A native of western and tropical southern Africa,

this tree is used in many cultures as a poison in

trials by ordeal and in ordeals for uncovering

witchcraft (Neuwinger 1994, 682 ff.*). In West

Africa, it is used together with Boophane disticha

for psychoactive purposes. This species is also

venerated as a fetish tree in West Africa and is used

to provide magical protection from the "evil eye"

and the illnesses of the deceased. The plant is one

of the most renowned and legendary medicinal

plants and abortifacients in Africa. The Nigerian

Haussa call it uwar magunguna, "mother of


Among the Kusase, who live in the extreme

northeast of Ghana, the plant is used as a psychoactive

substance when a new baga ("diviner") is

being initiated. A snuff is made of pelig roots

(Securidaca longepedunculata) , datin-vulin roots

(Ipomoea mauritiana Jacq. [syn. Ipomoea digitata

auct. non. 1., Ipomoea paniculata (1.) R. Br.]; cf.

Ipomoea spp.) or bailla/punung-buur roots (Tinospora

bakis), the root cortex of the zurmuri pepper

(Piper guineense Schumach. et Thonn., also known

as ashanti pepper; cf. Piper spp.), red nansus

pepper (Schinus molle 1.; cf. chicha), and the dried

head of a bat. The snuff is blown into the initiate's

nose, whereupon he falls into a trancelike state.

The Ngindo of Tanzania use a flour made from the

root as a snuff for headaches (Neuwinger 1994,


In Ethiopia, smoke from the root is inhaled as a

medicinal incense to treat flatulence. In Gambia,

"crazy" people burn the root cortex and inhale the

smoke (Neuwinger 1994,684*).

The root contains methylsalicylate, the bark

contains the alkaloid securine, and the leaves have

yielded tannins, saponins, terpenes, et cetera (Lenz

1913). Securine has stimulating effects upon the

central nervous system and can produce effects

like those of strychnine (Neuwinger 1994, 686).

The root contains various indole alkaloids, particularly

the psychoactive elymoclavine, from the

family of the ergot alkaloids (Costa et al. 1992).

Costa, C., A. Bertazzo, G. Allegri, O. Curcuruto, and

P. Traloli. 1992. Indole alkaloids from the roots of

an African plant, Securidaca longepedunculata.

Journal ofHeterocycl. Chem. 29:1641-47.

Lenz, W. 1913. Untersuchungen der Wurzelrinde von

Securidaca longepedunculata. Arbeiten aus dem

Pharm. Inst. d. Univ. Berlin 10:177-80.

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