About the Author(s)

Alfred Maroyi Email symbol
Department of Botany, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa


Maroyi, A., 2024, ‘Artabotrys brachypetalus Benth.: Evaluation of its traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological properties’, Journal of Medicinal Plants for Economic Development 8(1), a249. https://doi.org/10.4102/jomped.v8i1.249

Review Article

Artabotrys brachypetalus Benth.: Evaluation of its traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological properties

Alfred Maroyi

Received: 16 Feb. 2024; Accepted: 12 Mar. 2024; Published: 15 Apr. 2024

Copyright: © 2024. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: Artabotrys brachypetalus is best known for its edible fruits, but today, it is a well-known medicinal plant. However, there are several uses of the species, some of them known since prehistoric times.

Aim: This study compiles the existing information of the traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacological properties, and future potential applications of A. brachypetalus.

Setting: This review provides an overview of uses and ethnopharmacological properties of A. brachypetalus.

Method: Multiple searches on existing literature were carried out on the traditional, medicinal, phytochemistry, and pharmacological properties of A. brachypetalus in online databases such as Scopus, PubMed, Google Scholar, JSTOR, and Science Direct as well as using pre-electronic literature sources obtained from the university library.

Results: This study showed that A. brachypetalus is a multipurpose species used as a food plant, source of fibre, firewood, timber, and herbal medicine. Artabotrys brachypetalus serves as a medicinal plant in five countries to treat human and animal diseases, accounting for 55.6% of the countries where the species is naturally found. The phytochemical evaluation of the plant revealed that it contains alkaloids, cyclohexane carboxylic acid, dicarboxylic acid, fatty acids, flavonoids, phenolics, sesquiterpenes, and sugars. The pharmacological assessments showed that the phytochemical compounds isolated from the species and crude extracts demonstrated antifungal, antidiabetic, antiplasmodial, and larvicidal activities.

Conclusion: Further research should focus on elucidation of pharmacological, phytochemical, toxicological, in vitro, in vivo and clinical research of the species.

Contribution: This study contributes to the existing knowledge about A. brachypetalus that could be useful in bio-prospecting for new health-promoting products required in the primary healthcare delivery system.

Keywords: Annonaceae; Artabotrys brachypetalus; indigenous pharmacopeia; traditional medicine; tropical Africa.


Large hook-berry (Artabotrys brachypetalus Benth.) (Figure 1) is a multipurpose climber, shrub, or multistemmed and low spreading tree. As a multipurpose plant species, almost all of its different parts are used as sources of the ecosystem services and goods that offer support to human well-being and survival. Artabotrys brachypetalus is a member of the family Annonaceae, commonly known as the custard-apple family, with some of its species widely used as food and medicinal plants. Artabotrys R.Br. is one of the largest genera of the Annonaceae family consisting of approximately 100 species distributed in several tropical forests of Africa, Asia, New Guinea, and Australia (Photikwan et al. 2021). Other Artabotrys species categorised as multipurpose species widely used as food sources, traditional medicines, fodder, construction materials and as ornamental plants include A. hexapetalus (L.f.) Bhandari, A. monteiroae Oliv., and A. suaveolens (Blume) Blume (Tan & Wiart 2014). In Southern Africa, A. brachypetalus and A. monteiroae are regarded as valuable sources of traditional medicines and are therefore included in the monograph ‘Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: An annotated checklist’ (Arnold et al. 2002). Previous research by Botha, Ed Witkowski and Shackleton (2007) revealed that the roots of A. brachypetalus are sold in informal herbal medicine markets in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa as sources of traditional medicines. Similarly, a mixture of the roots of A. brachypetalus with those of Celosia spp. (Amaranthaceae), Ficus platyphylla Delile (Moraceae), Maclura africana (Bureau) Corner (Moraceae), and Senna petersiana (Bolle) Lock (Fabaceae) are traded in informal herbal medicine markets in Mozambique as postnatal medication (Krog, Falcão & Olsen 2006).

FIGURE 1: Artabotrys brachypetalus: (a) A branch with flowers and (b) branch with leaves and fruits.

The genus name Artabotrys is derived from two Greek words ‘artane’ meaning ‘that by which something is hung up’ and ‘botrys’ meaning ‘a cluster of grapes’ (Palmer & Pitman 1972). This is in reference to clusters of suspended fruits and specialised inflorescence hooks (Figure 1), which help the taxon to twine and cling to branches and twigs of neighbouring trees or other plants. The recurved inflorescence hooks are borne on lateral branches of Artabotrys species, forming linear series and becoming swollen and woody after clinging to other tree species or objects. The specific name ‘brachypetalus’ means ‘short-petalled’ (Palmer & Pitman 1972), relating to the short petals of the flowers of the species. Artabotrys brachypetalus is a deciduous, woody climber, shrub, or multistemmed and low spreading tree growing up to 10 m in height (Palmer & Pitman 1972). The species uses curling and hooked flower stalks to climb, twining around the branches and twigs of neighbouring trees or other plants. The bark of A. brachypetalus is grey in colour and rough in larger specimens. Young branches are covered with rusty-brown hairs and become smooth with age. Leaves are alternate, shortly petiolate, ovate to elliptic, leathery, bluish green or glossy bright green in colour, the tips are blunt or round or sometimes shortly pointed. The base of the leaves is round or slightly hairy above, and more or less hairy below. The flowers are yellow, cream to greenish in colour, solitary, cup-shaped on conspicuously twisted, hooked, and crooked woody stalks, which twine around any branches they touch, often embedding themselves in the tissue of other trees (Schmidt, Lotter & McCleland 2017). The fruits are clustered together (Figure 1), smooth, purple to black in colour, and edible. Fruit-like woody galls are often present and conspicuous and sometimes confused with the true fruits. Artabotrys brachypetalus has been recorded in bushveld, rocky outcrops, woodland, fringing forest, riverine fringe thickets, along streams in sandy to alluvial soils in hot, dry, and low-altitude areas up to 1400 m above sea level (Germishuizen & Meyer 2003). The species naturally occurs in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa (Figure 2) (Germishuizen & Meyer 2003; Herman & Retief 1997). The current review of A. brachypetalus compiles information on its chemical, traditional uses, phytochemical and pharmacological properties, and future potential applications of the species. This is a comprehensive scientific review aimed at providing baseline data and additional information that can enhance future research, cultivation, and use of this plant species.

FIGURE 2: Distribution of Artabotrys brachypetalus in tropical Africa showing medicinal use reports and number of literature sources documenting medicinal uses.


Literature search on traditional and medicinal uses, pharmacological and phytochemical properties of A. brachypetalus was conducted using online databases such as Scopus, JSTOR, Google Scholar, PubMed, and Science Direct. Besides this, pre-electronic sources such as journal articles, books, book chapters, dissertation, theses, and other scientific publications obtained from the University library were used. Keywords used during literature search included ‘biological activities of Artabotrys brachypetalus’, ‘pharmacological properties of Artabotrys brachypetalus’, ‘ethnobotany of Artabotrys brachypetalus’, ‘medicinal uses of Artabotrys brachypetalus’, ‘phytochemistry of Artabotrys brachypetalus,’ and ‘traditional uses of Artabotrys brachypetalus’. Literature sources included in this study are those that evaluated the biological activities, medicinal uses, ethnobotany, phytochemistry, traditional uses, or pharmacological activities of A. brachypetalus. Literature sources excluded from this study are those publications that are partially accessed, that is, accessed as abstracts only, and also published or unpublished ethnopharmacological surveys lacking information on biological activities, medicinal uses, ethnobotany, phytochemistry, traditional uses, or pharmacological activities of A. brachypetalus.

Review findings

Traditional uses of Artabotrys brachypetalus

Throughout human history, plant resources have been used as food, construction materials, traditional medicines, fodder, and various cultural applications. Artabotrys brachypetalus is widely used as a source of fibre and timber, and is suitable for a wide range of purposes where durability, strength, stability, and a good appearance are desired. In Zimbabwe, the wood of A. brachypetalus is used to make music instruments and household utensils (Grundy et al. 1993; Tan & Wiart 2014). In the Limpopo province in South Africa, A. brachypetalus is regarded as a source of strong fibre used for construction (Mabogo 1990). In Mozambique and South Africa, A. brachypetalus is harvested from the wild as a source of firewood (Kityo 2004; Leshabana & Tshisikhawe 2019; Mokganya 2019). Although A. brachypetalus is considered as a species of conservation concern in rural Mozambique (Bruschi et al. 2014), the taxon does not seem to be in immediate danger in other countries where it is widespread, recorded in a wide range of habitats, and characterised by a large population size (Raimondo et al. 2009). But from a sustainability perspective, there is a need to preserve the genetic diversity of A. brachypetalus and monitor its population given the continuing habitat decline and fragmented species population in Mozambique.

In traditional medicine, the different parts of A. brachypetalus have medicinal value and are also used for ritual and magical purposes (Table 1 and Table 2). The medicinal use categories include the use of the species against human and animal ailments and diseases (Tables 1). The medicinal uses of A. brachypetalus have been recorded in five countries (Figure 2), representing 55.6% of the countries where A. brachypetalus is indigenous. Most of the ethnobotanical data on medicinal applications of A. brachypetalus have been reported in Mozambique and South Africa (Figure 2). The rural, peri-urban, and marginalised areas of Mozambique heavily rely on medicinal plants for their primary healthcare needs (Barbosa et al. 2020; Bruschi et al. 2011; Sitoe & Van Wyk 2024), using about 10.0% of the total country flora, that is, 550 species as a source of traditional medicines (Bandeira, Gaspar & Pagula 2001). Similarly, at least 4000 species of southern Africa’s total flora of about 30 000 species are used as sources of traditional medicines (Van Wyk & Gericke 2018). In South Africa, traditional medicines are an important aspect of the daily lives of several people in the country and an important part of their cultural heritage (Van Wyk, Oudshoorn & Gericke 2013).

TABLE 1: Medicinal uses of Artabotrys brachypetalus.
TABLE 2: Use of Artabotrys brachypetalus roots in combination with other species as traditional medicine.

In southern Africa, the indigenous people and rural households consume the fruits of A. brachypetalus as a source of daily calorie intake in Mozambique (Palmer & Pitman 1972; Schmidt et al. 2017), South Africa (Bruschi et al. 2014; Mabogo 1990; Magwede, VanWyk & Van Wyk 2019; Mokganya 2019; Mokganya et al. 2018; Nemapare, Gadaga & Mugadza 2023; Welcome & Van Wyk 2019) and Zimbabwe (Peters, O’Brien & Drummond 1992). The fruits of A. brachypetalus are regarded as pleasant-tasting and widely used as a fruit snack in Mozambique, and as part of the local recipe used to make an intoxicating drink (Palmer & Pitman 1972; Schmidt et al. 2017). In the Limpopo province in South Africa, the roots of A. brachypetalus are used as infant food (Mabogo 1990). Similarly, in Mozambique, roots of A. brachypetalus are mixed with those of Celosia spp., F. platyphylla, M. africana, and S. petersiana and are believed to improve the health of babies (Krog et al. 2006). Utilisation of the leaves and twigs among local communities has not been explicitly highlighted in the literature, but A. brachypetalus is reported to be used as fodder for goats in Mozambique (Marble 2012; Tan & Wiart 2014).

The roots of A. brachypetalus are used in different combinations with other medicinal plants in Mozambique and South Africa to treat diabetes (Amoo, Mudau & Olowoyo 2022; Mudau et al. 2022), impotence (Arnold & Gulumian 1984; Mabogo 1990; Tan & Wiart 2014; Tajuddeen et al. 2021), infertility (Arnold & Gulumian 1984; Mabogo 1990; Maroyi 2020; Tan & Wiart 2014), postnatal (Krog et al. 2006), and as panacea (Sitoe & Van Wyk 2024; Tajuddeen et al. 2021). The use of medicinal plant combinations to treat various ailments or diseases has been practiced for centuries (Ramulondi, De Wet & Van Vuuren 2019) in the belief that the efficacy of such herbal concoctions may be enhanced (Van Vuuren & Viljoen 2011). Artabotrys brachypetalus is widely used in combination with other medicinal species such as Antidesma venosum E.Mey. ex Tul., Capparis tomentosa Lam., Cassytha filiformis L., Cissampelos hirta Klotzsch, Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. subsp. africana Brenan & Brummitt, Erythrina lysistemon Hutch., F. platyphylla Delile, F. virosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Royle, Garcinia livingstonei T. Anderson, M. africana (Bureau) Corner, Maerua cafra (DC.) Pax, Osyris lanceolata Hochst. & Steud., Ozoroa obovata (Oliv.) R. & A. Fern. var. obovata, Phyllogeiton discolor (Klotzsch) Herzog, Securidaca longipedunculata Fresen., S. petersiana (Bolle) Lock, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, Sphedamnocarpus pruriens (A.Juss.) Szyszył subsp. galphimiifolius (A.Juss.) P.D.De Villiers & D.J.Botha, Tabernaemontana elegans Stapf, Ximenia caffra Sond., Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng., and Zanthoxylum humile (E.A.Bruce) P.G.Waterman (Table 2).

Analyses of the nutritional value of A. brachypetalus (Table 3) show that the fruits are a better source of energy, minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, and some classic nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, fibre, and protein as compared to a commercial fruit crop, mango, Mangifera indica L. Furthermore, A. brachypetalus has been reported to contain alkaloids, cyclohexane carboxylic acid, dicarboxylic acid, fatty acids, flavonoids, phenolics, sesquiterpenes, and sugars (Table 4). Some of these bioactive compounds or ingredients have been shown to be effective in some various mixtures or on their own. Perhaps more research is required as some of these bioactive compounds may be responsible for the pharmacological activities demonstrated by the species, which include antifungal, antidiabetic, antiplasmodial, and larvicidal activities.

TABLE 3: Nutritional composition of Artabotrys brachypetalus (Wehmeyer 1986) and Mangifera indica L. (Maldonado-Celis et al. 2019) fruits.
TABLE 4: Phytochemical composition of Artabotrys brachypetalus.

Odebode et al. (2006) assessed the antifungal activities of the phytochemical compound schefflone, a mixture of acetogenin and 3,5-dimethoxy carvacrol isolated from the roots and stem bark of A. brachypetalus against Fusarium solani, Botryodiplodia theobromae, Aspergillus flavus, and Aspergillus niger using an in vitro bioassay. The compound showed activities against all tested pathogens with the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values of 200.0 ppm and 250.0 ppm in mycelia dry weight and radial growth measurements, respectively. Recently, Siqueira (2022) assessed the antifungal activities of hexane, dichloromethane, ethyl acetate, n-butanol and hydromethanol of A. brachypetalus leaves, roots, and twigs against Candida albicans, Candida krusei, Candida glabrata, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida tropicalis using microdilution assay with amphotericin B as positive control. The dichloromethane, ethyl acetate, n-butanol, and hydromethanol of the roots exhibited activities against C. albicans, C. tropicalis, and C. glabrata with MIC and minimum fungicide concentrations (MFC) ranging from 23.43 µg/mL to 1500.00 µg/mL.

Clarkson et al. (2004) assessed the antiplasmodial activities of dichloromethane and methanol (1:1) and aqueous extracts of A. brachypetalus twigs and leaves against Plasmodium falciparum using parasite lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH) assay. Both aqueous and dichloromethane and methanol (1:1) extracts exhibited weak activities with half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) values >100.0 µg/mL (Clarkson et al. 2004). Similarly, Maharaj et al. (2006) evaluated the larvicidal activities of aqueous, methanol, dichloromethane, dichloromethane, and methanol (1:1) extracts of A. brachypetalus leaves against the third instar larvae of Anopheles arabiensis using Temephos (Mostop; Agrivo) as a positive control. The extract showed weak activities against Anopheles arabiensis showing mortality between 20.0% and 39.0%, demonstrating limited toxicity (Maharaj et al. 2006). Amoo et al. (2022) assessed the antidiabetic activities of acetone and petroleum ether extracts of A. brachypetalus roots and leaves using an α-glucosidase assay with acarbose as the positive control. The petroleum ether extracts of both the leaves and roots exhibited α-glucosidase inhibitory activities with IC50 values of 14.0 µg/mL and 30.0 µg/mL, respectively, which were much lower than IC50 value of 980.0 µg/mL exhibited by the positive control (Amoo et al. 2022), suggesting some antidiabetic potential. These reported biological activities are considered preliminary as rationale for using A. brachypetalus against abdominal pains, antenatal and postnatal, antidote, aphrodisiac, bilharzia, convulsions, headache, helminthiasis, impotence and infertility therefore remains unknown. Thus, the phytochemical compounds isolated from A. brachypetalus and the crude extracts should be subjected to detailed ethnopharmacological and toxicological studies aimed at correlating the medicinal uses of the species with its pharmacological and phytochemical properties.


This review highlighted the use of A. brachypetalus as a food plant and an important source of traditional medicines. Several phytochemical compounds isolated from A. brachypetalus and its associated by-products means that the species is a potential candidate for treating several diseases and ailments. Therefore, better screening methods, in vitro and in vivo validation of biological activities, and toxicological investigations are required in order to fully explore the plant’s potential. It is also surprising that there are no ethnopharmacological studies examining the combinational effects of A. brachypetalus extracts with other medicinal plant species. Although the field of synergistic combinational therapeutic research is still in its infancy, more studies are required to test A. brachypetalus extracts in combination with extracts of plant species such as A. venosum, C. tomentosa, C. filiformis, C. hirta, D. cinerea subsp. africana, E. lysistemon, F. platyphylla, F. virosa, G. livingstonei, M. africana, M. cafra, O. lanceolata, O. obovata var. obovata, P. discolor, S. longipedunculata, S. petersiana, S. bicolor, S. pruriens subsp. galphimiifolius, T. elegans, X. caffra, Z. aethiopica, and Z. humile.


Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Author’s contributions

A.M. is the sole author of this research article.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and are the product of professional research. It does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated institution, funder, agency, or that of the publisher. The authors are responsible for this article’s results, findings, and content.


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