Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Flora 27: 21 (1844).
Origin and geographic distribution
Chasmanthera dependens is widely distributed from Sierra Leone east to Eritrea and Somalia and south through eastern DR Congo and Tanzania to Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is commonly planted in home gardens, e.g. in Ghana.
In West Africa leaf and stem sap are locally applied to cure sprains and bruises, as a dressing for fractures or mixed with shea butter as an embrocation to treat pain and stiffness. The bark is chewed as a remedy for venereal discharges or as a general tonic for physical or nervous weakness in inflammatory and exhausting diseases. In Nigeria a stem maceration together with stems and roots of several other plants is drunk against convulsions. In Kenya the stem is roasted and eaten to treat convulsions in infants. In Uganda the plant is used against dementia, snakebites and epilepsy. A decoction of freshly pounded roots mixed with roots of Vernonia sp. is drunk to cure malaria. A decoction of pounded roots mixed with leaves of Tagetes sp. is drunk by children to treat cough. In DR Congo the leaf sap is applied as first aid to stop bleeding of wounds.
In Nigeria the fibrous stem is beaten and used as a sponge. In Ethiopia Borana pastoralists eat the roots and leaves.
Production and international trade
Several plant parts are commonly sold in local markets as a medicine.
The stem bark of Chasmanthera dependens is rich in alkaloids and contains the quaternary protoberberine alkaloids jateorrhizine, palmatine (berbericinine), columbamine, pseudicolumbamine, magnoflorine, and the non-phenolic quaternary alkaloids tetrahydropalmatine, liriodenine, lysicamine (oxonuceferine), O,O-dimethylcorytuberine, anonaine, glaucine, norglaucine, oxoglaucine and nornuceferine. It also contains the tetrahydroprotoberberine type alkaloids govanine and coreximine, the pavine type alkaloid bisnorargemonine and the morphinandienone type alkaloid pallidine, as well as the furanoid diterpene 8-hydroxycolumbine. Several of these alkaloids were also extracted from other species and were found to have interesting pharmacological effects. The roots contain berberine, which is reported to control leishmaniasis.
Methanol extracts of the dried leaves have shown significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Ethanol extracts and crude water extracts of the roots showed significant antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, Microsporum audonii, Trichoderma viride and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. The ethanol extracts of the plants were more active than the water extracts.
Dioecious liana; mature branches with papery exfoliating bark; young branchlets densely short-hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole 7–14 cm long; blade almost round to 3-angled, 7–20 cm × 7–20 cm, base cordate, apex obtuse to acuminate, margin entire or shallowly lobed, densely hairy, palmately 5–7-veined. Inflorescence a pendulous, axillary raceme or false raceme; male inflorescence a false raceme 10–30 cm long, composed of 3–5-flowered clusters; female inflorescence a raceme 10–18 cm long; bracts filiform, persistent. Flowers unisexual, regular; pedicel 3–6 mm long; sepals 6–9, 3 outer sepals lanceolate, up to 2 mm long, bract-like, hairy, inner sepals obovate, 2.5–3.5 mm long, with a tuft of hairs at apex; petals 6, obovate, 2–2.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm, fleshy, glabrous, greenish yellow; male flowers with 6 stamens 2.5–3 mm long, filaments largely fused; female flowers, with superior ovary, consisting of 3 ovoid carpels c. 2 mm long, united at apex by the recurved stigmas, staminodes 6, c. 1 mm long. Fruit composed of 3 ellipsoid and unequal-sided drupelets 1–2 cm × c. 1 cm, each drupelet 1-seeded. Seeds ovoid, 1–2 cm long, curved.
Other botanical information
Chasmanthera is closely related to Tinospora and Jateorhiza; these genera have been combined in the past. Chasmanthera is an African genus which comprises two species: Chasmanthera dependens and Chasmanthera welwitschii Troupin. The species appear to be ecologically different, although their areas of distribution overlap in the Central African Republic and intermediates have been found there. Further research is needed to decide if the 2 species should be combined into a single species.
Chasmanthera dependens occurs commonly in forest margins, savanna and secondary forest, often near rocks, but sometimes also in dense and moist evergreen forest, semi-deciduous forest and riverine forest, up to 1500 m altitude. It prefers well-drained soils with ample water and sun.
Propagation and planting
Chasmanthera dependens is propagated by seed and wildlings. The seeds remain dormant for 6 months.
In West Africa Chasmanthera dependens is sometimes cultivated as a medicinal plant, mainly in home gardens. It is found growing in cocoa plantations and is sometimes believed to reduce yields. It also hosts a medfly (Ceratitis sp.), which feeds on fruits.
Chasmanthera dependens is collected from the wild or home gardens.
Handling after harvest
The fresh leaves are ground and the leaf juice is used immediately or kept for further use on sprains or bruises. The stem bark may be used fresh or roasted. It may also be dried and kept for later use.
Chasmanthera dependens is widespread and common and is not in danger of genetic erosion.
Chasmanthera dependens is widely used in traditional medicine, but very few pharmacological tests have been done. Pharmacological tests on the alkaloids present in Chasmanthera dependens, but obtained from other species, indicate that additional research is warranted.
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Sources of illustration
• Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Mosango, D.M., 2008. Chasmanthera dependens Hochst. 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, drupelet.
Source: Flore analytique du Bénin
male flowering stem
part of young infructescence
opened fruit with seed