Herbs & Plants

Griffonia simplicifolia

Botanical Name: Griffonia simplicifolia
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Griffonia
Species: G. simplicifolia

*Bandeiraea simplicifolia (DC.) Benth.
*Schotia simplicifolia Vahl ex DC.

Common Names: Griffonia

Habitat: Griffonia simplicifolia is native to West tropical Africa – Liberia to Nigeria, Gabon, Congo. It grows in Grass savannah; coastal plains on termite mounds; scrub thickets; climber in secondary and gallery forests.

Griffonia simplicifolia is an evergreen shrub or large climbing plant that is hard-wooded and with short strong woody tendrils commonly found in west tropical Africa specifically in Liberia to Nigeria, Gabon, and Congo. It grows about 3 m in height.

Shrub or large liana with glabrous, brown-black branches. Leaves alternate, simple, glabrous; stipules triangular, 1
mm long, soon falling; petiole up to 1.5 cm long; blade ovate, 6–12 cm × 3–6 cm, base rounded to cordate, apex
rounded to short-acuminate, 3(–5)-veined from the base, reticulate veins prominent on both sides. Inflorescence an
axillary, pyramidal raceme 5–20 cm long; bracts and bracteoles triangular, very small, persistent. Flowers bisexual,
almost regular, 5-merous; pedicel 3–4 mm long; receptacle urn-shaped, 1–1.5 cm long, pale green; calyx tube 12–15
mm long, orange, lobes triangular, up to 2 mm long; petals almost equal, elliptical, 10–12 mm long, fleshy, greenish,
sparsely short-hairy on the margin; stamens 10, filaments filiform, up to 2 cm long; ovary superior, c. 4 mm long,
stiped, style 1–2 mm long, persistent, stigma small. Fruit an oblique-cylindrical pod c. 8 cm × 4 cm, stipe 1–1.5 cm
long, inflated,


Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen. It is a tropical plant. It grows in the grass savannah in West Africa.

Edible Uses:
The leaves are used in the production of palm wine, and give the wine a bitter taste. Sap that exudes from cut stems can be drunk to quench thirst. Use: The stems are baked and chewed.

Medicinal Uses:
Griffonia simplicifolia is a type of plant found in western parts of Africa. The seeds are used as a medicine because they contain a chemical called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).

Griffonia simplicifolia seeds are commonly used by mouth for depression, anxiety, weight loss, headaches, and insomnia. But there is limited scientific research to support these uses.

How does it work?
Griffonia simplicifolia contains the chemical 5-HTP. This chemical works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, pain, and mood. Since 5-HTP increases serotonin, Griffonia simplicifolia is used for some diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role. These include depression, insomnia, obesity, and other conditions.

The pulped bark is applied to syphilitic sores. A leaf decoction is used as an emetic, cough medicine and aphrodisiac. The leaf sap and is drunk or applied as an enema to cure kidney problems. The leaf sap is used as eye drops to cure inflamed eyes. A paste made from the leaves is applied to burns. A decoction of stems and leaves is taken as a purgative to treat constipation and is used externally as an antiseptic wash to treat suppurating wounds. Chewing the stems is claimed to produce an aphrodisiac effect. Stems and stem bark are made into a paste that is applied to decaying teeth. The powdered twig bark, combined with lemon juice and Capsicum pepper, is applied to scarifications to treat intercostal pain. An extract from the powdered roots has been used to treat sickle cell anaemia. The seed is a commercial source of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a serotonin precursor. In humans, 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin in the central nervous system and has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, obesity, chronic headaches and insomnia. The leaves contain a volatile oil and coumarins. The cyanoglucoside lithospermoside (= griffonin) has been isolated from the roots; it is the active ingredient against sickle-cell anaemia. Isolectin B4, isolated from Griffonia simplicifolia, is used as a marker of small primary sensory neurons in neurological research.

Other Uses:
The leaves are put in chicken pens to kill lice. The roots are chewed and dried to produce a white powder that is used by women to powder their face. A black dye is obtained from the leaves. The stems are used to make baskets and cages. The stems are beaten into fibres that serve as chewing sponges, a popular means of tooth cleaning in Ghana. The stems and roots are used as chew-sticks to clean the teeth and maintain gum health and oral hygiene. The seeds contain the compound 5-HTP, which is poisonous to certain insects, i.e. bruchids (Callosobruchus maculatus). A number of lectins are found in the seeds. One of them is of the acetylglucosamine-group, which is commonly found in Poaceae and Solanaceae, but is rare in Fabaceae. Some lectins have insecticidal properties. The pods are made into toy whistles and spoons. The wood is hard and fairly tough. It can be bent and after crooking is used for making walking-sticks.

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


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