Kombo butter

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Botanical Name : Pycnanthus angolensis Family : Myristicaceae family Commercial name : Kombo, African nutmeg Local Names (Ghana) : Otea

Background and Distribution

Pycnanthus angolensis Warb. (P. Kombo), commonly known as African nutmeg, is a tropical plant belonging to the Myristicaceae family and having a geographical distribution stretching across western Africa from Guinea to Cameroon, including the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Uganda.

The nuts, which have commercial value on the international market are slightly aromatic and contain very high amount of fatty matter variously recorded as 45 to 75%. Kombo butter is the vegetable fat processed from the kernels of the plant and is currently considered as the only known plant source of myristoleic acid. This acid is an important raw material for the production of Cetyl myristoleate (CMO) which is used in the treatment of aching limbs and joints which symptomize arthritis, gout and other rheumatic conditions. The butter also contains a high amount of myristic acid which has potential uses in cosmetics, candles and soap.

Botany The plant thrives well in secondary forests, growing up to 120 feet tall, and produces fruits annually, typically between September and April. The oblong-shaped fruits, about 1.5 inches long, contain oil-rich seeds encased in a hard shell. The seeds are ready for harvest between December and April. The plant occurs abundantly in Ghana and fruits profusely. Average nut yield per plant is estimated at between 1.5kgs to 4kgs. Over 300MT of nuts is available annually.

Traditional Uses

The indigenous populations have devised a variety of uses for virtually all parts of the plant, ranging from incorporation of the plant in furniture, condiments, soaps, and cattle feed to medicinal uses.

Traditional medicinal uses for the plant utilize the bark, roots, leaves, and seeds. The pounded bark is used by the Ibos of Nigeria as a mouthwash and also as a remedy for toothaches and appetite loss. Infusions of the bark are used to prevent abortions, anemia, headache, and scabies. Decoctions of the bark are used as an enema to purify breast milk for nursing mothers, as a purgative, and as an antidote for poisons. Other uses include the treatment of body aches, chest pains, skin lesions, and rashes due to river blindness (Onchocercearsis) and leprosy. Root infusions containing additional herbs are used as an antihelmintic. Decoctions of the leaves are used as an enema to treat toothache and prevent miscarriage. The leaf juice is sucked to cure white tongue thrush and the latex is applied to wounds as an anticoagulant. The Ewes in Ghana use fat from the oil-rich seeds as a mouthwash to cure thrush and as a topical treatment for fungal skin infections. In addition to such medicinal uses, the seeds provide an important source of oil and wax in the local communities for making candles, soap, fuel and lubricants. The oil residue is used as manure and cattle feed, and there are also reports of its use as a condiment in Equatorial Guinea.

Composition and Potential Applications

Relatively few studies have investigated the chemical components of Pycnanthus angolensis. Two terpenoid-type quinines (pycnanthoquinone A and B) with antihyperglycemic activity have been isolated from the leaves and stem extracts and the lignan dihydroguaiaretic acid has been identified in a bark extract. Two isoflavones, 2’-hydroxyformononetin and 7,4’-dimethoxy-2’-hydroxyisoflavone, have been identified in the heartwood of the plant. The seed fat is characterized by the presence of relatively high contents of tetradecanoic acid (60%) and (Z)-9-tetradecenoic acid (20%) as well as other unsaturated fatty acids. A recent study of the seed fat identified a novel polyphenylated hydroquinone carboxylic acid named kombic acid; although the structure of this compound as reported there is questionable based on our own research findings. Compiled by: ASNAPP Ghana