Guiera senegalensis (PROTA)

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Guiera senegalensis J.F.Gmel.

distribution in Africa (wild)
1, part of flowering branch; 2, fruit. Source: Flore analytique du Bénin
Protologue: Syst. Nat., ed. 13, 2(1): 675 (1791).
Family: Combretaceae

Vernacular names

  • Guiera (En).
  • Guier du Sénégal (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Guiera senegalensis occurs in the savanna zone from Senegal east to Sudan.


Guiera senegalensis is one of the most popular west African medicinal plants, and is used to treat a wide variety of diseases. Its uses are comparable to those of Combretum micranthum G.Don, commonly called ‘kinkeliba’, and the plants are often used combined, especially to treat common colds, fever and respiratory problems. The bitter leaves are most frequently used.

A leaf decoction or infusion, sometimes combined with other species, is drunk to treat dysentery, diarrhoea, colic, gastroenteritis, beriberi, rheumatism, hypertension, eczema, epilepsy, leprosy, impotence, venereal diseases, malaria, fever, cough, colds, asthma, bronchitis and tuberculosis. It is also taken as a diuretic, as an anti-emetic in small doses and as an emetic in larger doses. Crushed leaves are mixed with tamarind pulp and eaten as a laxative and appetizer. Dried pounded leaves in food are taken by women after childbirth to increase milk flow and as general tonic and blood restorative. A leaf infusion is used to wash new-born babies. Dried leaves are mixed with tobacco and smoked to treat respiratory problems. The powdered leaves are also taken as a snuff to treat headache and sinusitis. Ground leaves, leaf powder or a leaf decoction is applied to wounds to help cicatrisation and treat skin problems, including Guinea worm, boils, burns, sores in the mouth, tumours, syphilitic sores and leprosy. A steam bath of the leaves is taken to treat tooth-ache caused by caries. A leaf infusion is also used as a mouth wash for the same purpose. Powdered or crushed leaves are added to milk and taken to treat amoebic dysentery and leprosy. Young leaves are chewed against coughs. In Sudan a leaf infusion is taken to treat diabetes.

Powdered and boiled roots are commonly taken to treat diarrhoea and dysentery, including amoebic dysentery and intestinal worms. A root decoction is also drunk to treat insomnia, pneumonia, tuberculosis, haemorrhoids, poliomyelitis and gonorrhoea. A bark decoction is taken to treat colic. A fruit decoction is taken to stop hiccups and to treat rectal prolapse. The powder of roasted fruit is eaten to treat cough. A decoction of all plant parts is drunk and rubbed in to treat oedema and the bark powder is applied as a dressing. The powdered plant galls with charcoal are drunk in water as a strong diuretic in oliguria and anuria, as well as cerebral malaria. They are also similarly used as the leaves and roots to treat malaria, dysentery, diabetes and hypertension. The galls are used in Burkina to increase milk production in cows and to treat fowlpox infection in chickens. The leaves are fed to cows to fatten them, and to increase fertility and milk production.

Leaves and fruits readily eaten by ruminants, camels and horses and forms an important fodder, especially during the dry season. Dried leafy twigs are burnt in stalls or pens to repel flies and biting insects around domestic animals. Leafy branches are sometimes used for mulching.

The leaves are bitter and slimy and eaten as a famine food. The gum from the stem bark is marketed in Niger as a food. To ensure good fermentation of local beer crushed leaves are sometimes added in the cooking. The flowers are a good source of nectar for bees. The root is used to wash new baby naps, to render them soft and shining. The wood is used for the framework of wells, bed posts and roof lattice work and it is also commonly used to fence farms. It is also an important source of fuel. The roots are split and used as chew sticks and tooth picks. The fruit yields a black dye. The leaves enter into various medico-magical preparations, e.g. to free people from evil spirits and to bring good luck.

Production and international trade

The dried leaves are commonly sold in markets throughout West Africa, for medicinal use. In Senegal, a syrup named ‘nger’ is prepared from the leaves and has been commercialized as a remedy for coughs.


From different plant parts tannins, flavonoids, alkaloids and mucilage have been isolated. Several compounds are absent or present in different quantities from plants from different provenances, indicating the presence of chemotypes.

Leaves and roots contain β-carboline alkaloids (0.15–0.2%), and the methoxylated naphthyl butenone guieranone A. In the roots tetrahydroharman (eleagnine) was the main alkaloid, with harman and harmalan (dihydroharman) as minor compounds. The leaves contain the alkaloids tetrahydroharman and harman, as well as guieranone A.

Tannins were present in large amounts in all plant parts, including the galls. The different plant parts showed quantitative and qualitative differences with respect to the chemical composition of the tannins. Nine gallotannins with a quinic acid core and two condensed tannins (epicatechin and epigallocatechin gallate) have been isolated so far. The major tannin in all plant parts is 3,4,5-tri-O-galloylquinic acid. From the leaves, roots and galls a range of flavonoids was isolated, including catechin, myricitrin, several myricetin derivatives, rutin, rhamnetin, quercetin, quercetrin, kaempferol, tiliroside, apigenin and gallic acid. From the leaves the naphthopyrones 5-methyldihydroflavasperone and 5-methylflavasperone and the amino acid ascorbic acid have been isolated. Mucilage was also present in all plant parts, but mostly in the fruits.

A chloroform extract of the roots exhibited a pronounced antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and displayed low toxicity. However, in a different experiment, petroleum ether, chloroform and methanol extracts from the leaves did not show significant in vivo antimalarial activity in mice experimentally infected with Plasmodium berghei, when intraperitoneally administered. Harman and tetrahydroharman showed significant antiplasmodial activity in vitro associated with a low cytotoxicity; harmalan was found to be less active. Guieranone A also showed significant antiplasmodial activity in vitro, but associated with a high cytotoxicity towards two cancer cell lines, human monocytes and normal skin fibroblasts. It also exhibited potent antifungal activity against Cladosporium cucumerinum.

A methanolic leaf extract showed significant anti-diarrhoeal activity in rodents. An aqueous root extract showed highly significant anti-diarrhoeal activity in castor oil-induced diarrhoea in rats. The extract also exhibited significant ulcer-protective properties against ethanol-induced ulceration in rats. The oral LD50 values obtained were more than 5000 mg/kg in both mice and rats. In several other tests it was shown that several extracts orally administered did not show a significant toxic effect in test animals. However, when these extracts were injected intramuscularly, they were found to be lethal within one week after administration.

The condensed tannins, as well as galloylquinic acid and several flavonoids, including rhamnetin, showed significant antioxidant and radical scavenger activities in vitro. An extract of the total phenolic content of the leaves showed significant anti-oxidant activity in vitro in a range of tests. The root extract was less active. A crude aqueous leaf extract showed moderate central nervous system depressant effects in guinea pigs. A hydroacetonic leaf extract showed significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in vitro. A methanolic leaf extract showed anti-inflammatory activity in rodents. A methanolic leaf extract showed significant dose-dependent inhibition of contraction by acetylcholine of isolated rat trachea. A crude aqueous leaf extract showed significant antitussive activity in tests with guinea pigs. The tannin 1,3,4,5-tetra-O-galloylquinic acid showed significant activity against bronchial spasms.

Different leaf extracts showed significant antibacterial activity in vitro against a range of human pathogenic bacteria. A leaf extract demonstrated promising trypanosidal activity against Trypanosoma brucei brucei intraperitoneally injected in mice. Several leaf extracts showed significant antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and African swine fever virus. The tannin 3,4,5-tri-O-galloylquinic acid showed moderate selective inhibition of HIV replication. A aqueous extract from the galls showed significant in vitro antiviral activity against fowlpox virus. A leaf extract showed a significant in vitro snake venom detoxifying activity when tested in mice against two common northern Nigeria snake species Echis carinatus and Naja nigricolis.

When more than 40% of the diet of sheep consisted of Guiera senegalensis leaves there were negative effects on digestibility, probably due to low levels of intraruminal breakdown and a high tannin content. The optimal level of browse introduction in the diet of sheep was 12.5% dry matter. In a field experiment with leaf mulch in pearl millet plots, it was shown that mulching increased millet yield with 68–94% compared to the control.

The wood is whitish or tinged red, coarse-grained, knotted and short, but very hard.


(Semi-)evergreen shrub up to 3(–5) m tall, with spindly bole or many-branched from the base; all parts covered with black glandular dots; bark fibrous, more or less smooth to finely scaly, grey to brown, slash beige; young branches soft-hairy. Leaves (almost) opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 2–5 mm long, short-hairy; blade oblong-elliptical, ovate to orbicular, 3–5.5 cm × 2–3 cm, base rounded to almost cordate, apex rounded or mucronate, shortly soft-hairy at both sides, with many black glandular dots, pinnately veined with 5–6(–8) pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an almost spherical terminal and axillary head, up to 15 mm in diameter, many-flowered; peduncle 2–3.5 cm long; involucral bracts 4(–5), up to 7 mm long, triangular, apex acute, margin white-hairy, folded backwards when flowers open, enclosing the flowers in bud. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, c. 1.5 mm in diameter; tepals 5, creamy white to yellowish, densely short-hairy; stamens 10, far exceeding the corolla; ovary inferior, becoming long spindle-shaped, 4–5-celled, style filiform. Infructescence resembling a many-legged hairy spider. Fruit linear and spindle-shaped, 3–4.5 cm long, densely covered with greyish, silky hairs, turning pinkish-red when mature, perianth and style persistent.

Other botanical information

Guiera comprises a single species.

Growth and development

Guiera senegalensis flowers often twice a year, once at the end of the rainy season and once during the dry season. It can thus be found flowering and fruiting almost all year long.


Guiera senegalensis occurs in shrub savanna, tree savanna and fallow land, from sea-level up to 1000 m altitude. It grows in areas with (200–)400–800 mm annual rainfall. Guiera senegalensis occurs on all types of soil but mainly on dry sandy or degraded soils, sometimes in areas which are temporarily flooded. It does not tolerate heavy shading. It is colonizing degraded areas, where it can become gregarious and very abundant. It is one of the species responsible for the ‘tiger stripes bush’ pattern so typical of the bush savannah in the Sahel. It is considered an indicator of overgrazing. Guiera senegalensis is very drought resistant.

Propagation and planting

Guiera senegalensis is propagated by seed, stem layering and root suckers. Average 1000 seed weight is 28.4 g. Seeds are sown in pots during the dry season and transplanted into the field when the rainy season is well established. Branch layering is done by simply burying young parts of stems during the rainy season until roots grow. Roots have been observed to grow within 2 weeks after layering.


In farmers’ fields Guiera senegalensis is cut back to ground level before the rainy season starts. During the crop season it is cut back again, but left to sprout at the end of the rainy season. The shrubs resprout profusely from the base and help to fix the soil during the dry season. The cut branches are left in the field where they constitute a mulch, which can contribute considerably to increased soil fertility, water conservation and crop yield. Larger branches are usually used as firewood.

Diseases and pests

Stem gall infection of Guiera senegalensis is very common, and aphids are sometimes present, protected by ants, but other pests or diseases are rare.


The leaves, roots and galls of Guiera senegalensis are extensively harvested for their medicinal use.


The production of Guiera senegalensis in a 8 months old seedling plantation can reach 500 kg/ha leaves and 300 kg/ha wood. About 225 kg/ha can be used as firewood.

Handling after harvest

The plant parts harvested can be used fresh or dried for later use. When dry, the plant parts need to be stored in airtight containers in the shade.

Genetic resources

Guiera senegalensis is widespread and common, and not at risk of genetic erosion.


Guiera senegalensis is widely used as a traditional medicinal plant. A range of phytochemical compounds have been isolated from different plant parts. Many of the uses have been subjected to some level of pharmacological screening, and tests on its antimalarial, anti-diarrhoeal, antibacterial, anti-cough, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant activity have been positive. Many of these tests, however, are still at a preliminary level, and need to be followed by more detailed research. Further toxicological studies are also warranted as it has been shown that most extracts when orally ingested seem to be relatively harmless, but when injected most extracts are toxic to varying levels. Guiera senegalensis is also a very important species in the crop-fallow cycle in the Sahelian zone, as well for its firewood production, and its presence should be monitored in order to prevent a decline of the species.

Major references

  • Ancolio, C., Azas, N., Mahiou, V., Ollivier, E., Di Giorgio, C., Keita, A., Timon-David, P. & Balansard, G., 2002. Antimalarial activity of extracts and alkaloids isolated from six plants used in traditional medicine in Mali and Sao Tomé. Phytotherapy Research 16(7): 646–649.
  • Aniagu, S.O., Binda, L.G., Nwinyi, F.C., Orisadipe, A., Amos, S., Wambebe, C. & Gamaniel, K., 2005. Anti-diarrhoeal and ulcer-protective effects of the aqueous root extract of Guiera senegalensis in rodents. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 97(3): 549–554.
  • Arbonnier, M., 2002. Arbres, arbustes et lianes des zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest. CIRAD, MNHN, UICN. 573 pp.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • Diatta, W., Fall, A.D., Dièye, A.M., Faty, S., Bassène, E. & Faye, B., 2007. Experimental evidence of against cough activity of total alkaloids from Guiera senegalensis Lam. in guinea pig. Dakar Medical 52(2): 130–134.
  • Fiot, J., Sanon, S., Azas, N., Mahiou, V., Jansen, O., Angenot, L., Balansard, G. & Ollivier, E., 2006. Phytochemical and pharmacological study of roots and leaves of Guiera senegalensis J.F. Gmel. (Combretaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106(2): 173–178.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Nwafor, P.A. & Hamza, H.G., 2007. Anti-diarrhoeal and anti-inflammatory effects of methanolic extract of Guiera senegalensis leaves in rodents. Journal of Natural Remedies 7(1): 72–79.
  • Sanogo, R., Giani, S., Braca, A., Diallo, D., Morelli, I., Cosimo, P. & De Tommasi, N., 2002. Pharmacochemical investigation on some Malian medicinal plants. Current Topics in Phytochemistry 5: 225–234.
  • Sombié, P.A.E.D., Hilou, A., Mounier, C., Coulibaly, A.Y., Kiendrebeogo, M., Millogo, J.F. & Nacoulma, O.G., 2011. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities from galls of Guiera senegalensis J.F. Gmel. (Combretaceae). Research Journal of Medicinal Plants 5(4): 448–461.

Other references

  • Aderbauer, B., Clausen, P.-H., Kershaw, O. & Melzig, M.F., 2008. In vitro and in vivo trypanocidal effect of lipophilic extracts of medicinal plants from Mali and Burkina Faso. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 119(2): 225–231.
  • Amos, S., Kolawole, E., Akah, P., Wambebe, C. & Gamaniel, K., 2001. Behavioral effects of the aqueous extract of Guiera senegalensis in mice and rats. Phytomedicine 8(5): 356–361.
  • Azza, O.F.E., Afaf, I.A. & Galal, M., 2008. Toxicopathological effects of Guiera senegalensis extracts in Wistar albino rats. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 2(1): 699–703.
  • Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2011. Guiera senegalensis. [Internet] Prelude Medicinal Plants Database. Metafro-Infosys, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium Accessed November 2011.
  • Bationo, B.A., 1994. Etude des potentialités agroforestières, de la multiplication et des usages de Guiera senegalensis J. F. Gmel. Mémoire d’Ingénieur, Institut de Développement Rural, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 67 pp.
  • Bouchet, N., Barrier, L. & Fauconneau, B., 1998. Radical scavenging activity and antioxidant properties of tannins from Guiera senegalensis (Combretaceae). Phytotherapy Research 12(3): 159–162.
  • Ene, A.C., Ameh, D.A., Kwanashie, H.O., Agomo, P.U. & Atawodi, S.E., 2008. Preliminary in vivo antimalarial screening of petroleum ether, chloroform and methanol extracts of fifteen plants grown in Nigeria. Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology 3(4): 254–260.
  • Garba, Y. & Muhammad, I.R., 2008. Sabara (Guiera senegalensis) as browse and a potential milk enhancer in ruminants in the semi-arid environment. Research Journal of Animal Sciences 2(4): 123–127.
  • Lamien, C.E., Meda, A., Couacy-Hymann, E., Ouedraogo, A.G. & Nacoulma, O.G., 2005. The phytochemical composition and in vitro antiviral activity of decoctions from galls of Guiera senegalensis J.F. Gmel. (Combretaceae) and their relative non-toxicity for chickens. The Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 72(2): 111–118.
  • Louppe, D., 1991. Guiera senegalensis: espèce agroforestière? Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 228: 41–47.
  • Perchellet, E.M., Gali, H.U., Makkar, H.P.S. & Perchellet, J.-P, 1996. Ability of tannins extracted from the leaves of various trees and shrubs to inhibit the biomarkers of tumor promotion in mouse skin in vivo. International Journal of Oncology 9(4): 801–809.
  • Sanogo, R., Crisafi, G., Germanò, M.P., De Pasquale, R. & Bisignano, G., 1998. Evaluation of Malian traditional medicines: screening for antimicrobial activity. Phytotherapy Research 12: S154–S156.
  • Sanogo, R., De Pasquale, R. & Germanò, M.P., 1998. The antitussive activity of Guiera senegalensis J.F.Gmel. (Combretaceae). Phytotherapy Research 12: 132–134.
  • Sarr, F.B., Sarr, M., Diop, D., Kane, M.O., Ba, A., Sarr, B., Guèye, L., Diallo, A.S., Samb, A., Andriantsitohaina, R. & Cissé, F., 2010. In vitro modulation of tracheal smooth muscle reactivity by extracts of some Senegalese medicinal plants. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 4(1): 13–18.
  • Seghieri, J., Simier, M., Mahamane, A., Hiernaux, P. & Rambal, S., 2005. Adaptative above-ground biomass, stand density and leaf water potential to droughts and clearing in Guiera senegalensis, a dominant shrub in Sahelian fallows (Niger). Journal of Tropical Ecology 21(2): 203–213.
  • Silva, O., Barbosa, S., Diniz, A., Valdeira, M.L. & Gomes, E., 1997. Plant extracts antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus type 1 and African swine fever virus. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 35(1): 12–16.
  • Somboro, A.A., Patel, K., Sidibe, L., Chalchat, J.-C., Figueredo, G., Ducki, S., Troin, Y. & Chalard, P., 2011. An ethnobotanical and phytochemical study of the African medicinal plant Guiera senegalensis J.F. Gmel. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5(9): 1639–1651.
  • Taha, E., Mariod, A., Abouelhawa, S., El-Geddawy, M., Sorour, M. & Matthäus, B., 2010. Antioxidant activity of extracts from six different Sudanese plant materials. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology 112: 1263–1269.
  • Wezel, A. & Böcker, R., 1999. Mulching with branches of an indigenous shrub (Guiera senegalensis) and yield of millet in semi-arid Niger. Soil & Tillage Research 50 (3–4): 341–344.
  • Wurochekke, A.U. & Nok, A.J., 2004. In vitro antitrypanosomal activity of some medicinal plants used in the treatment of trypanosomosis in northern Nigeria. African Journal of Biotechnology 3(9): 481–483.

Afriref references

Sources of illustration

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.


  • R. Sanogo, Département Médecine Traditionnelle (DMT), B.P. 1746, Bamako, Mali

Correct citation of this article

Sanogo, R., 2012. Guiera senegalensis J.F.Gmel. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 1 March 2020.