Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Collectanea 4: 139 (1791), ‘ Tabernaemontana persicariaefolia’.
Tabernaemontana mauritiana Lam. (1792).
Bois de lait (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Tabernaemontana persicariifolia is endemic to Réunion and Mauritius.
A decoction of the stem bark and leaves of Tabernaemontana persicariifolia has astringent properties and is taken to treat gonorrhoea and dysentery. It is also taken to expel intestinal worms. The bark sap and roots are used as fish poison.
Several indole alkaloids have been isolated from Tabernaemontana persicariifolia. The stem bark and root bark contain mainly the monomeric indole alkaloids dregamine and vobasine, and also some tubotaiwine, which occurs in the leaves as well. Dregamine shows convulsant and respiration-stimulant activities. It also inhibits muscular fatigue in vitro and in vivo. It is used in treatments of muscular and nervous asthenia, respiratory depression and type III poliovirus (HPV-3). Tubotaiwine has local analgesic activity. Vobasine exhibited little activity in general pharmacological screening tests. The bark also contains sterols, triterpenes and saponins.
Shrub or small tree up to 5(–10) m tall, dichotomously branched; trunk up to 40 cm in diameter; bark rough. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; ocrea conspicuous, widened into stipules in axils of petioles; petiole 5–22 mm long; blade narrowly elliptical to elliptical, 4–18 cm × 1–9 cm, base cuneate or rounded, apex acute, obtuse or acuminate, leathery, pinnately veined with 7–20 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a corymb 3–6 cm long, 2 together in the forks of the branches, 3–20-flowered, rather congested; peduncle 5–25 cm long, rather slender. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweet-scented; pedicel 3–10 mm long; sepals almost free, subtended by 1–2 bracteoles, suborbicular to broadly elliptical, 2–3.5 mm long; corolla tube cylindrical, 9–23 mm long, hairy inside from the insertion of the stamens to the mouth, slightly twisted at base, lobes obliquely elliptical, 9–16 mm × 3–7 mm, apex rounded, undulate, spreading, later recurved, white to pale yellow; stamens inserted 2–3 mm below mouth of corolla tube, slightly included or slightly exserted, anthers sessile, narrowly triangular, base sagittate, apex acuminate; ovary superior, ovoid, consisting of 2 carpels, connate at base, styles fused, slender, 6–15 mm long, pistil head 0.5–1.5 mm long, composed of a fringed basal ring, an obovoid central part and a 2-lobed stigmoid apex. Fruit consisting of 2 separate ovoid follicles 3–6.5 cm in diameter, with 2 narrow lateral ridges, apex acute or acuminate, 2-valved, green, many-seeded. Seeds obliquely triangular or ellipsoid, 10–11 mm long, with longitudinal grooves, papillose, medium brown, aril deep red.
Tabernaemontana comprises about 110 species and is pantropical. About 18 species occur in mainland Africa and 15 in Madagascar. Tabernaemontana persicariifolia is the only species occurring in the Mascarene Islands. It flowers from December to May with a peak in February to March. Fruits develop slightly later.
Tabernaemontana persicariifolia occurs in forest and open, rocky localities, up to 1200 m altitude. In Réunion it is found in relatively dry forest at low altitudes, in Mauritius in more humid forest at medium to high altitudes.
Genetic resources and breeding
Tabernaemontana persicariifolia is endemic to Réunion and Mauritius and may be easily liable to genetic erosion with ongoing forest clearings. In Réunion it occurs in heterogeneous, relatively dry forest at low altitudes, but this type of forest survives only in few, sheltered localities. In Mauritius, it is still locally fairly common in humid forest at medium to high altitudes.
Little is known about the indole alkaloids of Tabernaemontana persicariifolia. More research on the pharmacology and phytochemistry is needed to fully evaluate the potential of this species.
• Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
• Kodja, H., Robène-Soustrade, I. & Figier, J., 1997. Synergistic effect of DFMO and 2,4-D on regeneration of Tabernaemontana persicariaefolia Jacq. in vitro. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum 19(3): 359–366.
• Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1991. A revision of Tabernaemontana 1. The Old World species. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 223 pp.
• van Beek, T.A., Verpoorte, R., Baerheim Svendsen, A., Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. & Bisset, N.G., 1984. Tabernaemontana L. (Apocynaceae): a review of its taxonomy, phytochemistry, ethnobotany and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 10(1): 1–156.
• Lavergne, R., 2001. Le grand livre des tisaneurs et plantes médicinales indigènes de la Réunion. Editions Orphie, Chevagny sur Guye, France. 522 pp.
• Markgraf, F. & Boiteau, P., 1973. Les “bois de lait” des iles Mascareignes. Adansonia 13(2): 241–248.
• Picot, F., Lallemand, F., Boiteau, P. & Potier, P., 1974. Alcaloides indoliques de Pandaca mauritiana. Phytochemistry 13: 660–661.
• van Beek, T.A. & van Gessel, M.A.J.T., 1988. Alkaloids of Tabernaemontana species. In: Pelletier, S.W. (Editor). Alkaloids: Chemical and biological perspectives. Vol. 6. Wiley, New York, United States. pp. 75–226.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2006. Tabernaemontana persicariifolia Jacq. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.