Gliricidia sepium Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 4043 words and 25 pages.

gliricidia sepium



Introduction and Description
Common Names
Chemical Compounds
Uses and Efficacy


Gliri cidia was first used in Mexico to provide shade for cacao plantations. It is from
this use that the Aztecs labeled the tree "Madre de Cacao" (Mother of cacao). Later, in
the 18th Century, Gliricidia was brought to Sri Lanka to provide

shade for coffee plantations. Today, the tree's long leafy branches are used to shade vanilla and tea crops as well.

The tree is also known in Spanish as "Palo de Hierrro" (Tree of Iron) which eludes to
Gliricidia's hard, heavy wood. This makes it ideal for fuelwood; a vital energy source in
tropical regions and areas where gas and propane are not as accessible or affordable. Due
to the wood's durability and its resistance to weathering and disease, it is also used for
furniture, tool handles, posts and even heavy construction purposes.

Intro duction and Description

Gliri cidia sepium is a leguminous tree and belongs to the family Fabaceae. Gliricidia,
which originated in Central America, is used in many tropical and sub-tropical countries
as live fencing. That is, it is planted along the side of fields, and the trunks are used
as fence posts. During the dry season, when much of the forage is gone, the tree limbs are
cut and the foliage is offered to livestock.

Gliricidia trees are a medium size, with composite leaves. The flowers are reddish and on
the end of branches without leaves. The fruit is a pod about 10-15 cm. Typically, it can
be found growing in acid soils with low to medium fertility.

Common Names

Usually Gliricidia sepium is just called gliricidia. There are only a few local names for the tree.

Cacao de nance, cacahnanance -- Honduras
Kakawate -- Philippines
Mata Raton
Madre Cacao -- Guatemala
Madriado -- Honduras

Chemic al Compounds

There are many compounds in Gliricidia sepium. The ones most researched are the tannins.
In one study, Gliricidia was found to contain 40.7g of condensed tannins/kg dry matter.
Tannins bind to protein and can make plants with high levels have an astringent dry mouth
taste. The exact quantity of tannins varies with the location of the tree. The active
medicinal compounds may be the tannins or other compounds such as afrormosin, medicarpin,
or some isoflavins. Most of the research with gliricidia and it's compounds have focused
on nutritive quality. However, some studies have focused on the ability of the plant
and/or roots to decrease soil nematode populations, and control insects or fungi.

Some of the Compounds in Gliricidia sepium(for a more complete list see USDA Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical
Data bases:

Afrormosin (an isoflavan) -- reported to be an antitumor promoting agent
Formononetin (an isoflavan)
Gliricidin-6a -- wood
Gliricidol-9A -- wood
Medicarpin (a pterocarpan) -- reported to be antifungal
7,4'-dihydroxy-3'-Me thoxyisoflavin
2'-O-Methylsepiol -- plant
Tannin -- reported to have potential antidiarrheic, antidysenteric, antimutagenic,
antinephritic, antioxidant, antiradicular, antiviral, bactericide, cancer-preventive,
hepatoprotective, pesticide, psychotropic, and viricide activities 7,3',4'-Trihydroxyfl
avanone -- plant


No published studies could be found regarding the toxicity of using gliricidia to repel
insects. However, many animals cannot tolerate the consumption of large quantities of
gliricidia. The tannins bind proteins and decrease the nutritive value of the plant. Some
animals, such as goats, can consume larger quantities of plants with tannins than other
animals such as cattle and sheep. Goats, unlike cattle and sheep, have a salivary protein
binding factor that binds to the tannins.

Uses and Efficacy

Gliricidia is used by farmers in some Latin American countries to repel insects. The
leaves are ground up and combined with water. The animal is then bathed with the resulting
paste. According to some of the farmers, if this is repeated every 7-14 days, the number
of torsalo (tropical warble fly) infections is decreased. No published studies could be
found to substantiate this claim. However, when interviewing farmers and checking goats in
Honduras, I found that the goats who the farmers claimed to have bathed with gliricidia
had only 2-3 torsalos, while others had 10 or more. Also, one study did indicate that the
heartwood of gliricidia contains compounds that attract and are toxic to certain insects
(e.g., southern army worm, cabbage looper, yellow woolly bear, and Glyptotermes dilatatus,
a termite).

In the Philippines, gliricidia is washed and pounded to extract the juice from the leaves.
It is then applied to the area affected by external parasites once to twice a day for one

In Guatemala, the bark and leaves of gliricidia are used to treat human skin diseases.

Research has been conducted on both the antifungal and antimicrobial properties of
gliricidia extracts. In a brine shrimp toxicity test, a general screening method
indicative of cytotoxicity and pesticidal activity, the LC50 was (CI 328-608). ,
medicarpin, one of the compounds in the leaves and heartwood of gliricidia, is supposed to
be antifungal. In an antifungal study, gliricidia extracts inhibited the germination of
Drechslera oryzae only 6%. However, in another study, 50ug of stem chloroform extracts
inhibited the growth of Cladosporium cucumerinum and slightly inhibited the growth of
Candida albicans. In contrast, in another study, the antimicrobial properties of extracts
from the bark of gliricidia were tested. It was effective against bacteria causing
dermatitis. However, it was not effective against enterobacteria or Candida albicans. The
discrepancy in the effectiveness against Candida albicans could be because of the quantity
of plant extract used or the types of extracts used. In another study, leaf extracts were
found to be effective against the dermatophytes Microsporum canis, Trichophyton
mentagrophytes var algodonosa, and T. rubrum. It was not effective against Epidermophyton
floccosum, M. gypseum or T. mentagrophytes var granulare.

In another study, gliricidia was found to inhibit the growth of various strains of
Neisseria gonorrhoea in in vitro tests. Tinctures made from the leaves were used for these

Some Uses in Humans:

Burn -- Panama
Cold, cough -- Curacao
Expectorant -- Curacao
Fever -- Panama
Gangrene -- Guatemala
Gonorrhoea -- Guatemala
Insect repellent -- Curacao, Guatemala, and Honduras
Itch, skin, sores -- Curacao, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama
Poison (Humans and animals) -- Panama and Venezuela
Rodenticide (rats) -- Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Venezuela
Shade tree (for other crops) -- Sri Lanka
Sedative -- Curacao
Tumor -- Guatemala
Ulcer -- Guatemala
Propagati on of Gliricidia sepium


Gliricidia is propagated readily from seed, with no seed pretreatment necessary. Seed
viability is reduced dramatically after one year in storage, so fresh seeds should be
used. They can be direct-seeded or established in a nursery.


Glir icidia roots readily from leafless cuttings either in the nursery or directly in the
field during the rainy season. The latter are often large cuttings, called stake cuttings
, which can range in size from ca. 1 cm to 10 cm or more in diameter and over a meter in


A ccording to the National Academy of Sciences (1980a), the leaves contain over 20% crude
protein and are nutritious for cattle though TOXIC to most other animals including horses.
The tree is widely planted as shade for chocolate, coffee, tea, and vanilla. There are few
"living fence" species that strike root from cuttings more readily, also widely planted as
a hedge and/or windbreak. Tilth and fertility of the soil beneath the trees are greatly
improved from the leaf- and flower-fall. The timber is said to finish smoothly and be used
for furniture, agricultural instruments, posts, railroad ties, and heavy construction.
Flowers are a good source of forage for bees. Flowers are consumed by Mexican rural
inhabitants who use the pods for rat poison. In the Philippines, the foetid leaves are
crushed and rubbed onto cattle. In Indonesia, the tree is planted as a firebreak. This and
other fast-growing leguminous trees have the vigor to outgrow or compete with the Imperata
grass. In the shade of Gliricida, the grass finally dies, leaving nothing that can sustain
a grass fire (NAS, 1980a).

Folk Medicine

Reported to be expectorant, insecticidal, rodenticidal, sedative, suppurative, Madre de
Cacao is a folk remedy for alopecia, boils, bruises, burns, colds, cough, debility,
eruptions, erysipelas, fever, fractures, gangrene, head-ache, itch, prickly heat,
rheumatism, skin, sore, tumors, ulcers, urticaria, and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981).


Acc ording to Roskoski et al. (1980), studying Mexican material, the seeds contain 11.93%
humidity, 1.90% ash, 33.00% CP, 16.50% CF EE, 9.07% CF, 27.60% carbohydrates with a 52.42%
in vitro digestibility. The foliage contains 11.96% humidity, 12.09% ash, 19.92% CP, 2.34%
crude fat, 11.04% CF, 42.65% carbohydrates, and 69.69% in vitro digestibility. Low levels
of alkaloids were found in the seed and saponins in the foliage, but the plant is still
used for forage. Allen and Allen (1981) cite data suggesting that fallen leaves emit the
new-mown-hay odor, because of the occurrence of coumarin compounds.


S mooth deciduous tree to 10 m tall, 20-30 cm DBH. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound,
15-30 cm long, the 9-13 leaflets 3-6 cm long, opposite, oblong-ovate, bluntly pointed at
the tip, rounded at the base, entire. Flowers on numerous lateral racemes, often on
leafless branches, the clusters 5-125 cm long; flowers pinkish, ca 2 cm long; stamens 10,
9 united in a tube, one separate, white. Pods yellow-green when immature, turning blackish
10-14 cm long, 1-2 cm broad, with 3-8 elliptic, flat, shiny, blackish seed (ca 4,400/kg).


Rep orted from the American Center of Diversity, Madre de Cacao, or cvs thereof, is
reported to tolerate drought, limestone, slope, and weeds. (2n = 20)


Native from Mexico to Colombia, Venezuela, and the Guianas, widely introduced and naturalized throughout the tropics.


Rangi ng from Subtropical Thorn to Wet through Tropical Thorn to Wet Forest Life Zones,
Madre de Cacao is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 4.8 to 41.0 dm (mean of 79
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