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Heliotropium zeylanicum (Burm.f.) Lam.

Protologue  
 Encycl. 3: 94 (1789).
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Family  
 Boraginaceae
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Chromosome number  
 2n = 28
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Synonyms  
 Heliotropium subulatum (A.DC.) Vatke (1882).
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Vernacular names  
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Origin and geographic distribution  
 Heliotropium zeylanicum is widespread throughout mainland tropical Africa. It is also found in Comoros, South Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Pakistan and India.
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Uses  
 In Nigeria the plant is applied to scorpion stings and to sore breasts. In Kenya and Tanzania the leaves and roots are pounded and boiled, and the decoction is drunk to treat post-partum ailments and to promote menstruation. Leaves and stems are used as a poultice in DR Congo and Tanzania to treat yaws. A poultice of the leaves, sometimes mixed with butter, is used in Tanzania to treat boils. In Kenya a root infusion which has stood overnight is taken as a stomachic and laxative. Traditional medicinal use in India includes treating boils, sores, ulcers, throat infections, insect stings and snakebites. In Somalia the plant is said to be grazed by all livestock. In Tanzania the plant is considered useful as fodder and as an ornamental. In Nigeria it is eaten as a stimulant and a bitter tonic, probably because it colours the lips and saliva red as do kola nuts. In Tanzania young leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
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Properties  
 The aerial parts of Heliotropium zeylanicum contain the pyrrolizidine alkaloids subulacine-N-oxide, 7-angeloyl heliotrine, retronecine and heliotrine. The crude ethanol and hexane extracts have significant in-vitro activity against coxsackie, poliomyelitis and measles viruses and 7-angeloyl heliotrine and heliotrine have shown in-vitro activity against poliomyelitis and vesicular stomatitis viruses. Antitumour activity of several extracts and isolated alkaloids has been confirmed in in-vitro tests on several cancer cell lines including Sarcoma 180, human carcinoma of the nasopharynx and lymphocytic leukaemia. Extracts as well as isolated alkaloids have shown antimicrobial activity in tests with the bacteria Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus aureus, and the fungi Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Rhizoctonia phaseoli and Pennicilium chrysogenum.
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Botany  
 Perennial, erect or procumbent herb up to 60(–90) cm tall, usually with thick rootstock; stem branched, woody at base. Leaves alternate, simple, more or less sessile; stipules absent; blade linear to elliptical or sometimes lanceolate, 1–9(–12) cm × 0.2–1(–2.5) cm, base narrowly attenuate, apex acute. Inflorescence a spike-like, one-sided, single or paired cyme up to 30 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sessile; calyx lobes narrowly elliptical, up to 2 mm × 1 mm, enlarging in fruit; corolla with cylindrical tube, white, up to 4.5 mm long, lobes up to 3 mm long, spreading, long acuminate with tip bent back inwards. Fruit almost globose, up to 2.5 mm in diameter, splitting into 4 nutlets.
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Description  
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Growth and development  
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Ecology  
 Heliotropium zeylanicum is found in dry woodland, savanna, open localities, on sandy riverbanks and on edges of lakes and rivers up to 2000 m at altitude. It is an important weed in Egypt and Ethiopia and probably elsewhere.
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Propagation and planting  
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Genetic resources and breeding  
 Heliotropium zeylanicum is widespread and common throughout its area of distribution. Its weedy nature further assures that it is not threatened.
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Prospects  
 Heliotropium zeylanicum has promising medicinal properties which merit further research. It should be realized that use as an internal medicine can be dangerous with possible liver damage and poisoning as a result. Use as a vegetable has to be discouraged for the same reason.
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Major references  
 • 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.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
• Taton, A., 1971. Boraginaceae. In: Flore du Congo, du Ruanda et du Burundi. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 82 pp.
• Verdcourt, B., 1991. Boraginaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 125 pp.
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Other references  
 • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Martins, E.S. & Brummitt, R.K., 1990. Boraginaceae. In: Launert, E. & Pope, G.V. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 7, part 4. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 59–110.
• Singh, B., Sahu, P.M. & Singh, S., 2002. Antimicrobial activity of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from Heliotropium subulatum. Fitoterapia 73(2): 153–155.
• Singh, B., Sahu, P.M., Jain, S.C. & Singh, S., 2002. Antineoplastic and antiviral screening of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from Heliotropium subulatum. Pharmaceutical Biology 40(8): 581–586.
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Author(s)  
 
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors  
 
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors  
 
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors  
 
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor  
 
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article  
 Bosch, C.H., 2006. Heliotropium zeylanicum (Burm.f.) Lam. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>. Accessed .



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General importance
Geographic coverage Africa
Geographic coverage World
Ornamental use
Forage/feed use
Medicinal use



Heliotropium zeylanicum
flowering plant obtained from B. Wursten



Heliotropium zeylanicum
part of inflorescence obtained from B. Wursten


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