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Stephania dinklagei (Engl.) Diels

Engl., Pflanzenr. IV, 94: 265 (1910).
Cissampelos dinklagei Engl. (1899).
Origin and geographic distribution
Stephania dinklagei is widely distributed from Guinea east to Uganda and south to DR Congo, Tanzania and Cabinda (Angola).
In southern Nigeria fresh plant sap is mixed with water or maize gruel and other ingredients and taken to treat dysentery or diarrhoea. In Sierra Leone a fresh infusion of young leaves is given to children with stomach-ache; the infusion is given immediately as it thickens on standing. In Ghana a plant extract is taken as a cough remedy. The leaves are used as an aphrodisiac and to treat impotence in men. In Liberia women who wish to become pregnant eat the leaves cooked with rice, and wrap the tender stem around the hips. A decoction of the plant is used to induce menstruation, whereas in Sierra Leone the leaves, stem and roots are used to treat profuse menstruation and complaints following childbirth. The stems are taken as a sedative and analgesic. In the Central African Republic scrapings of the fresh root are applied in a hot poultice to the ribs to relieve pain in the sides. The root is also used against internal parasites. The seeds are used against leprosy. The Temne people of Sierra Leone use the pounded stems in the preparation of a fish poison.
Strong rope made from the stem is known in Sierra Leone as ‘Government rope’ owing to its official use as such in the past.
A large number of alkaloids have been isolated from Stephania dinklagei, including the aporphine alkaloids corydine, dinklageine, stephalagine, steporphine, roemerine, dicentrine and N-methylglaucine, the oxoaporphine alkaloids liriodenine (spermatheridine), N-methylliriodendronine, atherospermidine and oxodicentrine, and the proaporphine alkaloid stepharine. Of these, corydine is present in the highest concentrations. The anthraquinone aloe-emodin has also been isolated.
An infusion of the roots exhibited antispasmodic activity in vitro. A methanol extract of the leaves and stems demonstrated antiprotozoal and cytotoxic properties in vitro. Liriodenine and N-methylliriodendronine showed significant activity against Leishmania donavani, and liriodenine the highest activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Aloe-emodin was active against Trypanosoma brucei. An ethanol extract of the stems showed cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties in a bioassay with several strains of yeast. Liriodenine inhibited the growth of all yeast strains tested, but did not show DNA-damaging activity, while corydine did indicate DNA-damaging properties. Corydine also has mild sedative properties and a depressant effect on the cardiac and respiratory systems, and a stimulatory effect on the central nervous system.
Dioecious liana up to 20 m long, twining clockwise, sometimes rambling shrub; bark of branchlets greyish brown, glabrous. Leaves arranged spirally, simple, peltate; petiole 6–12 cm long, glabrous; blade ovate to nearly orbicular, 7–15 cm × 7–15 cm, base rounded, apex acuminate, margin wavy, membranous to papery, dark green above, pale bluish green below, palmately veined with 8–10 main veins. Inflorescence a panicle of small cymes, generally on leafless branches, rarely axillary, solitary or in clusters of 2–4, male inflorescence up to 50 cm long, female inflorescence smaller; peduncle up to 10 cm long; axes glabrous or finely densely hairy; cymes umbel-like, 2–5 cm long; bracts asymmetrical, up to 2.5 cm × 1.5 cm. Flowers unisexual, small, green or purple; pedicel c. 1 mm long; male flowers with 6–8 narrowly obovate, incurved, short-hairy sepals, 1–2 mm × 0.5–1 mm, 3 broadly ovate to obtriangular petals, c. 0.5 mm long, stamens fused into a staminal column up to 1 mm long. Fruit a broadly obovoid drupe with somewhat truncate base, 6–12 mm long, green, yellow when ripe, 1-seeded; stone with 4 prickly ribs, 2 median ones broadened at apex. Seed up to 1 cm long, black.
Stephania comprises about 30 species, 25 of them occurring from southern Asia to New Guinea, and 5 in tropical Africa.
Stephania dinklagei occurs in dense humid rainforest and riverine forest, and in old clearings, up to 1500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Stephania dinklagei has a wide distribution and there are no indications that it is in danger of genetic erosion.
Of the alkaloids isolated from Stephania dinklagei only corydine and liriodenine have undergone pharmacological tests, some of them with promising results. Research is necessary to evaluate the pharmacological activities of the other isolated alkaloids.
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.
• Keay, R.W.J. & Troupin, G., 1954. Menispermaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 66–77.
• Troupin, G., 1951. Menispermaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 2. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 202–255.
• Troupin, G., 1956. Menispermaceae. In: Turrill, W.B. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 32 pp.
Other references
• Akubue, P.I., Mittal, G.C. & Aguwa, C.N., 1983. Preliminary pharmacological study of some Nigerian medicinal plants. 1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 8: 53–63.
• Camacho, M.R., Phillipson, J.D., Croft, S.L., Solis, P.N., Marshall, S.J. & Ghazanfar, S.A., 2003. Screening of plant extracts for antiprotozoal and cytotoxic activities. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 89: 185–191.
• Dwuma-Badu, D., Ayim, J.S.K., Withers, S.F., Agyemang, N.O., Ateya, A.M., El-Azizi, M.M., Knapp, J.E., Slatkin, D.J. & Schiff, P.L.jr., 1980. Constituents of West African medicinal plants. XXVII. Alkaloids of Rhigiocarya racemifera and Stephania dinklagei. Journal of Natural Products 43(1): 123–129.
• Gören, A.C., Zhou, B.-N. & Kingston, D.G.I., 2003. Cytotoxic and DNA damaging activity of some aporphine alkaloids from Stephania dinklagei. Planta Medica 69: 867–868.
• Iwu, M.M., 1993. Handbook of African medicinal plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, United States. 464 pp.
• Oliver, B., 1960. Medicinal plants in Nigeria. Nigerian College of Arts, Sciences and Technology, Ibadan, Nigeria. 138 pp.
• Paris, R. & Le Men, M.J., 1955. Sur un Stephania d’A.O.F.: le Stephania dinklagei (Menispermacées). Presse Medicale 63: 427.
• Vergiat, A.M., 1970. Plantes magiques et médicinales des féticheurs de l’Oubangui (Région de Bangui). Journal d’Agriculture Tropicale et de Botanique Appliquée 17: 295–339.
O.M. Grace
PROTA Country Office United Kingdom, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom

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:
Grace, O.M., 2008. Stephania dinklagei (Engl.) Diels. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.