Terminalia bentzoe (PROTA)
Terminalia bentzoe (L.) L.f.
- Protologue: Suppl. pl.: 434 (1782).
- Family: Combretaceae
- Benjoin, bois benzoin, bois binjouin, bois charron, badamier à petites feuilles (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Terminalia bentzoe is endemic to Réunion and Mauritius, including Rodrigues.
The bark resin is used to treat skin infections and as sudorific, and bark decoctions or infusions to treat diarrhoea and dysentery and to stop bleeding. Leaf and bark decoctions are taken to treat colds, cough and bronchitis, usually in mixtures with other medicinal plants. Leaf and fruit decoctions are administered as emmenagogue.
The wood has been used in construction and for carpentry, cartwheels and dug-out canoes. Terminalia bentzoë is sometimes planted for reafforestation.
The leaves contain saponins, terpenes, triterpenes and phenols. The leaf oil contains 65% citronellyl acetate, 23% neral, 2% linalool, 1.5% geranyl tiglate and 1.5% α -humulene. Methanolic bark and leaf extracts showed promising in-vitro antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum as well as in vivo in mice infected by Plasmodium berghei.
- Small to medium-sized tree up to 20(–30) m tall; bole often slightly sinuous, sometimes with buttresses; bark surface scaly or fissured, grey to brown; crown with horizontal branches in whorls; twigs thickened towards apex, short reddish hairy, becoming glabrous.
- Leaves arranged spirally, clustered at ends of twigs, simple; stipules absent; petiole up to 6 cm long; blade elliptical to obovate, 8–15 cm × 2–7.5 cm, cuneate at base, obtuse to slightly acuminate at apex, margins slightly wavy, thin-leathery, glabrous, pinnately veined with up to 12 pairs of lateral veins; leaves of young twigs much narrower than those of older ones, reddish.
- Inflorescence an axillary spike about as long as leaves.
- Flowers bisexual or male, regular, 5-merous, 2.5–3 mm in diameter, white to yellowish; calyx with tube and 5 lobes; corolla absent; stamens 10, exserted; ovary inferior, 1-celled.
- Fruit an ovoid winged nut 2.5–3.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm including the 2 wings, notched at apex, glabrous, greenish, indehiscent, 1-seeded.
- Seedling with epigeal germination.
Other botanical information
In Terminalia bentzoe, 2 subspecies have been distinguished, subsp. bentzoe occurring in Réunion and Mauritius, and subsp. rodriguesensis Wickens limited to Rodrigues.
Terminalia is a pantropical genus of about 200 species. In tropical mainland Africa about 30 species occur naturally, in Madagascar about 35. Some Terminalia spp. are used in traditional medicine in Madagascar.
Terminalia fatraea (Poir.) DC. is a shrub or small tree up to 10(–25) m tall, endemic to eastern Madagascar. Tea made from its bark is drunk to treat colic and indigestion.
Terminalia monoceros H.Perrier is a shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall, endemic to southern Madagascar. Leaf infusions are taken to treat diarrhoea. Bark extracts showed antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus. The wood is used in house construction and for coffins.
Growth and development
Trees can be found flowering from August to November and fruits can be collected from November to February.
Terminalia bentzoe occurs in semi-deciduous and evergreen lowland forest, often on rocky hills or in valleys.
Propagation and planting
Freshly fallen fruits are usually collected from the ground. To break their dormancy, they are often dried for 2–7 days and the wings are subsequently removed manually. The fruits are several times alternately immersed in water for 2–3 hours and rinsed. This procedure promotes germination and increases the germination rate considerably. Pre-treated fruits should be covered with a thin layer of soil or straw, and germination starts after 20–30 days but may take up to 2 months. Fruits which have not been treated may start germinating after 30–50 days, but germination may take more than 4 months. The fruits can be stored for over 2 years under cool conditions. Seedlings stay in the nursery for 5–6 months.
Diseases and pests
Deer often feed on seedlings, limiting natural regeneration.
For medicinal purposes, the bark of trees is often harvested, and this may lead to ring-barking, which may kill the trees.
Terminalia bentzoe has a small distribution area and is rare. The numbers of adult trees are small; they are estimated at less than 500 individuals in Mauritius and much less in Réunion and Rodrigues. Terminalia bentzoe is classified as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.
Terminalia bentzoe is traditionally used to treat diarrhoea and other bacterial infections. However, no pharmacological research has been done to confirm these uses. Its antimalarial activity merits further research as well.
Terminalia bentzoe is threatened and needs protection. It can be readily propagated by pre-treated fruits, and should be used in reafforestation programmes in its natural distribution area.
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- Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
- Page, W., 1998. Terminalia bentzoe ssp. bentzoe. In: IUCN 2012. Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. http://www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed September 2012.
- E.N. Matu, CTMDR/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840–00200, Nairobi, Kenya
- R.H.M.J. Lemmens, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Matu, E.N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2013. Terminalia bentzoe (L.) L.f. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 29 May 2023.
- See this page on the Prota4U database.