Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Sem. hort. bot. hamburg.: 20 (1824).
Origin and geographic distribution
Heliotropium aegyptiacum is found in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and northern Kenya and also in Egypt and the Arabian peninsula.
The pulp of fresh roots of Heliotropium aegyptiacum is applied to snakebites and scorpion stings in Somalia. The ash of burned roots is applied to wounds or alternatively, a mixture of leaf pulp and myrrh (resin of Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl.) is used. In Ethiopia the leaves are applied to the skin as a treatment for dandruff.
No details have been published on the composition of Heliotropium aegyptiacum. In view of the uses that are similar to those of some better studied species of Heliotropium, it is probable that pyrrolizidine alkaloids are responsible for the pharmacological actions and for cases of poisoning in livestock in East Africa.
Annual or short-lived perennial, erect herb, up to 75 cm tall, branched from the base. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole up to 5 cm; blade broadly ovate to elliptical, 1–10 cm × 0.5–7 cm; base shortly cuneate; apex obtuse, mucronate; margin entire or undulate-crenate. Inflorescence a terminal, spike-like cyme. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sessile; calyx 3–4 mm long, lobed almost to base, enlarging in fruit; corolla white, 4–6 mm long, tube constricted at throat, lobes ovate. Fruit splitting into 4 nutlets.
Heliotropium aegyptiacum is found in Commiphora - Acacia open scrub vegetation with succulents and in Acacia - Hyphaene associations at 350–700 m altitude. In Egypt it is found on the banks of the Nile and in moist stony ground. In Eritrea it was found to be a preferred host of gregarizing adults and hoppers of the desert locust.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its fairly wide distribution and weedy nature, there seem to be no threats of genetic erosion for Heliotropium aegyptiacum.
As the use of Heliotropium aegyptiacum in traditional medicine seems restricted, it is likely to remain of limited importance only.
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• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Boulos, L., 2000. Flora of Egypt. Volume 2 (Geraniaceae-Boraginaceae). Al Hadara Publishing, Caďro, Egypt. 352 pp.
• Diane, N., Förther, H. & Hilger, H.H., 2002. A systematic analysis of Heliotropium, Tournefortia, and allied taxa of the Heliotropiaceae (Boraginales) based on ITS1 sequences and morphological data. American Journal of Botany 89(2): 287–295.
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• Verdcourt, B., 1991. Boraginaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 125 pp.
• Woldewahid, G., 2003. Habitats and spatial pattern of solitarious desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria Forsk.) on the coastal plain of Sudan. PhD thesis, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 162 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Heliotropium aegyptiacum Lehm. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.