|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 thefamily 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 demPharm. Inst. d. Univ. Berlin 10:177-80.