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(Milkwort family)


800 species in 12 genera are of cosmopolitan distribution excepting New Zealand, Polynesia and the Arctic zone.

[Summary yet to be added]


Ten species are found in tropical West Africa.

Carpolobia lutea

The powdered bark, which is used as snuff, produces tearing and sneezing (Irvine 1961).


The distribution of the genus is that of the family.

Polygala alba


Polygala boykini

These species have irritant effects (Pammel 1911).

Polygala senega
Senega Snake-Root

The plant is irritant (Pammel 1911).

Polygala senega var. latifolia

The root which is used as an expectorant contains methyl salicylate (Kariyone 1971).

Securidaca longipedunculata

The powdered root is numbing to the tongue, produces cheilitis, and, when inhaled produces sneezing. The flower has the fragrance of the violet (Viola). Insertion of the root into the vagina is the accepted means of suicide for the Luvale women of southern Africa; in addition to local caustic effects, necrosis of the liver occurs. The powdered root causes violent sneezing. The sap is irritating and the powdered bark can blind the eyes (Irvine 1961).

Methyl salicylate is present in the root (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).


  • Irvine FR (1961) Woody Plants of Ghana. With special reference to their uses. London: Oxford University Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Kariyone, T. (1971) Atlas of Medicinal Plants. Osaka, Japan. Takeda Chemical Industries.
  • Pammel LH (1911) A Manual of Poisonous Plants. Chiefly of North America, with Brief Notes on Economic and Medicinal Plants, and Numerous Illustrations. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch Press [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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