Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Linnaea 34: 192 (1865).
Origin and geographic distribution
Mallotus subulatus occurs from Sierra Leone east to Cameroon and south to DR Congo.
In Ghana an infusion of the roots together with the seeds of Aframomum melegueta K.Schum. is taken as an enema to treat lumbago. In Nigeria the roots, leaves and fruits are ground and taken in water to treat dysentery. Wet leaves are pulped and applied to wounds as a styptic. The ground seeds in water are taken to treat stomach-ache. In Gabon the head is massaged with the pulp or maceration of young leaves to treat headache and nervous break-down. In Congo the bark sap is rubbed onto local scarifications in case of pain in the side and lumbago.
In southern Nigeria the Igbo people apply the powdered seeds to the faces of young men and girls as a mask.
Preliminary tests revealed traces of alkaloids in the roots, and abundant saponins and little tannin in the stem bark and roots.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall; twigs stellate hairy. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules subulate, 6–8 mm long, persistent; petiole 1–5.5 cm long; blade oblong to ovate, 10–18 cm × 7.5–10 cm, base rounded, apex acute to acuminate, glabrous. Inflorescence an axillary raceme up to 5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, petals absent, disk absent, pedicel short; male flowers in small fascicles, with obovoid calyx, 3–4-lobed, cream, stamens 40–50, free; female flowers solitary on inflorescence axis, with 3 recurved sepals, densely stellate hairy, cream, ovary superior, globose, 3-lobed, 3-celled, rough, stigmas 3, sessile, densely papillose, spreading. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule 12–16 mm in diameter, covered with slightly hooked bristles, 3-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 5 mm in diameter, smooth.
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.
Mallotus subulatus occurs in evergreen lowland forest.
Genetic resources and breeding
Mallotus subulatus is at least locally common and does not seem under threat of genetic erosion.
Unless chemical and pharmacological research shows interesting results, Mallotus subulatus will remain of local importance only as a medicinal plant.
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• 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.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Euphorbiaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 364–423.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Sillans, R., 1953. Plantes médicinales d’Afrique centrale. Annales pharmaceutiques françaises 11: 364–383, 456–473.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Mallotus subulatus Müll.Arg. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.