Strophanthus caudatus Burm f Kurz

[From Greek, strophes = twisted cord, anthos = flower and from Latin, cauda = tail]

Synonymy: Strophanthus dichotomus DC.

Physical description: It is a laticif-erous forest climber of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The stems are lenticelled. Leaves: simple, decussate and without stipules. The petiole is 5 mm long and channeled. The blade is obovate-spathulate, 6.5 cm x 4.3cm-9.8cm x 5 cm and leathery. The midrib is flat above and raised below. The apex is shortly acuminate and the blade shows 8-pairs of secondary nerves which are indistinct above. The flowers are grouped into terminal cymes. The calyx consists of 5 calyx lobes which are 4 mm long and pink in color. The corolla is infundibuliform and white, and develops 5 lobes which are 10cm-11 cm long (Fig. 275).

Pharmaceutical interest: The poisonous property of Strophanthus caudatus (Burm. f) Kurz. is most probably due to the presence of cardiac glycosides of the cardenolides type, which are well known to abound in the Strophanthus

Fig. 275. Strophanthus caudatus (Burm. f.) Kurz. From: Herbarium 4005. Field collector: Millard, 1962. Geographical localization: Kepong. Malaysia. Botanical identification: DJ Middleton, 20 Feb 1995.

species. The seeds of Strophan-thus kombe contain 7%-10% of a mixture of cardiac glycosides, known as strophantin K (British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1954). It has an action on the heart similar to that of digitalis, but it is absorbed more rapidly and is less cumulative. The dried seeds of Strophanthus kombe have been used in Western medicine to make a cardiotonic remedy (Strophanthus extract, British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1934), to be taken orally at doses ranging from 15mg-60mg. Other examples of Strophanthus species of pharmaceutical value are Strophanthus gratus and Strophanthus sarmentosus, the seeds of the former containing 4%-8% of ouabain.

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