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Chuchuhuasi

( Maytenus krukouit )

 

Family

Celastraceae

 

Synonyms

Staff tree, spindle tree, celastraceae, molina, coemeni, chuchuguache, chuchuguaza

 

Character

Anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, analgesic, diuretic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic

 

Description

Chuchuhuasi is considered the best known of all jungle remedies in Columbia and Peru. The Maytenus genus includes both trees and shrubs, and the chuchuhuasi variety has been described as small evergreen tree or shrub with large red stems and spirally arranged leaves. It flowers during the first half of the rainy season and bears fruit in the second. It grows in tropical areas of South America and the West Indies.

 

Phytochemistry

Alkaloids, lupanes and maytansinoids, including maytanprine, maytanbutine and normaytansine

 

Traditional rain forest use

Chuchuhuasi bark is well known in western regions of the Amazon as a versatile medicinal agent. Its bark was soaked in water overnight as an oral medicine for the type of pain associated with arthritis joints. The Sionas would make concentrated decoctions of the bark to be taken three times daily for rheumatism and joint pain. A root decoction was also used as a stimulant and a diuretic, and for gastrointestinal complaints. Poultices of the green leaves were used to heal sores. Brazilian tribes used the leaves as a wash for certain types of skin cancers and chuchuhuasi bark was also used for syphilis. Aqueous extracts of the stems, leaves and seeds were utilized in central Chilean regions for treating internal pain. Combining the bark with honey is considered a cordial type drink.

 

Modern medicinal applications

The National Cancer Institute has been studying maytasine, a compound which was isolated from the stem wood of this tree in 1980. This compound has shown significant activity against various types of animal tumors, including lymphatic leukemia, melanoma and carcinosarcoma. Its traditional use for stomach complaints and joint pain suggests its value as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and carminative. This compound has reached phase II in clinical trials and considerable attention has turned toward the possibility of synthetically producing it.

 

Authentication

Maytasine has demonstrated its ability to inhibit a variety of animal tumors by prohibiting the formation of the mitotic spindle which results in impaired cellular reproduction.

 

Safety

Using maytasine alone has side effects and must be done only under the supervision of a medical doctor. The whole herb can be used safely in combinations and in proper dosages.

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