Herbs & Plants

Alchornea cordifolia

Botanical Name: Alchornea cordifolia
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malpighiales
Genus: Alchornea
Species: A. cordifolia

*Schousboea cordifolia
*Alchornea cordata

Common names: Christmas bush.

Local Names: Ipa, esinsin, eepa, bambami, ububo, bulora, garagasaki

Habitat: Alchornea cordifolia is native to tropical Africa.(Tropical Africa – Senegal east to Kenya and Tanzania and south throughout Central Africa to Angola) Widespread in secondary forest and riverine forest, especially in marshy areas but sometimes in drier sites, from sea-level up to 1,500 metres altitude. It often forms thickets in disturbed, unburned localities.

Alchornea cordifolia is an evergreen, dioecious shrub or a small tree that grows up to 8 meters in height. It is well adapted to acid soils, responds well to coppicing, and reported to improve soil fertility. The leaves, when dried, can be used as a tea substitute and the acidulous fruits are considered edible in some parts of Africa. It is known as an important traditional medicinal plant in Africa and is used as a major medicinal plant for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, as well as anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves are the main part used in traditional medicine but other plant parts such as bark, stem pith, leafy stems, roots, root bark, and fruits are also used.


Edible Uses: Dried leaves are a tea substitute. The acidulous fruits are considered edible in some parts of Africa.

Medicinal Uses:
Alchornea cordifolia is an important medicinal plant in African traditional medicine and much pharmacological research has been carried out into its antibacterial, antifungal and antiprotozoal properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory activities, with significant positive results. However, the link between activity and particular compounds is often not clear, although the flavonoids and tannins seem to play a major role. More research is needed to elucidate these relations. It is probable that Alchornea cordifolia will remain a major medicinal plant. The leaves are the main part used, but the stem bark, stem pith, leafy stems, root bark, roots and fruits are also employed. In addition to the properties listed above, the leaves or leafy stems are also believed to be abortifacient, antispasmodic, blood purifier, diuretic, emetic (in large doses), emmenagogue, oxytocic, purgative, sedative and tonic. Taken as an infusion or chewed fresh, they are used to treat a wide variety of conditions including:- respiratory problems such as sore throat, cough and bronchitis; genital-urinary conditions such as venereal diseases, menstrual problems, impotency and female sterility; intestinal problems such as gastric ulcers, diarrhoea, amoebic dysentery and worms; anaemia; epilepsy; tachycardia. As a purgative, the leaves are also taken as an enema. The crushed fresh leaves or powdered dry leaves are applied externally as a cicatrizant to wounds, to relieve pain, e.g. backache and headache, to fractures to improve healing and to treat eye infections and numerous skin afflictions including venereal diseases, leprosy, sores, abscesses, yaws and filariasis. A decoction of leafy twigs is applied as a wash for feverish chills, and rheumatic pains, also for sores and as an application to sore feet as a lotion or poultice. Leaf and root decoctions are widely used as mouth wash to treat ulcers of the mouth, toothache and caries, and twigs are chewed for the same purposes. The young stem pith is bitter and astringent and is chewed in the treatment of tachycardia. The pith may also be rubbed on the chest to treat respiratory problems. The root is widely taken to treat venereal diseases, amoebic dysentery and diarrhoea. Externally, it is used to make eye drops to cure conjunctivitis. A decoction of bruised fruit is taken to prevent miscarriage. The sap of the fruit is applied externally to cure eye problems and skin diseases.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses: The tree is reported to improve soil fertility and is known to be effective in restoring calcium levels in acid soils. It is a pioneer species and is one of the first trees to appear in vegetation dominated by Chromolaena odorata, an invasive shrub that has spread widely from S. America. As a mulch crop it has good potential for restoration of soil fertility considering its standing biomass, root distribution, nutrient content in the biomass, decomposition and nutrient release patterns, and association with mycorrhiza. It is used as a windbreak around crops. Other Uses The leaves are used as a packing material for cola nuts and a Nigerian condiment. The infructescences are used in decorations. Pipe stems are made from the branches with the pith removed. The fruits are used as black dye, either on their own or combined with other plants such as fermented Parkia pods; the stems and leaves of Mucuna flagellipes; or the bark of Bridelia ferrugineas. This dye is used to colour mats and cloth and is also used on pottery, calabashes and leather. The leaves are often added to indigo to darken its colour. The leaves and fruits are used for dyeing and preserving fishing nets; dried leaves give a darker colour than fresh ones. The bark and leaves are used to blacken cloth and pottery. The bark and leaves contain up to 11% tannins. Too little for commercial interest, but the tannins are used locally for purposes such as waterproofing rope. The wood ash serves as a mordant. The fruit, or an extract of the plant is a component of marine antifouling paints, coatings and polymers for application to metal surfaces. Alchorneic acid, obtained from the plant, has been proposed as a raw material for the hemi-synthesis of plastic. The wood is light, soft and perishable and is not used in many areas. However, where larger pieces are available it is sometimes used for house construction, stakes and kitchen utensils, and also benches when large stems are available The split stems are used to line baskets. The wood is also used as fuel.

Plants are well adapted to acid soils. The nectar glands at the leaf base attract ants, which protect the plant from attacks from other insects. Plants respond well to coppicing, regrowing rapidly after being cut. In forest regions, the full ripening of the fruit is a sign that the rainy season is over. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required.

Through Seed – germination takes 3 – 12 weeks when directly planted in moist soil. Plants are most easily propagated from stem cuttings, which root in 9 weeks.

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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