Ube Okpoko, the African Olive



Ube Okpoko, the African Olive
Ube Okpoko

Canarium schweinfurthii Engl belongs to the family Burseraceae. It is a large, evergreen forest tall tree that is widely distributed in Africa in countries like Nigeria. Common names are torchwood, frankincensed, incense, bush candle, purple canary, African olive, African elemi, or canarium tree.  It is called Atile in Hausa, Ube Okpoko in Igbo and Origbo in Yoruba.


Ube Okpoko contains proteins, fibre, carbohydrates, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, iodine and sodium. It also contains essential oils like limonene, palmatic, stearic, oleic, linoleic acids, phellandrenes and Atili oil. Phytochemical analysis show the presence of anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins, quinones, saponins, alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids, triterpenes and leuco-anthocyanins.

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It can be eaten raw, soaked in warm water, boiled or roasted. The roasted fruit may be ground to powder. It sometimes prepared into a vegetable butter and used as a substitute for shea butter. It may also be available as oil or decoctions.

Pharmacological actions and medicinal uses:

Ube Okpoko has been reported to possess analgesic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anti-rheumatic, antispasmodic, emetic, purgative and rubefacient properties, attributed to different parts of the plant, especially the fruits, leaves, stems and resins. Thus, it has been used as a treatment against coughs, chest pains, pulmonary afflictions, hypertension, sickle cell anemia, rheumatism, dysentery, sexually transmitted diseases, food poisoning, roundworms, colic, fever, malaria, constipation, post-partum pain, skin problems such as wounds, eczema, skin rashes, and sunburn. The pounded bark is used in the treatment and management of leprosy and ulcers. The resin is used as a fumigant against mosquitoes.

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Adverse effects:

There are no known reports of adverse reactions to Ube Okpoko.

Economic uses and potentials:

The Ube Okpoko tree serves as ornamental shade.

Locally, the wood is used for furniture, mortars, planks, canoes and for fuel.

The seeds can be used for ornamental purposes for making necklaces, bangles and costumes. A bag of Atile cost N2,500. The Ube Okpoko has potentials in the sales, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and furniture industries.

By Pharm. Ngozika Okoye  MSc, MPH, FPCPharm                                                     (Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency)

Email: ngozikaokoye@yahoo.com


Fern K (2014). Useful tropical plants. Tropical plants database. Available at: http:/tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Canarium+Schweinfurthii. Accessed June 2, 2022.

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