Herbs & Plants: Markhamia lutea – A Powerful Medicinal Plant

An effective treatment for skin infections, sores, and itches.

Its common name is Nile tulip. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree of about 15 m in height with a narrow, irregular crown and long tap root. Its bark is light brown with fine vertical fissures and its leaves compound, often in bunches, thin and wavy, each leaflet up to 10 cm, wider at the tip, often with round outgrowths at the base.

Flower buds are yellow-green and furry, splitting down one side as the flower emerges. Flowers are bright yellow, in showy terminal clusters, each trumpet shaped, to 6 cm long, with 5 frilly lobes, the throat striped with orange-red. The fruit is very long, thin, brown capsules, about 75 cm in length, hanging in clusters and tending to spiral, splitting on the tree to release abundant seeds with transparent wings, about 2.5 cm long and yellow-whitish when mature.

Markhamia lutea is a tropical Africa tree native to the continent’s lake basins and highlands in countries such as Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. For generations, plants of the genus Markhamia have been used by different tribes across Africa for a number of purposes, including as medicine.

The medicinal uses of the Markhamia lutea (Family Bignoniaceae) plant range from administration of the various plant parts alone, or in combination with, other plant parts to treat a given health condition.

The roots, barks, stems, and leaves of Markhamia lutea have been used by traditional healers for the treatment of a number of disease conditions such as microbial and parasitic diseases, anemia, diarrhea, backache, sore eyes, intercostal pain, pulmonary troubles, gout, scrotal elephantiasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and external skin diseases.

The plant has also been used in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, pain, and inflammation in veterinary patients. In some communities, herbalists use the Markhamia lutea plant for management of anemia, liver disease, inappetence, stomach-ache, headache, skin rash, cataracts, throat diseases, conjunctivitis, snakebites and as well used in cancer management.

The plant is also used as a rejuvenator and diuretic, and is given for oedema of the legs and elephantiasis of the scrotum, to treat chancres and rheumatic pain, and is taken for treatment of the respiratory tract and in swamp-fever.

The root barks are used in the treatment of anemia, diarrhea, and backache. The roots are soaked in cold water and the resulting extract is taken to reduce symptoms of watery bloodless diarrhea. It is also used in treating difficult urination, and as an analgesic.

Roots are administered to children to treat convulsions. The root and bark decoctions are taken against asthma, cough, and gonorrhoea. Root decoctions are applied to treat earache, and bark decoctions administered orally as an aphrodisiac. Roots are also used against venereal diseases and for preventing abortion. In East Africa, the roots are a constituent of a complex herbal preparation used in the alleviation of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) symptoms.

The Markhamia lutea tree leaves and bark are considered to be an effective treatment for skin infections, sores and itches. The leaves and bark are pounded to form a thick paste which is then applied through rigorous rubbing to the affected skin part. In the case of sores, the paste is applied as a wet dressing under a bandage, to the affected part.

The leaves and bark are used as medicine for toothache (as a gargle) and for convulsion in children and are used to treat toothache, stomach-ache and headache. Ground leaves and bark are applied externally to treat skin complaints and wounds. Leaves are used for the treatment of snakebites, and young shoots to treat throat complaints, lumbago and diarrhea. In some communities, the leaves’ extract is taken to treat cough and malaria.

The traditional medicine potential of Markhamia lutea may be due to the various chemical constituents in it, including phenylpropanoid glycosides, alkaloids, terpenoids, phytosterols, quinones, lignans, and flavonoids.

As a fast-growing tree species, it is a typical pioneer species within its native range. It is useful for erosion control, shade, and shelter. It provides mulch, which enhances soil-moisture retention and increases organic matter. Markhamia lutea can be used for control of the parasitic weed striga in cereals by inducing germination in the absence of a host.

(Photo: CC BY 2.0/Tatiana Gerus) – (Richard Komakech)

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