Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Flora 47: 466 (1864).
Mkalanga, mbawa (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Macaranga spinosa occurs from Liberia east to Uganda and south to Burundi, Tanzania and Angola.
In Côte d’Ivoire the plant is used in the treatment of dysentery and cough. In Congo leaf sap or bark sap is drunk, rubbed in or used in a vapour bath to treat lung complaints (including bronchitis, cough and asthma), headache, feverish stiffness, rheumatism, liver complaints and stomach-ache. A bark decoction is gargled or used as a mouth wash to treat toothache, stomatitis and aphthae. A maceration of the crushed leaves is taken by women to treat amenorrhoea. The root ash is inhaled to treat haemorrhoids.
The wood is used for construction of house posts, stools and spoons, as firewood and to make charcoal. The tree is planted for shade in home gardens. In Cameroon potters sprinkle an extract from the crushed stem bark on pots that come from the fire and are still red hot, to make them waterproof.
In a preliminary analysis, saponins, steroids and terpenes have been isolated from the stem bark. A water extract of the stem bark contains procyanidins, of which the pyrolysis products have waterproofing properties.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 10(–20) m tall, with a spiny bole; spines 10–20 cm long, directed downwards, simple or forked, woody; twigs often spiny, young shoots densely softly hairy. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules linear-lanceolate, 5–7 mm long, soon falling; petiole 1–5 cm long, widened at base; blade elliptical, elliptical-oblong to elliptical-oblanceolate, 5–13 cm × 3–6.5 cm, base rounded to shallowly cordate with 2 basal glands, apex acute to acuminate, softly hairy above, later glabrescent, glandular-punctate beneath. Inflorescence an axillary panicle 3–6.5 cm long; bracts triangular, small. Flowers unisexual, petals absent, disk absent; male flowers almost sessile, calyx lobes 3, ovate, up to 0.5 mm long, creamy white, stamens 3, free, minute; female flowers with pedicel up to 1 mm long, extending to c. 5 mm in fruit, calyx cup-shaped, c. 0.5 mm long, splitting into 3 unequal lobes, ovary superior, c. 1 mm long, densely glandular, 2-celled, style 1, stigma recurved, c. 1 mm long. Fruit a transversely ovoid drupe c. 3 mm × 4 mm, densely glandular, sometimes late dehiscent, stigma persistent, c. 3 mm long, 1-seeded. Seed almost globose, c. 2.5 mm long, rough, dull, brownish.
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 Macaranga species endemic to Madagascar are also used medicinally. The aromatic stem bark of Macaranga cuspidata Boivin ex Baill. is crushed on insect bites. The wood is used to make poles, which are suitable for humid soils as they do not rot. A stem bark infusion of Macaranga echinocarpa Baker is taken to treat malaria. The plant is also used to treat certain diseases of pigs. The wood of large-stemmed trees is used to make boats. Fresh leafy twigs of Macaranga myriolepida Baker are ground and applied to burns as a dressing. Young branches are made into whistles. Also of this species, the wood of large-stemmed trees is used to make boats. A stem bark infusion of Macaranga ribesioides Baker is taken to treat venereal diseases. A leaf decoction of Macaranga sphaerophylla Baker is taken to treat rheumatism, sciatica and lumbar pain.
Macaranga spinosa occurs along edges of primary forest and in secondary forest, often on soils with a high groundwater table, from sea-level up to 1200 m altitude. In the forest-savanna transition zone in littoral Congo, it is one of the pioneer species involved in forest expansion.
Genetic resources and breeding
Macaranga spinosa has a large area of distribution and also occurs in secondary forest. It is therefore probably not threatened by genetic erosion.
In Congo Macaranga spinosa has many local medicinal uses, but virtually nothing is known concerning its chemistry or pharmacology. More research is therefore needed to evaluate its potential.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Macaranga spinosa Müll.Arg. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.