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Marsdenia abyssinica (Hochst.) Schltr.

Protologue
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 51: 143 (1913).
Family
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 22
Synonyms
Dregea africana (Decne.) Martelli (1886), Dregea abyssinica (Hochst.) K.Schum. (1895).
Origin and geographic distribution
Marsdenia abyssinica occurs from Senegal and Gambia east to Ethiopia and Eritrea and south through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to Angola and Zimbabwe. It also occurs in Yemen.
Uses
In West Africa the Senoufo people use the latex as ear drops to treat otitis. In Sudan the fruit is cooked in soup and the soup given to children as a strong laxative in case of constipation. In Kenya the Maasai people take a bark infusion to treat diarrhoea. In Tanzania the fresh roots are chewed as an aphrodisiac; the mashed root is also applied to snakebites. Leafy twigs are pounded with water and added to dog food to treat dogs with a dry cough.
In Kenya the strong stems are used as rope when branding cows. In Ethiopia and Uganda the leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Because of its large, white, fragrant flowers it has potential as an ornamental. In Sudan an infusion of the leaves is taken in ceremonies of purification during Ramadan. Fresh leaves are rubbed on the leg joints of children to promote learning to walk.
Properties
The seeds contain pregnane-type glycosides drevogenin A and B.
Botany
Climbing, latex-containing shrub up to 16 m long, becoming woody at base, shoots pale green. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 1–8 cm long; blade ovate to elliptical-ovate, 6–11 cm × 3.5–8 cm, base rounded to broadly cuneate, apex acute, both sides with pinkish red woolly hairs. Inflorescence an extra-axillary umbellate cyme up to 4 cm in diameter, 10–30-flowered, with pinkish red woolly hairs; peduncle up to 2.6 cm long, woody. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, white, fragrant; pedicel 1.5–2 cm long; calyx lobes broadly ovate, c. 4 mm long; corolla campanulate, tube c. 1.3 mm long, lobes linear to lanceolate, 4.5–6 mm × 2.5–4 mm, apex notched, margin short-hairy; corona lobes fleshy, cylindrical, c. 2.5 mm long, with rounded apex, white, shorter than staminal column; stigma head conical, obscured by anther appendages. Fruit a pair of follicles, each follicle ovoid, 4–9 cm × 2.5–4 cm, with at least 8 wrinkled, longitudinal wavy ridges, papery when dry, many-seeded.
Marsdenia is a large pantropical genus, comprising 200–300 species, depending whether related genera such as Dregea, Wattakaka and Gymnema are also included. In continental tropical Africa about 7 species occur and in Madagascar about 15 species. Several other Marsdenia species are medicinally used in continental Africa and Madagascar.
Marsdenia critina Oliv. (synonym: Dregea critina (Oliv.) Bullock) occurs in the forests of West and Central Africa; in Sierra Leone the leaf sap is applied to wounds to stop bleeding. Marsdenia macrantha (Klotzsch) Schltr. (synonym: Dregea macrantha Klotzsch) occurs in Kenya, Tanzania and throughout southern Africa. In Namibia the latex is applied to thorns to remove them from the skin. A cold water extract or root pulp is drunk or used as an enema, or root powder is taken in water to treat problems with urine retention and constipation. A root decoction or infusion is taken to treat cough, venereal diseases, chest pain and infections in the mouth. In Kenya a root decoction is taken to treat abdominal pain during pregnancy. An infusion of the pounded aerial parts is taken to treat snakebites. The leaves are browsed by livestock. Marsdenia rubicunda (K.Schum.) N.E.Br. (synonym: Dregea rubicunda K.Schum.) occurs in East and southern Africa. In Kenya a root infusion is drunk to treat indigestion. Fresh roots are chewed as an aphrodisiac. Leaves are put into rituals of circumcision and of blessing cattle. It is not clear whether Marsdenia macrantha is a synonym of Marsdenia rubicunda. Marsdenia schimperi Decne. (synonym: Dregea schimperi (Decne.) Bullock) occurs in Cameroon and also widely in East Africa. Crushed burned stems are mixed with fat and given to children to improve digestion. In Somalia it is considered poisonous to stock, causing animals to stand stiffly, to shake and have diarrhoea. The strong stems are used as rope for branding cows and to tie beehives in trees. In Kenya the wood is used to make tool handles.
In Madagascar a root decoction of Marsdenia truncata Jum. & H.Perrier is used to treat cough and colds, usually in children. A bark infusion is taken to treat anorexia. A leaf decoction of Marsdenia verrucosa Decne. is applied externally to treat syphilitic sores. A root decoction is taken to treat cough. The latex was formerly used to adulterate better latex.
Ecology
Marsdenia abyssinica occurs in forest borders, often on sandy soils along rivers, at 200–1800 m altitude. In Benin flowering is in April–May and fruiting in January.
Genetic resources and breeding
Marsdenia abyssinica is widespread and not uncommon, and it is therefore unlikely to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Prospects
Marsdenia abyssinica will probably remain of local importance as a medicinal plant, unless chemical and pharmacological research reveals interesting properties.
Major references
• Albers, F., Gilbert, M., Goyder, D., Liede, S. & Venter, J., 2003. Asclepiadaceae. In: Hedberg, I., Edwards, S. & Sileshi Nemomissa (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 4, part 1. Apiaceae to Dipsacaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 99–193.
• Baumer, M.C., 1975. Catalogue des plantes utiles du Kordofan (République du Soudan) particulièrement du point de vue pastoral. Journal d’Agriculture Tropicale et de Botanique Appliquée 22: 105.
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Maundu, P., Berger, D., Saitabau, C., Nasieku, J., Kipelian, M., Mathenge, S., Morimoto, Y. & Höft, R., 2001. Ethnobotany of the Loita Maasai. Towards community management of the forest of the Lost Child. Experiences from the Loita Ethnobotany Project. UNESCO People and Plants Working Paper 8, Paris, France. 34 pp.
Other references
• Andriambololona, B.C., 1993. Etude comparative de la pathologie de deux agglomérations rurales jumelles et des pratiques curatives locales par les plantes médicinales traditionnelles. Thèse pour l'obtention du grade de Docteur en médecine, Etablissement d'Enseignement Supérieur des Sciences de la Santé, Faculté de Médecine Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar. 47 pp.
• Berhaut, J., 1971. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 1. Acanthacées à Avicenniacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 626 pp.
• Bhatnagar, A.S., Kaufmann, H., Stocklin, W. & Reichstein, T., 1968. The pregnane derivatives from the seeds of Dregea abyssinica (Hochst.) K.Schum. (Asclepiadaceae). I Isolations. Helvetica Chimica Acta 51(1): 117–133.
• Bhatnagar, A.S., Stocklin, W. & Reichstein, T., 1968. Drevogenin A and drevogenin B: additional structure detection of glycosides and aglycones in Dregea volubilis and Dregea abyssinica. Helvetica Chimica Acta 51(1): 148–152.
• Ichikawa, M., 1987. A preliminary report on the ethnobotany of the Suiei Dorobo in northern Kenya. African Study Monographs, Supplement 7: 1–52.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Ralantonirina, D., 1993. Aperçu sur les plantes médicinales dans le sud de Madagascar : étude faite sur les adultes dans le périmètre de la réserve spéciale de Beza - Mahafaly. Thèse pour l’obtention du grade de Docteur en médecine, Etablissement d’Enseignement Supérieur des Sciences de la Santé, Faculté de Médecine, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 95 pp.
• Razafiarison, C., 1993. Aperçu sur les plantes médicinales dans le sud de Madagascar : étude faite sur les enfants dans le périmètre de la réserve spéciale de Beza - Mahafaly. Thèse pour l’obtention du grade de Docteur en Médecine, Etablissement d’Enseignement Supérieur des Sciences de la Santé, Faculté de Médecine, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 93 pp.
• SEPASAL, 2009. Marsdenia macrantha. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. Accessed July 2009.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
• Westphal, E., 1975. Agricultural systems in Ethiopia. Agricultural Research Reports 826. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 278 pp.
Author(s)
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
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
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom

Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2010. Marsdenia abyssinica (Hochst.) Schltr. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.