Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1894: 22 (1894).
2n = 22
Tabernaemontana angolensis Stapf (1894), Tabernaemontana holstii K.Schum. (1895).
Kibombo, muambe (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon is widely distributed in tropical Africa, from Ghana east to southern Sudan and Kenya, and south to Malawi, Zambia and Angola.
The latex of Tabernaemontana pachysiphon is generally used as a styptic and is applied to fresh wounds to prevent infection; it forms a film over the wound. The dried and powdered leaves are applied to sores and ulcers to heal them. Painful breasts of lactating women are treated with the latex from the petioles or bark. The latex of the fruit is rubbed into scarifications to treat lymphatic glandular swellings. In East Africa the latex is applied to sore eyes.
A decoction of the root bark is taken in Nigeria for the treatment of insanity. In East Africa a decoction is used against stomach-ache, constipation, flatulence, headache and as a hypnotic. Headache is also treated with a leaf infusion. The bark is used as medicine for hypertension. In DR Congo a maceration prepared from the stem bark is used to wash the body against scabies, in Kenya grated roots and crushed leaves are also used to treat scabies. The maceration is drunk against headache. The bark latex is rubbed locally to relieve cramps. In Tanzania a watery fruit extract is used as a galactagogue for goats. In northeastern Tanzania, the Shambaa people formerly prepared a hunting poison from the roots.
The wood is used to make knife sheaths, handles and combs. Pollarded branches are used locally for firewood and to make charcoal. Tabernaemontana pachysiphon has an abundance of white latex, which does not coagulate and has been used to adulterate Hevea rubber. The latex thickens to a birdlime and is also used to mend broken pots and calabashes. The bark contains fibre, which is used in southern Nigeria to make cloth. In Benin small ropes are made from the inner bark. The tree is used as a shade plant and has ornamental value because of its dark green shiny leaves and sweet-scented white flowers. The pulp of the pounded leaves is used to colour hair brown.
Production and international trade
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon is used at a local level only.
Indole alkaloids are the most important compounds of Tabernaemontana spp. More than 40 alkaloids have been identified from Tabernaemontana pachysiphon. The main alkaloids present are monomers, although dimeric alkaloids of the corynanthean-ibogan class are present as well. The main dimeric alkaloids of the stem bark and root bark are voacorine, conoduramine, conodurine, and traces of gabunine. The most important monomers found in the root bark are tubotaiwine and apparicine (aspidospermatan class); conopharyngine (ibogan class) is also a major component, while ibogaine, ibogamine, voacristine, isovoacangine, coronaridine and 3-oxocoronaridine (all ibogan class), vobasine, perivine and affinine (all corynanthean class) occur in small amounts only. Of the stem bark, the main constituent is conopharyngine, with ibogan class derivatives occurring in small amounts. Tubotaiwine is a major constituent as well, while apparicine occurs as a minor component. Corynanthean class alkaloids occur only as minor components. The leaves contain apparicine and tubotaiwine, as well as conopharyngine. The fruits contain the dimers voacamine (voacanginine) and voacorine, and several ibogan class monomers in small amounts. The alkaloid composition of the seeds is very different, and consists almost exclusively of the plumeran class pachysiphine.
The various alkaloids in Tabernaemontana pachysiphon have a wide range of pharmacological activities. Coronaridine, conopharyngine, ibogaine, ibogamine, voacangine and voacristine exhibit central nervous system stimulant effects. In regular doses, voacangine, ibogaine, perivine and conopharyngine have hypotensive properties, cause bradycardia and decrease body temperature. High doses of ibogaine, ibogamine and voacangine produce convulsions and asphyxia. Coronaridine showed diuretic and hypoglycaemic activities in rats. In mice coronaridine is an effective antifertility agent because of its oestrogenic activity. It also has leishmanicidal activity as has the related dimer gabunine. Voacristine prevented pregnancy when administered during the pre-implantation period in rats. It was, however, found to possess also significant uterotrophic activity. Furthermore, voacangine, conopharyngine, ibogaine, coronaridine, perivine, tubotaiwine and apparicine have local analgesic activity. Most of the pharmacological work on voacorine and voacamine has focused on their cardiotonic properties. Voacamine shows little tendency to accumulate, and is less toxic than cardiac glycosides such as digitoxin. In high doses both voacamine and voacorine are hypertensive due largely to peripheral vasoconstriction. Both compounds also have parasympatholytic and sympatholytic properties, bringing about contraction of smooth muscle fibres. Voacorine, voacamine and affinine are also central nervous system depressants. At higher doses, affinine causes tremor, loss of coordination and hypothermia in mice. A cumulative increase of the dose in cats showed some toxicity, e.g. bradycardia, respiratory depression and cardiac arrhythmia. In experiments with rats and mice parenteral and oral administration of voacamine and voacorine retarded the growth of transplanted and primary induced neoplasms.
At low doses, ibogaine exerts primarily a stimulant effect, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue, hunger and thirst. At higher doses, the primary effects are hallucinations (see Tabernanthe iboga Baill.). Apart from the psychological effects, the physical effects include tremor, light sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and loss of coordination. Toxic doses produce convulsions, paralysis and death from respiratory arrest although the heart continues to beat. Ibogaine is also a potent cholinesterase inhibitor.
The monomers affinine, apparacine, coronaridine and the dimers voacamine, voacorine and gabunine showed significant cytotoxicity against P-388 lymphocytic leukaemia cell cultures. Conoduramine, conodurine, voacamine, affinine and apparicine showed moderate to strong antibacterial activity against several human pathogens, whereas affinine and apparicine also showed strong activity against the type III poliovirus (HPV-3).
The wood is soft, easy to work and white to yellow; it is not durable in the ground. The sapwood and heartwood are not differentiated.
Adulterations and substitutes
Indolic alkaloids of the classes found in Tabernaemontana are also found in other Apocynaceae genera, e.g. Alstonia, Cabucala, Catharanthus, Hunteria, Ochrosia, Picralima, Rauvolfia, Tabernanthe and Voacanga.
Shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, glabrous, dichotomously branched; trunk up to 40 cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark pale brown or grey-brown, longitudinally fissured, with large lenticels. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; ocrea conspicuous, widened into stipules in axils of petioles; petiole 6–20 mm long; blade broadly to narrowly elliptical, 10–50 cm × 5–26 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate to acute, leathery, with scattered minute black dots beneath, pinnately veined with 7–16 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a corymb 8–26 cm long, fairly lax, 2 together in the forks of branches, few- to many-flowered, often flowering twice and then bearing both flowers and ripe fruits; peduncle 3–14 cm long, rather robust; bracts small and scale-like, leaving a conspicuous scar. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweet-scented; pedicel 8–22 mm long; sepals almost free, orbicular to ovate, 4–7 mm long, fleshy, ciliate; corolla tube 18–35 mm long, 5-angular, fleshy, pale green, hairy inside from the insertion of the stamens to the mouth, sometimes slightly twisted at the base, lobes obliquely elliptical, 14–50 mm × 6–18(–27) mm, rounded, undulate, spreading, later recurved, white to pale yellow, throat pale yellow; stamens inserted 8–14 mm above the corolla base, included, anthers sessile, narrowly triangular, 9–13 mm long; ovary superior, almost cylindrical, consisting of 2 carpels, connate at base, styles fused, slender, 7–10 mm long, pistil head 3–4.5 mm long, widened at the base into a ring and at the apex into 5 orbicular lobes. Fruit consisting of 2 free almost globose follicles, 7–15 cm in diameter, pale green, often dotted, 2-valved, several- to many-seeded. Seeds obliquely ellipsoid, 11–14 mm long, with 6–7 longitudinal grooves on each side, minutely warty, dark brown, aril white. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Other botanical information
Tabernaemontana comprises about 110 species and is pantropical. About 18 species occur in mainland Africa and 15 in Madagascar. Tabernaemontana pachysiphon is closely related to Tabernaemontana contorta Stapf, which is endemic to Cameroon.
Tabernaemontana brachyantha Stapf occurs in western Central Africa. In Cameroon, the crushed twigs, mixed with Ocimum sp., are taken as a febrifuge, and in southern Ghana and Nigeria the bark fibre is made into cloth. Several alkaloids have been isolated from it that are similar to those in Tabernaemontana pachysiphon. Tabernaemontana psorocarpa (Pierre ex Stapf) Pichon occurs from Liberia to Gabon, and the latex is used in Ghana to treat skin infections. The stem bark contains monomeric indole alkaloids, most of them rare in the genus. The leaves contain a high concentration of sweroside, which has strong anti-amoebic activity.
Growth and development
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon plants develop according to the architectural growth model of Leeuwenberg determined by a monopodial orthotropic trunk, which ends in a terminal inflorescence. After flowering the 2 uppermost axillary buds develop into branches, so that the growth is sympodial; the infructescence seems to be axillary. Tabernaemontana pachysiphon can be found flowering and fruiting throughout the year. There are peaks in flowering in West Africa in February–March, in Central Africa in October–November and in DR Congo also in April. Fruits mature in 1 year.
The contents of the major alkaloids apparicine, tubotaiwine and isovoacangine vary with provenance, leaf age, shade position of leaves in the crown and plant age. Alkaloid content is highest in young leaves, and in leaves from shaded conditions.
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon occurs in the understorey of light forest, bush or riverine forest, from sea-level up to 2200 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon can be propagated by seed and by semi-ripe cuttings. Soaking the seeds in cold water for 24 hours before sowing will hasten germination. The seeds germinate best when sown as soon as collected.
For firewood production Tabernaemontana pachysiphon can be pollarded.
Roots of Tabernaemontana pachysiphon are dug up, bark is stripped from the trunk and leaves are harvested whenever the need arises.
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon has a large area of distribution. It does not seem to be at risk of genetic erosion.
Tabernaemontana pachysiphon contains a wide range of indole alkaloids with interesting medical properties, e.g. hypotensive, central nervous system stimulating, local analgesic or cardiotonic activities. These warrant more investigations towards the possible development of Tabernaemontana pachysiphon as a medicinal plant of importance.
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Sources of illustration
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1991. A revision of Tabernaemontana 1. The Old World species. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 223 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Elia, J., 2006. Tabernaemontana pachysiphon Stapf. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, flowering branch; 2, fruit; 3, seed, aril partly removed.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin