Octoknema okoubaka Aubrév. & Pellegr.
The bark, harvested for medicinal use
Photograph by: H. Zell
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Okoubaka aubrevillei is a deciduous tree with a bushy crown of horizontal to drooping branches; it can grow up to 30 metres tall. The straight, cylindrical bole can be 80cm in diameter[
The bark is a very popular traditional medicine in west Africa and is also used in Western medicine. It is commonly harvested from the wild. It is widely sold for medicinal use in local markets throughout coastal countries of West Africa, and is also traded internationally[
The bark is used as a fish poison[
West tropical Africa - Sierra Leone to Cameroon and DR Congo.
Forests on rocky hills, usually solitary but occasionally in pure stands in Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire[
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Natural regeneration is poor, because the fruits and seeds are eaten by porcupines[
In southern Nigeria, Okoubaka aubrevillei is an important tree in religious ceremonies[
It is considered to be a mystery plant in Cote D'Ivoire, and nobody would fell it. It belongs to a family of plants that includes many parasitic and hemiparasitic species and is said to kill trees around its growth place, though it has not been proven to be parasitic[
Okoubaka aubrevillei is a hemi-parasitic plant. Within 6 months after germination, when nutrient reserves in the seed become depleted, the roots attach themselves to those of nearby plants by means of haustoria. However, one year after germination no differences were found in growth and foliar nutrient concentrations between plants growing with and those without hosts. The hosts, however, showed increased mortality or reduced growth. Hence, the apparent
benefit which this species gains from the parasitic association is killing potential competitors for water, light and nutrients. The only tree species surviving close to it are Myrianthus arboreus and Musanga cecropioides[
The bark is widely used as a medicine in west Africa and is also exported to Europe and other countries. It is particularly employed in the treatment of skin disorders and poisoning.
Six different catechins have been isolated from the bark, including (+)-catechin and (+)-gallocatechin, as well asβ-sitosterol and stigmasterol[
The bark has antimicrobial and immunostimulating properties that are attributed to phenolic compounds[
A macerate of the bark is used in the treatment of tachycardia[
The bark is used in phytotherapeutic medicine in the Western world. Its main applications are for stomach upsets caused by poisoning and to boost the system in cases of tiredness, depression and allergies[
Skin problems, including those caused by syphilis and leprosy, are treated by washing with, or bathing in a macerate or infusion of the bark in water[
]. External application of bark preparations is also practised to counteract poisoning[
]. A bark macerate is taken as a vapour bath or as nose drops to cure oedema[
]. In a compress it is used to disperse haematomas[
A wooden tool is traditionally used for the removal of the bark, and under no circumstances is a metal implement used[
The wood is sometimes used for construction or as firewood[
Seed - germination rates of 60 - 100% have been recorded[
Attempts have been made to cultivate this species. After germination, the seedlings were transplanted in rows 4 metres apart, at a distance of 2 metres within the rows. Between the rows, Millettia laurentii was planted to act as a host. After about 10 years, 54% of the plants had survived and had reached an average height of 4.2 metres, with a maximum height of 8.6 metres. The host plant, Millettia laurentii, grew well for the first 6 years, but then started dying[
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