translated from a website in French

GRIFFONIAGriffonia simplicifolia crédit wikipedia



Griffonia simplicifolia, which does not have a common name in French or English, is native to West Africa, from Senegal to Congo, but is mainly present in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Gabon.

It is known locally under very different names.
Some examples from the scientific literature: in Liberia, po pio lo; in Ivory Coast, kadia, borokotoa, eggo, balio, kokula, kape kolei, boogra, gera, ko kwe; in Ghana, kaghia.

This wild plant has an aspect most often sarmentous, creeping vine or running on the ground, sometimes it is a thin shrub that wraps around neighboring trees to gain light.

Griffonia can quickly cover open spaces in the shrub savannas of the humid coastal regions of West Africa.

The leaves are whole, oval. The flowers (July to November) are bisexual, grouped in gray clusters.
The petals are fleshy, all similar.
The fruit is a pod, ovoid and swollen. It contains one to four seeds. The pods ripen in August.

Griffonia simplicifolia is a traditional medicinal plant in Africa, it is also a forage plant.

Griffonia grows naturally, its cultivation is not easy because the seeds do not germinate always and the cuttings are difficult, until now, to my knowledge, it is easier to propagate by transplanting young wild plants.

Seed or extracts of griffonia seeds, rich in 5HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) precursor of serotonin, are used to treat various diseases (including depression) under the influence of serotonin's secretion, neuromediator very important of the central nervous system.




The whole plant has medicinal properties but it is the seeds that are mostly used.


These large green seeds that turn black when they dry contain:

- Carbohydrate reserve substances.

- Alkaloids in small quantities but whose pharmacological properties are not well known. Some are cytotoxic in vitro on cancer cell lines.

- lectins, some allow to fight against insects including pests culture.

- Especially 6 to 15% of 5HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) which is a precursor of SEROTONIN, a very important neuromediator involved in digestive and brain regulation

A NEUROMEDIATOR is a substance involved in the transmission of nerve impulses between nerve cells and neurons.



SEROTONIN is a NEUROMEDIATOR mainly secreted by specialized cells present in the intestines, it controls the intestinal movements and intestinal secretions.
This serotonin of enteric origin is found in small amounts in the blood or it participates locally in certain inflammatory reactions but does NOT enter the central nervous system.

These are small groups of specialized neurons located in the basal part of the brain (brain stem) that secrete active serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin originates from an essential amino acid (tryptophan) that the body only gets through food.
It is transformed into specialized nerve cells into 5-hydroxy-tryptophan and then into serotonin.

5-hydroxy-tryptophan or 5HTP is easily absorbed by the digestive tract and penetrates easily into the central nervous system.
The food intake of 5HTP thus theoretically makes it possible to facilitate the secretion of serotonin.

The SEROTONIN present in the brain is a NEUROMEDIATOR that activates neurons involved in IMPORTANT BRAIN FUNCTIONS for example:
- regulation of the MOOD,
- the FOOD behavior ,
- the SEXUAL behavior,
- SLEEP rhythm (circadian rhythm),
- transmission of PAIN.

Many very important synthetic drugs (ANTI DEPRESSANT, ANXIOLYTICS) act on the fate of cerebral serotonin and we understand the interest of the seeds of Griffonia which contain inexpensive 5HTP, chemical precursor of serotonin and therefore potentially active.

But since 5HTP is a natural substance that can not be patented, pharmaceutical companies are not interested
Clinical trials are therefore quite rare and sometimes of poor scientific quality.



Griffonia leaves are a popular forage, especially for cows and goats, which can sometimes lead to significant destruction of natural plantations and limit seed collection.

Some uses in traditional African medicine:

- Decoction of leaves and small branches is used to induce vomiting or as a purgative, but some populations use it instead as anti-emetic.

- Crushed plaster leaves are used to treat skin burns, small wounds.

- The sap is used to clean irritated or infected eyes, it can be drunk in the absence of other drinks.

- The small branches are chewed, to clean the teeth, fortify the gums and clean the mouth in a more general way.

- In some ethnic groups the seeds are used as aphrodisiacs.


The active product 5HTP is soluble in water which theoretically allows the use of a decoction of fragmented seeds, but since the amount of 5HTP present in the seeds varies, it is not possible to define a precise dosage which is necessary in the case of this molecule active on the functioning of brain.

It is therefore easier and more prudent to use extracts of griffonia titrated if possible in 5HTP, generally presented as food supplements.

There are also drugs containing only 5HTP extracted seeds of Griffonia, but which usually require (it depends on the country) a medical prescription (example LEVOTONIN).

The use of raw extracts of griffonia simplicifolia should be limited in time (due in particular to the presence of cytotoxic alkaloids in the seed).




- NERVOUS DEPRESSION associated or not to anxiety, panic attacks especially when the disorders are not major and one want to avoid treatment with synthetic drugs.

- BULIMIA AND OBESITY related to compulsive habits, depression, anxiety.

- INSOMNIA related to depression and anxiety.

- Some anxiety-related disorders of LIBIDO (knowing that in animals high doses of griffonia extracts reduce libido).

- FIBROMYALGIA, diffuse and persistent pain syndrome often associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.

- SEVRAGE syndrome including opiates (example morphine and anti-opioid pain medications) but also other addictive drugs.

- Some muscle contractions (myoclonus) sometimes related to muscle diseases or drug withdrawal or addictive drugs.

- Some headaches or migraines and maybe low dose seasickness.


As there is no standardization in phytomedicaments-food supplements it is better to follow the dosage indications of the laboratory-manufacturer.
Sometimes extracts of Griffonia are associated with vitamins (B6, B3) or other plant extracts (eg green tea, maté) .

It is advisable to start with a low dosage (especially if the disorder to treat is minor) and to take the griffonia at the end of the afternoon or evening because of the risk of drowsiness.
At the beginning of the treatment, a low dose is used and, if necessary, the dosage is gradually increased and then it is also gradually decreased at the end of the treatment, which should preferably be limited to 2 to 4 weeks at first.

Examples of dosage:

- 100mg of griffonia extract titrated at approximately 12% of 5HTP once or twice a day. Dosage that can be doubled.
- The Griffonia "phytostandard" capsules are dosed with 185 mg of griffonia extracts, not to exceed 2 capsules per day.

Drugs containing pure extracts of 5HTP such as LEVOTONIN (100mg of 5HTP per tablet) may be prescribed for particular neurological disorders at much higher dosages on medical prescription.


The side effects to be feared in a person who does not consume other drugs are:

- minor digestive and transient disorders: bloating, disturbances of the intestinal transit (diarrhea or constipation),
- daytime sleepiness (caution when driving ),
- and sometimes, paradoxically, sleep disturbances (nightmares).

- Possibility of severe renal disorders (renal failure) fortunately quite rarely.

Things get complicated when you take anxiolytics or antidepressants that also affect the metabolism of serotonin.
It is advisable to be VERY CAREFUL and to lower the dose of synthetic drugs first (especially if they are "monoamine oxidase inhibitors" ) before associating them with extracts of Griffonia: the presence of an abnormal quantity serotonin in the brain can cause serotonin syndrome (tachycardia, diarrhea, mental confusion and even loss of consciousness (coma)) or psychiatric disturbance (manic episode).

CONTRAINDICATIONS in pregnant or breastfeeding women, in children (except very special case on medical prescription), in the trisomics (risk of epilepsy), and in case of scleroderma.



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Griffonia simplicifolia is native to West Africa, from Senegal to Congo.
The seeds of this vine-like or small shrub-like plant contain 5HTP precursor of serotonin, important neuromediator of the central nervous system regulating mood, food intake, sexual behavior, sleep rhythm , the transmission of pain.
Food supplements and Griffonia extract-based medicines may in some cases be an alternative to the use of anti-depressants and synthetic anxyiolytics.
Do not consume griffonia if you use anti-depressant medications especially monoamine oxydase inhibitors.