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"The plant that makes you sick", Ipecacuanha, is the name for this emetic in its natural area of origin in tropical South America. Alkaloids in the rootstock of the Brazilian shrub irritate the gastric nerves and thus help to vomit toxins. The substances that cause vomiting, however, are themselves toxic - especially with the crow's root: the dose makes the poison.
Characteristics of the crow's root
- Scientific name: Carapichea ipecacuanha
- Common names: Ipecacuanha, dysentery root, spicy root, cranberry, Brazilian root, Ipecac, Brazilian crow root, Colombian crow root
- Parts of plants used: Rhizome
- application areas:
- Cough (folk medicine)
- bronchial diseases
- Stomach cramps
- flu infections
Nausea contains alkaloids such as cephaelin, psychotrin, O-methylpsychotrin and emetine, glycosides, iridoids and vegetable acids. The root consists of 30 to 40 percent starch and 3 to 4 percent acidic saponins.
Effects - alkaloids
The alkaloids in the root irritate the gastric mucosa, and this leads to the increased production of bronchial secretions. At higher doses, the root causes a strong urge to vomit, which is why the plant was traditionally used in South America to remove toxins taken orally. Ipecacuanha syrup triggers severe vomiting with a delay of up to 30 minutes by irritating the responsible nerve fibers of the parasympathetic nervous system.
How does emetin work?
Emetin is an isoquinoline alkaloid (isoquinoline). It limits protein biosynthesis and prevents the attachment of the aminoacyl tRNA molecules (aminoacyl tRNA) to the 60 S subunit of euryactic ribosomes. Emetin is medically effective because it inhibits the division of vegetative forms of the nude amoeba (Entamoeba histolytica) living in the intestine. This causes the disease amoebic dysentery. In the past, crow's root was used as a remedy against the Ruhr. By stimulating the gastric nerves, emetin also triggers vomiting.
Side effects - anaphylactic shock
The medically effective substances, the alkaloids, are themselves toxins. Adverse effects at higher doses include dizziness, hypotension and increased salivation, as well as an overactive thyroid.
The desired nausea can lead to disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, associated with bloody diarrhea, nausea and pain, and shortness of breath. Allergic reactions are common and show up as itching, rash and water retention in the vessels. A fever can occur.
Attention: A reaction to the alkaloids can be anaphylactic shock, which, in addition to shortness of breath and organ failure, can lead to cardiac arrest - and death.
The dried underground parts of the plant serve as tea, extract or powder for bronchitis, bronchial asthma, whooping cough, gastrointestinal inflammation, mucosal bleeding and circulatory disorders. Herbal medicine can be injected under the skin, taken orally, administered intramuscularly or intravenously. The active substance is available as a liquid dilution for injection, as tablets, drops or syrups.
As a home remedy?
Exact dosing is necessary for crushed roots. 0.5 - 2 grams of the drug already trigger the urge to vomit. The active ingredients are toxic themselves, and overdosing puts those at risk of life. That is why Ipecacuanha in its natural form is not suitable as a home remedy. You should not consume the plant as self-made tea, but only as a standardized preparation and adhere exactly to the prescribed dosage.
Ipecacuanha - naturopathy and phytotherapy
Naturopathy describes medicine with means that are not produced synthetically. This includes phytotherapy, i.e. healing with herbal products such as sage, mint or Ipecacuanha, but also with minerals and "forces of nature", including water (baths, washes, drinking), air (climatic health resort, forest walks, etc.), Warmth (hot baths, sauna, sweat cures) or cold.
Ipecacuanha - folk medicine and traditional medicine
A large part of the people worldwide was and still depends on getting remedies for diseases from the surrounding nature, so practices naturopathy. Ipecacuanha also collected and collect indigenous people in South America. It grows as a shrub in open tropical forests in Brazil, especially in Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais. The name Ipecacuanha comes from the Tupi language and is derived from "i-pee-kaa-guene", which means "plant on the way that makes you sick".
American natives used ipecacuanha as a means to vomit swallowed poisons, knowing, as the indigenous name suggests, the harmful effects that the root itself can have.
Ipecacuanha in complementary medicine
Due to the toxic effects of the alkaloids, ipecacuanha (in its pure form) is not recognized as a herbal medicinal product in Germany. In exact doses, however, the active ingredients are found in various medicines.
As an emetic, these main therapies can help, for example in the case of poisoning: In this way, the vomiting root does not counteract poisoning itself, but helps to remove the toxins from the body through the urge to vomit. If a toxic effect has already started, other medicines are required to combat the toxic substances in the body.
Ipecacuanha in homeopathy
In homeopathy, a healing doctrine founded by the doctor Samuel Hahnemann on the threshold of the 19th century, substances are diluted and are supposed to be potentiated at the same time. In high potencies, the finished agent no longer contains any of the active ingredient, in medium and low potencies only barely measurable amounts.
In homeopathy, the target group of homeopathically diluted ipecacuanha is "impatient, often ill-tempered and irritable or anxious people", often with "bloated or sunken facial skin" and light excretions (menses as well as stool or saliva).
Homeopathy users assume that Ipecacuanha "like all homeopathic remedies" is well tolerated for all age groups, has no side effects and is also suitable for pregnant women and breastfeeding women. For example, “homeopathic remedies as energetic medicines” should support the immune system in order to “stimulate the body to heal itself” and use the “healing power of nature”.
However, caution is advised, because the active ingredients in Ipecacuanha, such as emetine, can lead to undesirable harmful effects even at slightly (too) high doses and, in the worst case, trigger death. However, homeopathic remedies do not pose any risk when used correctly by experienced therapists, however a medical effect of these remedies has not yet been clearly demonstrated.
Vomiting root against chronic lung disease (COPD)
In 2006, a study came to the conclusion that a herbal remedy with turnip, curly bough and sundew had good results in 105 patients with confirmed COPD and a smoking history. In a six-month double-blind study, the subjects received either the herbal medicine, a placebo or a standard mixture of salbutamol, theophylline and bromhexine.
Cough, expectoration, disability improved significantly with the standard mixture as well as with the combination preparation consisting of sundew, fence turnip and nausea, but not with placebo. The study said nothing about which of the plants and which of the substances they contained was responsible for the medicinal effects.
What is an emetic (emetic) used for?
Toxins and medications that a person accidentally or improperly takes orally can be removed by vomiting. Nausea is used to induce the necessary nausea. Ipecacuanha is also used in Latin America to convict drug smugglers who swallow cocaine in plastic bags.
Emetic or gastric lavage?
Gastric lavage is also used to remove harmful substances from the gastrointestinal tract and thus detoxify the body. An emetic has the advantage that it works faster and requires less effort, because gastric lavage involves inserting a gastric tube through the esophagus. With fast-acting poisons, the time advantage can save lives.
An emetic is not suitable for removing liquids that are corrosive, penetrate tissue and can damage it. Because when vomiting, such substances also damage the esophagus and the mouth and throat.
Dangers of emetics - bolus death and aspiration
In addition to the specific undesirable effects of Ipecacuanha, there are generally dangers when using emetics. Repeatedly, people have died from emetics. People with gastric damage are particularly at risk, for example due to tumors or chronic gastrointestinal disorders, operations in the food tract or Mallory-Weiss syndrome.
Even people without such a pre-stress can breathe in chyme when vomiting or suffer considerable discomfort from irritation of the vagus nerve. A risk of vomiting is bolus death, a cardiac arrest caused by a large foreign body that clogs the airways.
Medical history - amoebic dysentery and bronchitis
In 1648 Willem Piso and Georg Marggraf described the "Speiwurz" as a remedy for the Ruhr, in 1672 the doctor brought Legras root samples to Paris. Jean Adrien Helvétius (1661-1727) used the roots against dysentery in 1680. When the king of France was cured of his bloody diarrhea after taking Helvétius' remedy, the latter revealed that the medicine came from Ipecacuanha and was given 1000 Louisdor for it.
Dysentery is an inflammatory disease of the colon that was widespread at the time as a result of a bacterial infection - the amoebic dysentery. Apomorphine later proved to be more effective against this disease and replaced Ipecacuanha, but Nausea was still found in pharmacies to help cough up mucus in bronchial complaints.
In 1817, Pierre-Joseph Pelletier was able to isolate the main active ingredient, emetin, which irritates the nerve fibers of the parasymphatics. In 1861, a guideline for diphtheria was that emetic agents should be largely avoided in treatment, but were necessary to remove accumulated mucus. Then Ipecacuanha is preferable to all other means.
What does science say?
The American and European Organizations for Poison Centers and Clinical Toxicology emphasize: Ipecacuanha medical syrup should not be given to patients with poisoning as a routine. Experimental studies on how effectively such syrup removes poisons differed significantly in the results.
There is no evidence from clinical trials that this syrup improves the outcome of treating poisoned people, and as a routinely administered product, it should be banned from emergency medicine. There are also insufficient data to take Ipecacuanha immediately after ingesting toxins to recommend or not to recommend it. Ipecacuanha could reduce the effectiveness of activated carbon, oral antidotes and intestinal enemas. It should also not be given to anyone who shows a weakness in consciousness. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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