Plants & Herbs: Carissa Edulis – A Miraculous Medicinal Plant

Carissa edulis (Apocynaceae family) is a highly valuable medicinal plant found in many communities across the world used to treat a number of conditions traditionally like: headache, chest complaints, rheumatism, gonorrhoea, syphilis, rabies, herpes, malaria and as a diuretic among others.

The ripe fruits of Carissa edulis are very sweet and pleasant to eat making it one of the most cherished plants by those who know it. Carissa edulis is a spiny branched, small tree, which is up to 5m in height, with a milky sap. The leaves ovate to ovate-elliptic, which are almost circular, 2.5 x 1.8-3cm in size, leathery, dark green above with a paler green below and soft hairs. The base is rounded. The flowers are white tinged with purple, red or pink, up to 1.8cm long, about 2cm in diameter, and slender with corolla lobes overlapping to the right. They are sweetly scented. The fruits are almost spherical, up to 1.1 cm in diameter, and ripen to purplish black colour, containing 2-4 flat seeds.

Historically, the Carissa edulis plant has provided a source of inspiration for a number of communities providing large contributions to human health and well-being. The plant is one of the most prevalent traditional cures and communities harvest roots, barks and even the fruits to make concoctions for many diseases. The plant shot into prominence in East Africa when thousands of people in and outside Eastern and Central Africa flocked to remote Loliondo village in Tanzania with their sickly loved ones, following reports that the herbal decoction from it could cure all sort of diseases.

Traditionally, decoctions of roots of Carissa edulis are used as painkiller. The decoction is taken warm and in small quantities to treat indigestion and for abnormal pains especially during pregnancy. The fruits are used in the treatment of dysentery. The powdered root is used as a remedy for chest complaints. An infusion made from the roots is drunk to ease stomachache, as a cough remedy or is dropped into the eye for cataract problems.

Roots contain carissin substance, which can be used to treat cancer. The decoction from the root of Carissa edulis is known to be used by a number of communities for treatment and management of malaria and for treating polio symptoms. The root of Carissa edulis is credited with stomachic, antidiarrhoel and antianthelmintic properties. This is why the root infusion is used in treatment of stomach ache and diarrhea.

The root bark decoction of C. edulis has been used as a good diuretic making it to be used for the treatment of high blood pressure. The decoction acts on the kidneys to increase urine output, reducing the amount of fluid in the blood, which in turn lowers blood pressure.

The boiled leaves of Carissa edulis are applied as poultice to relieve toothache. Root scrapings are used for glandular inflammation; ground-up roots are used as a remedy for venereal diseases, to restore virility, to treat gastric ulcers, and as an expectorant in many communities.

– Richard Komareck

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