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Phyllanthus casticum Willemet

Protologue
Ann. Bot. (Usteri) 18: 55 (1796).
Family
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Vernacular names
Leaf-flower (En). Bois caustique, bois castique, caustique rouge, bois de demoiselle (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Phyllanthus casticum occurs throughout the Indian Ocean islands.
Uses
In the traditional medicine of the islands of the Indian Ocean a twig, stem bark or powdered wood decoction is considered astringent and taken to treat severe diarrhoea, dysentery, amoebic dysentery, colic, ulcers and infections of the urogenital tract. Powdered bark and the pulp of the fresh branches or crushed young leaves are applied as a poultice to treat wounds, abscesses, eczema and syphilitic ulcers. A twig decoction is gargled to treat a sore throat, toothache and infections in the mouth. A leaf decoction is drunk to treat asthma. In Madagascar a root decoction is taken to treat tiredness after severe diarrhoea, and also to treat nervous depressions and impotence. Crushed roots are applied to furuncles and abscesses. Root powder is applied to the forehead of children suffering from dizziness and fainting. A leaf decoction is used to massage swollen limbs. In Réunion a plant infusion is taken to induce menstruation in cases of irregular menstruation as well as for treatment of haemorrhoids and gastric ulcers. In Rodrigues and the Seychelles a decoction of the branches and leaves is taken as a refreshing drink.
The fruits are edible and have a sour taste; they are also slightly antipyretic. They are used to make an alcoholic drink of inferior quality. The leaves are sometimes used for dyeing basketry and cloth, but the colours are not stable. The twigs are used as disinfecting toothbrushes. In Madagascar the flexible branches are used in wickerwork and fishing nets.
Properties
The bark contains proanthocyanidol, saponosides and traces of terpenes, the leaves contain polyphenols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidol, steroids, 2-deoxysugars, phyllanthin, hypophyllanthin and traces of alkaloids. The flavonoids quercetin-3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl(1–4)-α-L-rhamnopyranoside and 3,5,7,4’-tetrahydroxyflavone were isolated from the aerial parts. The roots contain the alkaloids securinine and allosecurinine.
Description
Monoecious shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall; trunk up to 15 cm in diameter; bark brownish grey; twigs sparsely or densely hairy. Leaves alternate, distichous and crowded along lateral twigs, simple and entire, glabrous; stipules oblong, up to 1.5 mm long, fringed, persistent; petiole c. 1 mm long; blade oblong, 7–25 mm × 3–12 mm, base unequal, rounded, apex acute or obtuse and pointed. Inflorescence a small fascicle in leaf axils, male flowers c. 4 together, female flowers 1–2, usually only male or female flowers present at a time. Flowers unisexual, regular, dark red; pedicel thin, 1–5 mm long, enlarging in fruit; perianth lobes 5(–6), elliptical; male flowers with perianth lobes 1.5–2 mm long, hardly opening, disk with 5 free lobes, stamens 5, 3 stamens completely fused, 2 almost free, anthers exserted; female flowers with perianth lobes c. 1 mm long, spreading, disk 5-lobed, ovary superior, ovoid, 3-celled, styles 3, mostly fused, deeply bifid at apex. Fruit a fleshy, globose berry 6–9 mm in diameter, green changing to red then black, 6-seeded. Seeds trigonous, 1.5–2 mm × c. 1.5 mm, orange, smooth.
Other botanical information
Phyllanthus is a large genus comprising about 750 species in tropical and subtropical regions, with about 150 species in mainland tropical Africa and about 60 in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands.
Several other Phyllanthus spp. in Madagascar have similar uses as Phyllanthus casticum. Crushed leaves of Phyllanthus betsileanus Leandri, Phyllanthus isalensis Leandri, Phyllanthus madagascariensis Müll.Arg. and Phyllanthus seyrigii Leandri are applied to eczema and wounds. A leaf decoction is applied as lotion or taken in baths to reduce oedema caused by sprains. Scraped stem bark is applied as a poultice to abscesses and wounds. Root powder is applied to the forehead of children suffering from dizziness and fainting. A root decoction is taken to treat syphilis. A root decoction of Phyllanthus mantsakariva Leandri, Phyllanthus fuscoluridus Müll.Arg., Phyllanthus decipiens (Baill.) Müll.Arg. and Phyllanthus seyrigii is considered stimulant and is drunk to improve endurance during hard physical work or as an aphrodisiac, and also to treat impotence and tiredness after prolonged diarrhoea. Twigs of Phyllanthus seyrigii are used as dental sticks. The crushed roots of Phyllanthus fuscoluridus and Phyllanthus decipiens are applied as a poultice to abscesses and furuncles. A root decoction is also taken to treat a nervous depression. A leaf decoction of Phyllanthus decipiens is taken to treat malaria. A twig or stem bark decoction of Phyllanthus madagascariensis, Phyllanthus seyrigii and Phyllanthus fuscoluridus is furthermore taken to treat colic, amoebic dysentery and persistent diarrhoea. The flexible branches are used to make large fishing nets and baskets. The fruits are edible and have a sour taste; they are used to make an alcoholic drink of low quality. The roots are used as a low quality dye for baskets.
Growth and development
Phyllanthus casticum flowers from August to October and fruits from November to January.
Ecology
Phyllanthus casticum occurs in dry deciduous savanna and on sandy soils, also along roads, from sea-level up to 1600 m altitude.
Handling after harvest
All harvested plant parts are used fresh or dried and stored for future use.
Genetic resources
Although Phyllanthus casticum is relatively common in Madagascar, it is less common in other Indian Ocean islands.
Prospects
Phyllanthus casticum has many interesting medicinal uses, but very little chemical and pharmacological information is available. Additional research is therefore recommended.
Major references
• 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.
• Coode, M.J.E., 1982. Euphorbiacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 153–160. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 117 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1996. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 2. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 532 pp.
• Rasoanaivo, P., Petitjean, A., Ratsimamanga-Urverg, S. & Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, A., 1992. Medicinal plants used to treat malaria in Madagascar. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 37: 117–127.
• Unander, D.W., Webster, G.L. & Blumberg, B.S., 1990. Records of usage or assays in Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae) l. Subgenera Isocladus, Kirganella, Cicca and Emblica. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 30: 233–264.
Other references
• Andriamihaja, S., 1986. Essai d’inventaire des plantes medicino-dentaires malgaches (Tome I). Rapport du Mission Française de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle & Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique pour le Développement de la République Malagasy. 316 pp.
• Andrianaivoravelona, B.A., 2004. Etude systématique de Phyllanthus casticum Willemet et de Phyllanthus nummulariifolius Poiret (Euphorbiaceae) à Madagascar. Mémoire pour l’obtention du diplôme d’étude approfondie, Département de Biologie et Ecologie végétale, Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 71 pp.
• Boiteau, P., 1986. Médecine traditionnelle et pharmacopée. Précis de matière médicale malgache. Agence de coopération culturelle et technique, Paris, France. 141 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J., Sewraj, M.D. & Dulloo, E., 1994. Plantes médicinales de l’île Rodrigues. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 580 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Sewraj, M.D., Guého, J. & Dulloo, E., 1996. Medicinal plants of Rodrigues. Pharmaceutical Biology 34(1): 2–14.
• Laivao, M.O., 1999. Contribution à l’étude de la flore médicinale de Bemaraha et leurs caractéristiques écologiques. Mémoire de DEA, option Ecologie Végétale, Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 104 pp.
• Lavergne, R., 2001. Le grand livre des tisaneurs et plantes médicinales indigènes de la Réunion. Editions Orphie, Chevagny sur Guye, France. 522 pp.
• Rabearivelo, J.P., 1986. Approche des plantes médicinales en odontostomatologies dans la région de Toamasina. Thèse pour le diplôme d’état de Docteur en chirurgie dentaire, Université de Mahajanga, Institut d’Odontostomatologie tropicale de Madagascar, Mahajanga, Madagascar. 76 pp.
• Randriamahavorisoa, G., 1993. Etude des maladies et phytothérapie: cas des Tanosy d’Andohahela, Fort-Dauphin. Thèse pour l’obtention du Doctorat en Médecine (Diplôme d’Etat), Université d’Antananarivo, Anatananarivo, Madagascar. 75 pp.
• Rasoanaivo, P., Ratsimamanga-Urverg, S., Ramanitrahasimbolo, D., Rafatro, H. & Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, A., 1999. Criblage d’extraits de plantes de Madagascar pour recherche d’activité antipaludique et d’effet potentialisateur de la chloroquine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64: 117–126.
• Razafindrazaka, J.M., 1991. Croyances, attitudes et pratiques traditionnelles malgaches devant la diarrhée. 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. 83 pp.
• Unander, D.W., Webster, G.L. & Blumberg, B.S., 1991. Uses and bioassays in Phyllanthus (Euphorbiaceae): a compilation. 2. The subgenus Phyllanthus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 34: 97–133.
Sources of illustration
• Coode, M.J.E., 1982. Euphorbiacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 153–160. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 117 pp.
Author(s)
N.S. Alvarez Cruz
Unidad de Medio Ambiente, Delegación del CITMA, Cor. Legon 268 / Henry Reeve y Carlos Roloff, Sancti Spiritus 60100, Cuba


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
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

Correct citation of this article:
Alvarez Cruz, N.S., 2008. Phyllanthus casticum Willemet. 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, fruiting branchlet; 3, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin