Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Ann. Bot. 25: 614 (1911).
2n = 30
Erythrococca aculeata Benth. (1849).
Bush lime (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Erythrococca anomala occurs from Guinea Bissau east to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea (Bioko) and Gabon.
The leaves are laxative and purgative and considered very effective against tapeworm. A decoction of young leaves is applied against skin lesions and subcutaneous parasites. Sap of the leaves is used as eye drops to treat sore eyes, as nose drops to treat sinusitis and as ear drops to treat ear infections. To treat eye injuries, leaves are folded into a funnel and filled with water; after a while the water is dropped into the eye. Leafy twigs are used to clean and disinfect wounds and ulcers. In Guinea dried and ground leaves mixed with seeds of melegueta pepper (Aframomum melegueta (Roscoe) K.Schum.) is taken as a snuff against chronic headache. Leaf pulp is also used as a rub to treat local pain. In Côte d’Ivoire powdered leaves alone or mixed with those of Psychotria peduncularis (Salisb.) Steyerm. and clay are applied in friction against malaria in children and rubbed on the neck and throat against meningitis. In Cameroon a decoction of the leaves is taken to expel tapeworms. A leaf macerate is applied to the tooth to treat toothache. In Nigeria the bark is used against arthritis and rheumatism. The fruit pulp or the root bark are taken as a tonic against general weakness.
The roots and bark contain about 1% alkaloids, the twigs and leaves about 0.1%. Alkaloids have also been found in the seeds.
Dioecious, spiny shrub up to 3 m tall; bark flaky, brown. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules formed into persistent spines, brown; petiole short; blade ovate to oblong, 4–5 cm × 2–3 cm, base obtuse, apex acuminate, margin wavy, glabrous, pinnately veined with 2–3 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary raceme. Flowers unisexual, minute, whitish to pale yellow; calyx 4-lobed; corolla absent; male flowers with 9–15 stamens; female flowers with superior ovary, 3-lobed. Fruit a 2(–3)-lobed capsule, red when mature. Seeds globular, pitted, covered by a thin orange to bright red aril.
Erythrococca comprises about 40 species and is confined to mainland Africa. Erythrococca anomala is a fast growing heliophile. It flowers at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season.
Erythrococca africana (Baill.) Prain occurs from Cape Verde and Senegal to Cameroon. The powdered dry leaves are taken with food as a mild purgative; crushed leaves are applied to whitlow. In Nigeria hunters add the leaves to meat to make it tender. Erythrococca chevalieri (Beille) Prain, occurring from Guinea east to Cameroon and the Congo basin, and Erythrococca welwitschiana (Müll.Arg.) Pax & K.Hoffm. from Central Africa have similar medicinal uses in Congo. The leaves are considered aphrodisiac and are taken against gonorrhoea and are also applied to heal sores and scabies. Leaf sap is drunk against bronchial complaints and is externally applied to treat itch and a stiff neck. An infusion of the roots is taken to relieve stomach complaints. The leaves are eaten as a vegetable. In Cameroon Erythrococca chevalieri is also used in witchcraft. Erythrococca hispida (Pax) Prain occurs in forest in Cameroon. The leaves are ground with salt and applied to scarifications to treat kidney pain. Young leaves are eaten with vegetable salt and cooked banana against gastro-intestinal problems.
In Sierra Leone Erythrococca anomala occurs in forest relics in the savanna; in Cameroon in riverine forest and in shady forest undergrowth. It occurs from sea-level up to 1600 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Erythrococca anomala has a wide distribution and is common, and is not in danger of genetic erosion.
Erythrococca anomala has important uses in traditional medicine. As a recent revision of the genus is lacking and almost nothing is known on its chemical and pharmacological properties, there is an urgent need for botanical and pharmacological studies to verify its potential.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jiofack Tafokou, R.B., 2008. Erythrococca anomala (Juss. ex Poir.) Prain. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.