Cephaelis ipecacuanha (Rubiaceae)
IPECACUANHA ROOT, MATFO GROSSO
Enthusiastically adopted from the
New World by Europe in the 17th century, ipecacuanha root is used by
herbalists and orthodox doctors for coughs and to cause vomiting after drug
overdose. Homeopaths prescribe it for nausea and vomiting.
This plant is still harvested from the tropical forests of Brazil, where it is native. Its
medicinal value was recorded first by a Portuguese friar who lived in Brazil around 1600, and it was brought to Europe 70 years later.
It became so popular as a treatment for dysentery that the French government
bought a formula of the herb from the doctor Helvetius, who was selling his own patent medicine. A perennial with a fibrous root and oval leaves,
it produces clusters of
small mauve flowers in the autumn, followed by small purple berries.
Alkaloids, especially emetine, cephaeline, and protoemetine; tannins; glycosides; saponins.
Expectorant; causes vomiting; kills protozoa.
Prescribed by herbalists and in orthodox medicine for chesty coughs such as bronchitis,
and also given as an emetic to cause vomiting, especially in drug overdose where the stomach needs to be emptied immediately.
As a herb, it has been used against amoebic dysentery. Used in homeopathy (Ipecac) for coughing associated with nausea and vomiting, and for morning sickness.
Decoction, tincture, in proprietary cough medicines, homeopathic remedies.
Large doses are irritant to the whole intestine and should be taken only on the. advice of a qualified practitioner.