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Vepris madagascarica (Baill.) H.Perrier

Mém. Acad. Sci. (Paris) 67: 22 (1948).
Pelea madagascarica Baill. (1872).
Origin and geographic distribution
Vepris madagascarica is endemic to northern Madagascar.
The bitter stem bark is used for making alcoholic drinks commonly used during circumcision rituals as an euphoretic, aphrodisiac and stimulant. Leaf extracts are taken with honey or bread to treat muscular pain or digestive problems. The stem bark, leaves and essential oil smell strongly of anise and are exported to China, Japan and South-East Asia, where extracts are popular for making an anise-flavoured mouthwash.
Production and international trade
Although the dried leaves and stem bark of Vepris madagascarica and several related Vepris spp. with a high concentration of anethole are known to be exported to China, Japan and South-East Asia, the quantities are unknown.
From the leaves and branches α-pinene, cymene, eugenol, methyl-eugenol and estragol were isolated. The essential oil from the fruit contains 30% estragol, 31% cis-anethole and 33% trans-anethole; the last 2 compounds are responsible for the anise flavour.
Evergreen shrub or small tree up to 3(–5) m tall, glabrous. Leaves alternate, 1-foliolate, crowded at apex; stipules absent; petiole 4–10 mm long, red; leaflet sessile, obovate, 5.8–8.3 cm × 3.2–4.2 cm, rounded at base, rounded at apex, margin slightly wavy, glandular dots many but hardly translucent, pinnately veined with numerous lateral veins. Inflorescence a short axillary panicle-like cyme, few-flowered, with up to 12 flowers. Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous; pedicel c. 1 mm long; calyx cup-shaped; male flowers with free petals, ovate-oblong, c. 3 mm × 1.5 mm, thick, stamens 8, shorter than petals and rudimentary ovary, red; petals not seen in female flowers, ovary superior, globose, 4-celled. Fruit a rounded, glabrous drupe, indehiscent, covered with glandular dots, 4-seeded. Seeds ovoid, black.
Vepris comprises about 80 species, most of them in mainland Africa, about 30 endemic to Madagascar, and 1 in India. Several other Vepris species with 4-celled ovaries have similar medicinal uses in Madagascar.
The bitter stem bark of Vepris arenicola H.Perrier, Vepris elliotii (Radlk.) I.Verd., Vepris macrophylla (Baker) I.Verd., Vepris nitida (Baker) I.Verd., Vepris schmideloides (Baker) I.Verd. and Vepris sclerophylla H.Perrier are also used for making alcoholic drinks commonly used during circumcision rituals as an euphoretic, aphrodisiac and stimulant.
A stem bark decoction of Vepris arenicola is furthermore drunk as a digestion stimulant and is externally applied as a disinfectant. From the leaves of Vepris elliotii α-pinene (4.3%), limonene (6.2%), terpinolene (49.7%) and e-anethole (23.5%) were isolated as major components.
A leaf infusion of Vepris macrophylla is taken as an astringent. A bark decoction is drunk to treat severe fatigue, apathy and depression. From the aromatic fruits a steam bath is made for patients recovering from infectious diseases. Four acridone alkaloids were isolated from the leaves, including arborinine and evoxanthine. Different stem bark extracts showed moderate antimalarial effects when used as an additive to chloroquine.
A decoction of the bitter bark of Vepris nitida is taken to treat chronic venereal diseases. Bark powder is sniffed to treat common cold. The leaves contain mainly estragole (58.5%) and trans-anethole (38%).
A leaf infusion of Vepris polymorpha (Danguy ex Lecomte) H.Perrier is taken as an astringent.
A decoction of the stem bark of Vepris sclerophylla is taken to treat malarial fever. From the stem bark several acridones have been isolated
The wood of Vepris arenicola, Vepris elliotii, Vepris macrophylla and Vepris nitida is hard and used for making small implements.
Vepris madagascarica occurs in dry, subhumid forest, from sea-level up to 500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Vepris madagscarica is only known from 2–5 localities, mostly in protected areas and is considered to be rare. It is therefore likely to be threatened by genetic erosion.
There is very little known concerning the pharmacology of Vepris madagascarica, and further research is therefore warranted. The safety profiles of the different plant parts need to be evaluated as well, as the species is popular in mouthwash products in Asia.
Major references
• Andrianavalonirina, M.A., 2002. Contribution à l’étude de l’huile essentielle des feuilles de Vepris sp. (Rutaceae), nouvelle espèce endémique de Madagascar. Mémoire en vue de l’obtention du CAPEN, Département Formation Initiale Scientifique, Centre d’étude et de recherche (CER) - Physique Chimie, Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 85 pp.
• Billet, D. & Favre-Bonvin, J., 1973. Constituants de l’huile essentielle de Vepris madagascarica. Phytochemistry 12(5): 1194.
• Boiteau, P. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1993. Plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 135 pp.
• Michat, L., 2006. De l'or en bouteille; les huiles essentielles de Madagascar. Editions Médicis, Paris, France. 203 pp.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1950. Rutacées (Rutaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), familles 104–105. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 89 pp.
Other references
• Beaujard, P., 1988. Plantes et médecine traditionelle dans le Sud-Est de Madagascar. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 23(2–3): 165–265.
• Bouchet, P. & Valisoalalao, J., 1989. Etude des huiles essentielles de deux arbres des côtes malgaches: Hernandia voyroni (hazomalanny) Vepris elliotii (Angety). Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache 67(1-2): 197–212.
• Poitou, F., Masotti, V., Viano, J., Gaydou, E.M., Andriamahavo, N.R., Mamitiana, A., Rabemanantsoa, A., Razanamahefa, B.V. & Andriantsiferana, M., 1995. Chemical composition of Vepris elliotii essential oil. Journal of Essential Oil Research 7(4): 447–449.
• Rasoanaivo, P. & de la Gorce, P., 1998. Essential oils of economic value in Madagascar: present state of knowledge. HerbalGram 43: 31–39, 58–59.
• Rasoanaivo, P., Federici, E., Palazzino, G. & Galeffi, C., 1999. Acridones of Vepris sclerophylla: their 13C-NMR data. Fitoterapia 70(6): 625–627.
• Rasoanaivo, P., Ratsimamanga-Urverg, S., Ramanitrahasimbolo, D., Rafatro, H. & Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, A., 1999. Criblage d’extraits de plantes de Madagascar pour recherche d’activité antipaludique et d’effet potentialisateur de la chloroquine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64: 117–126.
E.N. Matu
CTMDR/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840–00200, Nairobi, Kenya

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
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom

Correct citation of this article:
Matu, E.N., 2011. Vepris madagascarica (Baill.) H.Perrier. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild