Nigerian Guardian Natural science 07/24/07 Study unveils medicinal values of 35 local plants CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes on how 35 local plants are prepared in South-eastern Nigeria for treating several ailments including chesty coughs, boils, malaria, typhoid, fever, ulcers, diarrhoea, among others. A RECENT study by Gordian C. Obute of the Department of Plant Science and Biotechnology, University of Port Harcourt has unveiled some 35 medicinal plants scattered in 23 plant families, with reported medicinal importance to the people of South-eastern Nigeria. The study catalogued common plants used by the indigenous people of South-eastern Nigeria for medicinal purposes based on collections during field trips and visits to traditional medicine practitioners in these parts, and questionnaires administered to resident knowledgeable respondents. The study also described the plants and their local names provided where possible while the medicinal uses and parts used were listed. The plants include: False thistle, alligator pepper, goat weed, Cashew, dogoyaro, pawpaw, Awolowo weed, lime, lemon, bitter leaf, lemon grass, vegetable jute, castor bean, oil palm tree; goose-grass; yellow tassel flower, asthma plant, mango, bitter kola, scent leaf, smooth Newbouldia, cassava, guava, fluted pumpkin, native Pear, Christmas bush, among others. According to the study titled "Ethno-medicinal Plant Resources of South Eastern Nigeria," of all the plants sampled, 74.29 per cent grew wild, 62.85 per cent are cultivated, and 25.71 per cent are both wild and cultivated. The study shows the diverse families from which the indigenous people of the South-eastern Nigeria obtain medicinal plants. Among the families Asteraceae and Euphorbiaceae provided the highest proportion of medicinal plants at 11.43 per cent each followed by Zingiberaceae, Rutaceae and Poaceae at 5.71 per cent each. According to the study, the leaves of these plants are the commonly used parts although all the parts of the plants play prominent roles in peoples' health care. To on the list is false thistle (Acanthus montanus) which is of the plant family Acanthaceae. It is called Inyinyi ogwu in Ibo. The study indicates it is anti-tussive; leaf decoction used to treat chesty coughs and boils. The study indicates that alligator pepper is a stimulant and diuretic. Crushed seeds mixed with crushed bitter kola and water extract of bitter leaf all mixed with proper amount of water is used to treat diabetes. Whole fruit eaten along with two moderately sized ginger cures beri beri. One whole pepper added to three seeds of ripe papaw, dried locus bean all ground to make soup is a remedy for female infertility. Alligator pepper (Afromomum melegueta ) is of the plant family Zingiberaceae and it is locally known as ose oji. An infusion is goat weed known as ula njula or urata njele in Ibo is used as purgative. Sap squeezed from the leaves is used to treat wounds and eye problems. It is botanically called Ageratum conyzoides. The study indicates that one - two drops of a tincture applied four - five times a day treats ringworm infection. The bark and leaves used as diuretic. Cashew (Anarcadium occidentale) is of the plant family Anarcadiaceae. The study indicates that local application of Alstonia boonei (Apocynaceae) called Egbu in Ibo is used as analgesic for rheumatic pains, bark is boiled with garlic and lime and taken 1 glass three times daily. Juice extract mixed with lime and a tinge of salt is used to treat mouth odour. The study indicates that drinking or bathing with leaf decoction or infusion of Neem or Dogoyaro (Azadirachta indica) of the plant family Meliaceae is a remedy for chicken pox and small pox, boiling leaves with lemon grass treats malaria, used as a vermifuge, remedy for ulcers and wounds. Juice squeezed from leaves with a little water is used as an eye drop but if mixed with pure honey is good for ear ailments. Twig chewed as a relief for toothache. According to the study, unripe fruit of papaya or pawpaw (Carica papaya), which belongs to the plant family Caricaceae is mixed with garlic and fermented for three days is used as a diuretic. Chewing a handful of seeds of pawpaw, okpurukwa in Ibo, in the morning and evening and add decoction of unripe papaw with unripe pineapple, lime, 10cm long sugar cane piece, six bags of Lipton tea in four litres of water has anti-malarial effects. Sap from unripe fruit or trunk is used to treat eczema, razor bumps and nematode infestations. Mashed leaf water extract of Siam weed or Awolowo weed (Chromolaena odorata) of the plant family Asteraceae is used for stomach upset, sap from leaves used to treat wounds. The perennial shrub is called obiarakara in Ibo. Local application of Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) of plant family Rutaceae with honey is used to cure catarrh, juice used to treat stomach-ache and feverish conditions. The study indicates that the infusion of the rind of Lemon (Citrus limon) which belongs to the plant family Rutaceae is prepared in alcohol is used for digestive disorders, juice used to treat diarrhoea, ulcers, excessive weight gain. Diluted juice used to treat spots, scabs, wounds scars and insect bites. Leaves of Vegetable Jute (Corchorus olitorius) of plant family Tiliaceae is pounded with rubber leaves and mixed with a little water then filtered is taken to remedy irregular menstrual flow in women. Leaf extracts by boiling is used for treating fevers. The plant is called Ahihiara in Ibo. Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) which is of the plant family Poaceae is used as an astringent, diuretic and antiseptic. The leaf is boiled in two litres of water for 30 - 40 minutes with 25 whole limes, two grape fruits, two unripe papaw fruits, and two unripe pineapples, cut garlic and the bark of Alstonia boonei and used to treat typhoid fever. Used with Napoleona imperialis, Diodia scandens (Rubiaceae) as a vermifuge for children; an infusion of the same combination used for pregnant women and afterbirth treatment to clear the womb. The plant is called Onaedi in Ibo. The study indicates that 5-10g and 15 - 30g of Castor bean oil (Ricinus communis) of plant family Euphorbiaceae used as a purgative for children and adults respectively. External application of oil is used to treat skin infections. Oil from the seeds of Oil Palm tree (Elaeis guineeensis) which belongs to the plant family Arecaceae is administered as an antidote for poisons. Oil from the kernel of Oil Palm tree, nkwu or akwu in Ibo used to treat several skin ailments and convulsion in children. Unripe kernel is believed to prevent fibroids when at least 25 - 30 nuts are chewed every day for 12 weeks. Goosegrass or wiregrass, Ichite in Ibo is used as an anti-inflammatory, and for convulsion in children. Botanically called Eleusine indica (Poaceae). Fluid from squeezed leaves of Yellow tassel flower, called ogbunizu in Ibo used to treat wounds because it contains coagulant factors. Botanically called Emilia sonchifolia (Asteraceae). The leaves of Australian asthma plant, garden spurge or spurge weed (ogwu asma or ahihia ugwa in Ibo) is used to treat asthma and catarrh, external application for treatment of eczema. Speculated to be a cure for aids since it stimulates the immune system. It is also called Euphorbia hirta (Euphorbiaceae). The seeds of Bitter cola (aku ilu or agbu ilu in Ibo) are chewed to treat bronchitis and throat infections. An infusion of the root with a little salt is a remedy for asthma. Bitter cola is botanically called Garcinia kola. Gummy sap of Harungana madaga-scariensis (Hypericaceae), Otori in Ibo is applied locally to treat skin diseases like itches and leprous spots. The study indicates that boiling of leaves Mango, Mangifera indica (Anarcadiaceae) in water and drinking the resultant solution is a cure for malaria; Bark is soaked for 24 hours and the water extract is used, along with bathing with this three times a day, to treat typhoid fever. Premature roots of cassava, called Akpu in Ibo are used to treat eye problems. Cassava is botanically called Manihot esculenta and belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. An infusion of the leaves of Vogel's Napoleona (Nnekeloche or abakalabaka in Ibo) is used to dissolve clotted blood in freshly delivered women; but used as a vermifuge for children. Stem is used to cure gonorrhoea while the roots are used to fevers. The plant is also called Napoleona imperialis (Lecythidaceae). According to the study, the leaves of Smooth Newbouldia (Ogirisi in Ibo) are squeezed and the extract use to treat eye problems. Roots, barks and leaves are used during childbirth, constipation and on septic wounds. It is botanically called Newbouldia laevis and belongs to the plant family Bignoniaceae. The study indicates that a glass of leaf extract of The tea bush or scent leaf (Nchuanwu in Ibo) taken before a meal is a remedy for constipation as well as worms in the gastro intestinal tract. As treatment for diabetes mellitus, the same amount of Ocimum gratissimum leaves and mistletoe Viscum album in water taken a glass three times daily until the symptoms disappear. The plant is also called Ocimum gratissimum (Labiateae). Leaves and stem of ikpere aturu (in Ibo) are used in treating rheumatism arthritis if taken as an infusion. The plant is botanically called Palisota hirsuta (Commelinaceae). According to the study, Utazi (in Ibo) is used for cleansing the womb after childbirth; the leaves are ground or chewed raw to treat stubborn cough and also taken to treat running stomach. It is also called Gangronema latifolium (Asclepiadaceae). Botanically called Piper nigrum, Uziza (in Ibo) is used to stabilise the womb in women after birth. Commonly called Guava, Psidium guajava (Myrtaceae) leaves according to the study are soaked in salt water washed and squeezed and product made up with fresh water to give a greenish liquid that is taken one glass two times daily for one week to increase blood level. A decoction of 50g of the leaves and bark of the root is made in one litre of water and taken a glass every four hours to cure diarrhoea and dysentery. The stem of Broom weed (udo or nsi inyinya in Ibo is used to treat malaria. It is also called Sida acuta (Malvaceae). The leaves of Fluted pumpkin (Ugu in Ibo) are squeezed in water and taken to treat dizziness and anaemia. Roots are potent poisons. It is botanically called Telfairia occidentalis (Cucurbitaceae). According to the study, squeezing the leaves of Bitter leaf (Onugbu in Ibo) and mixing the product with palm wine and rubbing the body down together with drinking a glass daily cures measles, small pox and chicken pox. If mixed with lime and orange juice and taken for a fortnight is a cure for pile. Root epidermis is used to treat diarrhoea. The sap from the leaf is an anti-fungal agent. The plant is also called Vernonia amygdalina (Asteraceae). Resin from the stem of Native pear (Ube in Ibo) is used to treat skin parasites; the fruit is eaten as a remedy for heat conditions. The plant is also called Dacryoides edulis (Burseraceae). The leaves of Christmas bush, botanically called Alchornia cordifolia (Euphorbiaceae) are chewed or squeezed and drank to treat eye conditions; root epidermis is a good bitter.