Lantana camara (Family Verbenaceae) is commonly known as Lantana. It is one of the plants known to have great therapeutic potential. It is an erect or subscandent, vigorous shrub which can grow to about 2-3m in height, forming a dense thicket in a variety of environments. The leaf is simple, ovate or ovate oblong and oppositely arranged along the stem. The leaves are bright green, rough, finely hairy, with serrate margins and emit a pungent odour when crushed. The flowers appear in clusters, consisting of numerous small tubular flowers. These flower clusters are borne on stalks in a variety of colours (white, cream, yellow, orange, red, pink and purple) and are usually made up of three circles of florets of different colours. Lantana fruits are fleshy, ovoid, purple or black when fully ripe and about 5mm long.
In Uganda, L. camara is known by different names including; Kayukiyuki (Luganda), Kapanga (Lusoga), Omuhukye (Runyankore/Rukiga), Abel winyo (Acoli), and Elatana (Ateso) among others.
Lantana camara is an important medicinal plant with several medicinal uses in traditional medication system. Its preparations are used in folk medicine for the treatment and management of numerous disease conditions.
In parts of its native range, L. camara is used as a source of medicine for treating stomach disorders. The leaves of Lantana are aromatic with a minty taste. They have a cooling nature, are antiphlogistic (has potential to reduce inflammation), anti-dermatosic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, pectoral, stimulant, tonic and vulnerary. An infusion of the leaves and flowering tops is used in the treatment of fevers, constipation, tuberculosis and bronchitis. They are also used to treat cuts, rheumatisms, ulcers, catarrhal infection, tetanus, malaria, cancer, asthma, swelling, tumour, sores, cold and high blood pressure. Externally, the leaves and stems are used as a wash to treat dermatitis, eczema, pruritus, measles and chickenpox rashes. They are applied as a poultice to treat sprains, wounds and contusions. As a douche, they are used to treat inflammations of the uterus.
The stem bark of L. camara is astringent and it is used as a lotion in leprous ulcers and other skin eruptions. The freshly harvested leaves are boiled and applied externally to alleviate body swellings.
Lantana camara oil is used in the treatment of skin itches and as an antiseptic for wounds. The oil decoction is also externally applied to treat and manage leprosy and scabies. It is applied as a poultice on rheumatic joints. The oil is spread on leaves, warmed over low flame and applied on the affected part.
L. Camara root is sweet and bitter tasting, refrigerant and antifebrile. The decoction of the root is used to treat influenza, cough, mumps, incessant high fever, malaria, cervical lymph node, tuberculosis, asthma, toothache, headache, inflammation, gonorrhoea and leucorrhoea. The powdered root in milk is given to children as a cure for stomach ache and as a vermifuge.
Similar to roots, the flowers also have a sweet taste, mildly cooling and haemostatic. The decoction of the dried flowers is used in the treatment of haemoptysis and pulmonary tuberculosis.
The aromatic leaves are used to make tea. The sweet tasting drupaceous ripe black fruits are eaten in handfuls, especially by children as a snack. However, some reports mention the toxicity of the unripe fruits. The plant is used around homes as mosquito repellent.
By Richard Komakech
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