Calumba is a tropical climbing vine which produces large fleshy or tuberous roots. It is native to the tropical areas of Eastern and Southern Africa but can now be found cultivated in many tropical regions, including Brazil. The genus, comprising only two species, is also native to the Madagascar rainforest.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
The root of this tropical plant is used in traditional medicine systems world wide. It was first recorded in herbal medicine in 1671 when Portuguese traders took the plant from Africa back to Europe. Calumba root has long held a place in herbal medicine as a gentle but very effective digestive bitter. Bitters work on the principal that a bitter taste in the mouth signals the flow of digestive juices and bile to aid or speed up digestion processes. Calumba root appears in the 1922 Eclectic Materia Medica which states: "The least irritating and one of the best of the simple bitters and of especial value in atony of the stomach with poor appetite and feeble digestion. It is especially valuable in convalescence from acute fevers and other disorders in which there is lack of desire for food and poor digestion, with pain or without pain, immediately upon eating."
In Brazilian herbal medicine systems (where calumba is commonly cultivated as a medicinal plant) the root is used for poor digestion, low stomach acid, diarrhea, gas, and loss of appetite.
Calumba root contains 2-3% total alkaloids, chiefly protoberberines (palmatine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine), as well as furanoditerpenoid lactones which attribute to the very bitter taste of the root. Several of these alkaloids have a narcotic effect similar to morphine. Other chemical include: alkaloids, bisjatrorrhizine, chasmanthin, columbamine, columbin, columbin-2,3-epoxide, columbinyl-glucoside, cryptogenin, diosgenin, EO, isojateorinyl-glucoside, jateorine, jateorinyl-glucoside, jateorrhizine, mucilage, palmarin, palmatine, and starch.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
Researchers in Japan conducted a study in 2002 with rats. They extracted a chemical from calumba root called columbin and fed it to rats in very low dosages. They reported that this compound was able to prevent colon cancer stating: "These results indicate chemopreventive ability of dietary columbin against chemically induced colon tumorigenesis when fed during the initiation phase, providing a scientific basis for chemopreventive ability of columbin against human colon cancer."
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
||for diarrhea, dysentery |
||for diarrhea, poor digestion, dysentery, dyspepsia, nausea, and as a gastrotonic,
stomachic, bitter tonic|
||for diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, wounds, and as a tonic|
||as an antiseptic, aperitif, gastrotonic, restorative, vermifuge and for dysentery|
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Last updated 12-17-2012