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Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre

Bull. Mens. Soc. Linn. Paris, n.s. 1: 77–79 (1898).
Chromosome number
2n = 26
Origin and geographic distribution
Sphenocentrum jollyanum occurs from Côte d’Ivoire east to Cameroon.
Sphenocentrum jollyanum is widely used for medicinal purposes. The plant, mainly the bark, is used as an emetic and purgative, especially when poisoning is suspected. The root is used as an aphrodisiac tonic for men. The sap from chewing sticks made from the root is believed to relieve stomach-ache and constipation, and to boost appetite and sexual drive. The roots are used as a sweetener; they taste sour, but make food eaten thereafter taste sweet. In Côte d’Ivoire the root is pulped into a paste, with salt, fruit of maniguette (Aframomum melegueta K.Schum.) and palm oil, and the mixture is taken to treat abdominal disorders. Pounded roots are taken to treat high blood pressure. The boiled or pulped roots are given in draught or enema against epileptic fits. In Ghana the pulped roots have been applied to treat breast tumours. In Nigeria a decoction of the root is applied to dress tropical ulcers. A decoction of the leafy twigs is used as a wash to stop bleeding of wounds, sores and cuts; the wounds are also covered with the powdered bark. Ingestion of crushed leaves curbs spitting of blood. The fruit is edible and is taken against fatigue. It is sometimes taken with lemon or the fruits of Piper guineense Schumach. & Thonn. to cure coughs.
Production and international trade
Sphenocentrum jollyanum is sold in local markets and through the internet as an aphrodisiac.
The chemical analyses of Sphenocentrum jollyanum showed the presence of saponins, tannins, alkaloids, terpenes and flavonoids in the stem bark. The isoquinoline alkaloids palmatine, jatrorrhizine, tetrahydrojatrorrhizine and columbamine, and some bitter tasting diterpenes were also extracted from the plant, as were the inositol-derivative (–)-viburnitol, the sterols sitosterol, campestrol and stigmasterol, and the furanoditerpenes columbin, isocolumbin and fibleucin.
Sphenocentrum jollyanum has shown anti-oxidant, anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antinociceptive, antitumour, antiviral, laxative, stomachic, tonic and aphrodisiac activities. Investigations on the anti-oxidant properties of methanol extracts of several parts of the plant revealed that the stem bark has the strongest activity, although it is much lower than that of vitamin C. The chloroform fractions of the extracts had the greatest activity.
To test the anti-angiogenic properties, a methanol extract of the stem bark was tested in hen’s eggs. The extract showed a dose-dependent inhibition of blood-vessel formation. The effect of the chloroform fraction was strongest, but still much weaker than that of the control chemical suramin. Several crude extracts from the plant were assessed for anti-inflammatory activity using the carrageenan-induced oedema test in rats. The methanol extract of the fruit showed a higher anti-inflammatory activity than the root extract. The most active fraction of the fruit extracts contained the furanoditerpenes columbin, isocolumbin and fibleucin. Both columbin and a flavonoid-rich fraction of the fruit extract showed significant anti-inflammatory activities. Methanol and petroleum-ether extracts of the leaves have shown antipyretic and analgesic properties in vitro. The potential of Sphenocentrum jollyanum as an aphrodisiac was confirmed in tests with rats. A methanol extract of the root given orally caused increased sexual activity and increased levels of testosterone in male rats. Other sex hormones were much less affected. In another test the extract caused a similar effect on testosterone levels, but also caused decreased sperm counts and lower sperm vitality, accompanied by reversible degeneration of the seminal tubules.
The hexane and methanol extracts of the leaf and root had only slight antiviral activities against cowpea aphid-borne mosaic virus (CABMV) and cowpea mottle virus (CMeV).
Adulterations and substitutes
Several Penianthus spp. may be used as substitutes for Sphenocentrum jollyanum as they grow in the same area. The root and stem bark of these species are sold in local markets and are difficult to differentiate from those of Sphenocentrum jollyanum when dried.
Small, evergreen, dioecious shrub up to 1.5 m tall, sparingly branched; roots bright yellow; stem thinly short-hairy when young, later glabrous; bark grey. Leaves arranged spirally, but crowded at the end of branches, simple; stipules absent; petiole (3–)4.5–9(–10) cm long, swollen at both ends, flattened or with a shallow groove above and 2 shallow lateral grooves; blade entire or shallowly to deeply pinnately lobed, oblong to elliptical or ovate in outline, 15–26 cm × 6–17(–22) cm, base cuneate or obtuse, apex long-acuminate, lobes acute to acuminate, leathery, pinnately veined with 8–12 pairs of lateral veins. Flowers solitary on older branches or on stem between the leaves, unisexual, regular; tepals more or less arranged spirally, increasing in size towards the centre, cream-coloured; male flowers sessile, tepals 15–21, outer tepals triangular to ovate-oblong, short-hairy, inner tepals obovate, glabrous outside, 0.5–6.5 mm × 0.5–4 mm, stamens (13–)16–31, erect, free, 1.5–2.5 mm long, filaments inflated; female flowers sessile or with pedicel up to 4 mm long, tepals 9–11, early falling, 2–4 outer tepals triangular to circular, c. 1 mm × 1 mm, short-hairy to glabrous outside, 7 inner tepals obovate to oblong, the innermost spoon-shaped, (2.5–)3–7 mm × 2–4.5 mm, glabrous outside, staminodes up to 14(–17), club-shaped, 1–2 mm long, usually falling with the tepals, ovary superior, consisting of (3–) 9–12(–15) ovoid carpels c. 3 mm × 1.5 mm, densely short-hairy, stigma large, sessile, horse-shoe shaped, lobed. Fruit composed of 3–12 drupes, each drupe ellipsoid, (11–)18–26 mm × 10–16 mm, yellow to orange at maturity, smooth, fleshy, 1-seeded. Seed with very thin seed coat; endosperm absent; embryo straight, ellipsoid, 15–18 mm × 8–9 mm. Seedling with plano-convex cotyledons remaining inside the stone.
Other botanical information
Sphenocentrum belongs to the tribe Peniantheae together with Penianthus, but has formerly been classified in Tinosporeae. Sphenocentrum comprises a single species.
Growth and development
On germination the seedling does not develop a hypocotyl and the cotyledons remain enclosed inside the stone. Young seedlings up to two months old show a more or less short-hairy epicotyl, stem and petiole, and some scale-leaves develop on the epicotyl.
Sphenocentrum jollyanum flowers and bears fruit either irregularly or continuously throughout the year. Pollination of flowers is done by ants or other insects, and dispersal of seeds occurs over short distances only.
Sphenocentrum jollyanum occurs mainly in the undergrowth of rainforest, often in deep shade, also in gallery forest, from sea-level up to 400 m altitude. It occurs in regions with a mean minimum temperature of 20°C and a mean maximum of 29°C. The mean annual rainfall is 1800 mm or more.
Handling after harvest
The different plant parts collected may be dried, powdered and kept for later use. Plant material collected, usually leaves, is sometimes charred before use. To char the leaves, they are thoroughly washed, dried and put in a closed earthenware pot or in a large iron saucepan, which is left open, and placed on a fire without adding water. The leaves are stirred occasionally and left until completely charred, but not burned to ash, as ash is believed to be ineffective. When cooled the material is powdered and stored in airtight containers.
Genetic resources
Sphenocentrum jollyanum is common in its distribution area, but its common use as an aphrodisiac may lead to genetic erosion. In Benin and Nigeria the plant is considered locally vulnerable or even threatened and in need of protection. Small germplasm collections are maintained in Ghana.
So far, no attempt has been made to cultivate Sphenocentrum jollyanum on a larger scale for medicinal purposes. To ensure sustainable production of this widely used medicinal plant, it is recommended that husbandry systems be developed and the plant be grown in home gardens or on a commercial scale. Pharmacological studies have shown the potential of the plant as an anti-oxidant, anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and antiviral, and more studies are warranted for drug development with respect to these activities.
Major references
• 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.
• Dekker, A.J.F.M., 1983. A revision of the genera Penianthus Miers and Sphenocentrum Pierre (Menispermaceae) of West and Central Africa. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 53(1–2): 17–66.
• Moody, J.O., Robert, V.A. & Hughes, J.D.A., 2002. Antiviral activities of selected medicinal plants II: Effect of extracts of Diospyros bacteri, Diospyros monbutensis and Sphenocentrum jollyanum on Cowpea Mosaic viruses. Pharmaceutical Biology 40(5): 342–345.
• Moody, J.O., Robert, V.A., Connolly, J.D. & Houghton, P.J., 2005. Anti-inflammatory activities of the methanol extracts and an isolated furanoditerpene constituent of Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre (Menispermaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 104(1–2): 87–91.
• Muko, K.N., Ohiri, P.C. & Ezugwu, C.O., 1998. Antipyretic and analgesic activities of Sphenocentrum jollyanum. Nigerian Journal of Natural Products and Medicine 2: 52–53.
• Nia, R., Paper, D.H., Essien, E.E., Iyadi, K.C., Bassey, A.I.L., Antai, A.B. & Franz, G., 2004. Evaluation of the anti-oxidant and anti-angiogenic effects of Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre. African Journal of Biomedical Research 7: 129–132.
• Oliver-Bever, B., 1986. Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 375 pp.
• Troupin, G., 1962. Monographie des Menispermaceae africaines. Mémoires in-8. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, Classe des Sciences Naturelles et Médicales, Nouvelle série 8(2), Brussels, Belgium. 313 pp.
Other references
• Abbiw, D.K., 1996. Misuses and abuses in self-medication with medicinal plants: the case of Erythrophleum in Ghana. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G., van der Burgt, X.M. & van Medenbach de Rooy, J.M. (Editors). The biodiversity of African plants. Proceedings of the 14th AETFAT Congress, 22–27 August 1994, Wageningen, Netherlands. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands. pp. 714–718.
• Adomou, A.C., 2005. Vegetation patterns and environmental gradients in Benin: implications for biogeography and conservation. PhD thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 136 pp.
• Amponsah, K., Crensil, O.R., Odamtten, G.T. & Ofusohene-Djan, W., 2002. Manual for the propagation and cultivation of medicinal plants of Ghana. Aburi botanical garden, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. 32 pp.
• de Wet, H., 2005. An ethnobotanical and chemotaxonomic study of South African Menispermaceae. PhD thesis, Faculty of Science, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa. 450 pp.
• Dwuma-Badu, D., Tackie, A.N., Okarter, T.U., Schiff, P.L., Knapp, J.E. & Slatkin, D.J., 1976. Constituents of West African medicinal plants. XVIII. Constituents of Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre (Menispermaceae). Phytochemistry 15(12): 2027.
• Egunyomi, A., Fasola, T.R. & Oladonjoye, O., 2005. Charring medicinal plants: a traditional method of preparing phytomedicines in southwestern Nigeria. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 3: 73–77.
• Iwu, M.M., 1993. Handbook of African medicinal plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, United States. 464 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Obio, G.I.B., 2006. Reproductive phenology of some indigenous medicinal plants in Omo Biosphere Reserve, Nigeria. Botanica Lithuania 12(1): 25–29.
• Okafor, J. & Ham, R., 1999. Identification, utilisation et conservation des plantes médicinales dans le sud-est du Nigeria. Thèmes de la biodiversité africaine. Le programme d’appui à la biodiversité 3. 8 pp.
• Oke, J.M. & Hamburger, M.O., 2002. Screening of some Nigerian medicinal plants for antioxidant activity using 2,2-diphenyl-picryl-hydrazyl radical. African Journal of Biomedical Research 5: 77–79.
• Raji, Y., Fadare, O.O., Adisa, R.A. & Salami, S.A., 2006. Comprehensive assessment of the effect of Sphenocentrum jollyanum root extract on male reproductive activity in albino rats. Reproductive Medicine and Biology 5(4): 283–292.
• Soladoye, M.O., Sonibare, M.A., Nadi, A.O. & Alabi, D.A., 2005. Indiginous angiosperm biodiversity of Olabisi Onabanjo University permanent site. African Journal of Biotechnology 4(5): 554–562.
Sources of illustration
• Dekker, A.J.F.M., 1983. A revision of the genera Penianthus Miers and Sphenocentrum Pierre (Menispermaceae) of West and Central Africa. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 53(1–2): 17–66.
D.M. Mosango
c/o Laboratory of Natural Sciences, Lycée Français Jean Monnet de Bruxelles (LFB), Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Brussels, Belgium

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:
Mosango, D.M., 2008. Sphenocentrum jollyanum Pierre. 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, branch with male flowers; 2, male flower; 3, female flower, part of perianth removed; 4, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

obtained from