Acalypha psilostachya (PROTA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Prota logo orange.gif
Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

General importance Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage Africa Fairytale bookmark gold.svgFairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage World Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Medicinal Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg

Acalypha psilostachya Hochst. ex A.Rich.

Protologue: Tent. fl. abyss. 2: 246 (1850).
Family: Euphorbiaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Acalypha psilostachya occurs from Sudan and Ethiopia south to Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique.


In Burundi a leaf decoction is taken to treat headache, to expel a retained placenta and as a tonic for pregnant women. The leaf sap is taken to stop bleeding during pregnancy and to treat amenorrhoea. A decoction of leafy twigs is used as an eye bath and the leaf sap is used as eye drops to treat conjunctivitis. A leaf decoction is drunk or the ash of leafy twigs is sniffed to treat pain in the side. An infusion of the leafy twigs is drunk and the steam is inhaled to treat dizziness. A leaf decoction is used as an enema to treat diarrhoea, and the decoction is drunk to treat intestinal parasites.


Monoecious, erect, perennial herb or shrub up to 3 m tall; stems sparsely to densely hairy, with or without glandular hairs. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules linear-lanceolate, 2–4 mm long; petiole up to 11 cm long, slender; blade ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 2–15 cm × 1–9 cm, base rounded to cordate, apex acuminate, margins toothed, membranous, shortly hairy to almost glabrous on both surfaces, more hairy along the midrib, (5–)7–9-veined at base and with 4–6 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary, solitary or paired spike up to 9(–12) cm long, with mainly male flowers and (1–)3–4(–8) female flowers at the base; peduncle hairy; bracts of female flowers deeply 5–7-lobed, lobes linear-lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, the median lobe up to 8 mm × 12 mm. Flowers unisexual, sessile, petals absent; male flowers with 4-lobed, minute, shortly hairy, reddish calyx, stamens 8, free, anthers yellowish; female flowers with 3 ovate, c. 0.5 mm long, ciliate sepals, ovary superior, c. 0.5 mm in diameter, slightly 3-lobed, densely shortly hairy, 3-celled, styles 3, free, 2–3 mm long, fringed, white. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 1.5 mm × 2.5 mm, densely shortly hairy. Seeds ovoid-globose, c. 1 mm × 1 mm, smooth, brown, caruncle small.

Other botanical information

Acalypha comprises about 460 species and occurs throughout the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate regions, excluding Europe. In tropical Africa about 65 species occur and in Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands about 35 species. Acalypha psilostachya comprises 2 varieties with mainly overlapping distribution areas; var. psilostachya, with densely hairy stem and inflorescence, and var. glandulosa Hutch., which is variably hairy, but also has glandular hairs.


Acalypha psilostachya grows in moist submontane forest undergrowth, in valleys, also in submontane grassland and swamp forest, persisting in disturbed localities, at 500–3000 m altitude.


The leaves and leafy stems of Acalypha psilostachya are mainly collected from the wild during the rainy season.

Genetic resources

Acalypha psilostachya is relatively widespread in the mountainous regions of its distribution area and there are no signs that it is genetically threatened.


The only known uses of Acalypha psilostachya are from Burundi, where it has numerous medicinal applications. Research into the chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the compounds is warranted.

Major references

  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.

Other references

  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.


  • G.H. Schmelzer, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Acalypha psilostachya Hochst. ex A.Rich. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 18 September 2018.