( Maytenus krukouit )
Staff tree, spindle tree,
celastraceae, molina, coemeni, chuchuguache, chuchuguaza
analgesic, diuretic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic
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.
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.
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.
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.