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Research Article

Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing

W.M. Kone, A. Azokou, A. Bakayoko and F.H. Tra Bi
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Knowledge of chemical composition of medicinal plants used in wound healing is desirable because many people suffering from wounds are depriving from the benefit of using their traditional medicine. Many medicinal plants are useful in the control of wound healing process in West African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire. This ethnopharmacological study related to some of those plants with the aim to understand and explain their traditional use for treating wounds. Six plant species were selected after ethnobotanical review and investigated with standard phytochemical screening methods. Preliminary chemical composition showed that Alstonia boonei (DC) Willd., Antiaris toxicaria Lesch., Ceiba pentandra Gaertn., Ficus exasperata Vahl., Periploca nigrescens Afzel and Tiliacora dinklagei Engl. contain polysaccharides, mucilages, flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids. These metabolites are known for their wound healing effects. Phytochemicals of these 6 plants justifies their traditional use in West Africa for the treatment of wounds. The presence of polysaccharides highlighted the great interest of studied plants which could be used to develop and formulate improved traditional medicines in the form of ointments for topical application.

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W.M. Kone, A. Azokou, A. Bakayoko and F.H. Tra Bi, 2012. Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants, 6: 214-224.

DOI: 10.3923/rjmp.2012.214.224

Received: October 30, 2011; Accepted: November 14, 2011; Published: January 10, 2012


In their daily deed, many people can be confronted with many kinds of injuries which can be classified as opened and closed wounds (Nagori and Solanki, 2011). Wound is defined as a break or disruption in the normal tissues provoking various cellular and molecular changes (Pattanayak et al., 2011; Nithya and Baskar, 2011). Badly treated or untreated, wounds can become chronic and represent huge burden in patients, due to cost and duration of the treatment. Wounds such as buruli ulcer or wound in diabetics are of great public health concern because they are often disabling and difficult to cure by the modern therapy. Diabetes and other disease conditions are aggravating factors increasing susceptibility to wound infection and morbidity (Nagori and Solanki, 2011). For example, 25% of people with diabetes will suffer from a wound problem (Norfarizan-Hanoon et al., 2009) which can compromise their wellbeing, image, independence and capacity to work. This situation has financial and social implications which highlight that a good control of wounds is important not only for sick persons but also communities (Gupta and Jain, 2010).

Since ancient times, a large variety of plants have been used by the populations to accelerate and control wound healing process (Reuter et al., 2009; Schmidt et al., 2009; Khorshid et al., 2010), support formation of blood clots and protect from infectious agents (Dahanukar et al., 2000). According to Nithya and Baskar (2011), plants are more potent healers due to their ability to promote the repair mechanisms in the natural way. In West Africa, in particular in Cote d’Ivoire, ethnobotanical surveys had revealed that a good number of plants were used in wound healing (Kone et al., 2002; Kamanzi, 2002). Experimental assessment of therapeutic value of recorded plants will lead to the development of traditional method of treatment (Haque et al., 2003) or synthesis of complex chemical products (Vaghasiya et al., 2011) for wound healing.

Many west African medicinal plants have been proved to be sources of bioactive compounds including alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, steroids, glycosides and saponins. In addition, it is believed that the synergistic effect of phytochemicals render crude plant extracts more biologically active than isolated compounds. Such chemicals from medicinal plants are complex polysaccharides which are known for their bioadhesive effects on irritated cells (Deters et al., 2010).

Polysaccharides with complement fixing activity were found in Entanda africana Guill. and Perr (Diallo et al., 2001) and Opilia celtidifolia Guill. and Perr (Togolaet al., 2008), plants used in Mali to treat wounds (Inngjerdingen et al., 2004). Other natural products playing a role in wound healing are terpenes (Patil et al., 2009), essential amino-acids and fatty acids (Hui et al., 2010) and phenolic compounds such as tannins and flavonoids (Shivhare et al., 2010). Phenolics possess beneficial antibacterial and antioxidant (Halliwell, 1995) properties for the reduction of inflammatory process.

The present study investigated the chemical composition, with focus on polysaccharides and some secondary metabolites of 6 medicinal plants used in Cote d’Ivoire for wound healing. These plant species, Alstonia boonei, Tiliacora dinklagei, Antiaris toxicaria, Ficus exasperata, Periploca nigrescens and Ceiba pentandra, were selected after an ethnobotanical review.


Ethnobotanical review for selection of studied plant species: A review was carried out on the basis of ethnobotanical surveys conducted in Cote d’Ivoire and other areas of West Africa (Dalziel, 1956; Adjanohoun and Ake Assi, 1979, 1989; Burkill, 1985, 1997; Pharmel, 1992; Neuwinger, 1996; Onayade et al., 1996; Tra Bi, 1997; Weiss, 1997; Kone et al., 2004). This approach appeared judicious for selection of plants, since this data is available on medicinal herbs used for treating several diseases including wounds. The authentication of selected plant species was carried out at the herbarium of Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques in Cote d’ Ivoire, using the flora of West Africa (Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1954-1972; Lebrun and Stork, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997; Ake Assi, 2001).

Phytochemical screening
Selection of plant species:
Six plants were selected for the phytochemical investigations according to 3 essential criteria: Large scale use, accessibility and availability and lack of information on the presence of polysaccharides. On the basis of these criteria, Ceiba pentandra, Antiaris toxicaria, Tiliacora dinklagei, Ficus exasperata, Alstonia boonei and Periploca nigrescens were selected.

Preparation of plant extracts: The stem bark, leaves and roots of these plants were collected in June 2009 in the forest of Adiopodoumé located at 17 km from Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d’Ivoire. The samples were identified at the herbarium of Swiss Center for Scientific Research in Cote d’Ivoire (CSRS).

The various plant parts were dried in an air-conditioned room (18°C) during 2 weeks and then grounded in a motar. The phytochimical screening was carried out on decoction and macerate. For decoction, 200 mL of distilled water were added to 20 g of powder. The mixture was boiled during 15 minutes, then immediately filtered on Whatmann paper. Macerate was obtained from 10 g of powder mixed with 100 mL of distilled water, under mechanical stirring (160 rev/min) during 24 h. Macerates were filtered on Whatmann paper.

Phytochemical screening methods: Polysaccharides were studied by precipitation in ethanol and swelling index while tests for alkaloids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids and tannins were carried out on portions of extracts using standard photochemical procedures (Rizk, 1982; Al-Yahya, 1986; Jana and Shekhawat, 2010).

Test for polysaccharides: The detection of polysaccharides is based on their capacity to inflate in the presence of water. Into a graduated tube, one introduced 1 g of powder and then 50 mL of distilled water. After 30 min, the increase in volume indicates the presence of complex polysaccharides. Then swelling index was determined according to the formula below:

Image for - Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing

The swelling index is expressed in mL g-1. The higher SI is the higher content in polysaccharides.

Test for mucilages: The characterization of mucilages is based on their capacity to precipitate in presence of ethanol. To 1 mL of 10% decoction, 5 mL of ethanol were added and then vigorously shaked during 15 min. The appearance of flocculent precipitate indicates the presence of mucilages.

Test for alkaloids: Six milliliter of each extract were dried in rotary evaporator and dissolved in 6 mL of ethanol 60%. Few drops of Dragendorff’s alkaloidal reagent were added to each tube and the presence or absence of any turbidity or precipitates was noted in each test tube.

Test for phenolic compounds: A few drops of 2% FeCl3 solution were added to 2 mL of each extract. The appearance of deep blue, black or green colour indicates the presence of phenolic compounds.

Stiasny’s test for tannins: Five milliliter of each extract were evaporated and dissolved in 15 mL of Stiasny reagent (10 mL of formal 30%, 5 mL of concentrated HCl). The mixtures were boiled over a steam bath at 80°C during 30 min and then allowed to cool. The positive reaction characterized by big brown flakes indicates the presence of non-hydrolysable tannins. The present extract was filtrated and saturated with sodium acetate. When treated with few drops of 10% ferric chloride test solution, a deep green colour indicated hydrolysable tannins.

Cyanidin’s test for flavonoids: Filtrate of about 2 mL was evaporated. The residues were then treated with 5 mL of HCl, magnesium shaving and colour were noted. A pink, red, red-orange colour in presence of 0.5 mL of isoamylic alcohol shows positive reaction to flavonoids.

All these tests were carried out in triplicates in order to confirm the results. The intensity of coloration was recorded using a scale: trace (+), abundant (++) and high abundant (+++).


Some medicinal plants used for wound healing: The ethnobotanical review permitted to draw up a non-exhaustive list of 50 medicinal herbs used for the treatment of various kinds of wounds (Table 1). These plants belong to 47 genera and 29 families.

Table 1: Some medicinal plants used in Cote d’Ivoire for wound healing (source: literature)
Image for - Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing
Image for - Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing

The most represented families are Euphorbiaceae and Asteraceae, with 5 and 4 species, respectively. The genera represented by a large number of species were Aneilema and Combretum, with 3 species.

The modes of preparation mostly used are sap of trees, juices obtained by squeezing fresh leaves, decoction, paste and powder. The remedies are administered by topical route consisting in washing wounds before application of ointment. The sap and juice of leaves are used in the case of new wounds while decoction or macerate are indicated for old wounds.

Phytochimical analysis: The 6 plant species contain various amounts of polysaccharides (Fig. 1). According to the values of SI, the richest plants are P. nigrescens, A. boonei and A. toxicaria. Also, all the studied species contain mucilages in abundance, except C. pentandra which contains only trace amount. A. toxicaria and P. nigrescens are the richest species in mucilages (Table 2).

Phytochemical screening revealed the presence of secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, tannins and flavonoïds (Table 2). Catechic tannins are high abundant in C. pentandra and A. toxicaria and present in trace amount or absent in the other plants. None of the 6 plants contains gallic tannins.

The flavonoids were found only in F. exasperata and C. pentandra. The alkaloids were detected in trace amount in C. pentandra.

Table 2: Certain phytochemicals of studied plants
Image for - Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing
-: Absence; +: Presence (trace); ++: Abundant; +++: High abundant; Mac: Macerate; Deco: Decoction

Image for - Preliminary Study on Polysaccharides and Certain Secondary Metabolites of Medicinal Plants used in Cote D’Ivoire for Wound Healing
Fig. 1: Polysaccharides content of studied plant species


The ethnobotanical review for selection of studied medicinal plants revealed that Aneilema and Combretum species were more often indicated for treating wounds in Sub-Saharan Africa. Plants of these genera are used in Cote d’Ivoire (Kone et al., 2002, 2004) and Kenya (Kiringe, 2006). Several Combretum species also are used in South Africa for wound healing (Onayade et al., 1996).

The mode of administration of remedies seems to be function to the kinds or stages of wounds. The sap of trees or juices of fresh leaves are more often used in the case of new wounds while decoction or macerate are applied for old wounds. This behavior is probably related to the occupations of people who are rural. Topical application of sap or juice on new wound probably aimed at stopping hemorrhage and protecting wound from infectious agents when injuries occur. Certain plants such as Chromolaena odorata are known for their hemostatic properties (Gupta and Jain, 2010). In addition, the use of decoction for old wounds intended to exploit beneficial effects of compounds such as tannins and polysaccharides that can accelerate wound healing process. Tannins and polysaccharides are extracted in high amount in warm water.

Interesting, the extracts obtained from the 6 studied plants contain these compounds together with flavonoids and alkaloids. Therefore, all these species are promising for the treatment of wounds. Their chemical composition supports their use in traditional medicine for repairing disruption of tissue. These compounds are known for their role in mechanical cure and disinfection of wounds (Onayade et al., 1996; Gupta and Jain, 2010).

Decoction of C. pentandra is used to wash opened wounds (Burkill, 1985). Stem bark of this plant contains tannins, flavonoids and low amount of alkaloids, polysaccharides and mucilages. The presence of flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids was also reported by Sule et al. (2009) for a sample of Nigeria. The action of this plant in healing external wounds is due in part to flavonoids and tannins. These latter phytochemicals are known for their significant role in wound healing process (Shivhare et al., 2010). These compounds have vulnerary, astringent and draining properties (Afaq et al., 2005); but also antibacterial and immunostimulant activities (Pousset, 1992). Flavonoids show antimicrobial activity (Hernandez et al., 2000).

Sap of Antiaris toxicaria is indicated for treatment of cuts, wounds and skin diseases, eczemas and leprosy in west tropical Africa (Burkill, 1997). In Cote d’Ivoire, sap is used (Tra Bi, 1997) while stem extract is reported to stimulate proliferation of cells (Jiang et al., 2009). The phytochimical study showed that stem bark of A. toxicaria contains tannins and complex polysaccharides in abundance. Complex polysaccharides are known for their healing effects (Ross and Brain, 1977), antibacterial (Sofowora, 1996) and antioxidant activity (Liu et al., 2005). The antioxidants accelerate the healing process by destroying free radicals which are implicated in inflammation (Gupta and Jain, 2010).

Leaves and stem bark of F. exasperata are used as decoction for treatment of old wounds (Weiss, 1997). The leave aqueous extract showed antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus (Macfoy and Cline, 1990), bacteria implicated in wound infections. The phytochimical studies carried out on this plant revealed low amount of tannins but high quantity of polysaccharides, mucilages and flavonoids. The presence of tannins, flavonoids and alkaloids was reported by Umerie et al. (2004) and Mensah et al. (2008).

The juice squeezed from A. boonei leaves is used for disinfection of external wounds while the latex is recommended in pediatrics for the treatment of skin eruptions (Kerharo, 1967). According to Dalziel (1956), the sap is applied for treatment of new wounds. This plant contains complex polysaccharides in abundance, in particular mucilages but low quantity of alkaloids, tannins and flavonoids. This showed that wound healing properties of A. boonei might be mainly attributed to polysaccharides. This plant exhibited antioxidant activity (Akinmoladun et al., 2007) which strengthens its role in reduction of inflammation.

The sap and various parts of P. nigrescens are cited for wounds (Neuwinger, 1996). The phytochimical analysis revealed presence of catechic tannins and abundant polysaccharides and mucilages. Awobajo et al. (2009) reported flavonoid content but not tannins. P. nigrescens showed anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects (Owoyele et al., 2009).

Decoction of T. dinklagei is used in West Africa to wash old wounds (Dalziel, 1956). Only catechic tannins and polysaccharides were characterized in this plant. The presence of alkaloids is reported in literature (Tackie et al., 1975).

This ethnopharmacological study permitted drawing up a nonexhaustive list of 50 medicinal herbs traditionally used in West Africa to treat wounds. The preliminary phytochimical investigations carried out on 6 of these plants revealed at least trace amount of polysaccharides, mucilages, tannins, flavonoids and alkaloids. These results clearly demonstrated that studied plants can play a role in the development of treatment for wound healing.

Study is ongoing on these plants in order to elucidate the structure of polysaccharides, evaluate their complement fixing activity in vitro and in vivo.


Thank are due to Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire for Laboratory infrastructures.


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