Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bunga Hantu - Strophanthus gratus (Wallich & Hook. ex Benth.) Baill

This plant from the Apocyanaceae family is a native of West Africa. In Somalia it is called Wahbain. The beautiful flower imparts a significant rose or candy fragrance especially more at night than during the day. I have obtained this plant from a friend in Thailand. For years it has not bloomed but for the past few months it has really showed it colour and added to the fragrance of the air around my little garden.

Medicinally this plant has been used to treat severe illness and weakness in Ghana. While in other places in West Africa where it is native, it is used to treat fever, various skin afflictions both being by local application of macerated leaves. A decoction of the leaves has been used to treat gonorrhoea. Generally the seed has been used in arrow poison for hunting and warfare.

It is the from observation of its use as an arrow poison that Sir Livingstone reported a probable cardiac action of the plant. This brought to the isolation of Ouabain or Gamma Strophantin which is a cardiac glycoside. Now this is being used to treat congestive heart failure.

It is imortant to note that this plant is very poisonous especially the seeds where the cardiac glycoside is in abundance. In India it has been used by those who wants to commit suicide successfully. If you decide to add this plant in your garden please be wary of your children less they may get poisoned by the latex it produces.

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