Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Mém. Inst. Sci. Madagascar, sér. B, Biol. Vég. 8: 211 (1957).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Cyathogyne bussei Pax (1903).
Origin and geographic distribution
Thecacoris spathulifolia occurs from southern Somalia south to Mozambique and also in Madagascar.
In Kenya the roots are soaked in water and the resulting liquid is drunk to cure a hernia. Fresh roots are chewed and the juice swallowed to treat tonsilitis. A small root is chewed and the juice swallowed or roots are boiled for half an hour and the warm liquid is drunk to treat snakebites. A decoction of the stem bark is drunk to treat abdominal pain and gonorrhoea.
Dioecious shrub up to 2 m tall; branches straight, often erect and parallel; twigs pale greyish brown. Leaves alternate, simple and entire, crowded at apex of branches; stipules 1.5–2 mm long, triangular-lanceolate, brown; petiole 1–3 mm long; blade elliptical to obovate, 1–3 cm × 0.5–1 cm, base cuneate, apex notched, slightly fleshy, nearly glabrous, pinnately veined with 2–3 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary, solitary spike, yellow hairy, up to 1.5(–3) cm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5(–6)-merous; petals small or absent; male flowers with pedicel 1(–2) mm long, sepals obovate, c. 1 mm long, hairy, stamens c. 2 mm long; female flowers with pedicel c. 1 mm long, sepals oblong-ovate, fused at base, c. 1 mm long, ovary superior, almost globose, c. 1 mm in diameter, 3-celled, styles 1 mm long, stigmas red. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule 4–5 mm × 7–8 mm, nearly glabrous, green, up to 6-seeded. Seeds pear-shaped, c. 2 mm × 2 mm, brown, hilum white, grooved. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Thecacoris comprises about 20 species, all of them native to continental Africa and Madagascar.
Thecacoris lucida (Pax) Hutch. is a shrub or small tree found in Gabon, Congo, DR Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Angola. In DR Congo the leaf or bark sap is drunk with sugar cane juice to cure syphilis. Thecacoris stenopetala (Müll.Arg.) Müll.Arg., a West African forest species, is used in Sierra Leone to cure toothache. The root extract of Thecacoris viridis (Müll.Arg.) G.L.Webster, occurring from Nigeria to DR Congo, is taken in DR Congo to treat stomach problems.
Thecacoris spathulifolia is found in dry evergreen woodland, miombo woodland, wooded grassland and thickets, often on sandy soil, up to 700 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Thecacoris spathulifolia is fairly widespread and probably does not face serious threats.
Too little is known of Thecacoris spathulifolia to judge its prospects. Research into its phytochemistry and pharmacology would be a first step.
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• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Chhabra, S.C., Mahunnah, R.L.A. & Mshiu, E.N., 1990. Plants used in traditional medicine in eastern Tanzania. 3. Angiosperms (Euphorbiaceae to Menispermaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 28: 255–283.
• Léonard, J., 1995. Euphorbiaceae (deuxième partie). In: Bamps, P. (Editor). Flore d'Afrique centrale. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 115 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2008. Thecacoris spathulifolia (Pax) Leandri. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.