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Mallotus oppositifolius (Geiseler) Müll.Arg.

Linnaea 34: 194 (1865).
Vernacular names
Arbre de kisse kisse (Fr). Mchacha, mtundutundu, mgendahamwe (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Mallotus oppositifolius is widely distributed and occurs from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south to Angola and Mozambique, and also in Madagascar.
In West Africa most plant parts, but especially the leaves, are commonly used for medicinal purposes. A leaf or stem bark infusion is taken to expel tapeworms and to treat diarrhoea. The crushed or chewed fresh leaves, sometimes mixed with butter, are put on cuts and sores as a haemostatic and antibacterial, and on skin eruptions and rashes for fast healing. They are also applied to burns to calm pain. A steam bath with the leaves is taken to treat headache, epilepsy or mental illness. Leaf sap is used as nose drops or eye drops and the head is massaged with the pulped leaves to treat headache. The crushed leaves or leaf sap are applied to aching teeth and inflamed eyes. The ground leaves in salted water are applied to snakebites and the extract is also drunk for this purpose. Crushed leaves or a leaf infusion are applied to treat urinary infections, venereal diseases, malaria, leprosy, chickenpox and female sterility. A leaf and fruit infusion is taken to treat dysentery and diarrhoea, or the leaves are added to food. A leaf and root decoction is drunk to treat anaemia and general fatigue. A root and leaf paste is applied to treat convulsions, stomach-ache and chest pains. An infusion of the roots together with the seeds of Aframomum melegueta K.Schum. is taken as an enema to treat lumbago. In eastern Africa a root decoction is taken as an aphrodisiac. A root decoction and leaf sap are taken to treat pneumonia, vomiting and chest pain. The seeds are considered poisonous.
Mallotus oppositifolius is commonly browsed by cattle. The wood is also used as firewood and to make tool handles or yam stakes. The thinner stems or the bark are sometimes used as binding material. The twigs are commonly used as chew sticks.
Preliminary phytochemical screening revealed the presence of flavonoids, saponins, tannins, cardenolides (cardiac glycosides), anthocyanins and possibly also alkaloids and anthraquinones. The leaves contain a higher concentration of these compounds than the roots.
Different leaf, root and stem bark extracts showed significant antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Bacillus subtilis in vitro. The aqueous leaf extract showed significant activity against Shigella dysenteriae A1-induced diarrhoea in rats. The extract was not toxic. Aqueous and ethanol extracts of dried leaves showed significant antifungal activity in vitro against Aspergillus flavus, Candida albicans, Microsporum audouinii, Penicillium sp. and Trichoderma sp. A methanolic leaf extract showed moderate antitrypanosomal and anthelminthic activity in vitro, but low antiplasmodial activity. Crude methanolic leaf and root extracts showed significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities in tests with rats.
The digestibility of the leaves of Mallotus oppositifolius by West African dwarf sheep was 68%, and the leaves were considered suitable as an alternative and supplementary browse feed.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 6(–13) m tall; young shoots densely stellate-hairy, older twigs almost glabrous, often purplish-brown. Leaves opposite, simple; petiole long and short in each pair, 2.5–11 cm long when long and 0.5–2 cm long when short, slightly thickened at both ends; stipules tiny, soon falling; blade broadly ovate to oblong-ovate, 3–18(–21) cm × 2–13 cm, unequal in size in each pair, base shallowly cordate to rounded or truncate, with 4 disk-shaped glands, apex acuminate, margins almost entire to more or less deeply toothed or lobed, 3-veined from the base, sparingly stellate-hairy to almost glabrous, sparingly gland-dotted, also with simple hairs beneath. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary raceme; male inflorescence up to 10(–15) cm long, female one up to 10(–18.5) cm long; bracts 0.5–1.5 mm long, triangular, each 1–5-flowered. Flowers unisexual, fragrant, petals absent; male flowers with jointed pedicel 3–7 mm long, sepals 3–4, elliptical, c. 2 mm long, strongly reflexed, pale yellow-green, disk absent, stamens numerous, filaments c. 2 mm long, free, greenish white; female flowers with pedicel 2–3 mm long, extending to 2(–5) cm in fruit, calyx lobes 3–5(–6), ovate to lanceolate, c. 2 mm long, united at the base, recurved, green, ovary superior, shallowly 3-lobed, c. 1 mm in diameter, densely short-hairy and covered with yellow glands, 3-celled, styles 3, c. 1.5 mm long, free, plumose. Fruit a deeply 3-lobed capsule 5–7 mm × 7–9 mm, short-hairy and gland-dotted, 3-seeded. Seeds almost globose, 3.5–4 mm × c. 3 mm, smooth, shiny, greyish olive-brown.
Other botanical information
Mallotus comprises about 135 species, which all occur in the Old World tropics, mainly in Asia and Oceania. Only few species occur in tropical Africa: 2 in continental Africa and 4 in Madagascar, of which 3 are endemic. The seeds of Mallotus baillonianus Müll.Arg. (synonym: Deuteromallotus acuminatus (Baill.) Pax. & K.Hoffm.) from Madagascar, cause numbness when chewed. The fruits are eaten to treat malaria. A decoction of the aerial parts was taken as an ordeal poison. The wood is used as firewood and to make poles for enclosures.
Growth and development
Mallotus oppositifolius is mainly pollinated by different species of bees and butterflies.
Mallotus oppositifolius occurs in dry secondary forest undergrowth, forest edges and associated bushland or thickets, also along rivers, from sea-level up to 1650 m altitude. In Nigeria it is a weed in rice fields.
Propagation and planting
Mallotus oppositifolius is mainly propagated by seed, although vegetative propagation may be possible as well, in view of its easy growth.
Mallotus oppositifolius can be coppiced and pollarded. It has a high growth rate compared to other commonly used browse plants. It is deep-rooting and has a root:shoot ratio of 2:1. It has an extensive system of fine roots, indicating its potential for use in agroforestry and land management. In West Africa it is grown in and around cassava fields to reduce the impact of animals that feed on the leaves, as they prefer Mallotus oppositifolius leaves. Regular weeding is necessary.
Diseases and pests
Mallotus oppositifolius is one of the major food plants for the grasshopper Zonocerus variegatus, and a host of Lepidopterous species, including Endoclita malabaricus.
Handling after harvest
The harvested leaves are usually used fresh, whereas the roots are usually dried, pounded and kept in a pot for later use. The stems or the twigs are chewed fresh, or dried for later use.
Genetic resources
Mallotus oppositifolius is very common in its large distribution area, and not in danger of genetic erosion. Small germplasm collections are maintained in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Mallotus oppositifolius leaves and stem bark have several interesting local medicinal uses, including analgesic, antibacterial, anthelminthic and haemostatic uses. Although antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities have been demonstrated in in-vitro tests, more research is needed to evaluate its potential as a medicinal plant.
Major references
• Adekunle, A.A. & Ikumapayi, A.M., 2006. Antifungal property and phytochemical screening of the crude extracts of Funtumia elastica and Mallotus oppositifolius. West Indian Medical Journal 55(4): 219–223.
• Atindehou, K.K., Koné, M., Terreaux, C., Traoré, D., Hostettmann, K. & Dosso, M., 2002. Evaluation of the antimicrobial potential of medicinal plants from the Ivory Coast. Phytotherapy Research 16(5): 497–502.
• Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
• Chukwujekwu, J.C., Van Staden, J. & Smith, P., 2005. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimalarial activities of some Nigerian medicinal plants. South African Journal of Botany 71(3–4): 316–325.
• Farombi, E.O., 2003. African indigenous plants with chemotherapeutic potentials and biotechnological approach to the production of bioactive prophylactic agents. African Journal of Biotechnology 2(12): 662–671.
• Farombi, E.O., Ogundipe, O.O. & Moody, J.O., 2001. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Mallotus oppositifolius in model systems. African Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences 30: 213–215.
• Kamgang, R., Kamgne, E.V.P., Fonkoua, M.C., Beng, V.P.N. & Sida, M.B., 2006. Activities of aqueous extracts of Mallotus oppositifolius on Shigella dysenteriae A1-induced diarrhoea in rats. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology 33(1–2): 89–94.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Okpekon, T., Yolou, S., Gleye, C., Roblot, F., Loiseau, P., Bories, C., Grellier, P., Frappier, F., Laurens, A. & Hocquemiller, R., 2004. Antiparasitic activities of medicinal plants used in Ivory Coast. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90: 91–97.
• Okwu, D.E. & Ekeke, O., 2003. Phytochemical screening and mineral composition of chewing sticks in South Eastern Nigeria. Global Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences 9(2): 235–238.
Other references
• Adjah, C.R., 1979. Phytochemical screening of leaves and root bark of an African herb (Mallotus oppositifolius). B.Sc. Thesis, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana. 39 pp.
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
• Aschfalk, A., Steingass, H., Müller, W. & Drochner, W., 2000. Acceptance and digestibility of some selected browse feeds with varying tannin content as supplements in sheep nutrition in West Africa. Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Series A, 47(9): 513–524.
• Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
• Bokdam, J. & Droogers, A.F., 1975. Contribution à l’étude ethnobotanique des Wagenia de Kisangani, Zaïre. Medelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 75(19), Wageningen, Netherlands. 74 pp.
• Chhabra, S.C., Mahunnah, R.L.A. & Mshiu, E.N., 1990. Plants used in traditional medicine in eastern Tanzania. 3. Angiosperms (Euphorbiaceae to Menispermaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 28: 255–283.
• Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 2000. World checklist and bibliography of Euphorbiaceae (with Pandaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 1620 pp.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Le Gall, P., Djihou, Z., Tchenga, G. & Lomer, C.J., 2003. Diet of Zonocerus variegatus (Linné, 1758) (Orth., Acrididae) in cassava fields in Bénin. Journal of Applied Entomology 127(7): 435–440.
• Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2006. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. res/celp/webpages/projects/ecology/ tree%20guide/guide.htm. Accessed February 2007.
• McPherson, G., 1995. On Mallotus and Deuteromallotus (Euphorbiaceae) in Madagascar. Bulletin du Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, séries 4, 17, section B, Adansonia 3–4: 169–173.
• Meregini, A.O.A. & Nzegbule, E.C., 2000. Potentials of Mallotus oppositifolius for agroforestry and land management in southeastern Nigeria. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment 2(1): 55–61.
• Novy, J.W., 1997. Medicinal plants of the eastern region of Madagascar. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 55: 119–126.
• Pax, F. & Hoffmann, K., 1914. Deuteromallotus. In: Engler, A. (Editor). Das Pflanzenreich 4, 147(7): 212–213.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.
• Rasoanaivo, P., Petitjean, A. & Conan, J.Y., 1993. Toxic and poisonous plants of Madagascar: an ethnopharmacological survey. Fitoterapia 64: 117–129.
• Twum-Boateng, M., 2003. Antibacterial properties of Mallotus oppositifolius and Dissotis rotundifolia. B.Pharm. Thesis, Department of Pharmaceutics, Faculty of Pharmacy, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana. 43 pp.
Sources of illustration
• Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
D.M. Mosango
c/o Laboratory of Natural Sciences, Lycée Français Jean Monnet de Bruxelles (LFB), Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Brussels, Belgium

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:
Mosango, D.M., 2007. Mallotus oppositifolius (Geiseler) Müll.Arg. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, flowering branch; 2, part of male inflorescence; 3, part of infructescence.
Source: Flore analytique du Bénin

fruiting branch
obtained from