Herbs & Plants

Deguelia utilis

Botanical Name: Deguelia utilis
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Tribe: Millettieae
Genus: Deguelia
Species: D. utilis

Synonyms : Lonchocarpus utilis A.C.Sm. Derris nicou auct Derris utilis (A.C.Sm.) Ducke Lonchocarpus nicou auct Lonchocarpus nicou utilis (A.C.Sm.) A.M.G.Azevedo

Common Names: Barbasco, cube, timbo, nicou, lancepod

Habitat: Deguelia utilis is native to S. America – Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas. It grows in both dense, primary rainforest and also in more open areas of secondary growth, often as a relict of cultivation. It is found in a range of conditions, sometimes in soils subject to periodic flooding, often near rivers, in acid to neutral soils.

Deguelia utilis is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to around 3 metres tall when young, but generally adopting a more climbing habit as it grows older with stems that can climb 15 metres into the surrounding trees.

It is one of the sources of rotenone, an organic insecticide used as a fish and ant poison. It is commonly found in South America. It has a symbiotic relationship with a certain soil bacteria that forms nodules on the roots and fixes atmospheric nitrogen.


A plant of the moist, lowland tropics, usually in areas with year-round rainfall. Succeeds in moderate sun to fairly deep shade so long as the top growth can climb towards the light. Prefers a neutral to acid soil, usually found on more or less clay soils in the wild. In some areas where it grows it is subject to periodic inundation of the soil. Some forms of this plant do not produce seed, probably as a result of long term cultivation with propagation by cuttings. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation: Through seeds – Cuttings root easily.

Edible Uses: Not known

Medicinal Uses:
The plant contains some compounds similar to curare. Traditional healers crush the bark until a white milky substance exudes, they take one spoonful of this and retire. Twenty-four hours later they relate their visions to the tribes people.

Other Uses: The roots contain rotenone, which can be used as an insecticide.

Known Hazards: The plant contains rotenone and has been used traditionally as a fish poison- the rotenone kills or stuns the fish making them easy to catch, but the fish remain perfectly edible for mammals. Rotenone is classified by the World Health Organization as moderately hazardous. It is mildly toxic to humans and other mammals, but extremely toxic to many insects (hence its use as an insecticide) and aquatic life, including fish. This higher toxicity in fish and insects is because the lipophilic rotenone is easily taken up through the gills or trachea, but not as easily through the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. The lowest lethal dose for a child is 143 mg/kg, but human deaths from rotenone poisoning are rare because its irritating action causes vomiting. Deliberate ingestion of rotenone, however, can be fatal.
The compound decomposes when exposed to sunlight and usually has an activity of six days in the environment.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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