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Gongronema latifolium Benth.

 Hook., Niger Fl.: 456 (1849).
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 Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
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 Marsdenia latifolia (Benth.) K.Schum. (1900).
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Vernacular names  
 Bush buck (En).
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Origin and geographic distribution  
 Gongronema latifolium is widespread in tropical Africa and occurs from Senegal east to Chad and south to DR Congo.
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 Gongronema latifolium is widely used in West Africa for medicinal and nutritional purposes. An infusion of the aerial parts is taken to treat cough, intestinal worms, dysentery, dyspepsia and malaria. It is also taken as a tonic to treat loss of appetite. In Sierra Leone an infusion or decoction of the stems with lime juice is taken as a purge to treat colic and stomach-ache. In Senegal and Ghana the leaves are rubbed on the joints of small children to help them walk. The boiled fruits in soup are eaten as a laxative. In Nigeria a leafy stem infusion is taken as a cleansing purge by Muslims during Ramadan. A decoction of leaves or leafy stems is commonly taken to treat diabetes and high blood pressure. The latex is applied to teeth affected by caries. It is also taken for controlling weight gain in lactating women and overall health management. Asthma patients chew fresh leaves to relieve wheezing. A cold maceration of the roots is also taken as a remedy for asthma. A decoction of the roots, combined with other plant species, is taken to treat sickle cell anaemia. A maceration of the leaves in alcohol is taken to treat bilharzia, viral hepatitis and as a general antimicrobial agent.
In southern Nigeria the Igbo people call the leaves ‘utazi’ and the Yoruba people ‘arokeke’. They are sharp-bitter and sweet and widely used as a leafy vegetable and as a spice for sauces, soups and salads. The leaves are used to spice locally brewed beer. In Sierra Leone the pliable stems are used as chew sticks. The bark contains much latex and has been tested for exploitation.
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Production and international trade  
 The leaves of Gongronema latifolium are sold locally in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
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 Few chemical analyses have been performed on Gongronema latifolium. From the leaves several 17β-marsdenin derivatives (pregnane glycosides) were isolated, as well as β-sitosterol, lupenyl cinnamate, lupenyl acetate, lupeol, essential oils and saponins. The essential oil from the leaves contains as main components linalool (19.5%), (E)-phytol (15.3%) and aromadendrene hydrate (9.8%).
The leaf oil did not show significant antibacterial activity. A methanolic leaf extract showed moderate antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella cholerasius, Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and an aqueous leaf extract showed moderate antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The ethanol extract also exhibited antifungal activity against Basidiobolus haptosporus and Basidiobolus ranarum. A methanolic leaf extract showed significant antileishmanial activity against Leishmania chagasi in vitro.
Different methanolic and ethanolic leaf extracts showed promising hypoglycaemic and antihyperglycaemic activities in a dose dependent way on normal and alloxan-induced or streptozotocin-induced diabetic rabbits. An ethanolic leaf extract possessed significant anti-lipid peroxidative activities. In a small clinical trial, the blood glucose concentration of healthy humans was determined after consumption of the leaves, and showed a significant reduction in blood glucose level. Different leaf extracts also showed moderate to promising antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antiplasmodial, anti-asthmatic, anti-sickling, anti-ulcer, analgesic, antipyretic, gastrointestinal relaxing, laxative and stomachic activities. An acute toxicity test in rats gave an LD50 of 1450.5 mg/kg when orally administered, and in mice it gave an LD50 of 1678.6 mg/kg when intraperitoneally injected.
The leaves of Gongronema latifolium were tested as a possible hop substitute for brewing beer. Water extracts of the powdered leaves gave low bittering values, but extraction of the powdered leaves with organic solvents significantly increased analytical bitterness to levels comparable with hops. The leaf extracts also had antimicrobial properties comparable with acetone extracts of hops.
The nutritional composition of the dry leaves is: crude protein (9.8–27.2%), lipid extract (6.1%), ash (5.8–11.6%), crude fibre (8.7–10.8%), tannin (0.3%) and nitrogen-free extractives (44.3%). The composition of minerals per 100 g dry matter is: K 244.8–332.1 mg, Na 110–113 mg, Ca 115.4–154 mg, P 125.5–326.9 mg, Fe 7.8 mg, Zn 13.4 mg, Pb 0.2 mg, Cu 2.3–43.5 mg, Mg 53.8 mg, Cd 0.1 mg, Co 115.9 mg, oxalate 70 mg and ascorbic acid 187.1 mg. The major essential amino acids are: leucine, valine, phenylalanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and glycine. Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids constituted 50.2 and 39.4% of the oil, respectively. Palmitic acid accounted for 36% of the total fatty acid content; minor saturated fatty acids are stearic acid (4.6%), behenic acid (3.7%) and arachidic acid (2.8%). The main unsaturated fatty acid is linoleic acid (31.1%), followed by oleic acid (7.1%) and linolenic acid (7.1%).
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 Climbing shrub or liana up to 5 m long, stems hollow, all parts soft-hairy to glabrous, with woody base and fleshy roots, containing latex. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole up to 2.5–3 cm long; blade broadly ovate to almost circular, 6–12 cm × 3–10 cm, base deeply cordate, apex acuminate, papery, at basis 3-veined. Inflorescence a terminal and axillary cymose panicle up to 13 cm long. Flowers bisexual, small, 5-merous, regular, yellow-green, fragrant; pedicel 2–4 mm long; calyx lobes elliptical to rounded, c. 2 mm long, hairy at apex; corolla tubular up to 5 mm long, campanulate at apex, hairy inside or not, lobes triangular-ovate, c. 2 mm long, spreading; corona lobes fleshy, cream, brown at base, shorter than staminal column; stamens with short appendages, resting on the short, conical style apex. Fruit a pair of pendent follicles, each one narrowly cylindrical, 7–10 cm × 1–1.5 cm, yellow, many-seeded.
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Other botanical information  
 Gongronema comprises about 16 species in Africa, tropical and subtropical Asia and Oceania; 5 species, formerly described in Marsdenia, occur in tropical Africa.
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Growth and development  
 In Nigeria Gongronema latifolium flowers in July and August. Application of inorganic fertilizer (NPK) did not cause any significant increase of glycosides in the leaves.
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 Gongronema latifolium occurs in rainforest, deciduous and secondary forests, and also in mangrove and disturbed roadside forest, from sea-level up to 900 m altitude.
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Propagation and planting  
 Gongronema latifolium can be propagated by seed or softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings. Fresh seeds have a germination rate of up to 85% at 25–29°C. Cold storage for a brief’ period improves seed germination. Seeds from green-yellow follicles are matured enough to germinate, and can be stored for a longer period than seeds from yellow follicles. Softwood stem cuttings have a better shoot and root development during the wet season, whereas semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings perform better during the dry season.
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 The leaves of Gongronema latifolium are harvested when needed.
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Handling after harvest  
 The harvested leaves are used fresh or washed, destalked, dried, milled in powder and packed for further uses.
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Genetic resources and breeding  
 Gongronema latifolium is widespread and common in tropical Africa. However, in Nigeria, it is overexploited and has become relatively rare.
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 Gongronema latifolium is an important medicinal plant, vegetable and spice. A range of pharmacological tests have shown promising hypoglycaemic activities, and also interesting antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antiplasmodial, anti-asthmatic, anti-sickling, anti-ulcer, analgesic and antipyretic activities. More research is warranted to fully evaluate its potential. Its use, especially in Nigeria, as a vegetable and spice, will remain important as well, and domestication is needed. In Nigeria Gongronema latifolium is sometimes cultivated in order to ensure its continued availability and sustained conservation. As the leaves contain toxic compounds, a safety profile needs to be established.
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Major references  
 • Akuodor, G.C., Idris-Usman, M.S., Mbah, C.C., Megwas, U.A., Akpan, J.L., Ugwu, T.C., Okoroafor, D.O. & Osunkwo, U.A., 2010. Studies on anti-ulcer, analgesic and antipyretic properties of the ethanolic leaf extract of Gongronema latifolium in rodents. African Journal of Biotechnology 9(15): 2316–2321.
• Brown, N.E., 1902–1904. Asclepiadeae. In: Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 4(1). Lovell Reeve & Co, London, United Kingdom. pp. 231–503.
• 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.
• Dike, M.C., 2010. Proximate, phytochemical and nutrient compositions of some fruits, seeds and leaves of some plant species at Umudike, Nigeria. ARPN Journal of Agricultural and Biological Science 5(1): 7–16.
• Eleyinmi, A.F. Sporns, P. & Bressler, D.C., 2008. Nutritional composition of Gongronema latifolium and Vernonia amygdalina. Nutrition & Food Science 38(2): 99–109.
• Emeka, E.J.I. & Obioa, O., 2009. Effect of a long term consumption of a diet supplemented with leaves of Gongronema latifolium Benth. on some biochemical and histological parameters in male albino rats. Journal of Biological Sciences 9(8): 859–865.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Nwanjo, H.U. & Alumanah, E.O., 2006. Effect of aqueous extract of Gongronema latifolium on some indices of liver function in rats. Global Journal of Medical Sciences 5(1): 17–20.
• Okolie, U.V., Okeke, C.E., Oli, J.M. & Ehiemere, I.O., 2008. Hypoglycaemic indices of Vernonia amygdalina on postprandial blood glucose concentration of healthy humans. African Journal of Biotechnology 7(24): 4581–4585.
• Oliver-Bever, B., 1986. Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 375 pp.
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Other references  
 • Agbo, C.U. & Obi, I.U., 2007. Variability in propagation potentials of stem cuttings of different physiological ages of Gongronema latifolium Benth. World Journal of Agricultural Sciences 3(5): 576–581
• Agbo, C.U. & Omaliko, C.M., 2006. Initiation and growth of shoots of Gongronema latifolia Benth. stem cuttings in different rooting media. African Journal of Biotechnology 5(5): 425–428.
• Edet, U.U., Ehiabhi, O.S., Ogunwande, I.A., Walker, T.M., Schmidt, J.M., Setzer, W.N., Ogunbinu, A.O. & Ekundayo, O., 2005. Analyses of the volatile constituents and antimicrobial activities of Gongronema latifolium Benth. and Gnetum africanum L. Journal of Essential Oil-Bearing Plants 8(3): 324–329.
• Edet, E.E., Akpanabiatu, M.I., Eno, A.E., Umoh, I.B. & Itam, E.H., 2009. Effect of Gongronema latifolium crude leaf extract on some cardiac enzymes of alloxan-induced diabetic rats. African Journal of Biochemistry Research 3(11): 366–369.
• Eguyoni, A., Moody, J.O. & Eletu, O.M., 2009. Anti-sickling activies of two ethnomedicinal plant recipes used for the management of sickle cell anaemia in Ibadan, Nigeria. African Journal of Biotechnology 8(1): 20–25.
• Eleyinmi, A.F., 2007. Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of Gongronema latifolium. Journal of Zhejiang University, Science B 8(5): 352–358.
• Essien, J.P., Ebong, G.A. & Akpan, E.J., 2007. Antioxidant and antitussive properties of Gongronema latifolium leaves used locally for the treatment of fowl cough in Nigeria. Journal of Applied Sciences & Environmental Management 11(4): 47–50.
• Etetim, E.N., Useh, M.F. & Okokon, J.E., 2008. Pharmacological screening and evaluation of antiplasmodial activity of Gongronema latifolium (utazi) against Plasmodium berghei berghei infection in mice. Nigerian Journal of Health and Biomedical Sciences 7(2): 51–55.
• Etim, O.E., Akpan, E.J. & Usoh, I.F., 2008. Hepatotoxicity of carbon tetrachloride: protective effect of Gongronema latifolium. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 21(3): 269–274.
• Gamaniel, K.S. & Akah, P.A., 1996. Analysis of the gastrointestinal relaxing effect of the stem extracts of Gongronema latifolium. Phytomedicine 2(4): 293–296.
• Morebise, O., Fafunso, M.A., Makinde, J.M., Olajide, O.A. & Awe, E.O., 2002. Antiinflammatory property of the leaves of Gongronema latifolium. Phytotherapy Research 16(1): 75–77.
• Nwosu, M.O. & Malize, N., 2006. An anatomic-systematic study of medicinal plants of Nigeria (II): Gongronema latifolium Benth. (Asclepiadaceae). Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 30(2). 235–242.
• Obinna, C.N., Nwodo, S.C. & Olayinka, O.A., 2008. Evaluation of antibacterial activity of Psidium guajava and Gongronema latifolium. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 2(8): 189–192.
• Odukoya, O.A., Inya-Agha, S.I., Segun, F.I., Sofidiya, M.O. & Ilori, O.O., 2007. Antioxidant activity of selected Nigerian green leafy vegetables. American Journal of Food Technology 2(3): 169–175.
• Okeke, E.C., Eneobong, H.N., Uzuegbunam, A.O., Ozioko, A.O. & Kuhnlein, H., 2008. Igbo traditional food system: documentation, uses and research needs. Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 7(2): 365–376.
• Oshinubi, R.A. & Awodele, O., 2006. The effect of ethanolic stem extract of Gongronema latifolium on blood glucose of normal and alloxan induced diabetic rabbits. Nigerian Journal of Health and Biomedical Sciences 5(2): 39–44.
• Osuagwu, G.G.E. & Nwosu, M., 2006. The effect of inorganic fertilizer (N:P:K) on alkaloid, cyanogenic glycosides, saponins and tannin contents of Ocimum gratissimum (Nchanwu) and Gongronema latifloium (Utazi). Journal of Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment 8(2): 148–155.
• Sonibare, M.A. & Gbile, Z.O., 2008. Ethnobotanical survey of anti-asthmatic plants in south western Nigeria. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine 5(4): 340–345.
• Ugochukwu, N.H. & Babady, N.E., 2003. Antihyperglycemic effect of aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Gongronema latifolium leaves on glucose and glycogen metabolism in livers of normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Life Sciences 73(15): 1925–1938.
• Ugochukwu, N.H. & Cobourne, M.K., 2003. Modification of renal oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats treated with extracts from Gongronema latifolium leaves. Clinica Chimica Acta 336(1–2): 73–81.
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Afriref references  
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Sources of illustration  
 • Berhaut, J., 1971. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 1. Acanthacées à Avicenniacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 626 pp.
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D.M. Mosango
c/o Laboratory of Natural Sciences, Lycée Français Jean Monnet de Bruxelles (LFB), Avenue du Lycée Français 9, 1180 Brussels, Belgium

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  
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
Correct citation of this article  
 Mosango, D.M., 2011. Gongronema latifolium Benth. [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. <>. Accessed .

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General importance
Geographic coverage Africa
Geographic coverage World
Dye and tannins use
Fruit use
Medicinal use
Spices and condiment use
Essential oil and exudate use
Fibre use
Food security

Gongronema latifolium

Gongronema latifolium
part of flowering stem.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

Gongronema latifolium

obtained from West African Plants

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