual, nearly regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1–2.5 cm long, hairy; sepals acute, pubescent; petals obovate, up to 10 mm long, yellow; stamens 8–10; ovary superior, 1-celled, style curved. Fruit a pod up to 4.5 cm × 0.5 cm. Seeds rhombic, c. 3 mm long.
Chamaecrista comprises about 250 species with about 40 species in continental Africa, and 10 in Madagascar, 6 of them endemic. Chamaecrista falcinella is variable, and several varieties are distinguished.
Chamaecrista zambesica (Oliv.) Lock (synonym: Chamaecrista hildebrandtii (Vatke) Lock) is also used in traditional medicine. In Kenya the leaves and roots are used as a cathartic against the intestinal protozoal parasite Giardia lamblia. Laboratory tests confirmed the lethal effect on the parasite. Chamaecrista lateriticola (R.Vig.) Du Puy is endemic to Madagascar, where a leaf infusion is taken against stomach-ache.
Chamaecrista falcinella is found mainly in grassland at 1000–1800 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Chamaecrista falcinella is widely distributed and hence not threatened with genetic erosion. It is not present in major germplasm collections.
In view of its medicinal uses, the complete lack of chemical and pharmacological data and the medicinal properties of other Chamaecrista species, research on the properties of Chamaecrista falcinella may prove worthwhile.
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1967. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 230 pp.
• Johns, T., Faubert, G.M., Kokwaro, J.O., Mahunnah, R.L.A. & Kimanani, E.K., 1995. Anti-giardial activity of gastrointestinal remedies of the Luo of East Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 46: 17–23.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Gereau, R.E. & Walters, G.M., 2003. Chamaecrista mwangokae (Fabaceae, Caesalpinioideae), a new species from the southern highlands of Tanzania. Novon 13(4): 438–442.
• Lock, J.M., 1990. Cassia sens.lat. (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae) in Africa. Kew Bulletin 43(2): 333–342.
• Ross, J.H., 1977. Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Ross, J.H. (Editor). Flora of southern Africa. Volume 16, part 2. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agricultural Technical Services, Pretoria, South Africa. 142 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Chamaecrista falcinella (Oliv.) Lock. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.