An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Camptotheca acuminata

Camptotheca acuminata

Happy Tree or Cancer Tree (Camptotheca acuminata Decne., 1873) is an arboreal species belonging to the Nyssaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheophyta,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Magnoliidae,
Cornales Order,
Nyssaceae family,
Genus Camptotheca,
Species C. acuminata.
The terms are synonyms:
– Camptotheca acuminata var. acuminata;
– Camptotheca acuminata var. rotundifolia B.M.Yang & L.D.Duan;
– Camptotheca acuminata var. tenuifolia W.P.Fang & Soong;
– Camptotheca yunnanensis Dode;
– Cephalanthus esquirolii H.Lév..

Etymology –
The term Camptotheca comes from the Greek καμπτός camptós folding, curved and from θήκη théke case, case: in reference to the fruits consisting of small banana-shaped pods, connected to the base in clusters.
The specific epithet acuminata comes from acumen tip, acuteness: sharp, pointed, pointed.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Camptotheca acuminata is a plant native to an area that goes from central China to Tibet.
This species is present in the regions of Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang.
Its habitat is that of the mountains, streams and ranges below 1000 metres, especially the warm and humid banks of the streams south of the Yangtse River.

Description –
Camptotheca acuminata is a deciduous tree, growing up to 20 m in height.
The bark is light gray in colour, deeply furrowed, with young purplish, hairy twigs and old glabrous twigs.
The leaf blades are greenish and glossy, oblong-ovate, oblong-elliptical, or orbicular; these are carried by a 1,5-3 cm petiole.
The flower, small and inconspicuous, has a cup-shaped calyx, shallow with 5 lobes, formed by 5 petals, light green in color, with 10 stamens, 5 external ones longer than the petals, glabrous and 2 stigmas.
The anthesis in the southern hemisphere runs from December to February.
The fruits are terminally pointed, grey-brown, 2,5-3,5 cm × 5-7 mm, smooth and glossy when exposed, and containing one seed.

Cultivation –
Camptotheca acuminata is a tree that mostly grows spontaneously but has been harvested since ancient times for its particular properties in herbal medicine and phytotherapy.
It is a plant that grows on moist but well-drained soils, deep and sheltered from strong winds.
The climate is of the warm and humid temperate type, where the plant grows very quickly during the first ten years and then slows down in the following years.
The plant needs full sunlight but will also grow in partially shaded areas.
It can be pruned without damage, so it is useful as a coppice tree. The flowers are small, white and inconspicuous.
Propagation can be by seed or cuttings.

Customs and Traditions –
The Camptotheca acuminata whose popular and international names are: Tree Of Life, Cancer Tree, Happy Tree, False Tupelo, Xi Shu, etc.
This plant has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to provide treatments for psoriasis, liver and stomach ailments, and common colds, and is also used to treat leukemia. The latter use led to a scientific study to determine whether an anticancer compound actually existed in C. acuminata. The anticancer properties were first verified in 1958 by Dr. Monroe E. Walle Mansukh C. Wani of the USDA and Jonathon Hartwell of the National Cancer Institute in the United States.
The bark and stems of Camptotheca acuminata contain the alkaloid camptothecin. Several chemical derivatives of camptothecin are being studied or used as drugs for the treatment of cancer, including irinotecan, topotecan, rubitecan.
Camptotheca acuminata also contains the chemical compounds tripfoline and hyperoside.
This plant used for cancer treatment is the main source of camptothecin (CPT), a pentacyclic alkaloid first isolated in 1958.
CPT and its derivatives inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells thanks to their ability to interact with the eukaryotic topoisomerase enzymes involved in the relaxation of supercoiled DNA.
Two semisynthetic derivatives of CPT, topotecan (abbreviation: TPT, trade name of the drug: Hycamtin) and irinotecan (abbreviation: CPT-11, trade name of the drug: Camptosar), have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of ovarian cancer, small cell lung cancer and refractory colorectal cancer.
Another CPT derivative, 9-NitroCPT, is currently awaiting FDA approval for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Numerous other derivatives of CPT are also undergoing clinical trials.
Among the warnings it should be noted that camptothecin is not water soluble and can be highly toxic, making it difficult to administer as a medicine.
The organs involved in the phytotherapeutic action are:
– liver and biliary tract;
– organs and/or various tissues;
– immune system;
– stomach;
– skin tissue.

Method of Preparation –
Camptotheca acuminata is a plant that has been used for some time, especially in traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and phytotherapy.
The drugs used are the young and tender leaves (richer in camptothecin), to a lesser extent also the bark and root.
Stem bark, root bark, and seeds may produce trace amounts of CPT but the highest concentrations may be in young, tender leaves.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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