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50 species in 12 genera are found in tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar and Indo Malaysia.

[Summary yet to be added]

Dicerocaryum zanguebarium Merr.
(syns Martynia zanguebaria Lour., Pretrea zanguebaria J.Gay ex DC.)

Cooper (1996) notes that this east African species bears burs with two short spikes that are liable to penetrate feet.


Eight species are found in southern Africa and Madagascar.

Harpagophytum grandidiere Baill.
Grapple Plant

The seed pod is a shell-like capsule, 5 inches across, constructed like so many interlaced fish hooks which fastens itself to any creature that touches it. It is dangerous to people and animals alike (Menninger 1967).

Harpagophytum procumbens
Grapple Plant

The fruit, which is beset with large woody grapples about 2.5 cm long pointed and barbed, is troublesome to wool-growers. It can cripple and, on gaining access to the mouth, it can firmly hook itself to the two jaws leading to death by starvation (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).


30 species are found in tropical and southern Africa and in Asia.

Sesamum elatum

The seed of this species used as a food is sometimes adulterated with that of Ceratotheca sesamoides.

Sesamum indicum L.
(syns Sesamum africanum Tod., Sesamum occidentalis Heer & Regel, Sesamum oleiferum Sm., Sesamum orientale L.)
Sesame, Gingelly, Benne

The plant is cultivated, especially in India, for the oil (sesame, ben or teel oil) from its seeds. The leaves, when steeped in water, produce a mucilaginous liquid that may be used in folk medicine as an external application in ophthalmic and cutaneous complaints (Wren 1975).

Cattle fed excessively on sesame meal develop eczema associated with loss of hair and itching (Steyn 1934, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). Immediate (Type I) hypersensitivity reactions to sesame oil can occur (Batterman et al. 1958, Tornsey 1964). Sesame oil is used as a substitute for olive oil and other oils in cosmetic creams (Greenberg and Lester 1954) and in oleomargarine, iodized oil and cosmetics (Budavari 1996). Foods containing the oil were listed by Tornsey (1964).

Sesame oil, a constituent of an official zinc oxide liniment, was found to be the cause of contact dermatitis in 15/98 patients with leg ulcers for which the liniment was used. In one patient a positive patch test to crude oleic acid was observed as well as a positive patch test to sesame oil. As the patients did not react to peanut oil (Arachis) nor to olive oil (Olea) it was considered that triglycerides were not responsible for the dermatitis but rather the unsaponifiable fraction of the oil (which constitutes about 2% of the oil). This fraction contains sesamol, sesamolin and sesamin (Van Dijk et al. 1972, 1973).

In 100 cases of leg ulcers, 11 of 100 patients showed positive patch test reactions to a paste containing 40% sesame oil and a higher proportion showed positive reactions to 100% sesame oil (Malten 1972).

The principal allergens of sesame oil are sesamin and sesamolin (Neering et al. 1975).

Sesamum schenckii

Contact with the leaves can produce vesication (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).


  • Batterman, R.C., Grossman, A.J., Leifer, P. (1958) Skin eruption with gold therapy: influence of sesame oil. Arthr. Rheum. 1: 167.
  • Budavari S (Ed.) (1996) The Merck Index. An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 12th edn. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Cooper P (1996) Flora diabolica. Pharmaceutical Journal 257(6923): 946-947
  • Greenberg, L.A. and Lester, D. (1954) Handbook of Cosmetic Materials. New York. Interscience.
  • Malten, K.E. (1972) Sesamoil contact hypersensitivity in leg-ulcer-patients. Contact Dermatitis Newsletter (11): 251.
  • Menninger EA (1967) Fantastic Trees. New York: Viking Press [WorldCat]
  • Neering, H., Vitányi, B.E.J., Malten, K.E. et al. (1975) Allergens in sesame oil contact dermatitis. Acta Derm.-Vener. 55: 31.
  • Steyn DG (1934) The Toxicology of Plants in South Africa together with a consideration of poisonous foodstuffs and fungi. South Africa: Central News Agency
  • Torsney, P.J. (1964) Hypersensitivity to sesame seed. J. Allergy 35: 514.
  • Van Dijk, E., Neering, H., and Vitányi, B.E. (1972) Contact hypersensitivity to sesame oil in zinc oxide ointment. Ned. Tijdschr. Geneeskd. 116: 2255.
  • Van Dijk, E., Neering, H. and Vitányi, B.E.J. (1973) Contact hypersensitivity to sesame oil in patients with leg ulcers and eczema. Acta Derm.-Vener. 53: 133.
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Wren RC (1975) Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. (Re-edited and enlarged by Wren RW). Bradford, Devon: Health Science Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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