Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Journ. Linn. Soc., Bot. 6: 19 (1861).
2n = 24
Origin and geographic distribution
Plantago palmata is indigenous in tropical Africa, where it occurs from Bioko (Equatorial Guinea) and Cameroon east to Ethiopia and Kenya, and south to Zimbabwe.
In the eastern part of DR Congo, the sap of the leaves in water is externally applied to treat conjunctivitis and haemorrhoids, and internally against diarrhoea and vaginal prolapse. An infusion of the leaves or pounded roots in milk is taken to treat intestinal problems. Pounded leaves and inflorescences are applied to burns and skin diseases. The Nyindu people of DR Congo use the pounded leaves, mixed with honey, against heart problems. A grilled leaf is applied to aching joints. In Burundi the leaves are used in the treatment of oedema, threatening miscarriage, nausea during pregnancy and intestinal problems such as diarrhoea. In East Africa the leaves are macerated in banana beer, which is taken to treat hepatic diseases. In Rwanda the leaves are used internally for similar diseases and to expel intestinal worms and externally to treat breast infection. In eastern Congo the macerated leaves are given to young goats against cocciniosis, a protozoan intestinal disease.
Plantago palmata is well-liked by cattle in East Africa. The petioles are used for plaiting contrasting colours into baskets.
The aerial parts of Plantago palmata contain the caffeic acid derivatives plantamajoside and acteoside (verbascoside), as well as the iridoid glycosides aucubin, geniposidic acid, epiloganic acid, arborescoside and gardoside. Plantamajoside has an inhibitory effect on arachidonic acid-induced mouse ear oedema (anti-inflammatory activity), and inhibitory effect on 5-lipoxygenase, 15-lipoxygenase, and cAMP phosphodiesterase. It also has some antibacterial activity. Both plantamajoside and acteoside have antioxidant activity and are DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) radical scavengers. Aucubin shows anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, antidote and hepatoprotective activities as well as antiviral activity against hepatitis B.
The leaves, fruits and roots of Plantago palmata have been tested for antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. There was no antibacterial activity, but all parts, especially the roots, expressed antifungal activity against Microsporum canum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes, while the leaves had moderate activity against the Coxsackie virus.
Small perennial herb up to 40 cm tall, glabrescent to hairy, with short, stout rhizome and numerous whitish roots. Leaves in a basal rosette, arranged spirally; petiole 5–25 cm long; blade ovate or rounded, distinctly palmately lobed, 5–12 cm × 3–10 cm, base cordate, apex acute or rounded, with 3–5 distinct parallel veins. Inflorescence a dense spike 1–11(–17) cm long; peduncle 5–30 cm long; bracts 2–2.5 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4-merous, sessile, white to greenish-white; sepals 2.5–3 mm long, keeled; corolla 3 mm long; ovary superior, style scarcely exceeding the corolla. Fruit a globose capsule 3–4 mm long, 2-seeded.
Plantago comprises nearly 270 species and is cosmopolitan, but mainly temperate in distribution. Like Plantago major L., Plantago palmata belongs to the section Plantago. Another species of this section is Plantago tanalensis Baker, which is endemic to Madagascar and used as a medicine for whooping-cough and tooth-ache.
Plantago palmata occurs on disturbed sites, along roadsides, in openings of sub-montane forest, grassland or (less often) as a weed of plantations and gardens. In East Africa, it is most often found in bamboo and Juniperus forest, often along streams or on boggy ground, at 1200–2400 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Plantago palmata is quite common in its natural habitat, and does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Plantago palmata is quite extensively used as a medicinal plant in Central Africa. It contains, like Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata L., caffeic acid derivatives and iridoid glycosides, which have shown pharmacological activities supporting the uses in traditional medicine.
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Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2006. Plantago palmata Hook.f. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.