Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
A.DC., Prodr. 15(2.2): 993 (1866).
Origin and geographic distribution
Macaranga heterophylla occurs from Senegal east to Cameroon.
Various parts of the plant are used as a purgative. In southern Senegal a root decoction is taken to treat amenorrhoea, and also as an abortifacient. In Sierra Leone a decoction of young leaves is taken to treat gonorrhoea. In Côte d’Ivoire a bark decoction is taken and used in a bath to treat cough. The plant is used to treat snakebites.
The ash from the burnt stem and branches is used as vegetable salt.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall; twigs and stem covered with stout, woody spines; stem sap yellowish orange, gelatinous. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules lanceolate to ovate, 2.5–4 cm long, brown, appressed hairy; petiole 10–20 cm long; blade digitately 3–7-lobed, rarely not lobed, 13–32 cm in diameter, base rounded to shallowly cordate, apex long acuminate, margins toothed, glabrous above, sparingly short-hairy on the veins beneath. Male inflorescence an axillary, many-flowered panicle 15–30 cm long; female inflorescence an axillary, spike-like raceme or narrow, sparsely branched panicle up to 14 cm long. Flowers unisexual, petals absent, disk absent; male flowers almost sessile, calyx lobes 3, tiny, white, tinged pink, reddish hairy outside, stamens 3, free, minute; female flowers with pedicel up to 1 mm long, extending in fruit, calyx tiny, ovary superior, glandular, 2-celled, style 1, small. Fruit a rounded 2-lobed drupe 10–20 mm in diameter, pink to red, covered with small yellow glands, 2-seeded. Seeds almost globose, dull black.
Macaranga comprises about 280 species, of which about 30 are native to tropical continental Africa and about 15 to Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands. Several other West-African Macaranga species are medicinally used in West Africa. In Côte d’Ivoire the crushed leaves of Macaranga beillei Prain, together with the crushed aerial parts of Scleria boivinii Steud. and vegetable salt, are wrapped in leaves of Thaumatococcus daniellii (Bennet) Benth., and the decoction is drunk to treat cough. In Sierra Leone an infusion of ground leaves of Macaranga heudelotii Baill. with lemon juice is drunk to treat gonorrhoea. In Ghana a leaf infusion is taken to treat diarrhoea.
Macaranga heterophylla occurs in secondary forest in wet localities and riverine forest. It is a pioneer species in forest gaps.
Genetic resources and breeding
Macaranga heterophylla is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Macaranga heterophylla will probably remain of local importance as a medicinal plant, unless research into the chemistry and pharmacology offers new possibilities.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Macaranga heterophylla (Müll.Arg.) Müll.Arg. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.