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Maprounea africana Müll.Arg.

A.DC., Prodr. 15(2): 1191 (1866).
Vernacular names
Magic nut, redskin bush (En). Mburabu (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Maprounea africana occurs from Benin east to Tanzania and south to Angola, Namibia (Caprivi Strip), Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Maprounea africana is widely known for its purgative properties. A macerate of root bark is taken as a purgative in limited doses, large amounts being lethal. A root decoction is drunk to treat schistosomiasis, venereal diseases, leprosy, amoebic dysentery and syphilis. In Gabon preparations of the roots, bark and leaves are used as an emetic and diuretic. In Congo both stem and root barks, laced with honey or sugar-cane juice, are chewed to treat constipation, ascites and generalized oedema, intestinal worms, female sterility and irregular menstrual cycle. They are also used as a vaginal douche to treat uteritis and vaginitis, or the rolled-up leaves may be placed as a vaginal suppository for the same purpose. An ointment made from powdered bark in palm oil is applied externally to leprous sores and smallpox sores and to skin infections. In DR Congo the leaves or root bark are chewed and the bitter pulp is swallowed to treat stomach complaints and colic. A root decoction is applied to the eyes to treat infections and the sap is applied to circumcision wounds. Chewed or chopped leaves are applied to decaying teeth to treat toothache. The leaves are used in a preparation to treat epilepsy. In Tanzania a preparation of the young twigs is taken to relieve constipation. Sap of young leaves is drunk or pulverized leaves mixed with white clay are eaten as a remedy for respiratory diseases in children. In Mozambique a root bark macerate is taken to treat malaria.
In southern Africa the leaves are browsed by goats and the wood is used as firewood. In DR Congo the twigs are used as a toothbrush.
Production and international trade
Maprounea root bark, stem bark and leaves are collected and traded locally in market places. Reliable production figures are not available because wild plants are mainly harvested for home consumption and sold at local markets.
The root bark contains the pentacyclic triterpenes maprounic acid, maprounic acid acetate and several derivatives, of which 1β-hydroxyaleuritolic acid 3-p-hydroxybenzoate showed significant activity against P-388 cancer cells in vitro, whereas several other derivatives exhibited potent inhibitory activity against HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. The compounds were not cytotoxic to cultured mammalian cells.
The ethanolic root bark extract showed potent glucose-lowering properties when given orally to mice. This activity was caused by the daphnane-type diterpenoid maprouneacin.
The acetone extract of the root bark showed high toxicity to mice.
Crude methanolic root bark extracts demonstrated a marked antibacterial activity against Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus mutans and also significant antifungal activity against Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans and Microsporum gypseum. The extracts also showed significant anti-amoebic activity in vitro. The ethanolic leaf extract induced hypothermia and prolonged the sleeping time when administered orally to mice. It also significantly delayed the onset of induced clonic convulsions, but had no significant effects on induced generalized convulsions or on limbic status epilepticus. Organic root bark extracts also contained the cyclobutenic diterpene bershacolone, koumbalones A and B with a casbane ring system, and oxygenated tetracyclic triterpenes of the cucurbitacin type.
Monoecious, much-branched deciduous shrub or small tree up to 8(–10) m tall, with pendent branches; bark corky, deeply fissured, grey or pale to dark brown; twigs reddish brown. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules ovate, c. 1 mm long; petiole 0.5–3 cm long, red; blade ovate or elliptical-ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 1.5–8 cm × (1–)2–4(–5) cm, base cuneate, rounded or cordate, apex obtuse to rounded, glabrous, pinnately veined with 8–11 pairs of yellow lateral veins. Inflorescence a terminal raceme up to 2 cm long, on short lateral shoots, with male flowers in an apical, globose to ovoid, yellowish or reddish head 3–8 mm in diameter and 1–3 female flowers at base, green; bracts c. 1 mm long. Flowers unisexual, petals absent; male flowers with pedicel up to 1 mm long, calyx lobes 2–3, c. 1 mm long, acute, stamens (1–)2(–3), fused into a staminal column c. 2 mm long; female flowers with pedicel 3–5 mm long, extending to 2(–3) cm long in fruit, calyx lobes 3–6, c. 1 mm long, ovary superior, ovoid, c. 1 mm in diameter, 3(–5)-celled, smooth, styles 2–3, 1–1.5 mm long, fused at base, reflexed at apex, persistent. Fruit a depressed, slightly 3(–5)-lobed capsule 8–12 mm × 14–16 mm, smooth, dull green, tinged reddish, later bright red or brown red, 3–5-seeded. Seeds ovoid, 7–9 mm × 6–7 mm, usually smooth, greenish black, caruncle 6–7 mm long, the 2 lobes covering up to half the seed, orange or bright red.
Other botanical information
Maprounea comprises 4 species, 2 of which occur in tropical Africa and 2 in South America. In Central Africa Maprounea africana and Maprounea membranacea Pax & K.Hoffm. are similarly used as medicinal plants.
Maprounea africana is relatively common in savanna and open, deciduous forest, usually on well-drained or dry sandy soils, and also occurs on lakeshore and coastal dunes, on escarpments, rocky hillsides and in floodplain grassland, from sea-level up to 1600 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Maprounea africana regenerates profusely by seed. Seed used in cultivation should be freshly extracted from the fruit as viability declines rapidly when seed is stored. Rains must follow germination to ensure seedling survival. Plantations can be established by direct sowing or by using nursery-raised seedlings. Propagation by stem cuttings is probably feasible as well.
Maprounea africana is fast growing and requires little or no management once established. It can be coppiced and pollarded.
Root bark, stem bark and leaves are only collected from the wild.
Genetic resources
Neither germplasm collections nor breeding programmes are known for Maprounea africana. Since it is widespread and rather common, it is not liable to genetic erosion.
Maprounea africana is regarded as an important medicinal plant species by the populations using it, and it seems underexploited. Considering the many medicinal purposes for which it is used, there is enormous scope for future research and further phytochemical and pharmacological investigations are warranted, especially on the anti-HIV activities of the pentacyclic triterpenes. However, large-scale cultivation for its root and stem bark is not expected.
Major references
• 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.
• Carney, J.R., Krenisky, J.M., Williamson, R.T., Luo, J., Carlson, T.J., Hsu, V.L. & Moswa, J.L., 1999. Maprouneacin, a new daphnane diterpenoid with potent antihyperglycemic activity from Maprounea africana. Journal of Natural Products 62(2): 345–347.
• Chilufya, H. & Tengnäs, B., 1996. Agroforestry extension manual for northern Zambia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 120 + 124 pp.
• Jung, M., Lee, S., Kim, H. & Kim, H., 2000. Recent studies on natural products as anti-HIV agents. Current Medicinal Chemistry 7(6): 649–661.
• Muanza, D.N., Kim, B.W., Euler, K.L. & Williams, L., 1994. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of nine medicinal plants from Zaire. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 32(4): 337–345
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• N’Gouemo, P., Nguemby, B.C. & Baldy, M.M., 1994. Some neuropharmacological effects of an ethanolic extract of Maprounea africana in rodents. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 43(3): 161–166.
• Pengsuparp, T., Cai, L., Constant, H., Fong, H.H., Lin, L.Z., Kinghorn, A.D., Pezzuto, J.M., Cordell, G.A., Ingolfsdottir, K., Wagner, H. & Hughes, S.H., 1995. Mechanistic evaluation of new plant-derived compounds that inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. Journal of Natural Products 58(7): 1024–1031.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.
• Tona, L., Kambu, K., Ngimbi, N., Mesia, K., Penge, O., Lusakibanza, M., Cimanga, K., De Bruyne, T., Apers, S., Totté, J., Pieters, L. & Vlietinck, A.J., 2000. Antiamoebic and spasmolitic activities of extracts from some antidiarroeal traditional preparations used in Kinshasa, Congo. Phytomedicine 7: 31–38.
Other references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Ahyi, A.M.R., Aké Assi, L., Baniakina, J., Chibon, P., Cusset, G., Doulou, V., Enzanza, A., Eymé, J., Goudoté, E., Keita, A., Mbemba, C., Mollet, J., Moutsamboté, J.-M., Mpati, J. & Sita, P. (Editors), 1988. Médecine traditionnelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Congo. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 606 pp.
• Bernart, M.W., Kashman, Y., Tischler, M., Cardellina, J.H. & Boyd, M.R., 1993. Bershacolone, an unprecedented diterpene cyclobutene from Maprounea africana. Tetrahedron Letters 34(28): 4461–4464.
• Beutler, J.A., Kashman, Y., Tischler, M., Cardellina, J.H., Gray, G.N., Currens, M.J., Wall, M.E., Wani, M.C. & Boyd, M.R., 1995. A reinvestigation of Maprounea triterpenes. Journal of Natural Products 58(7): 1039–1056.
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Chaudhuri, S.K., Fullas, F., Brown, D.M., Wani, M.C., Wall, M.E., Cai, L., Mar, W., Lee, S.K., Luo, Y., Zaw, K., Fong, H.H.S., Pezzuto, J.M. & Kinghorn, D., 1995. Isolation and structural elucidation of pentacyclic triterpenoids from Maprounea africana. Journal of Natural Products 58(1): 1–9.
• 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.
• Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
• Disengomoka, I. & Delaveau, P., 1983. Medicinal plants used for child’s respiratory diseases in Zaire. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 8: 257–264.
• Kambu, K., Tona, L., Luki, N., Cimanga, K. & Makuba, W., 1989. Evaluation de l’activité antimicrobienne de quelques préparations traditionelles antidiarrheiques utilisées dans la ville de Kinshasa - Zaire. Médecine Traditionelle et Pharmacopée 3(1): 15–24.
• Kashman, Y., Bernart, M.W., Tischler, M., Cardellina, J.H. & Boyd, M.R., 1994. Koumbalones A and B, new casbane diterpenes from Maprounea africana. Journal of Natural Products 57(3): 426–430.
• Latham, P., 2005. Some honeybee plants of Bas-Congo Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID, United Kingdom. 167 pp.
• Léonard, J., 1962. Euphorbiaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 8, 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. 214 pp.
• Pengsuparp, T., Cai, L.N., Fong, H.H.S., Kinghorn, A.D., Pezzuto, J.M., Wani, M.C. & Wall, M.E., 1994. Pentacyclic triterpenes derived from Maprounea africana are potent inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. Journal of Natural Products 57(3): 415–418.
• Sandberg, F. & Cronlund, A., 1982. An ethnopharmacological inventory of medicinal and toxic plants from equatorial Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 5: 187–204.
• Tona, L., Kambu, K., Ngimbi, N., Cimanga, K. & Vlietinck, A.J., 1998. Antiamoebic and phytochemical screening of some Congolese medicinal plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 61(1): 57–65.
• Wani, M.C., Schaumberg, J.P., Taylor, H.L., Thompson, J.B. & Wall, M.E., 1983. Plant antitumor agents, 19. Novel triterpenes from Maprounea africana. Journal of Natural Products 46(4): 537–543.
• Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.
Sources of illustration
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.
A. Maroyi
Department of Biological Sciences, Bindura University of Science Education, P.O. Bag 1020, Bindura, Zimbabwe

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:
Maroyi, A., 2008. Maprounea africana 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, inflorescence; 3, infructescence; 4, seeds.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

flowering branch

fruiting branch