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MEDICINAL USES OF WILD CUSTARD APPLE

By Olajide Yusuf

Botanical name: Annona senegalensis

Family:    Annonaceae

Common name: wild custard apple, wild soursop

Local names:  Abo(Yoruba), Gwandan daaji( Hausa), Ukpokpo(I gala), Anumgbere(Bassa Nge), Uburu Rocha(Ibo).

Annona senegalensis, commonly known as Wild Custard Apple and Wild Soursop is a shrub or small tree 2-6 m tall but may reach 11 m under favourable conditions. The bark is smooth to roughish, silver grey or grey-brown. Leaves are alternate, simple, oblong, ovate or elliptic, green to bluish green, almost without hairs on upper surface but often with brownish hairs on the lower surface. Flowers are up to 3 cm in diameter on stalks 2 cm long, solitary or in groups of 2-4, arising above the leaf axils. The fruits are formed from many fused carpels, fleshy, lumpy, egg shaped, 2.5-5 by 2.5-4 cm, ovoid or globose, unripe fruit green, turning yellow to orange on ripening. Wild fruit trees of this species are found in semi-arid to sub-humid regions of Africa. The species occur along river banks, fallow land, swamp, forests and at the coast. It commonly grows as a single plant in the understorey of savannah woodlands. It is found growing throughout Nigeria. It is very common in Northern Nigeria, primarily in Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Niger States and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and usually known as Gwándàn dààjìì (Hausa) or dukuu-hi (Fulani).

Medicinal Uses

All parts of wild custard apple plant have been found useful for traditional medicine applications. The leaves have been used in treating yellow fever, tuberculosis, and small pox. The stem bark has been used in snakebite and hernia treatment . The root is used in conditions such as difficulty in swallowing, gastritis, snake bites, male sexual impotence, erectile dysfunction, tuberculosis, and as antidote for necrotizing toxins; the root bark is effective in infectious diseases. Juice from the tree is used in the treatment of chicken pox. Many of the plant parts are used as antidotes for venomous bites and in the management of diabetes. In Guinea, A. senegalensis has been employed in the treatment of malaria. In Swaziland, the bark is used to treat open sores.

Annonna senegalensis.JPG

This versatile plant is use for food, but it has applications in numerous aspects of human endeavor, and every part of the plant has unique properties and uses. The flowers, leaves and fruit are edible and culinary: white fruit pulp has a mild, pineapple-like flavor. Flowers are added to spice or garnish meals; leaves are eaten by humans as vegetables, or browsed by livestock. Leaves are also part of the diet of the West African giraffe. The leaves are also used to create a general health tonic, in the treatment of pneumonia, and as mattress and pillow stuffing. Specific to Sudan, leaves are boiled in the making of perfume. Bark can be processed to produce yellow-brown dye, insecticide, or medicine for treating a wide array of ailments, including worms parasitic on the intestines or flesh (notably guinea worms), diarrhea, gastroenteritis, lung infections, toothaches, and even snakebites. Natural gum in the bark is used to close open wounds. Roots are also used medicinally in treating a gamut of conditions, from dizziness and indigestion to chest colds to venereal diseases. Suckering shoots provide binding fibers, and the malleable, pale brown to white wood is used to carve tool handles, or fashioned into poles. Wood ash is an admixture to chewing tobacco and snuff, and also in soap production as solvent. The essential oils in the fruits and leaves are valued for their organic chemical constituents: car-3-ene (in fruit) and linalool (from leaves). Among the Igede people of Benue State in North Central Nigeria, the plant is used in combination with Ageratum conyzoides for diarrhoea and in combination with Nauclea latifolia for dysentery.