PROTA homepage Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
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Cordia myxa L.

Sp. pl. 1: 190 (1753).
Chromosome number
2n = 48
Vernacular names
Sebesten plum, sapistan, clammy cherry, Indian cherry, Assyrian plum (En). Sébestier, bois savon (Fr). Sebesteira, sebesteiro do Sudao (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cordia myxa originates from the area stretching from the eastern Mediterranean region to eastern India, and was introduced long ago in tropical Africa, tropical Asia and Australia, and more recently also in the Americas.
The fruit of Cordia myxa has long been valued throughout its distribution area for its sticky mucilaginous pulp, which is eaten to suppress cough and chest complaints, and to treat a sore throat, as it has demulcent properties. The pulp is also applied as an emollient to mature abscesses, to calm rheumatic pain and as an anthelminthic. In Tanzania the fruit pulp is applied on ringworm. In Mali and Côte d’Ivoire the leaves are applied to wounds and ulcers. A macerate of the leaves is taken to treat trypanosomiasis, and is externally applied as a lotion to tse-tse fly bites. In the Comoros the powdered bark is applied to the skin in cases of broken bones before a plaster is applied, to improve healing. Bark powder is used externally in the treatment of skin diseases. Bark juice together with coconut oil is taken to treat colic.
In semi-arid regions Cordia myxa is planted in shelter belts to prevent soil erosion. In Yemen it is used as a shade tree for coffee. The wood is suitable for furniture making, cabinetry, well curbs, boats and agricultural implements. It is marketed under the same trade name as Cordia africana Lam.: ‘Khartoum teak’ or ‘Sudan teak’. The bark is fibrous and yields cordage. The sticky pulp, especially from the unripe fruits, has widespread use as bird lime. Ripe fruits are eaten raw, while tender young fruits are eaten fresh or pickled as a vegetable. Mashed fruits enter in the preparation of sorghum beer. The kernel is also edible. In India the leaves are prepared as a vegetable. In Burkina Faso the ash of the young branches is used to make soap. In South-East Asia the leaves are used as cattle fodder.
Chemical screening of both the leaves and the fruits showed the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids, saponins, terpenes and sterols. The fruit contains about 70% pulp; the pulp contains per 100 g: water 6 g, protein 35 g, fat 37 g and carbohydrate 18 g. The seed contains per 100 g: water 32 g, fat 46 g; the principal fatty acids are: palmitic acid, stearic acid, arachidic acid, behenic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid.
The petroleum ether and alcoholic extracts showed significant analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic activities in tests with rats. Four flavonoid glycosides (robinin, rutin (rutoside), datiscoside and hesperidin), a flavonoid aglycone (dihydrorobinetin), and 2 phenolic derivatives (chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid) were isolated. The ethanol extract of the leaves reduced acetylcholine-induced contractions of guinea-pig ileum. Ethanol extracts from fruits and leaves showed significant antioxidant activities due to the carotenoids but no antimicrobial activity against gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria. The addition of chopped leaves to nematode infested soil reduced the populations of the nematodes Meloidogyne incognita and Rotylenchulus reniformis.
The nutritive value of the forage is per 100 g dry matter: crude protein 15 g, crude fibre 20 g, ash 14 g, crude fat 6 g, N-free extract 47 g, Ca 2.5 g, P 0.3 g. The wood of Cordia myxa is yellowish brown and soft but strong; it polishes well and is durable in water.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 12 m tall; bole tortuous or straight; bark grey, cracked; branches spreading, forming a dense crown; branchlets hairy, later glabrous, with very prominent leaf scars. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–4.5 cm long; blade broadly ovate to orbicular, sometimes obovate, 3–18 cm × 3–20 cm, base rounded to cordate or cuneate, apex rounded to obtusely acuminate, margins entire to toothed, glabrous above, glabrous to velvety hairy below. Inflorescence a lax terminal or short lateral panicle, 3–8.5 cm long, many-flowered; bracts absent. Flowers unisexual, regular, white to creamy; pedicel 1–2 mm long; male flowers with campanulate calyx 4.5–5.5 mm long, 3-lobed, shortly hairy inside, glabrous outside, corolla tube 3.5–4.5 mm long, lobes 5, elliptical, c. 5 mm × 2 mm, reflexed, stamens inserted at corolla throat, exserted, filaments 1.5–3.5 mm long, ovary rudimentary; female flower with tubular-campanulate calyx 6–8.5 mm long, irregularly 3–4-toothed, densely hairy inside, glabrous outside, corolla tube 4.5–6.5 mm long, lobes 4–6, elliptical to obovate, 5–7 mm long, reflexed and rolled up, staminodes with sterile anthers, ovary superior, ellipsoid to obovoid, 4-celled, style 8–9 mm long, with 4 stigmatic branches 4–5 mm long. Fruit a globular to ovoid drupe 2–3.5 cm long, apiculate, enclosed at base by the accrescent calyx, yellow, apricot or blackish when ripe, pulp almost transparent, mucilaginous, sweet-tasting. Pyrene broadly ellipsoid to globose, c. 12 mm long, deeply wrinkled, 1–2-seeded.
Other botanical information
Cordia is a large pantropical genus of about 250 species, with the majority of the species occurring in the New World. Cordia myxa is morphologically close to Cordia dichotoma G.Forst. from Asia and Australia, and the species are often confused there.
Several other Cordia species are medicinally used in tropical Africa. In eastern Africa leaf sap and root decoctions of Cordia goetzei Gürke are taken to treat leprosy, while the bark and leaf ash is rubbed into scarifications. A root decoction is taken to treat malaria. The leaf sap and a root decoction are taken to cure hardened abscesses. From the stem bark the polyphenols cordigone, cordigol and 2 benzofurans were isolated. The benzofurans are responsible for the orange colour of the stem bark. All 4 compounds are fungicidal against Cladosporium cucumerinum. In DR Congo a leaf infusion of Cordia dewevrei De Wild. & T.Durand is given to children as a tonic. Drums are made from the trunk. The Mende people of Sierra Leone take a leaf decoction of Cordia vignei Hutch. & Dalziel as a purgative. A paste of powdered leaves is applied to the body to treat rheumatism. A bark decoction is used to wash sores, and the ground young leaves are used as a wound dressing.
Growth and development
Cordia myxa grows fairly fast and starts flowering when 3–5 years old. Pollination is done by insects. Fruits ripen in 30–45 days, and are dispersed by birds.
Cordia myxa occurs in dry deciduous woodland, mainly on alluvial soil up to 1500 m altitude. It occurs naturalized around villages and abandoned habitations. It tolerates moderate shade, and is drought and frost hardy.
Propagation and planting
Cordia myxa is propagated by seed or stem cuttings. As plants grown from seeds show large variation, vegetative propagation of plants producing large fruits is preferred. Seeds are soaked in cold water for 6 hours before planting and germinate within 40–60 days. The germination rate is 50–80%. There are about 18.000 seeds/kg. Seedlings require 4–6 months in a nursery before planting out.
Cordia myxa trees can be pollarded and coppiced.
Diseases and pests
In Egypt several spot and blight diseases caused by Alternaria tenuissima and Alternaria alternata have become common on fruits of Cordia myxa and other fruit-yielding Cordia species.
The fruits are mostly harvested when ripe, but are picked green for use in pickles.
In arid regions in India, a plantation of 8-year-old Cordia myxa trees yielded on average 32.4 kg fruits per tree per year. Fruit weight is about 5 g.
Genetic resources
As Cordia myxa is fairly commonly planted, there are no indications that it is at risk of genetic erosion. Large germplasm collections do not exist.
Cordia myxa fruit pulp is commonly used in folk medicine to treat cough and chest complaints, as well as for the treatment of wounds and ulcers. Several studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities, but more research is needed to evaluate the active compounds. As the variability in fruit size is large, selection and vegetative propagation of high-yielding trees deserve attention.
Major references
• Al Awadi, F.M., Srikumar, T.S., Anim, J.T. & Khan, I., 2001. Anti-inflammatory effects of Cordia myxa fruit on experimentally induced colitis in rats. Nutrition 17(5): 391–396.
• Berhaut, J., 1974. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 2. Balanophoracées à Composées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 695 pp.
• 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.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Warfa, A.M., 1988. Cordia (Boraginaceae) in NE tropical Africa and tropical Arabia. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis 174, Uppsala, Sweden. 78 pp.
Other references
• Abou Shaaban, R.R.A., Al Angari, A.A., El Tahir, K.E.H., Al Khamis, K.I. & Mirghani, O.M., 1989. Comparative hypotensive and respiratory stimulation effects of ripe and unripe fruit mucilage of Cordia myxa and Cordia obliqua in guineapigs and rabbits. Phytotherapy Research 3(4): 126–131.
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Aké Assi, L., Ali Ahmed, Eymé, J., Guinko, S., Kayonga, A., Keita, A. & Lebras, M. (Editors), 1982. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques aux Comores. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 217 pp.
• Afzal, M., Obuekwe, C., Shuaib, N. & Barakat, H., 2004. Photosynthetic pigment profile of Cordia myxa L. and its potential in folklore medicinal application. Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment 2(2): 114–120.
• Agharkar, S.P., 1991. Medicinal plants of Bombay presidency. Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, India. 250 pp.
• Aguilar, N.O., 2001. Cordia dichotoma J.G. Forster. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 185–188.
• Ficarra, R., Ficarra, P., Tommasini, S., Calabro, M.L., Ragusa, S., Barbera, R. & Rapisarda, A., 1995. Leaf extracts of some Cordia species: analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities as well as their chromatographic analysis. Farmaco 50(4): 245–256.
• Göhl, B., 1981. Tropical feeds: feed information summaries and nutritive values. FAO, Rome, Italy. 529 pp.
• Marston, A., Zagorski, M.G. & Hostettmann, K., 1988. Antifungal polyphenols from Cordia goetzei Gürke. Helvetica Chimica Acta 71: 1210–1219.
• Occhiuto, F., Circosta, C. & Costa De Pasquale, R., 1989. Studies on some medicinal plants of Senegal: effects on isolated guinea pig ileum. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 26(2): 205–210.
• Rapisarda, A., Barbera, R., de Pasquale, A., Ficarra, P., Ficarra, R., Tommasini, S., Calabro, M.L. & Ragusa, S., 1992. Cordia francisci, C. martinicensis, C. myxa, C. serratifolia and C. ulmifolia leaves as new sources of rutin (rutoside): analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity tested in mice and rats. 40th Annual congress on medicinal plant research, 1–5 September 1992, Trieste, Italy.
• Rastogi, R.P. & Mehrotra, B.N., 1991. Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants. Volume 2. CDRI, Lucknow, New Delhi, India.
• Taïta, P., 2000. La biodiversité des espèces spontanées utilisées dans l’alimentation et la pharmacopée dans la région de la réserve de biosphère de la Mare aux Hippopotames. In: Actes du Forum National de la Recherche Scientifique et des Innovations Technologiques (FRSIT), 3–8 avril 2000, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Tome 2. Sécurité alimentaire. pp. 77–95.
• Taton, A., 1971. Boraginaceae. In: Flore du Congo, du Ruanda et du Burundi. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 82 pp.
• Tiwari, R.D., Srivastava, K.C., Shukla, S. & Bajpai, R.K., 1967. Chemical examination of the fixed oil from the seeds of Cordia myxa. Planta Medica 15(3): 240–244.
Sources of illustration
• Berhaut, J., 1974. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 2. Balanophoracées à Composées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 695 pp.
P. Oudhia
SOPAM, 28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur, 492001, C.G., India

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Oudhia, P., 2007. Cordia myxa L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map planted and naturalized

1, flowering branch; 2, infructescence.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

branch with infructescences

fruiting branch
obtained from
R.A. Howard