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Senna podocarpa (Guill. & Perr.) Lock

Kew Bull. 43(2): 340 (1988).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Chromosome number
2n = 28
Cassia podocarpa Guill. & Perr. (1832).
Origin and geographic distribution
Senna podocarpa is distributed from Senegal and Gambia in the west to Nigeria in the east and is also reported from Bioko (Equatorial Guinea) and São Tomé.
Senna podocarpa leaves are extensively used against gonorrhoea, for their purgative properties, as a Guinea worm expellent and as sore-healing remedy. A paste of pounded leaves is applied to the skin to treat problems such as Guinea worm sores. The leaves, reduced to ash, are mixed with shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa C.F.Gaertn.) and applied externally to relieve arthritis and rheumatic pains. Pods are used in the treatment of skin diseases such as eczema, scabies and ringworm. The extract of the pods is taken as a purgative and has been shown to be as good as commercial ‘Senna’ made from the leaves or pods of Senna alexandrina Mill. The root is purgative as well and in decoction it is used as a stomachic and diuretic and is specifically used to cure oedema and gonorrhoea. The root contains a dark dye that is used as a body paint.
The leaves and pods of Senna podocarpa contain rhein, chrysophanol, emodin and other combined and free anthraquinones.
In vitro, leaf extracts inhibited the multiplication of herpes simplex virus type HSV-1, whereas they were ineffective against African swine virus.
Toxic effects of extracts of leaves and pods may result from prolonged intake of high doses, but with moderate use the extracts are not considered harmful. Extra caution is needed in case of treatment of children and pregnant women. Repeated administration of different doses of leaf extract of Senna podocarpa caused tissue degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys of rats.
Shrub up to 5 m tall. Leaves arranged spirally, paripinnately compound with 3–5 pairs of leaflets; stipules swollen at the base, 7–9 mm long, acute, persistent; petiole 2–4 cm long; leaflets elliptical, 5–12 cm × 3–7 cm, base asymmetrical, apex rounded, mucronate, glabrous on both sides. Inflorescence an erect, terminal raceme 20–30 cm long, 20–30-flowered; bracts elliptical, enclosing flower buds. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous; sepals greenish yellow; petals 1.5–3 cm long, yellow; stamens 10, the 2 lower ones largest, 5 medium-sized, 3 short and rudimentary; ovary superior, woolly, recurved, style short. Fruit a flattened, oblong pod 4–11 cm × 1–1.5 cm, base and tip acuminate, with transverse ridges, indehiscent, 12–25 seeded.
Until the early 1980s, Cassia was considered a very large genus of about 550 species, but was then split into 3 genera: Cassia s.s. with about 30 species, Chamaecrista with about 250 species and Senna with about 270 species. Senna is very similar to Cassia, but is distinguished from it by the possession of 3 adaxial stamens, which are short and straight, and the pedicels, which have no bracteoles.
Senna podocarpa occurs in humid localities and at the margin of gallery forest. In forest areas it is often common in anthropogenic habitats such as old farmland.
Anthraquinone glycosides in Senna podocarpa reach their highest level during the dry season and drop during the rainy season. This can be taken into account when deciding on the time of harvesting.
Genetic resources and breeding
Senna podocarpa is widespread and occurs in anthropogenic habitats so no threats of genetic erosion are envisaged. It is not present in germplasm collections.
In the wetter parts of West Africa Senna podocarpa is the most important medicinal Senna and will probably remain so. Research has been done, notably in Nigeria, to verify whether Senna podocarpa could serve as a source of raw material for the local industrial production of laxatives. As results are positive, this may be taken up in the near future.
Major references
• Berhaut, J., 1975. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 4. Ficoidées à Légumineuses. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 625 pp.
• Elojuba, A.A., Abere, A.T. & Adelusi, S.A., 1999. Laxative activities of Cassia pods sourced from Nigeria. Nigerian Journal of Natural Products and Medicine 3: 51–53.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Silva, O., Duarte, A., Cabrita, J., Pimentel, M., Diniz, A. & Gomes, E., 1996. Antimicrobial activity of Guinea-Bissau traditional remedies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 50: 55–59.
Other references
• Abo, K.A. & Adeyemi, A.A., 2002. Seasonal accumulation of anthraquinones in leaves of cultivated Cassia podocarpa Guill et Perr. African Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences 31(2): 171–173.
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
• Akanmu, M.A., Iwalewa, E.O., Elujoba, A.A. & Adelusola, K.A., 2005. Toxicity potentials of Senna podocarpa (Guill. & Perr.) Lock pods in rodents. African Journal Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 2(3): 274–281.
• Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
• Inngjerdongen, K., Nergård, C.S., Diallo, D., Mounkoro, P.P. & Paulsen, B.S., 2004. An ethnopharmacological survey of plants used for wound healing in Dogonland, Mali, West Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 92: 233–244.
• Keay, R.W.J., Hoyle, A.C. & Duvigneaud, P., 1958. Caesalpiniaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 439–484.
• Sequeira, V., 1994. Medicinal plants and conservation in São Tomé. Biodiversity and Conservation 3: 910–926.
• Rai, P.P., 1988. Anthraquinone formation in callus cultures of Cassia podocarpa. Journal of Natural Products 51(3): 492–495.
• Silva, O., Barbosa, S., Diniz, A., Valdeira, M.L. & Gomes, E., 1997. Plant extracts antiviral activity against Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 and African Swine Fever Virus. Pharmaceutical Biology 35(1): 12–16.
• Silva, O., Ferreira, E., Vaz Pato, M. & Gomes, E., 1997. Guinea-Bissau’s plants: in vitro susceptibility studies on Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Pharmaceutic Biology 35: 323–328.
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2007. Senna podocarpa (Guill. & Perr.) Lock. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
fruiting branch
obtained from
P. Ekpe NSBP

obtained from
P. Ekpe NSBP