Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
Fl. Seneg. tent. 1(3): 99, t. 21 (1831).
2n = 12
Origin and geographic distribution
Cochlospermum tinctorium is found from Senegal to southern Sudan and Uganda.
The rootstock of Cochlospermum tinctorium is collected from the wild and yields a brown-yellow dye, used for dyeing cloth (cotton), thread, mats, basketware and ornaments, and rarely also leather. The fresh or dried rootstock may be pulverized and pounded into a paste that is rubbed onto the article to be dyed; it may also be crushed, mixed with ash and boiled with the article to be dyed. Several colours can be obtained by the use of mordants (e.g. Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze) or by the addition of indigo. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Baoulé people add lemon juice to the dye-bath to improve the fastness of the dye. In Cameroon a yellow facial mask is made from the powdered rootstock mixed with water. The dye is also used to colour shea butter and cooking oil to which it possibly also imparts some flavour. Such butter and oil is said to stain the mouth and to cure burns. Unripe fruits are eaten by hunters to allay thirst. The floss of the fruit can be used to stuff cushions or, as is done in Togo, it is spun into necklace cords. The young stem bark also yields a useful fibre. In traditional medicine, the yellow rootstock is one of the most respected medicines in West Africa for jaundice and liver diseases. It is also applied to cure oedema, urethral discharge, dysmenorrhoea, epilepsy, schistosomiasis, pneumonia, bronchial affections, conjunctivitis, gastric problems, diarrhoea, indigestion, stomach-ache and skin infections. In Burkina Faso an extract of the rootstock is taken against malaria. In Nigeria a concoction of the fruits with tamarind fruits is drunk to cure snakebites, and in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso powdered rootstock is applied topically. In Côte d’Ivoire pulped leaves are used in a wet dressing to maturate abscesses and furuncles and a decoction of the twigs or rootstock is drunk or used in a bath to treat urino-genital disorders, kidney pain or pain between the ribs. The body is washed with a water extract of the rootstock to cure skin diseases and as prophylaxis. In Nigeria the rootstock is also chewed as a tonic. The rootstock is also extensively used in veterinary medicine. Seed oil is used to treat leprosy. Its decorative flowers make the plant a potential ornamental.
Production and international trade
There is some export of the dye of Cochlospermum tinctorium from Ghana.
The rootstock of Cochlospermum tinctorium is rich in carotenoids that are the yellow pigments of the dye stuff; the rootstock also contains much mucilage, sugar, acetogenins, tannins (gallic acid, ellagic acid and ellagitannin), essential oils (alcohols, 3-hexadecanone), arjunolic acid and probably some alkaloid. The apocarotenoids cochloxanthin and dihydrocochloxanthin showed antimicrobial activity against Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, but only at high concentrations. A methanolic rootstock extract showed antibacterial activity against some bacteria which are responsible for skin diseases. The tannins showed a remarkable antihepatotoxic activity and particularly gallic acid inhibits the production of oxygen-free radicals in leucocytes. An ethanol extract of the rootstock showed a pronounced antiplasmodial activity (1–2 μg/ml), with 3-O-E-p-coumaroylalphitolic acid as the most active compound. Leaf extracts showed moderate antiplasmodial activity. Tests on mice showed that arjunolic acid isolated from the rootstock has considerable inhibitory effects on skin tumour promoters. The leaves and shoots of Cochlospermum tinctorium are possibly toxic because it is said that cattle will not graze the plant even in times of shortage.
Subshrub up to 80 cm tall with woody subterranean rootstock producing annual shoots. Leaves alternate, palmately (3–)5-lobed; stipules linear, caducous; petiole 3–6 cm long; blade in outline 2–12 cm × 2–16 cm, lobes lanceolate to oblong, basally connate for up to 1/4 of their length, margins entire to serrate, glabrescent to pubescent below. Inflorescence a few-flowered panicle or raceme, usually produced at ground level from the rootstock, sometimes appearing on top of leafy shoots. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, 6–9 cm in diameter; pedicel 1.5–4 cm long; sepals elliptical-oblong, 1–1.5 cm × 0.5–1 cm, velvety outside; petals obovate, 2.5–4 cm × 2–3 cm, shallowly emarginate, golden-yellow; stamens numerous, free; ovary superior, usually woolly, style simple, slender, stigma small. Fruit a fusiform or obovoid capsule 4–6 cm × 2.5 cm, slightly ridged, brown, grey or black, many-seeded. Seeds reniform, c. 5 mm long, densely covered with long white to yellowish hairs.
Cochlospermaceae is a small family, related to Bixaceae, and comprising 15 species in 2 genera. Cochlospermum comprises 12 species, 5 of these occurring wild in Africa. The roots of the African species Cochlospermum angolense Welw. ex Oliv. and Cochlospermum planchonii Hook.f. and of the American species Cochlospermum regium (Schrank) Pilg. and Cochlospermum vitifolium (Willd.) Spreng. yield a yellow dye which is used similarly to the dye of Cochlospermum tinctorium. The leaf shape in Cochlospermum tinctorium is variable, sometimes causing confusion with Cochlospermum intermedium Mildbr. from the Central African Republic. Annual leafy shoots are produced from the rootstock in the rainy season. Flowering is in the dry season after the savanna burns, and the fruits are ripe about one month after flowering. The flowers are usually produced near ground level, but in southern Sudan and Uganda they are often borne on top of leafy shoots.
Cochlospermum tinctorium occurs in dry savanna, preferring devastated, rocky and annually burnt regions, at 300–1500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Cochlospermum tinctorium is widespread and does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
Cochlospermum tinctorium will remain locally an important dye plant. Its interesting medicinal properties may make it a valuable medicinal plant of much wider importance.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.
• Poppendieck, H.H., 1980. A monograph of the Cochlospermaceae. Botanische Jahrbücher für Systematik, Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 101: 191–265.
• Silva, O., Duarte, A., Cabrita, J., Pimentel, M., Diniz, A. & Gomes, E., 1996. Antimicrobial activity of Guinea-Bissau traditional remedies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 50: 55–59.
• Benoit, F., Valentin, A., Pelissier, Y., Marion, C., Dakuyo, Z., Mallie, M. & Bastide, J.M., 1995. Antimalarial activity in vitro of Cochlospermum tinctorium tubercle extracts. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 89(2): 217–218.
• Benoit-Vical, F., Valentin, A., Mallie, M., Bastide, J.M. & Bessiere, J.M., 1999. In vitro antimalarial activity and cytotoxicity of Cochlospermum tinctorium and C. planchonii leaf extracts and essential oils. Planta Medica 65(4): 378–381.
• Benoit-Vical, F., Valentin, A., Mallie, M. & Bessiere, J.M., 2001. Antiplasmodial activity of Cochlospermum planchonii and C. tinctorium tubercle essential oils. Journal of Essential Oil Research 13(1): 65–67.
• Bisignano, G., Germano, M.P., Nostro, A., Sanogo, R., Capasso, F., Evans, F.J. & Mascolo, N., 1996. Drugs used in Africa as dyes: II. Antimicrobial activities. In: Capasso, F. & Evans, F.J. (Editors). Proceedings of the VIII congresso nazionala della Societa Italiana di farmacognosia and 1st joint meeting of Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and Italian research groups on pharmacognosy, Naples, Italy, 9–14 June 1996. Phytotherapy Research 10, Supplement 1: 161–163.
• Diallo, B., Vanhaelen, M., Vanhaelen-Fastre, R., Konoshima, T., Kozuka, M. & Tokuda, H., 1989. Studies on inhibitors of skin-tumor promotion. Inhibitory effects of triterpenes from Cochlospermum tinctorium on Epstein-Barr virus activation. Journal of natural products 52(4): 879–881.
• Diallo, B., Vanhaelen-Fastre, R., Vanhaelen, M., Konoshima, T., Takasaki, M. & Tokuda, H., 1995. In vivo inhibitory effects of arjunolic acid derivatives on two-stage carcinogenesis in mouse skin. Phytotherapy Research 9(6): 444–447.
• Diallo, B., Vanhaelen-Fastre, R., Vanhaelen, M., Nkiani-Ibwala, N.Y. & Pelsener-Coremans, J., 1991. Antimicrobial activity of two apocarotenoids isolated from Cochlospermum tinctorium rhizome. Fitoterapia 62(2): 144–145.
• Miège, J., 1992. Couleurs, teintures et plantes tinctoriales en Afrique occidentale. Bulletin du Centre Genevois d’Anthropologie 3: 115–131.
• Nacoulma-Ouédraogo, O. & Millogo-Rasolodimby, J., 2002. Les frotte-dents comme produits cosmétiques et médicinaux au Burkina Faso. Etudes de la flore et la végétation de Burkina Faso 7: 49–54.
• Verdcourt, B., 1975. Cochlospermaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 3 pp.
• Zederkopff-Ballin, N., Traore, M., Tinto, H., Sittie, A., Molgaard, P., Olsen, C.E., Kharazmi, A. & Christensen, S.B., 2002. Antiplasmodial compounds from Cochlospermum tinctorium. Journal of Natural Products 65(9): 1325–1327.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Cochlospermum tinctorium Perr. ex A.Rich. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.