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• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: The roots are used throughout West and Central Africa to treat a wide range of conditions including a range of skin problems. •
• Adverse effects: The crushed roots may blister the skin. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

This is a monogeneric family that comprises just one species found in the forests of Central and West Africa (Mabberley 2017). It was formerly considered a member of the Capparaceae (Brummitt 1992) or of the Passifloraceae (Bouquet 1975).

van der Wel et al. (1989) reported the isolation and partial characterisation of an intensely sweet crude protein, which they named pentadin, from the fruits. In a subsequent publication, Ming & Hellekant (1994) similarly described the isolation, purification, and characterisation of a sweet protein they called brazzein from the fruits but, curiously, failed to discuss the relationship between pentadin and brazzein.

Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baill.
[syns Cercopetalum dasyanthum Gilg, Pentadiplandra dasyanthus (Gilg) Exell, Pentadiplandra gossweileri Exell]
Joy Perfume Tree, Oubli Berry, J'Oubli

Occasionally grown as a greenhouse ornamental, in its natural habitat this can be a small climbing plant up to 20 m long or a well-branched shrub that can be up to 5 m tall. When it grows as a shrub it has an extended and ramified root system; when it grows as a liana, it has a single, fleshy tuber (Dounias 2008).

Bouquet (1975) noted that [a preparation of] the plant is used externally as an antiseptic or even an antibiotic in the treatment of wounds and ulcers, adding that the fresh root has a blistering action on the skin and should be used with caution. Dounias (2008) provided a more expansive account, noting that the roots, which taste like horseradish, are used throughout central Africa to treat a wide range of conditions including a range of skin problems. Thus, in Nigeria the crushed root is used to treat several skin infections; in south-western Cameroon a leaf decoction is used to wash the skin against scabies; in Congo, pulped roots are applied externally against itch and as an antiseptic, and to treat wounds, sores, ulcers and furuncles; in the Central African Republic, a tuber decoction is said to prevent haemorrhages after parturition. Further, the fresh root is pulped, or the dry root pounded and mixed with palm oil, to make an ointment for topical application to prevent infections of the navel in newborn babies. Because the plant is vesicant, the duration of treatment must be limited to avoid blistering.

Both the seeds and the roots contain glucosinolates from which isothiocyanates ("mustard oils") are released through the action of an enzyme named myrosinase when plant material is damaged. The glucosinolates glucotropaeolin, glucolimnanthin, and glucoaubrietin have been shown to be present in the roots, whereas the seed contained mainly glucoaubrietin, 3,4-dimethoxybenzyl glucosinolate, and glucobrassicin (De Nicola et al. 2012). Myrosinase-mediated autolysis of the glucosinolates in damaged roots at ambient temperatures would be expected to release benzyl isothiocyanate, 3-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, and 4-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate. However, the hydrodistillate produced from the roots at the boiling point of water comprises mainly benzyl isothiocyanate (released from glucotropaeolin) (Nyegue et al. 2019). Benzyl isothiocyanate, an acknowledged lachrymatory agent (El-Migirab et al. 1977), and skin irritant and antibiotic agent (Eilert et al. 1981), has also been demonstrated to be a contact sensitiser in mice (Schmidt & Chung 1993), and has produced a positive patch test reaction in a patient sensitised to radish (Raphanus sativus L., fam. Cruciferae) (Mitchell & Jordan 1974).

[Glucotropaeolin, Benzyl Isothiocyanate]

Pentadiplandra Brazzeana Root Extract [INCI; of uncertain composition (see Schmidt 2017)] is a recognised cosmetic product ingredient purported to have skin conditioning properties (Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products 2019, CosIng 2023/4).


  • Bouquet A (1975) Pharmacopee et plantes medicinales Congolaises (République Populaire du Congo) [Congolese Pharmacopoeia and Medicinal Plants (People's Republic of Congo)]. In: Kerharo J, Bouquet A, Debray M (Eds) Études Médicales. N° 1. Medecines et Pharmacopees Traditionnelles du Senegal, du Congo et de Madagascar, pp. 57-66. Le Caire (Cairo): Editions et Publications des Peres Jesuites [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Brummitt RK (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens [WorldCat]
  • CosIng (2023/4) COSING Ingredients-Fragrance Inventory. [online article]: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/cosing/pdf/COSING_Ingredients-Fragrance%20Inventory_v2.pdf ; accessed March 2023 [url] [url-2]
  • De Nicola GR, Nyegue M, Montaut S, Iori R, Menut C, Tatibouët A, Rollin P, Ndoyé C, Zollo P-HA (2012) Profile and quantification of glucosinolates in Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon. Phytochemistry 73: 51-56 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Dounias E (2008) PENTADIPLANDRA BRAZZEANA Baill. In: Schmelzer GH, Gurib-Fakim A (Eds) Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 11(1). Medicinal plants 1, pp. 405-407. Wagenigen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation / Backhuys Publishers / CTA [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Eilert U, Wolters B, Nahrstedt A (1981) The antibiotic principle of seeds of Moringa oleifera and Moringa stenopetala. Planta Medica – Journal of Medicinal Plant Research 42(5): 55-61 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • El-Migirab S, Berger Y, Jadot J (1977) Isothiocyanates, thiourees et thiocarbamates isoles de Pentadiplandra brazzeana. [Isothiocyanates, thioureas and thiocarbamates isolated from Pentadiplandra brazzeana]. Phytochemistry 16(11): 1719-1721 [doi] [url]
  • Mabberley DJ (2017) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url]
  • Ming D, Hellekant G (1994) Brazzein, a new high-potency thermostable sweet protein from Pentadiplandra brazzeana B. FEBS Letters 355(1): 106-108 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Mitchell JC, Jordan WP (1974) Allergic contact dermatitis from the radish, Raphanus sativus. British Journal of Dermatology 91(2): 183-189 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Nyegue MA, Montaut S, De Nicola GR, Rollin P, Menut C (2019) Applying the hydrodistillation process to Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baill. root: a chemical assessment. Natural Product Research 33(9): 1383-1386 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Schmidt RJ, Chung LY (1993) Perturbation of glutathione status and generation of oxidative stress in mouse skin following application of contact allergenic sesquiterpene lactones and isothiocyanates. Xenobiotica 23(8): 889-897 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Schmidt RJ (2017) Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 – a recast of the Cosmetic Products Directive 76/768/EEC – in regard to the safety of plant-derived cosmetic product ingredients. The Expert Witness (20): 35-37 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products (2019) Commission Decision (EU) 2019/701 of 5 April 2019 establishing a glossary of common ingredient names for use in the labelling of cosmetic products. Official Journal of the European Union 62(L 121): 1-370 [url] [url-2]
  • van der Wel H, Larson G, Hladik A, Hladik CM, Hellekant G, Glaser D (1989) Isolation and characterization of pentadin, the sweet principle of Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon. Chemical Senses 14(1): 75-79 [doi] [doi-2] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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