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Secamone afzelii (Schult.) K.Schum.

Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 23: 234 (1896).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Secamone afzelii is widespread in West and Central Africa.
In West Africa the bitter aerial parts of Secamone afzelii are appreciated as a medicinal plant. The leaves or leafy twigs are taken as an infusion, bath or as a maceration. It acts as a quick-acting but gentle laxative, and to treat colic and oedema. In Côte d’Ivoire a leaf infusion is also taken as an antispasmodic and to treat diarrhoea, and the crushed leaves are taken especially to stop excessive purging caused by Anchomanes difformis (Blume) Engl. (Araceae).
In Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire a leaf macerate is drunk and rubbed on the breasts and kidneys as a galactagogue. In Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria the latex or the leaves are used as a poultice to mature boils and to heal wounds, skin inflammation and breast abscesses. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana the ground leaves in palm oil are eaten to cure cardiac palpitation, intercostal pain, sore throat, cough and, together with other plant species, to treat pneumonia. A maceration of the leaves, together with those of Senna obtusifolia (L.) Irwin & Barneby, are used as a wash to prevent abortion. Crushed leaves are applied as an enema to treat female sterility, to facilitate pregnancy and for an easy delivery. It is also taken as an aphrodisiac and to improve blood circulation. In Sierra Leone pounded leaves cooked into a sauce are taken to treat bilharzia. In Nigeria a leafy twig infusion is taken to treat sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes and schistosomiasis. In Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon the leaves are also considered tonic and are taken to treat aenemia. In Ghana ground leafy twigs in shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa C.F.Gaertn.) are applied to the chest to treat chest complaints in children. In Nigeria a bath is taken with dried ground leaves mixed with black soap to treat measles.
In Côte d’Ivoire a root decoction is taken to treat arterial hypertension.
Despite its many uses, there have been occasional reports of poisoning caused by drinking a leaf infusion of Secamone afzelii; it can cause vomiting and convulsions, followed sometimes even by death.
In Côte d’Ivoire the flexible stems are made into rope.
Phytochemical screening of the methanol extract of the leaves of Secamone afzelii showed a high concentration of flavonoids, followed by saponins, reducing sugars, coumarins and the triterpenoid friedelin. The stems only showed low concentration of these compounds. The leaves are rich in α-tocopherol (one of the forms of vitamin E), a compound with established antioxidant properties. The methanol extract of the leaves also showed free radical scavenging activity for non-enzymatic lipid peroxidation in liposomes with an IC50 value of 90 μg/ml, with α-tocopherol having an IC50 of 15 μg/ml in the same system. A high amount of anthocyanins (336 mg/100 g) was later demonstrated in the leaves, as well as a range of 16 phenolic acids.
Aqueous and ethanolic extracts of the leaves were shown to inhibit the growth of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Proteus mirabilis and several of their multiple drug resistant strains in vitro. The extracts also showed some anti-inflammatory activity in vitro. The methyl chloride extract of the aerial parts showed moderate antiplasmodial activity in vitro.
Slender liana up to 12 m long, bark dark brown, all parts containing latex. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole up to 4 mm long; blade oblong or ovate to oblong-elliptical, 2–5.5(–7) cm × 0.9–2.4(–3) cm, base rounded to obtuse, apex acute, usually attenuate, glabrous, papery. Inflorescence a terminal or almost axillary cyme or panicle on short-hairy side shoots; peduncle up to 20(–45) mm long; bracts small. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweet-scented; pedicel 1–2 mm long; calyx with broadly ovate lobes up to c. 0.7 mm × 0.5 mm, rounded, ciliate; corolla with tube c. 0.5 mm long, lobes ovate, c. 1 mm long, yellow or orange; corona with laterally compressed falcate lobes, attached near the base of the staminal column and about half of its length; ovary superior, apical portion of stigma head not exserted from the top of the staminal column. Fruit a pair of spreading or appressed follicles, each one lanceolate to almost cylindrical, 5–7 cm × 0.5–0.7 cm, tapering gradually to a slightly inflexed apex, pale green to purplish, many-seeded. Seeds ovoid, flattened, 5–7 mm × 1–25 mm, with a coma of white hairs at apex.
Other botanical information
Secamone comprises about 100 species, and is native to the tropics and subtropics of the Old World; about 67 species are recorded for Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands, 21 for continental Africa, and several for southern India, South-East Asia and Australia.
Secamone afzelii is the most common Secamone species in West Africa. In Central Africa it can easily be confused vegetatively with Secamone africana (Oliv.) Bullock. Secamone africana is common around the Lake Victoria area. In Uganda a root and fruit decoction is given to men to treat hypertension. A decoction of the aerial parts is taken to treat malaria. An ethanolic leaf extract showed significant antiplasmodial activity in vitro against 5 chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains. The extract showed to be safe in the acute toxicity test in mice; however, there was evidence of limited liver and renal tissue damage in the chronic toxicity tests. Several other Secamone species in tropical Africa also have medicinal uses. Secamone alpini Schult. is common in East and southern Africa. In Tanzania a cold water extract of the roots is taken to treat stomach gas and to ease child delivery. In Malawi a tuber decoction is taken as a laxative, and also to treat heartburn, diabetes, dizziness and stiff joints.
Secamone filiformis (L.f.) J.H.Ross occurs in Mozambique and South Africa. In South Africa an infusion of the aerial parts is given to cattle with infectious diseases or with diarrhoea. However, in vitro tests did not show any anthelmintic, antibacterial or cytotoxic activities. Secamone parvifolia (Oliv.) Bullock occurs in East and southern Africa. In Kenya a root decoction is drunk to treat abdominal pain, stomach-ache and snakebites. Ground roots are eaten with honey to treat severe cough. Pounded leaves are put in baths to treat scabies. Secamone punctulata Decne. occurs in West, Central and East Africa. In Kenya the Samburu people take an infusion of the aerial parts to treat tuberculosis and polio. A root decoction is taken to treat fever, headache and chest pain. The flexible stems are used as rope.
Secamone afzelii occurs in secondary forest and savanna thickets; it is also common in abandoned fields and field boundaries. It is adapted to a wide range of climatic and edaphic factors and grows best in the sun or in light shade.
Propagation and planting
Secamone afzelii is usually propagated by seed.
Diseases and pests
In Côte d’Ivoire Secamone afzelii is a host of the nematode Pratylenchus brachyurus in pineapple fields.
Genetic resources
The genetic variability of Secamone afzelii is probably large because of its large area of distribution and its wide ecological adaptation.
The aerial parts of Secamone afzelii are commonly used against intestinal complaints and a variety of other problems. The medicinal properties of Secamone afzelii deserve more attention, although some chemical and pharmacological screening has been effected.
Major references
• Abo, K., Jaiyesimi, F. & Jaiyesimi, E., 2008. Ethnobotanical studies of medicinal plants used in the management of diabetes mellitus in south western Nigeria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 115(1): 67–71.
• 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.
• Ebana, R.U.B., Madunagu, V.E. & Etok, C.A., 1993. Antimicrobial effect of Strophanthus hispidus and Secamone afzeli on some pathogenic bacteria and their drug resistant strains. Nigerian Journal of Botany 6: 27–31.
• Goyder, D.J., 1992. Secamone (Asclepiadaceae subfam. Secamonoideae) in Africa. Kew Bulletin 47: 437–474.
• Houghton, P.J., Hylands, P.J., Mensah, A.Y., Hensel, A. & Deters, A.M., 2005. In vitro tests and ethnopharmacological investigations: wound healing as an example. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 100(1–2): 100–107.
• MacFoy, C.A. & Sama, A.M., 1983. Medicinal plants in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 8: 215–223.
• Mensah, A.Y., Houghton, P.J., Akyirem, G.N., Fleischer, T.C., Mensah, M.L., Sarpong, K. & Adosraku, R., 2004. Evaluation of the antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties of Secamone afzelii Schum. Phytotherapy Research 18(12): 1031–1032.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Ogwal-Okeng, J.W., 1998. Studies on the antimalarial activities of some Ugandan medicinal plants. Ph.D. thesis, Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. 126 pp.
• Zabri, H., Kodjo, C., Benie, A., Bekro, J.M. & Bekro, Y.A., 2008. Phytochemical screening and determination of flavonoids in Secamone afzelii (Asclepiadaceae) extracts. African Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry 2(8): 80–82.
Other references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Ahiyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Dramane, K., Elewude, J.A., Fadoju, S.U., Gbile, Z.O., Goudote, E., Johnson, C.L.A., Keita, A., Morakinyo, O., Ojewole, J.A.O., Olatunji, A.O. & Sofowora, E.A., 1991. Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia: contribution to ethnobotanical and floristic studies in western Nigeria. OUA/ST & RC, Lagos, Nigeria. 420 pp.
• 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.
• El-Said, F., Sofowora, E.A., Salami, M.A. & Sainsbury, M., 1971. Isolation of friedelin from Secamone afzelii. Phytochemistry 10(8): 1940.
• Goly, P.G. & Téhé, H., 1997. Effets des adventices de l’ananas sur Pratylenchus brachyurus en Côte d’Ivoire. Cahiers Agricultures 6(3): 199–202.
• Hamill, F.A., Apio, S., Mubiru, N.K., Bukenya-Ziraba, R., Mosango, M., Maganyi, O.W. & Soejarto, D.D., 2003. Traditional herbal drugs of southern Uganda, 2: literature analysis and antimicrobial assays. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 84: 57–78.
• Ichikawa, M., 1987. A preliminary report on the ethnobotany of the Suiei Dorobo in northern Kenya. African Study Monographs, Supplement 7: 1–52.
• Kayode, J. & Kayode, G.M., 2008. Ethnomedicinal survey of botanicals used in treating sexually transmitted diseases in Ekiti State, Nigeria. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 44–55.
• McGaw, L.J. & Eloff, J.N., 2008. Ethnoveterinary use of southern African plants and scientific evaluation of their medicinal properties. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 119: 559–574.
• McGaw, L.J., van der Merwe, D. & Eloff, J.N., 2007. In vitro anthelmintic, antibacterial and cytotoxic effects of extracts from plants used in South African ethnoveterinary medicine. The Veterinary Journal 173(2): 366–372.
• Morris, B., 1996. Chewa medical botany. A study of herbalism in southern Malawi. Monographs from the International African Institute. LIT Verlag/Transaction, London, United Kingdom. 557 pp.
• Nowak, R. & Kawka, S., 1998. Phenolic acids in leaves of Secamone afzelii (rhoem.) Schult. (Asclepiadaceae). Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae 67(3–4): 243–245.
• Sennblad, B. & Bremer, B., 1996. The familial and subfamilial relationships of Apocynaceae and Asclepiadaceae evaluated with rbcL data. Plant Systematic and Evolution 202: 153–175
• Sonibare, M.A., Moody, J.O. & Adesanya, E.O., 2009. Use of medicinal plants for the treatment of measles in Nigeria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 122: 268–272.
• Weniger, B., Lagnika, L., Vonthron-Sénécheau, C., Adjobimey, T., Gbenou, J., Moudachirou, M., Brun, R., Anton, R. & Sanni, A., 2004. Evaluation of ethnobotanically selected Benin medicinal plants for their in vitro antiplasmodial activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90: 279–284.
Sources of illustration
• 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.
V.A. Kémeuzé
Millennium Ecologic Museum, B.P. 8038, Yaoundé, Cameroon

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:
Kémeuzé, V.A., 2010. Secamone afzelii (Schult.) K.Schum. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, flowering branch; 2, fruit; 3, seed.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman