Ipecac

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Posted by admin | Posted in Ipecac | Posted on 07-09-2010

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I think all of us remember Syrup of Ipecac from when we were children and our parents wanted to empty our stomachs of the strange things we had ingested.

Cephaelis ipecacuanha (syn Psychotria ipecacuanha) is of the Family Euphorbiaceae.

Other names were American Ipecac, American-ipecac, Ipecac Spurge, White Ipecacuanha

Description: It is a small shrub with a slender stem growing to 1 foot.  It has a few oblong leaves, small white flowers, and purple-black berries.

Cultivation: It is native to South America, mainly Brazil. The plant prefers moist, shady woods. Cultivation has been attempted in Southeast Asia, but with limited success.  It prefers well-drained, humus-rich soil in shade, with ample moisture and humidity with a minimum of 59-64F. Propagate by greenwood cuttings in late spring, in sandy soil mix at 70-75F or by root cuttings during harvesting. The root of 3 year old plants is gathered throughout the year, although the Indians collect it when it is in flower during mid-winter and late winter. Dry before use.

History: The name Ipecacuanha, from the language of the Brazilian aborigines, has been applied to various emetic roots of South America. The Portuguese learned of this Indian remedy for bowel problems when they settled Brazil, and the root was introduced to Europe around 1672 as a remedy for dysentery. Originally sold in Paris as a secret cure, the plant showed such value in bowel affections that no less a personage than Louis XIV eventually bestowed a large sum of money and public honors on the physician who popularized its use, on the condition that he make it public.

Constituents: alkaloids including emetine and cephaeline; the glycosidal tannins ipecauanhic acid and ipecauanhin, ipecoside, starch, calcium oxalate

Properties: expectorant, emetic, sialagogue, anti-protozoal

Medicinal Uses: Ipecacuanha is mainly used as an expectorant in bronchitis and conditions such as whooping cough. At higher doses it is a powerful emetic and as such is used in the treatment of poisoning. Particularly useful for drug overdose. Care must be taken in the use of this herb. After an effective emetic dose has been given, large amounts of water should be taken as well. Ipecacuanha stimulates saliva production and helps expectoration through stimulation of mucous secretion and then its removal. Still used for amebic dysentery with good results.

Dosage: Only a small amount of the herb should be used. .01-.25g for an infusion. Pour a cup of boiling water onto a small amount of the herb (the size of a pea) and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Drink 3 times a day. For a powerful emetic, 1-2g should be used, which equals ¼ – ½ tsp when used for an infusion.

Combinations: In bronchial conditions it combines well with white horehound, coltsfoot and grindelia. In amebic dysentery combine with American cranesbill or Echinacea.

Toxicity: Do not use the root or rhizome. Take formulations containing ipecac carefully and only as instructed on the label.

References:
The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann, Element Books, 1996; ISBN: 1-85230-758-7
Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants

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