Herbs & Plants

Prunus africana

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Botanical Name :Prunus africanum
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Cerasus
Section: Laurocerasus
Species: P. africana
Order: Rosales

Syn. : P. africana

Common Names:  Pygeum, Iron wood, (Red) Stinkwood, African Plum, African Prune, African Cherry, and Bitter Almond. In other languages where it grows it is known as; in Amharic tikur inchet, in Chagga Mkonde-konde, in Kikuyu muiri, in Ganda entasesa or ngwabuzito, in Xhosa uMkakase, in Zulu inyazangoma-elimnyama or Umdumezulu, and in Afrikaans Rooi-Stinkhout.

Habitat :Prunus africanum is native to the montane regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Islands of Madagascar, Sao Tome, Fernando Po and Grande Comore at about 900–3400 m. of altitude. The mature tree is 10–25 m. high, open-branched and often pendulous in forest, shorter and with a round crown of 10–20 m. diameter in grassland. It requires a moist climate, 900–3400 mm annual rainfall, and is moderately frost-tolerant.

Prunus africanum  is an evergreen tree, growing up to 150 feet in height.The bark is black to brown, corrugated or fissured and scaly, fissuring in a characteristic rectangular pattern. The leaves are alternate, simple, long (8–20 cm.), elliptic, bluntly or acutely pointed, glabrous and dark green above, pale green below, with mildly serrate margins. A central vein is depressed on top, prominent on the bottom. The 2-cm petiole is pink or red. The flowers are androgynous, 10-20 stamens, insect-pollinated, 3–8 cm., greenish white or buff, and are distributed in 70-mm axillary racemes. The plant flowers October through May. The fruit is red to brown, 7–13 mm., wider than long, two-lobed with a seed in each lobe. It grows in bunches ripening September through November, several months after pollination.

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Chemical Constituents:
The primary active components in pygeum bark are fat-soluble compounds, which include terpenes, sterols (including beta-sitosterol), and ferulic acid esters. Pygeum extracts are commonly standardized to 13% sterol concentration for consistent potency.

Medicinal Uses:
Traditionally used for fevers, malaria, wound dressing, arrow poison, stomach pain, purgative, kidney disease, appetite stimulant
An extract, pygeum, an herbal remedy prepared from the bark of Prunus africana, is used as an alternative medicine in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) though clinical trials have not yet been conducted. It has shown positive results in in vitro studies and mouse models of prostate cancer.

The collection of mature bark for this purpose and for other medical uses has resulted in the species becoming endangered. Prunus africana continues to be taken from the wild. Plantecam Medicam deserves credit for attempting sustainable bark harvesting by removing opposing quarters of trunk bark rather than girdling the trees. However, quotas have been awarded by the Forestry Department without adequate forest inventories due to some harvesters, spurred on by the high price per kilogram of bark, removing too much of the bark in an unsustainable manner. In the 1990s it was estimated that 35,000 debarked trees were being processed annually. The growing demand for the bark has led to the cultivation of the tree for its medicinal uses.

The terpenes in pygeum have an anti-swelling effect. Terpenes are present in many plants that produce fragrant essential oils. Prostaglandins are inflammatory hormones that tend to accumulate in the prostates of men with BPH. Research indicates that the phytosterols in pygeum interfere with the formation of these prostaglandins, helping to reduce inflammation and swelling of the prostate. When taken correctly, pygeum is considered one of the safest herbs used for male health, and often is combined with saw palmetto for maximum results.

Other Uses:
The timber is a hardwood employed in the manufacture of axe and hoe handles, utensils, wagons, floors, chopping blocks, carving, bridge decks and furniture. The wood is tough, heavy, straight-grained and pink, with a pungent bitter-almond smell when first cut, turning mahogony and odorless later

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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