Alafia multiflora (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Alafia multiflora (Stapf) Stapf & Pichon

Protologue: Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1908: 303 (1908).
Family: Apocynaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Alafia multiflora occurs from Sierra Leone east to southern Sudan and south to northern DR Congo.


Alafia multiflora is widely used in its area of distribution to treat wounds. Latex mixed with bark scrapings is applied to wounds and ulcers, and also to ulcers caused by syphilis. In Ghana the latex diluted with water is taken to cure stubborn wounds. In Cameroon fresh latex, either alone or mixed with Oncinotis glabrata (Baill.) Stapf ex Hiern, is also applied to treat yaws. Stem bark or fruits in decoction are taken to relieve abdominal pain. The seeds are an ingredient of arrow poison in DR Congo.


The pyrrolizidine alkaloid alafine has been extracted from Alafia multiflora seeds. Vanillic acid isolated from an ether extract of the latex was found to be responsible for the antibacterial properties.


Large liana up to 40(–80) m long, with clear sap or sometimes white latex; stem up to 18 cm in diameter; bark dark brown, rough, with or without scattered pale brown lenticels. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules in axil of petiole; petiole 5–10 mm long; blade elliptical, 5–21 cm × 2.5–11.5 cm, base rounded to slightly cordate, apex shortly acuminate, leathery, glabrous on both sides. Inflorescence a dense terminal dichasial cyme, many-flowered; peduncle 3–27 mm long; bracts sepal-like. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, slightly fragrant; pedicel 5–15 mm long; sepals free, ovate to broadly ovate, 3–6 mm long, rounded or obtuse; corolla white, often greenish outside, tube 11–18 mm long, 1.5–3 mm wide at base, widening near the insertion of the stamens and narrowed towards the throat, glabrous outside, inside with hairy belt below insertion of stamens, lobes broadly rounded, 10–20 mm long, at apex often wavy, spreading, hairy with long curled hairs at the part of the lobes covered in the bud and hairy inside in the upper part of the throat; stamens inserted halfway the corolla tube, included, anthers sessile, arrowhead-shaped; ovary superior, broadly ovoid, 2-celled, style cylindrical, 4. 5–10 mm long, pistil head cylindrical with 2-lobed stigmoid apex. Fruit a cylindrical, linear capsule 70–110 cm × 2–2.5 cm, dehiscent, glabrous, many-seeded. Seeds narrowly ellipsoid, 20–26 mm × 4 mm × 2 mm, with a longitudinal raised line, at the base with an obtuse wing 0. 5–1 mm long, at the top with a beak c. 5 mm long and tuft of hairs 4–7 cm long.

Other botanical information

Alafia comprises 23 species, 15 of which occur in continental Africa and 8 in Madagascar. Alafia multiflora differs from the other species of the genus by the syncarpous fruit and the beak on the seed. The fruits of Alafia multiflora and those of Alafia schumannii Stapf are the longest in the entire family, measuring up to 1.1 m.

Alafia schumannii

Alafia schumannii occurs in tropical forest from Sierra Leone east to Uganda and south to northern Angola. The latex is an effective medicine for treating wounds: it is dropped directly into the wound to improve healing.


Alafia multiflora occurs in periodically inundated riverine forest, up to 750 m altitude.


Alafia multiflora can be harvested at any time in the year. Harvesting is done by wounding a leafy stem, collecting the latex on a leaf or in a bottle and put it directly on and around the wound or ulcers. Bark is harvested by scratching it as powder from the stem; it is then mixed with the sap.

Genetic resources

Alafia multiflora is widespread and there are no indications of genetic erosion.


Alafia multiflora is a widely used medicinal plant in rural communities. As there are few published data on the pharmacological effects of this plant, more information is needed to assess its qualities.

Major references

  • Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
  • Balansard, G., Zamblé, D., Dumenil, G. & Cremieux, A., 1980. Demonstration of the anti-bacterial properties of the latex obtained by tapping the trunks of Alafia multiflora trees. Identification of vanillic acid. Plantes Medicinales et Phytotherapie 14(2): 99–104.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1997. Series of revisions of Apocynaceae 43. Alafia Thouars. Kew Bulletin 52(4): 769–839.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Pais, M., Jarreau, F.X., Fouche, P. & Goutarel, R., 1971. A propos of a falsification of Strophantus gratus Franchet seeds. A new alkaloïd, alafine, isolated from Alafia sp. seeds and Alafia multiflora Stapf (Apocynaceae). Annales Pharmaceutiques Françaises 29(1): 57–62.

Other references

  • Brisson, R., 1988. Utilisation des plantes par les pygmées Baka: textes pour l’étude de la langue. Collège Liberman, Douala, Cameroon. 355 pp.
  • Mshana, N.R., Abbiw, D.K., Addore-Mensah, I., Ekpere, J.A., Enow-Orock, E.G., Gbile, Z.O., Noamessi, G.K., Odei, M.A., Odunlami, H., Oteng-Yeboah, A.A., Sarpong, K., Sofowora, A. & Tackie, A.N., 2000. Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia. Contribution to the revision of ethnobotanical and floristic studies in Ghana. Organisation of African Unity / Scientific, Technical and Research Commission. 920 pp.
  • N’goran, A., Goli, K., Abdourahamane, S. & Alassane, S., 1995. Côte d’Ivoire: Rapport de pays pour la conférence technique internationale de la FAO sur les ressources phytogénétiques. FAO, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. 75 pp.


  • D.E. Tsala, Faculty of Science, Laboratory of Animal Physiology, University of Yaoundé I, P.O. Box 3201 Messa, Yaoundé, Cameroon
  • T. Dimo, Faculty of Science, Laboratory of Animal Physiology, University of Yaoundé I, P.O. Box 3201 Messa, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Correct citation of this article

Tsala, D.E. & Dimo, T., 2006. Alafia multiflora (Stapf) Stapf & Pichon. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 23 April 2019.