Clausena anisata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Clausena anisata (Willd.) Hook.f. ex Benth.

distribution in Africa (wild)
1, flowering twig; 2, flower (2 sepals, 2 petals and 2 stamens removed); 3, infructescence. Source: Flore analytique du Bénin
Protologue: Hook., Niger fl.: 256 (1849).
Family: Rutaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 18, 36

Vernacular names

  • Horsewood, maggot killer (En).
  • Mjavikali (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Clausena anisata occurs from Guinea and Sierra Leone eastwards to Ethiopia, the Sudan and southward to the Cape Province, only avoiding the driest regions. It also occurs in tropical Asia and South-East Asia. It is cultivated in Malaysia and Indonesia.


Clausena anisata is commonly used in traditional medicine throughout tropical Africa. A decoction of the aromatic leaves or roots is widely drunk to treat gastro-intestinal disorders, fever, pneumonia, headache, sore throat and sinusitis, and as an anthelmintic against various kinds of worms. The crushed leaves are considered antiseptic and analgesic and are externally applied to treat wounds, aching teeth and other mouth infections, otitis, itch, sores, abscesses, burns, haemorrhoids, rheumatism and other body pains. They are also applied to maggot-infested wounds in domestic animals. Crushed leaves are widely applied as a snake-bite antidote. In West Africa a leaf decoction is taken to treat venereal diseases and as an aphrodisiac, and also to strengthen infants and prevent rachitis. A root decoction is taken as a tonic by pregnant women, to facilitate child birth and cleanse the uterus. A root decoction is also given to children to control convulsions.

In East Africa, the roots are chewed to treat indigestion and a root decoction drunk to treat whooping cough, malaria, syphilis and kidney troubles. In Kenya, a root decoction is given to women after childbirth to promote milk production; it is also drunk to treat irregular menses, threatening abortion, skin diseases and epilepsy. In the Seychelles a leaf decoction is drunk to treat hypotension and a sore throat. Leaves are poulticed on boils and spots. A mixture made from the crushed leaves, salt, Capsicum peppers and tamarind seeds, is taken to treat lack of appetite, bloating and indigestion. In South Africa a leaf extract is taken to treat diabetes.

Throughout tropical Africa the dried leaves are used as insect repellents. In Kenya the leaves are used as mattress filler, because they are aromatic and repel insects. The twigs are widely used for toothbrushes and the stems for walking sticks and small implements. Burnt stems are used to smoke fish and for ripening bananas. The fruits have a sweet taste and are locally eaten. The stem bark is used as rope for the construction of granaries. In southern Africa a leaf infusion is used as steam bath as a deodorant. Clausena anisata twigs and leaves are widely used in magico-religious ceremonies and rites, as the twigs are said to evict bad spirits.

Production and international trade

In tropical Africa leaves and roots of Clausena anisata are locally traded but there is no commercial production.


The leaves and fruits of Clausena anisata contain essential oils and are very aromatic when crushed. Analysis of the essential oil obtained from leaves collected from different localities showed the existence of several chemovariants: (E)-anethole (75–95%) containing oils (Indonesia, Ghana), methyl chavicol (80–100%) containing oils (Benin, Ghana, Nigeria), (E)-foeniculin containing oil (Ghana), β-pinene (67.2%) containing oil (India), and oils containing a large number of constituents varying in concentration from 0.2% to 20%. Examples of the latter include a leaf oil from Zimbabwe with sabinene (33%), germacrene D (17%), Z-β-ocimene (6%), germacrene B (5.5%), (E)-β-ocimene (5%) and terpinen-4-ol (4.7%). Leaf oil from Cameroon contained (Z)-tagetenone (26.8%), (E)-tagetenone (19.2%), (E)-nerolidol (11.5%) and germacrene D (9.2%). Essential oils from the seeds differ in composition, without a clear distinction in chemovars: from Benin it contained methyl chavicol (40.8%), myrcene (22.2%), (E)-anethole (16.3%) and limonene (13.4%) and from Cameroon it contained (Z)-tagetenone (15.3%), (E)-tagetonene (14.8%), (E)-nerolidol (10.3%), myrcene (7.4%), β-caryophyllene (7.4%), 3-carene (3.9%) and β-humulene (3.5%). The fruits, aerial parts and stem bark contain coumarins belonging to the furanocoumarin type (e.g. imperatorin, isoimperatorin, oxypeucedanine, bergaptene, xanthotoxin, xanthotoxol and chalepin), geranylcoumarin (e.g. anisocoumarin A–I), or furanocoumarin-lactone type (indicolactone, anisolactone). From the stem bark and roots the tetranortriterpenoids limonin, zapoterin, clausenolide and several derivatives have been isolated. From the stem bark several carbazole alkaloids were isolated: furanoclausamine A and B, clausamine B, C, D and E, mukonal, glycosinine, mukonidine and clausine F. From the root bark the pyranocarbazole alkaloid mupamine was isolated.

The leaf essential oil showed significant toxicity to larval stages of the grasshopper Zonocerus variegatus. Its major component was identified as estragole, which was 1.5 times more toxic than the essential oil. Other tests showed that the leaf essential oil was also very effective against stored-product insect pests, including Tenebrio molitor and Rhizopertha dominica, Sitophilus zeamais and other species. It caused 99.3% mortality and completely inhibited the reproduction of Tribolium castaneum when used for fumigation at a dosage of 20 mg/litre, or mixed with wheat flour at a concentration of 0.2% by weight. Leaf powder and different leaf and root extracts showed significant antifeedant activity against the stemborer Helicoverpa armigera. A methanol extract of the twigs showed moderate antiplasmodial activity against a chloroquine-sensitive train of Plasmodium falciparum in vitro.

The leaf essential oil furthermore exhibited significant antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Alcaligenes faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecalis, Flavobacterium suaveolens, Leuconostoc cremoris and Serratia marcescens. Clausenol showed significant activity against a range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and fungi. The leaf oil also exhibited significant antifungal activity against Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus parasiticus, Geotrichum candidum, Phytophthora palmivora and Penicillium citrinum. Leaf extracts showed strong antifungal activity against the fungi causing oral candidiasis and fungal infections of the skin: Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, Candida krusei and Cryptococcus neoformans. A methanolic root extract showed molluscicidal activity in a bioassay with Bulinus globosus, the intermediate snail host in schistosomiasis. The coumarins heliettin and imperatorin were more toxic to the test snail than other coumarins used in the bioassay. The leaf essential oil also possesses moderate antioxidant activity in vitro. A methanolic root extract showed moderate hypoglycaemic activity in laboratory rats.

The furanocoumarin imperatorin showed anticonvulsant activity. Chalepin exhibited anticoagulant activity when administered to rats in a single dose. Chalepin (100 mg/kg) when administered intraperitoneally resulted in the death of 40% of the rats within 48 hours of treatment. Livers of the dead rats showed generalized necrosis of hepatocytes. Clausamines D–G act as inhibitors of Epstein-Barr virus early antigen activation. Leaf extracts showed moderate inhibition of HIV-1 and HIV-2 strains in vitro and also inhibited HIV-1 reverse transcriptase activity. Clausamine E was found to exhibit moderate cytotoxicity against the human leukemia cell line HL60.


A deciduous shrub or small tree, 4(–10) m tall; bark smooth, grey-green changing to brownish and becoming mottled; young twigs short-hairy. Leaves alternate, imparipinnate, up to 30 cm long; stipules absent; leaflets 11–37, alternate or almost opposite, ovate to narrowly elliptical, 1–7(–11) × 0.7–3(–4.3) cm, base asymmetrical, rounded or cuneate, apex obtuse or notched, margins entire or toothed, densely covered with glandular dots, strongly aromatic when crushed, pinnately veined with 5–12 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a lax axillary panicle (4–)10–35 cm long, short-hairy. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4-merous; sepals c. 1 mm long, petals elliptical, 3–7 mm long, cream to yellowish white, stamens 8, filaments 2–6 mm long, thickened at base, gynophore c. 1 mm long, ovary superior, 4-lobed, glands at apex, style 1.8–2.1 mm long, stout, stigma rounded. Fruit an ovoid, fleshy berry, 3.3–7 mm in diameter, usually 2-locular, red or purple-black, 1–3-seeded.

Other botanical information

Clausena comprises 15 species, and occurs primarily in continental Asia and South-East Asia, extending to north-eastern Australia (Queensland). Clausena anisata extends its distribution area to India and Sri Lanka and is the only representative in tropical Africa.

Growth and development

Clausena anisata flowers in March–June and September–November, and fruits in July–September.


Clausena anisata occurs in savanna, thickets, disturbed areas, riverine forest and secondary forest, from sea-level up to 3000 m altitude.

Propagation and planting

Clausena anisata is a prolific seeder and the fruits are mainly dispersed by birds, but probably also by small mammals. The average 1000 seed weight is 78.8 g. It can be grown from either stem cuttings or direct sowing. Stem cuttings show a faster growth rate than seedlings; both cuttings and seeds grow better in shade than in full sun. In Indonesia Clausena anisata is usually multiplied by grafting, using Clausena excavata H.Lév. as root stock.


Clausena anisata is fair to fast growing and coppices easily.

Diseases and pests

Fusarium sp. causes leaf spot on Clausena anisata. Clausena anisata is a host for the nematode Tylenchulus semipenetrans.


Leaves of Clausena anisata are harvested by hand whenever the need arises.


On a dry weight basis the yield of leaf essential oil is 4.32%. In a test in Indonesia fresh young leaves yielded the highest β-caryophyllene content (0.51%) and mature, wilted leaves contained highest eugenol content (1.5%).

Handling after harvest

The oil of Clausena anisata is susceptible to oxidation and should be stored in full, airtight containers in a cool dark place.

Genetic resources

Clausena anisata has a large area of distribution, either naturally or as a result of cultivation and hence is not threatened by genetic erosion. Small germplasm collections are present at the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias in Valencia, Spain and in USDA-ARS National Germplasm Repository for Citrus & Dates, in Riverside, California, United States.


Clausena anisata contains a variety of compounds, which exhibit interesting biological activities, and thus merit further research to fully evaluate their future potential. Furthermore, the chemovariants with anethole-containing essential oils may be of interest as a local substitute for anise oil, or as an industrial starting material in the production of this component.

Major references

  • Addae-Mensah, I., Asomaning, W.A., Oteng-Yeboah, A., Garneau, F.X., Gagnon, H., Jean, F.I., Moudachirou, M. & Koumaglo, K.H., 1996. (E)-anethole as a major essential oil constituent of Clausena anisata. Journal of Essential Oil Research 8(5): 513–516.
  • Arbonnier, M., 2000. Arbres, arbustes et lianes des zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest. CIRAD, MNHN, UICN. 541 pp.
  • Ayisi, N.K. & Nyadedzor, C., 2003. Comparative in vitro effects of AZT and extracts of Ocimum gratissimum, Ficus polita, Clausena anisata, Alchornea cordifolia, and Elaeophorbia drupifera against HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections. Antiviral Research 58: 25–33.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Clarkson, C., Maharaj, V.J., Crouch, N.R., Grace, O.M., Pillay, P., Matsabisa, M.G., Bhagwandin, N., Smith, P.J. & Folb, P.I., 2004. In vitro antiplasmodial activity of medicinal plants native to or naturalised in South Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 92: 177–191.
  • Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1982. Rutaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 52 pp.
  • Molino, J.-F., 1994. Révision du genre Clausena Burm.f. (Rutaceae). Bulletin du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, séries 4, 16, section. B, Adansonia 1: 105–153.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Schmelzer, G.H., 2001. Clausena Burm.f. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 160–167.

Other references

  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • Avlessi, F., Dangou, J., Wotto, V.D., Alitonou, G.A., Sohounhloue, D.K. & Menut, C., 2004. Propriétés antioxydantes de l’huile essentielle des feuilles de Clausena anisata (Wild) Hook. Comptes Rendus Chimie 7(10–11): 1057–1061.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 2002. Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 1212 pp.
  • Essilfie, M.K., 2000. Taxonomic studies on variation within Clausena anisata (Willd.) Hook. f. ex Benth. in coastal savanna zone of Ghana. MPhil. Botany degree thesis, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. 108 pp.
  • Garneau, F.X., Pichette, A., Gagnon, H., Jean, F.I., Addae Mensah, I., Osei Safu, D., Asomaning, W.A., Oteng Yeboah, A., Moudachirou, M & Koumaglo, K.H., 2000. (E)- and (Z)-foeniculin, constituents of the leaf oil of a new chemovariety of Clausena anisata. Journal of Essential Oil Research 12(6): 757–762.
  • Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
  • Gokah, J., 2003. Ecological studies on the regeneration of Clausena anisata (Willd.) Hook.f. ex Benth. B.Sc. Botany degree thesis, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. 43 pp.
  • Hamza, O.J.M., van den Bout-van den Beukel, C.J.P., Matee, M.I.N., Moshi, M.J., Mikx, F.H.M., Selemani, H.O., Mbwambo, Z.H., van der Ven, A.J.A.M. & Verweij, P.E., 2006. Antifungal activity of some Tanzanian plants used traditionally for the treatment of fungal infections. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 108(1): 124–132.
  • Ito, C., Itoigawa, M., Aizawa, K., Yoshida, K., Ruangrungsi, N. & Furukawa, H., 2009. g-Lactone carbazoles from Clausena anisata. Journal of Natural Products 72(6): 1202–1204.
  • Ito, C., Katsuno, S., Itoigawa, M., Ruangrungsi, N., Mukainaka, T., Okuda, M., Kitagawa, Y., Tokuda, H., Nishino, H. & Furukawa, H., 2000. New carbazole alkaloids from Clausena anisata with antitumor promoting activity. Journal of Natural Products 63(1): 125–128.
  • Lakshmi, V., Prakash, D., Raj, K., Kapil, R.S. & Popli, S.P., 1984. Monoterpenoid furanocoumarin lactones from Clausena anisata. Phytochemistry 23(11): 2629–2631.
  • Latham, P., 2007. Plants visited by bees and other useful plants of Umalila, southern Tanzania. Third edition. P.Latham, DFID, United Kingdom. 216 pp.
  • Maundu, P. & Tengnäs, B. (Editors), 2005. Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya. World Agroforestry Centre - East and Central Africa Regional Programme (ICRAF-ECA), Technical Handbook 35, Nairobi, Kenya. 484 pp.
  • Munodawafa, T., Chagonda, L.S., Viol, I., Muchuweti, M. & Moyo, S.R., 2010. Total phenolic content and antioxidant activity of some Zimbabwean traditional medicinal plants. In: Govil, J. N. & Singh, V.K. (Editors). Recent Progress in Medicinal Plants, Volume 29. Drug plants III: 363–373
  • Nukenine, E.N., Adler, C. & Reichmuth, C., 2010. Efficacy of Clausena anisata and Plectranthus glandulosus leaf powder against Prostephanus truncatus (Coleoptera: Bostrichidae) and two strains of Sitophilus zeamais (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) on maize. Journal of Pest Science 83(2): 181–190.
  • Ojewole, J.A.O., 2002. Hypoglycaemic effect of Clausena anisata (Willd) Hook methanolic root extract in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 81(1): 231–237.
  • Osei, Y.P., 1992. Preliminary screening of some local plants for their possible fungitoxic effect on the germination of sporangia of Phytophthora palmivora (Butl.) Butl. B.Sc. Botany degree thesis, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. 59 pp.
  • Pitan, O.O.R., Ayelaagbe, O.O., Wang, H.-L. & Wang, C.-Z., 2009. Identification, isolation and characterization of the antifeedant constituent of Clausena anisata against Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Insect Science 16(3): 247–253.
  • Sentilkumar, A. & Venkatesalu, V., 2009. Phytochemical analysis and antibacterial activity of the essential oils of Clausena anisata (Willd.) Hook.f. ex Benth. International Journal of Integrative Biology 5(2): 115–120.

Sources of illustration

  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1982. Rutaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 52 pp.


  • A.T. Tchinda, Institut de Recherches Médicales et d’Etudes des Plantes Médicinales (IMPM), Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique et de l’Innovation, B.P. 6163, Yaoundé, Cameroun

Correct citation of this article

Tchinda, A.T., 2011. Clausena anisata (Willd.) Hook.f. ex Benth. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 27 January 2023.