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Griffonia simplicifolia - (Vahl ex DC.) Baill.

Common Name Griffonia
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Grass savannah; coastal plains on termite mounds; scrub thickets; climber in secondary and gallery forests[328 ].
Range West tropical Africa - Liberia to Nigeria, Gabon, Congo.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Griffonia simplicifolia Griffonia
Griffonia simplicifolia Griffonia


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Griffonia simplicifolia is an evergreen shrub or large climbing plant that is hard-wooded and with short strong woody tendrils commonly found in west tropical Africa specifically in Liberia to Nigeria, Gabon, and Congo. It grows about 3 m in height. The leaves of this species are used in the production of palm wine while the sap from the stems can be drunk to quench thirst. Medicinally, the pulped bark can be applied to syphilitic sores. Leaf decoction is used for cough and is an aphrodisiac. The leaf sap is drunk for kidney problems or used as eye drops for inflamed eyes. Leaf paste, on the other hand, is applied to burns. Stem and leaf decoction are used in the treatment of constipation and wounds. Stems and stem bark are made into paste and used for decaying teeth. Powdered root extract is used in the treatment of sickle cell anemia. The seed is a commercial source of a serotonin precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) which increases the synthesis of serotonin in the central nervous system. It has been effective in treating a wide range of conditions like depression, fibromyalgia, obesity, insomnia, and chronic headache. Other uses include: use of leaves in chicken pens to kill lice, black dye fromm the leaves, stems for baskets and cages, etc. The wood is hard and fairly tough.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of climber
Griffonia simplicifolia is an evergreen Climber growing to 3 m (9ft) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Bandeiraea simplicifolia (Vahl ex DC.) Benth. Schotia simplicifolia Vahl ex DC.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Sap  Stem
Edible Uses:

The leaves are used in the production of palm wine, and give the wine a bitter taste[299 ]. Sap that exudes from cut stems can be drunk to quench thirst[299 ]. Use: The stems are baked and chewed.


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The pulped bark is applied to syphilitic sores[299 ]. A leaf decoction is used as an emetic, cough medicine and aphrodisiac[299 ]. The leaf sap and is drunk or applied as an enema to cure kidney problems[299 ]. The leaf sap is used as eye drops to cure inflamed eyes[299 ]. A paste made from the leaves is applied to burns[299 ]. A decoction of stems and leaves is taken as a purgative to treat constipation and is used externally as an antiseptic wash to treat suppurating wounds[299 ]. Chewing the stems is claimed to produce an aphrodisiac effect[299 ]. Stems and stem bark are made into a paste that is applied to decaying teeth[299 ]. The powdered twig bark, combined with lemon juice and Capsicum pepper, is applied to scarifications to treat intercostal pain[299 ]. An extract from the powdered roots has been used to treat sickle cell anaemia[299 ]. The seed is a commercial source of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a serotonin precursor. In humans, 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin in the central nervous system and has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of conditions, including depression, fibromyalgia, obesity, chronic headaches and insomnia[299 ]. The leaves contain a volatile oil and coumarins. The cyanoglucoside lithospermoside (= griffonin) has been isolated from the roots; it is the active ingredient against sickle-cell anaemia[299 ]. Isolectin B4, isolated from Griffonia simplicifolia, is used as a marker of small primary sensory neurons in neurological research[299 ].


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Other Uses

Other Uses: The leaves are put in chicken pens to kill lice[299 ]. The roots are chewed and dried to produce a white powder that is used by women to powder their face[299 ]. A black dye is obtained from the leaves[299 ]. The stems are used to make baskets and cages[299 ]. The stems are beaten into fibres that serve as chewing sponges, a popular means of tooth cleaning in Ghana[299 ]. The stems and roots are used as chew-sticks to clean the teeth and maintain gum health and oral hygiene[299 ]. The seeds contain the compound 5-HTP, which is poisonous to certain insects, i.e. bruchids (Callosobruchus maculatus)[299 ]. A number of lectins are found in the seeds. One of them is of the acetylglucosamine-group, which is commonly found in Poaceae and Solanaceae, but is rare in Fabaceae. Some lectins have insecticidal properties[299 ]. The pods are made into toy whistles and spoons[299 ]. The wood is hard and fairly tough. It can be bent and after crooking is used for making walking-sticks[299 , 332 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[755 ]. It is a tropical plant. It grows in the grass savannah in West Africa.


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Seed - propagation by seed has given poor results and different seed treatments do not improve germination, although fungicide treatment of the seed appeared beneficial for establishment[299 ]. In productivity trials, wildlings were successfully used as planting material; though this is impractical at a larger scale[299 ]. Use of stem cuttings has not been successful[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Boogra, Borokotoa, Eggo, Kadia, atooto, gbogbotri, griffonia, kajya, kanya, kwakuo-aboto.,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Benin, Central Africa, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Togo, West Africa,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(Vahl ex DC.) Baill.

Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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