Botanical Name: Chondrodendron tomentosum
Parts Used: Leaf, Root
Common Names: Curare, Grieswurzel, Pareira Brava, Pareira, Vigne Sauvage, pareira, uva-da-serra, uva-do-mato, ampihuasca blanca, antinupa, antinoopa, comida de venados, curari, ourari, woorari, worali, velvet leaf
This deciduous plant will flower in a container just prior to leafing out. The flowers are attractive red “spikes”. Zone 9+ The bright red seeds contain a number of poisonous alkaloids that have a curare-like action.
Curare grows as a large liana, or vine, found in the canopy of the South American rainforest. The vine may get as thick as 4 inches in diameter at its base. It has large alternate, heart-shaped leaves which may be 4-8 inches long and almost as wide, with a 2-6 inches long petiole. The leaves are smooth on top with a hairy white bottom, and deeply indented veins radiating from the leaf base. Clusters of small (1/16-1/8 inches), greenish-white flowers are made up of separate male and female flowers. The fleshy fruits are oval, narrow at the base, and approximately 1-2 mm long.
The fruit of this vine is edible with a bitter-sweet taste.
Some Indians of South America crush and cook the roots and stems, and add other plants and venomous animals, mixing it until it becomes a light syrup. They call this mixture “ampi”, or “curaré”, which they use on the tip of their arrows and darts to hunt wild game. Crude curare is a dark brown or black mass with a sticky to hard consistency and an aromatic, tarry odor. The name comes from Indian word meaning “poison.”
Curare, in large doses, paralyses the motor nerve-endings in striped muscle, and death occurs from respiratory failure. Curare is very bitter, and is actually a common name for various dart poisons originating from South America.
The young flowers and new growth are added to soups and other food preparations as a soporific vegetables.
Curare has differing effects depending upon dosage, whether it is injected into muscle tissue, or ingested. Curare is used internally in tribal medicine for edema, fever, kidney stones and testicular inflammation. It is also known to relax muscles into a state of inactivity.
Under appropriate medical care and attention, curare is also used to relieve spastic paralysis, to treat some mental disorders, and to induce muscle relaxation for setting fractures. Curare is now used extensively in modern medicine. It is only toxic if it enters the bloodstream. Curare is not for sale to the general public.
As with many Amazonian tribal plant history and legend, curare is prepared by old women. In some traditions, the witch doctor has a monopoly of the business, but generally, wise old men get together to brew a batch. Extra curare was usually carried by tribal members in a gourd or calabash, and stored with weapons.
The active ingredient in “curaré”, D-tubocurarine, is used in medicine. Brazilians consider the root a diuretic, and use it internally in small quantities for madness and dropsy, and externally for bruises. It is also used for edema, fever, and kidney stones.
Curare is an alkaloid, and acts as a neuromuscular blocking agent to produce paralysis in muscles. It first affects the muscles of the toes, ears, and eyes, then those of the neck, arms and legs, and finally, those involved in breathing. In fatal doses, death is caused by respiratory paralysis. Curare must get into the blood system for it to work. It doesn’t hurt to eat something killed by a poisoned curare arrow, for instance.
The therapeutical employment of curare has been suggested in certain severe and obstinate spasmodic affections, as in epilepsy, chorea, hydrophobia, and, more particularly, in tetanus. It is used by subcutaneous injections of its filtered aqueous solution, thus: Add curare 1 grain, to distilled water 24 minims; dissolve, let the solution stand 48 hours, and filter; of this, from 2 minims (1/12 grain) to 6 minims (1/4 grain) may be used at one injection, carefully repeating the injections until relaxation of the muscles has been effected. Curarine, dissolved in water, with a few drops of sulphuric acid added, to facilitate its solution, is to be used in still smaller doses—from the 1/240 to the 1/120 part of a grain. It is doubtful whether this agent will ever come into general use as a medicinal remedy; at least, not so long as other medicines are known in which greater confidence can be placed. The diversity of action, attributable, in some instances, to its difference of composition, in others to its inertness, or to its highly active qualities, render it an uncertain, as well as an unsafe, remedy.
It is used in modern medicine primarily as an auxiliary in general anesthesia, frequently with cyclopropane, especially in abdominal surgery. Upon injection, curare acts as a neuromuscular blocking agent to produce flaccidity in striated (striped) muscle (it competes with acetylcholine at the nerve ending, preventing nerve impulses from activating skeletal, or voluntary, muscles). It first affects the muscles of the toes, ears, and eyes, then those of the neck and limbs, and, finally, those involved in respiration. In fatal doses, death is caused by respiratory paralysis.
Practitioners commonly rely on velvet leaf as an excellent natural remedy for menstrual difficulties, including cramping and pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), excessive bleeding, and fibroid tumors. Its ability to curb excessive menstrual bleeding very quickly can be quite remarkable. It is often employed in overall female balancing formulas, in kidney formulas (for its diuretic and smooth-muscle relaxant effects), and, in combination with other plants, in heart tonics and hypertension remedies. It is also considered effective against malaria, fever, hepatic ailments, gastric ulcers, diabetes, anemia, high cholesterol, cerebral tonic, fever, typhoid, stomach ulcers, pain killer, chronic inflammation of the urinary passages, good diuretic, etc. In North American herbal medicine, velvet leaf is used for many of the same conditions as in South America as well as for inflammation of the testicles and minor kidney problems. Pereira root also acts as an antiseptic to the bladder and is therefore employed for the relief of chronic inflammation of the urinary passages. It is also a good diuretic. The decoction of the stems and roots mixed with wild bee honey is used to treat sterile women. Root decoction used for post-menstrual hemorrhages, the alcoholic maceration, for rheumatism. Macerated leaves, bark and root, mixed with rum, are used by as aphrodisiac. Root decoction used as a cardio tonic, anti-anemic, anti-malarial. One tribe use a leaf decoction for fever and another use the decoction of the bark and stem as a dental analgesic. Some Ecuadorian tribes use the leaf decoction for conjunctivitis and snakebite. Others use the root tea for difficult delivery and nervous or weak children with colic. Also used in homeopathy, in the form of a mother tincture.
Abutua is a very useful herb for women’s affections. Its antispasmodic action makes it influential in treating cramps, painful menstruation and pre and post-natal pain. Brazilian Indian women have for centuries valued its analgesic powers, and the satchels of almost all midwives contain the root of this plant. Helpful for menstrual cramps and difficult menstruation, pre- and post-natal pain Aids poor digestion, drowsiness after meals and constipation.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.