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Plantago palmata Hook.f.

Protologue
Journ. Linn. Soc., Bot. 6: 19 (1861).
Family
Plantaginaceae
Chromosome number
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.
Uses
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.
Properties
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.
Botany
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.
Ecology
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.
Prospects
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.
Major references
• Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2002. Plantago palmata. [Internet]. Prelude Medicinal Plants Database. Metafro-Infosys, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium http://www.metafro.be/prelude/view_plant?pi=10130 Accessed June 2004.
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
• Rønsted, N., Franzyk, H., Mølgaard, P., Jaroszewski, J.W. & Jensen, S.R., 2003. Chemotaxonomy and evolution of Plantago L. Plant Systematics and Evolution 242: 63–82.
• Vlietinck, A.J., van Hoof, L., Totté, J., Lasure, A., Vanden Berghe, D.A., Rwangabo, P.C. & Mvukiyumwami, J., 1995. Screening of hundred Rwandese medicinal plants for antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 46: 31–47.
Other references
• Andriamihaja, S., 1988. Essai d'inventaire des plantes médicino-dentaires malgaches, Tome II. SME, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 373 pp.
• Hepper, F.N., 1963. Plantaginaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 306–307.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Lehmann, G., 1988. Plantaginaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 1. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 9–12.
• Lisowski, S., Malaisse, F. & Symoens, J.J., 1972. Plantaginaceae. In: Bamps, P. (Editor). Flore d’Afrique centrale. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 6 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Samuelsen, A.B., 2000. The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L.: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71: 1–21.
• Verdcourt, B., 1971. Plantaginaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 7 pp.
• Yamada, T., 1999. A report of the ethnobotany of the Nyindu in the eastern part of the former Zaire. African Study Monographs 20(1): 1–72.
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
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:
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.