Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Fl. Seneg. tent. 1: 11 (1831).
Cissampelos pareira L. var. mucronata (A.Rich.) Engl. (1899).
Orelha de rato (Po). Kishiki cha buga (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cissampelos mucronata is distributed throughout tropical Africa, except the most humid areas, from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south to South Africa.
Cissampelos mucronata, Cissampelos owariensis P.Beauv. ex DC. and Cissampelos pareira L. have often been confused; as they are also similarly used, it is often impossible to correlate uses unambiguously with a particular species. Cissampelos mucronata has many medicinal uses, and throughout Africa people take an infusion of the bitter rhizome, and sometimes of leaves and stems, or fruit juice, to cure gastro-intestinal complaints such as diarrhoea, dysentery, colic, intestinal worms and digestive complaints, and also urogenital problems such as menstrual problems, venereal diseases, infertility, azoospermia, to induce contraction of the uterus to start labour or abortion and to expel the placenta. In eastern DR Congo a leaf decoction is taken as a vermifuge against tapeworm.
In Senegal the rhizome enters into preparations to treat catarrh, whereas in Togo the rhizome is chewed to treat sore throat, cough and lung problems. In decoction the rhizome is given against oedema. In Tanzania and Madagascar a rhizome decoction is taken to diminish fever caused by malaria or jaundice. Rhizome sap is used as ear drops to treat earache. Bushmen of the Kalahari take a warm rhizome decoction to treat coughs and for general wellness. In the Okavango delta in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe a rhizome decoction is drunk to treat headache, neck pain and back pain. In Namibia the Damara people apply the powdered rhizome to open wounds for quick healing. In Zimbabwe rhizomes are used to treat bilharzia.
Throughout West Africa and in Uganda, fresh leaves, heated leaves or pulped leaves are applied to wounds, ulcers, conjunctivitis and syphilis sores, and a poultice of leaves mixed with natron is applied to swellings, ulcers and Guinea worm sores. In Ghana leaf pulp is taken internally or applied to the affected area as an antidote for snake venom. In Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso fresh leaf pulp is applied to relieve severe headache and is eaten mixed with clay to stop stomatitis. The vapour of a leaf decoction is inhaled to induce vomiting.
In southern Senegal an infusion of leafy stems is used as emmenagogue. In Togo the whole plant is used in preparations to treat intercostal pain. In Nigeria ash from the plant enters into a medicine against arthritis, which is rubbed into scarifications. In DR Congo and eastern Tanzania the pounded plant is applied to snakebites. In Rwanda the plant is used to treat diseases affecting the spine. In Benin, Uganda and other parts of Africa the roots are used in medical rituals to treat mental problems such as psychoses.
In Nigeria the rhizome is sometimes used in the preparation of arrow poison. In Kenya crushed rhizomes are applied to the skin of goats to remove insect parasites.
The stems of Cissampelos mucronata are commonly used for tying and binding and in wickerwork; in DR Congo stems are used to make fishing lines.
Production and international trade
Cissampelos mucronata is mainly traded in local markets. It may enter wider markets by the name ‘pareira brava’. True ‘pareira brava’ however is made from the South American Chondrodendron tomentosum Ruiz & Pav.; in some African countries it is permitted to sell Cissampelos pareira under this name, and confusion with Cissampelos mucronata may occur.
All plant parts are rich in alkaloids, although the rhizomes contain most. The aporphine alkaloid dicentrine is the main alkaloid isolated from all plant parts. The rhizome also contains a high concentration of the bisbenzyltetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids cissacapine, cycleanine and d-isochondrodendrine; the first 2 alkaloids occur in small amounts in the stem, as well as the aporphine alkaloid lauroscholtzine. The leaves contain the proaporphine alkaloid pronuciferine, the benzyltetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloid reticuline and the morphinane alkaloid salutaridine. A methanolic rhizome extract contained several bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids, including tubocurine, 12-O-methylcurine, isoliensinine and cissampentine.
Methanolic extracts from the dried rhizome have shown significant antiprotozoal activity against chloroquine sensitive and chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum. The dichloromethane extract showed less activity. The methanolic extract also inhibited the enzyme tyrosine kinase. Alkaloids isolated from the ethanolic extracts of the rhizome have shown sedative effects in tests with mice. The ethanol extract has also shown uterine relaxant activities in pregnant and non-pregnant rats. Methanolic leaf extracts of the plant had a positive effect against indomethacin-induced stomach ulcers in rats.
Dioecious liana, with rhizome; older stems with longitudinal ridges, dark brown, branchlets short-hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules absent; petiole (1–)2–4.5(–8) cm long, inserted 0–3 mm above the base of the blade; blade ovate to heart-shaped, 4–12(–15) cm × 4–13(–14.5) cm, base cordate, apex rounded to acute, with mucro, margin entire or wavy, papery, short-hairy on both sides, later glabrescent, palmately veined with 5–7 main veins. Inflorescence an axillary, umbel-like cyme, solitary or clustered; male inflorescence either in clusters or arranged in a false raceme up to 15(–30) cm long, female inflorescence arranged in a false raceme 5–16(–18) cm long; peduncle up to 1 cm long; bracts 10–12 mm long, mucronate. Flowers unisexual, with reddish brown or black spots; pedicel up to 2 mm long; male flowers with 4–5(–7) ovate to elliptical sepals, free or fused at base, 1–1.5 mm × 0.5–1 mm, hairy outside, petals 4–5, fused at base, 1–1.5 mm long, spreading after flowering, stamens 2–5, filaments fused, up to 1.5 mm long; female flowers with 1(–2) obovate sepals up to 1.5(–2) mm long, short-hairy, petals 1(–2), broadly ovate, c. 1 mm × 1.5 mm, glabrous, ovary superior, c. 1 mm long, almost glabrous, 1-celled, stigma 3–5-lobed. Fruit a compressed obovoid drupe 4–7 mm × 3–5(–8) mm, curved, orange-red or yellow when ripe, short-hairy, stone woody with a dorsal ridge, sides with warty ribs, 1-seeded. Seed with sparse endosperm.
Other botanical information
Cissampelos comprises about 20 species, 7 in tropical America and 13 in tropical Africa. Cissampelos pareira is the only species with a pantropical distribution.
Growth and development
In South Africa Cissampelos mucronata can be found flowering almost throughout the year.
Cissampelos mucronata occurs in deciduous bushland, often on termite hills and rock outcrops, in riverine forests and swamps, up to 1800 m altitude. It often persists in cultivated land.
Propagation and planting
Cissampelos mucronata is only propagated by seed.
Cissampelos mucronata is commonly planted in home gardens as a medicinal plant but details of management and yield are not known.
Because Cissampelos mucronata is very widespread in Africa and occurs in a variety of habitats, it seems not to be in danger of genetic erosion. In view of its medicinal importance and wide distribution, the establishment of a representative germplasm collection is recommended.
Cissampelos mucronata is an important and well-documented medicinal plant throughout Africa, but with little chemical and pharmacological data available to support its medicinal uses. Further study of the pharmacological properties of the various plant parts and of their chemical components is urgently needed.
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Sources of illustration
• Berhaut, J., 1979. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 6. Linacées à Nymphéacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 636 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Muzila, M., 2008. Cissampelos mucronata A.Rich. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, part of stem with male inflorescence; 2, part of stem with female inflorescence and infructescence.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin
leafy stem with young infructescences
obtained from P. Ekpe NSBP
leafy stem with male inflorescences
obtained from P. Ekpe NSBP
part of male inflorescence
obtained from P. Ekpe NSBP
obtained from B. Wursten
obtained from B. Wursten