Picrasma javanica Bl

[From Greek, pikrasmos = bitter plant and from Latin, javanica = from Java]

Physical description: It is a rainforest tree which grows to a height of 24m and has a girth of 150 cm. The plant is found spanning Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon islands. The bole is fluted, and the bark is dark, smooth, brittle with bitter, with the inner bark, yellowish with brownish sapwood. Leaves: compound, stipulate and fragrant. The stipules are leafy. The blade comprises of 5-7 medium-sized and very thin folioles attached to 7 mm long petiolules. The flowers are 4 and numerous and whitish, and comprise of a thick nectary disc and a few free carpels, each containing a single ovule. The fruits are green, red or blue drupes (Fig. 235).

Common names: Yeenum (Thai); nalis (Filipino).

Uses: The bark of Picrasma javanica Bl. is used in Java and Burma, instead of quinine to treat malaria.

Pharmaceutical interest: The antimalar-ial property of Picrasma javanica Bl. is not confirmed experimentally, but picrasane-type quassinoids and ^-carboline alkaloids, with possible antiplasmodial properties, are known to occur in the plant (Koike K et al., 1994; Ohmoto T et a/., 1989, Yoshikawa M et a/., 1993). Extracts of Picrasma javanica Bl. showed antibacterial activity in vitro (Khan MR et a/, 2001). It will be interesting to learn whether a more intensive study of the chemical constituents of this plant will reveal any molecules of therapeutic interest.

Fig. 235. Plasma jfvfnicf Bl.
Javanicin Z
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