Erythrophleum suaveolens is distributed from Senegal to Sudan and Kenya in the east and from there south to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It has been introduced as an ornamental in tropical Asia.
The bark, traded as ‘sassy-bark’, ‘mancona bark’ or ‘casca bark’ is used as emetic and purgative. The crushed bark is applied to swellings caused by Filaria. In DR Congo the dried powdered bark is taken as a snuff to cure headache. In Kenya a diluted decoction of the roots is used as an anthelminthic, especially against tapeworm. In Malawi a decoction of the roots and bark is applied to soothe general body pain. Pieces of root or bark are a protective and love charm. The bark has been used in arrow poisons and as ordeal poison and the bark and leaves as fish poison. The use as an anesthetic for fish in aquaculture is tricky as small differences in dosage will kill, rather than stupefy fish. In the Western world, bark extracts were used in the late 19th century to treat heart failure. Side effects and better results with digitoxine ended this practice.
The tree produces quite hard, heavy and durable wood, marketed as ‘alui’, ‘tali’, ‘erun’, ‘missanda’ or ‘sasswood’, which is suitable for joinery, flooring, railway sleepers, harbour and dock work, turnery, construction and bridges. It is also used for boat building and wheel hubs. The bark has been used in West Africa for tanning hides and skins; it is used in DR Congo to colour leather brown. Erythrophleum suaveolens is planted as an ornamental and avenue tree. In West Africa the powdered bark is mixed with the residue of palm oil processing, and after boiling it is mixed with seeds of maize, cowpea or cotton, which effectively reduces pest damage to the seeds. Dried leaves are mixed with stored grains and pulses to repel or kill storage insects. The use in agroforestry has been promoted: nitrogen fixation and the large amount of leaf litter are advantageous to intercrops.