Harungana might not be an ingredient on everybody’s lips but it might be something you see in your skin creams. It is claimed to ‘redensify the skin and reduce sagging’ according to Clarins, the cosmetic giant. It also has potent antibacterial benefits which means the extracts are useful in antisceptic creams. The plant from which the extracts come from is an intriguing one. It is an evergreen shrub, almost a tree that is found throughout tropical Africa. where it is highly prized for its medicinal value and for dying clothes. In Gabon, they cultivate it close to the tribal villages for all these benefits as well as obtaining a resin which is like gutta-percha.

The sole species of the genus is H. madagascariensis and its common names are dragon’s blood tree, orange-milk tree or haronga. It is in the St. John Wort’s family or Hypericaceae.


A number of components have been isolated or at least identified in aqueous extracts. These include glycosides, tannins, saponins, flavonoids and alkaloids. 

Food Use

The fruit is eaten raw and is relatively sweet. Too much causes vomiting ! It can be fermented to produce a cider which is also an emetic. The sap is used to colour beverages.

Medicinal use

The sap is a bright red. It is used to treat scabies and can remove gut worms like threadworm and tapeworm (it operates as an antihelmintic). The roots were used by young women in Africa to improve breast development. 

The aqueous extracts of the leaf have antimicrobial activity against a variety of food safety bacteria like Bacillus subtilis, Staph. aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Here is the basis for the benefits of the plant leaf in treating intestinal disorders. Alcohol extracts are not so potent. The ethyl acetate extract apparently extracted some compounds which kill moulds causing armpit and foot odour – highly useful. The key flavone that might be responsible for this is  astilbin or 3-O-α-l-rhamnoside-5,7,3′,4′-tetrahydroxydihydroflavonol which is also found in Astilbe plants.


Moulari, B., Pellequer, Y., Lboutounne, H., Girard, C., Chaumont, J. P., Millet, J., & Muyard, F. (2006). Isolation and in vitro antibacterial activity of astilbin, the bioactive flavanone from the leaves of Harungana madagascariensis Lam. ex Poir.(Hypericaceae). Journal of Ethnopharmacology106(2), pp. 272-278.

Okoli, A. S., Okeke, M. I., Iroegbu, C. U., & Ebo, P. U. (2002). Antibacterial activity of Harungana madagascariensis leaf extracts. Phytotherapy Research16(2), pp. 174-179.

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