Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2
Kew Bull. 8: 333 (1953).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Asclepias lineolata (Decne.) Schltr. (1895), Pachycarpus schweinfurthii (N.E.Br.) Bullock (1953).
Origin and geographic distribution
Pachycarpus lineolatus occurs from Senegal and Guinea east to southern Sudan and south throughout Central and East Africa to Malawi, Zambia and Namibia.
In Senegal the dried, bitter, fleshy roots are powdered and a porridge made from it is given to people suffering from inflamed testes (orchitis). In Benin the powdered root, together with seeds of Piper guineense Schumach. & Thonn., is taken in water to treat inguinal and scrotal hernia. In Nigeria a root decoction is taken with local drinks to treat gastro-intestinal problems, and a weak, cold infusion is given to new-born babies. In East Africa the roots are chewed and the sap swallowed as a stomachic and abortifacient and also to treat pharyngitis. In Uganda the roots are eaten to treat a sore throat. In Tanzania sap from the pressed seeds, together with sap from peppers (Capsicum sp.), is applied to breasts to encourage milk flow. In Zimbabwe a root infusion is drunk to treat abdominal pain and venereal diseases. Sap from the heated stem is massaged onto the skin to treat itch. Throughout its distribution area the fresh root is chewed or the dried, powdered root is taken in local beer as an aphrodisiac.
In Senegal the roots are considered depurative and eaten only in times of famine. In Côte d’Ivoire, however, the roots are eaten pounded and boiled or raw. In Zambia the root powder is sprinkled on seeds to catch birds as they are said to become confused from eating it.
Perennial herb up to 1.5 m high, stems annual, erect, usually unbranched, densely short-hairy; roots forming a fascicle of fleshy, carrot-like roots, white inside; latex present in all parts. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole (2–)5–13 mm long, short-hairy; blade narrowly lanceolate to broadly ovate or oblong, 4–12(–14) cm × 1–6(–9) cm, base cordate, truncate or rounded, apex obtuse or slightly retuse to acute, short-hairy with scabrid white hairs on both sides, parallel-veined with numerous secondary veins. Inflorescences an extra-axillary or terminal nodding umbel, 4–12-flowered; peduncle (2–)4–17 cm long, erect, short-hairy; bracts linear. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1–3(–4) cm long, tinged purple, short-hairy; sepals lanceolate, (4–)6–11 mm long, acute, green or tinged purple, densely short-hairy; corolla rotate, cream or pale green inside, often with network of purplish to brownish lines in upper half, short-hairy, outside cream or brownish purple, sometimes with some longitudinal purple stripes, lobes ovate, 8–17 mm × (4–)6–9(–11) mm, acute; corona lobes attached at base of staminal column, 7–8 mm long, 3–4 mm wide at base, fleshy, with a pair of triangular plates arising from upper surface, 4–5 mm long, white or cream with reddish purple patch on underside, staminal column c. 6 mm long, wings 2–3.5 mm long, triangular, appendages ovate, inflexed over stigma head; ovary superior, carpels 2, free, stigma head flat, white or green. Fruit composed of 2 follicles, upright through contortion of pedicel, ovoid or broadly spindle-shaped, c. 12 cm × 7 cm, inflated, green, short-hairy, many-seeded. Seeds ovate, c. 4.5 mm long, with narrow inflated rim, coma c. 3 cm long.
Pachycarpus comprises about 37 species in continental Africa; about 24 occur in South Africa. It has two principal centres of diversity, one in the eastern parts of southern Africa and the other in the highlands of tropical east Africa. It is closely related to Xysmalobium and Gomphocarpus.
Several other Pachycarpus species are used medicinally in tropical Africa.
Pachycarpus concolor (L.) W.T.Aiton occurs in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland. In Zimbabwe pulverized root in porridge is eaten as an aphrodisiac. In South Africa powdered root is used as snuff to treat headache. In East Africa pounded roots are applied to infected skin of cattle, caused by maggots. Pachycarpus eximius (Schltr.) Bullock occurs from southern Sudan south to eastern DR Congo and Tanzania. In Uganda a root decoction is taken as an anthelmintic.
Pachycarpus lineolatus occurs in open deciduous woodland and seasonally waterlogged grassland, at 700–2500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Pachycarpus lineolatus is widespread and relatively common. Therefore it seems unlikely that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
Pachycarpus lineolatus has many medicinal uses, but virtually nothing is known concerning its chemistry and pharmacology. Therefore, more research is warranted.
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• 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.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2011. Pachycarpus lineolatus (Decne.) Bullock. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
part of flowering stem.
Source: Flore analytique du Bénin