Mayan Legend of the Hormigo
History of the marimba
Species: palmata, peltata, obtusifolia
Synonyms: Cecropia schreberiana, C. amphichlora, C. arachnoidea, C. asperrima, C. concolor, C. dielsiana, C. hondurensis, C. mexicana, C. pachystachya, C. scabrifolia, C. surinamensis, Ambaiba palmata
Common Names: Embauba, imbauba, umbauba, trumpet tree, bois canon, bois trompette,
grayumbe, grayumbo, trompette, trompettier, yagruma, yagrumo, akowa, chancarpo,
chancarro, guarumbo, guarumo, hormigo, hormiguillo, snakewood tree, pop-a-gun, tree-of-laziness, trompetenbaum, yaluma, certico, ambiabo, ambai, tree-of-sandpaper, palo lija
Part Used: Leaves
| HORMIGO |
| HERBAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIONS |
||Infusion: 1 cup 2-3 times daily
||Capsules: 2-3 g twice daily
|fights free radicals
|| nervous system
|lowers blood pressure
|reduces blood sugar
Hormigo is native to Central and South America and the West Indies. It is a fast-growing, short-lived tree that springs up along riverbanks (where its seeds are deposited after annual flooding). It has large leaves (a foot wide) with a hollow stem, and bears a cylindrical fruit with soft, sweet flesh around many small seeds. The tree, growing 5-10 m tall, often is inhabited by stinging ants that are attracted to the honey-like sap produced by the leaves. The symbiotic relationship with the ants is thought to protect the tree from leaf-eating insects. There are many closely-related Cecropia species (including C. peltata, C. palmata, and C. obtusifolia) that may have different geographical locations yet all are very similar in appearance, chemical makeup, and traditional medicinal uses. Cecropia trees (nearly 100 tropical species in South and Latin America) are propagated by the many small fruit seeds they produce - bats, monkeys, and birds eat the succulent fruit and disperse the seeds in their droppings. Often, it can form dense stands of trees that choke the growth of other plants anywhere that the canopy is disturbed.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
Indian tribes in the Amazon use embauba for its anti-inflammatory properties-typically for rheumatic, kidney and lung inflammations. The leaf is made into a tea and used widely for asthma and other upper respiratory complaints, as well as for diabetes. It also has been used for sores on the mouth and tongue. The Palikur indigenous people of Guyana wrap the large leaves around bone fractures, bruises and wounds, and use embauba to disinfect the genitalia and alleviate pain after childbirth.
In herbal medicine systems, embauba is used widely throughout Central and South America. In Brazil it is used for all types of respiratory complaints (such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, whooping cough, and pneumonia). It is also used for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, kidney disorders, high blood pressure, and to increase the contraction strength of the heart muscle. It is considered effective against Parkinson disease in Colombia, where it also is used as a substitute for digitalis-containing plants (for heart problems), and to facilitate childbirth and menstruation. The leaf is used in Guatemalan herbal medicine systems for asthma, edema, rheumatism, diabetes, fever, atherosclerosis, and gonorrhea. The plant is popular in Mexico, where it is used for diabetes, coughs, inflammation, diarrhea, bladder irritation, asthma, obesity, liver disorders, high blood pressure, and warts.
In Cuba, virtually every part of the plant is employed in herbal medicine. The latex is considered corrosive and astringent, and is used topically against warts, calluses, herpes (and other venereal diseases), and skin ulcers. The bark is used to reduce mucus; the roots for bile complaints; and the fruit is considered emollient (soothing and softening the skin). The leaves are considered to reduce pain, and are used for asthma, liver disorders, edema and to promote menstruation. In other parts of Latin America and the Amazon, it is often touted as a "cure" for asthma after only a few weeks of taking a tea brewed from its leaves. (This has not been confirmed with any clinical research, however).
Little research has been done to determine individual phytochemicals in embauba. In general, it is known to contain glycosides, lipids, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, cardenolids, triterpenes, polyphenols, steroids, and resins. A recent (2002) U.S. patent named ambain (a glycoside) and cecropin (an alkaloid) as the active plant chemicals in embauba that have cardiotonic and diuretic properties. The flavonoids and proanthocyanidins in embauba recently were reported to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in vitro. (ACE-inhibitors represent a class of pharmaceutical drugs used for hypertension which promote vasodilation and act as a diuretic.) The traditional use of embauba for high blood pressure might be explained if these chemicals can be demonstrated to inhibit ACE in humans and animals.
Main plant chemicals in embauba include: ambain, arachidic acid, behenic acid, cecropin, cerotic acid, chlorogenic acid, isoorientin, leucocyanidin, lignoceric acid, polysaccharides, proanthocyanidins, stearic acid, and ursolinic acid.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
Preliminary research is just beginning to explain and verify some of embaubas
many uses in traditional medicine. Animal studies (with mice, rats, and guinea
pigs) have shown that leaf extracts have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and
antispasmodic activities which may explain, in part, its widespread traditional
use in respiratory disorders. Cuban researchers, however, reported that
leaf infusions did not evidence any bronchodilator activity (in guinea pigs.
Other animal research has indicated that the plant can increase urination and
lower blood pressure. One study reported that it increased urine flow in rats
by 20 percent without affecting the excretion of sodium and potassium. Two
different research groups (in Costa Rica and Mexico) reported that leaf extracts
reduced blood pressure in rats.
Another of embaubas traditional uses has been for diabetes. This use also
has been studied in animals and verified by researchers. Water extracts of the
leaf given to mice and rats were shown to lower blood sugar levels in two studies; a hot water extract given to rabbits and dogs elicited the same blood sugar-lowering effect. One of these research groups attributed the hypoglycemic effect of the leaf, in part, to two flavone chemicals in embauba (isoorientin and chlorogenic acid) which, when tested individually, also demonstrated
hypoglycemic activity in rats. Animal studies confirm the anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and
antispasmodic properties of embauba.
Embauba has been reported to have in vitro antibacterial activity against
various bacteria (such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, and
Shigella). Water extracts seemed to have much more biological activity against bacteria than methanol or ethanol extracts in vitro. An ethanol extract of the leaf and stem was reported to have in vitro antifungal activity, but water extracts were inactive (which suggests that antibacterial actions are derived from different chemicals than those providing antifungal actions). Embauba has also shown antioxidant activity with potent free-radical scavenging action. In 2002 a U.S. patent was filed on various embauba extracts for use in cosmetics and dermatology. The patent reported the extracts had pronounced action on lipolysis (fat-burning) which make them useful in slimming preparations, but also owing to their tightening effect, their smoothing properties and the improvement of the radiance of the skin.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
It is hoped that researchers will continue to study embauba and validate more of its traditional uses - in particular, its use in respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. In the meantime, healthcare practitioners and herbalists around the world are utilizing this plant for not only respiratory disorders, but also for its cardiotonic and hypotensive properties, antidiabetic activity, and for its (yet-to-be-studied) use in Parkinson's disease. Generally, for upper respiratory problems and asthma; a standard leaf infusion is prepared and taken in 1 cup dosages 2-3 times daily. To help balance blood sugar levels, a cup of a leaf infusion is taken with each meal.
| HORMIGO PLANT SUMMARY |
Main Preparation Method: infusion |
Main Actions (in order):
cough suppressant, anti-asthmatic, decongestant, antispasmodic, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart)
Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
- for asthma
- for upper respiratory problems (coughs, bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, pulmonary sarcoidosis)
- for upper respiratory bacterial and viral infections
- for high blood pressure
- for Parkinson's disease
ACE-inhibitor (typically lowers blood pressure), analgesic (pain-reliever), anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antispasmodic, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), diuretic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
anti-asthmatic, antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding), antiseptic, antivenin, antiviral, astringent, cough suppressant, central nervous system depressant, decongestant, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive stimulant, expectorant, hepatotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the liver), laxative, menstrual stimulant, wound healer
Cautions: It may increase the effect of diabetic and high blood pressure drugs.
Traditional Preparation: Traditionally, 1/2 to 1 cup of a standard leaf infusion is taken two to three times daily. If desired, 2-3 grams of powdered leaf in tablets or capsules twice daily can be substituted.
- Embauba has a traditional use of aiding childbirth and to promote menstruation. It should not be taken during pregnancy.
- The plant has been reported in animal studies to have cardiotonic properties, increasing the strength of cardiac muscle contraction. It should not be used by anyone with a cardiac disorder unless monitored by a medical doctor. Embauba also has demonstrated hypotensive activity in animal studies. Those with low blood pressure or those on medication to lower their blood pressure should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional prior to using this plant.
- Embauba has demonstrated a hypoglycemic effect in animals. It is contraindicated for persons with hypoglycemia. Diabetics should use this plant with caution as blood sugar levels should be monitored closely.
Drug Interactions: None reported in literature; however, embauba may potentiate cardiotonics (such as digitalis) as well as antihypertensive and ACE-inhibitor drugs. It may potentiate anti-diabetic and insulin drugs.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
||for asthma, bruises, childbirth, diabetes, fractures, inflammation, kidney problems, respiratory difficulties, rheumatic diseases, sores, wounds|
||for asthma, bleeding, bronchitis, cancer, Chagas disease, cough, congestion, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, edema, flu, gonorrhea, heart problems, hemorrhages, hemorrhoids, hypertension, liver support, malaria, Parkinson's disease, pneumonia, respiratory disorders, rheumatism, snakebite, ulcers, urinary insufficiency, urinary tract disorders, vaginal discharge, warts, wounds, and as an expectorant|
||for childbirth, heart problems, menstrual difficulties, Parkinson's disease|
||for arterial hypertension, urinary insufficiency|
||for abscesses, aches, asthma, bile diseases, calluses, coughs, digestive, diuretic, dysentery, edema, fever, gonorrhea, heart conditions, herpes, liver disorders, pains, skin problems, ulcers, venereal disease, warts|
||for asthma, atherosclerosis, heart support, diabetes, edema, fever, gonorrhea, hypertension, rheumatism, urinary insufficiency, and to promote perspiration|
||for asthma, bladder problems, bites (scorpion, ants), burns, calluses, childbirth, chorea, corns, coughs, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, edema, fever, fractures, heart support, hepatitis, inflammation, liver support, nerve disorders, obesity, pulmonary problems, renal disorders, ulcers, urinary insufficiency, warts, wounds|
||for abscesses, aches, coughs, diarrhea, digestive problems, fever, gastric, headache, intestinal disorders, liver support, pain, skin problems|
||for bleeding, diarrhea, energy, fever, heart support, Parkinson's disease, water retention, wounds|
||for bronchitis, cough, fever, flu, scorpion bite, snakebite|
||for asthma, bronchitis, constipation, fungal infections, heart support, menstrual irregularities, pain, water retention|
||for constipation, heart support, inflammation, wounds|
||for abscesses, aches, asthma, bronchitis, calluses, cancer, childbirth, corns, coughs, diabetes, diarrhea, digestive problems, dysentery, edema, fever, flu, fractures, gonorrhea, heart support, hematoma, hepatitis, herpes, hypertension, liver support, menstrual disorders, nerves, obesity, pain, scorpion bite, skin problems, snakebite, venereal disease, water retention, warts, wounds, and as an antiseptic|
Third-Party Published Research on Hormigo
All available third-party research on embauba can be found at PubMed.
A partial listing of the published research on embauba is shown below:
Carbajal, D., et al. “Pharmacological screening of plant decoctions commonly used in Cuban folk medicine.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1991; 33: 21–4.
Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Muscle-Relaxant & Pain-relieving Actions:
Perea Guerrero, C., et al. “A pharmacological study of Cecropia obtusifolia Bertol. aqueous extract.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2001; 76(3): 279–84.
Feng, P. C., et al. “Pharmacological screening of some West Indian medicinal plants.” J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 1962; 14: 556–61.
Rojas, J. J., et al. “Screening for antimicrobial activity of ten medicinal plants used in Colombian folkloric medicine: A possible alternative in the treatment of non-nosocomial infections.” BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2006 Feb; 6(1): 2.
Zavala, M. A., et al. “Antimicrobial screening of some medicinal plants.” Phytother. Res. 1997; 11(5): 368–71.
Lopez Abraham, A. N., et al. “Potential antineoplastic activity of Cuban plants.” Rev. Cubana Farm. 1981; 15(1): 71–7.
Misas, C. A. J., et al. “Contribution to the biological evaluation of Cuban plants. I.” Rev. Cub. Med. Trop. 1979; 31: 5.
Hypoglycemic & Anti-diabetic Actions:
Lans, C. A. "Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for urinary problems and diabetes mellitus." J. Ethnobiol. Ethnomedicine. 2006 Oct 13; 2: 45.
Andrade-Cetto, A., et al. "Disease-Consensus Index as a tool of selecting potential hypoglycemic plants in Chikindzonot, Yucatan, Mexico." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Sep; 107(2): 199-204.
Nicasio, P., et al. “Hypoglycemic effect and chlorogenic acid content in two Cecropia species.” Phytother. Res. 2005; 19(8): 661-4.
Andrade-Cetto, A., et al. "Mexican plants with hypoglycaemic effect used in the treatment of diabetes." J. Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jul; 99(3): 325-48.
Herrera-Arellano, A., et al. “Clinical trial of Cecropia obtusifolia and Marrubium vulgare leaf extracts on blood glucose and serum lipids in type 2 diabetics.” Phytomedicine. 2004 Nov; 11(7-8): 561-6.
Andrade-Cetto, A., et al. “Hypoglycemic effect of Cecropia obtusifolia on streptozotocin diabetic rats.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2001; 78(2–3): 145–9.
Raman-Ramos, R., et al. “Experimental study of hypoglycemic activity of some antidiabetic plants.” Arch. Invest. Med. 1991; 22(1): 87–93.
Mellado, V., et al. “Effect of the aqueous extract of Cecropia obtusifolia on the blood sugar of normal and pancreatectomized dogs.” Int. J. Crude Drug Res. 1984; 22(1): 11–16.
Perez, R. M., et al. “A study of the hypoglycemic effect of some Mexican plants.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1984; 12(3): 253–62.
Hypotensive & Heart Tonic Actions:
Ramos Almeida, R., et al. “Activity of Cecropia extract on contractility of cardiac and smooth muscles in wistar rats.” Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol. 2006 Jan; 33(1-2): 109-13.
Consolini, A. E., et al. “Cardiotonic and sedative effects of Cecropia pachystachya Mart. (ambay) on isolated rat hearts and conscious mice.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Jun 15; 106(1): 90-6.
Consolini, A. E., et al. “Cardiovascular effects of the South American medicinal plant Cecropia pachystachya (ambay) on rats.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jan; 96(3): 417-22
Lacaille-Dubois., et al. “Search for potential angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)-inhibitors from plants.” Phytomedicine. 2001; 8(1): 47–52.
Salas, I., et al. “Antihypertensive effect of Cecropia obtusifolia (Moraceae) leaf extract on rats.” Rev. Biol. Trop. 1987; 35(1): 127–30.
Vidrio, H., et al. “Hypotensive activity of Cecropia obtusifolia.” J. Pharm. Sci. 1982; 71(4): 475–6.
Vargas Howell, R., et al. “Diuretic effect of Cecropia obtusifolia (Moraceae) on albino rats.” Rev. Biol. Trop.
1996; 44(1): 93–6.
Antioxidant & Wound-Healing Actions:
Nayak, B. S. et al. "Cecropia peltata L (Cecropiaceae) has wound-healing potential: a preclinical study in a Sprague Dawley rat model." Int. J. Low Extrem. Wounds. 2006 Mar; 5(1): 20-6.
Desmarchelier, C. J., et al. "Pharmacological activity of South American plants: effects on spontaneous in vivo lipid peroxidation." Phytother. Res. 2003; 17(1): 80-2.
Velazquez, E., et al. “Antioxidant activity of Paraguayan plant extracts.” Fitoterapia. 2003; 74(1–2): 91–7.
Rocha, F. F., et al. “Evaluation of the anxiolytic-like effects of Cecropia glazioui Sneth in mice.” Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 2002; 71(1-2): 183-90.