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Ipecacuanha

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  • Botanical: Carapichea ipecacuanha
  • Family: Rubiaceae
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Botanical

Carapichea ipecacuanha

Family

Rubiaceae

Known as

Ipecacuanha, Brechwurzel, Ruhrwurzel

Old Use

medical

Collection Times

January and February

Parts Used

roots

Medicinal

acne, anorexia, bronchitis, bronchitis, colds, coughs, sore throat, throat infections, tonsillitis

Respiratory System

bronchitis, catarrh, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, throat infections, tonsillitis

Properties

antiseptic, anti inflammatory, carminative, expectorant

Description

The plant has a slender stem which grows partly underground and is often procumbent at the base, the lower portion being knotted. Fibrous rootlets are given off from the knots, and some of them develop an abnormally thick bark, in which much starch is deposited. The thickened rootlets alone are collected and dried for medicinal use, since the active constituents of the drug are found chiefly in the bark.

Properties & Uses

In large doses, Ipecacuanha root is emetic; in smaller doses, diaphoretic and expectorant, and in still smaller, stimulating to the stomach, intestines and liver, exciting appetite and facilitating digestion. The dose of the powdered root is 1/4 to 2 grains when an expectorant action is desired (it is frequently used in the treatment of bronchitis and laryngitis, combined with other drugs, aiding in the expulsion of the morbid product), and from 15 to 30 grains when given as an emetic, which is one of its most valuable functions. The Pharmacopoeias contain a very large number of preparations of Ipecacuanha, most of which are standardized. Ipecacuanha has been known for more than a century to benefit amoebic (or tropical) dysentery, and is regarded as the specific treatment, but the administration of the drug by mouth was limited by its action as an emetic. Sir Leonard Rogers showed in 1912 that subcutaneous injections of the alkaloid Emetine, the chief active principle present in Ipecacuanha usually produced a rapid cure in cases of amoebic dysentery. The toxic action of Emetine on the heart must be watched. A preparation from which the Emetine has been removed, known as de-emetized Ipecacuanha, is also in use for cases of dysentery.

Cautions

Toxic doses cause gastro-enteritis, cardiac failure, dilation of the blood-vessels, severe bronchitis and pulmonary inflammation.

Distribution

The root used in medicine under this name is that of a small, shrubby plant about a foot high, belonging to the order Rubiaceae, which is found in most parts of Brazil, growing in clumps or patches, in moist, shady woods.

Constituents

The chief constituents of Ipecacuanha root are the alkaloids Emetine, Cephaelin and Psychotrine, of which the bark may contain from 1.5 to 2 per cent, of which about 72 per cent consists of Emetine and 26 per cent of Cephaelin, while only 2 per cent consists of Psychotrine. Emetine, to which Ipecacuanha owes its properties and which, with the exception of traces, occurs only in the cortical portion of the root, is an amorphous white powder, but it forms crystalline salts. It has a bitter taste, no odour and turns yellow when exposed to air and light. Other constituents are a crystalline saponin- like glucoside, an amorphous, bitter glucoside, which is a modification of tannin, and is known as Ipecacuanhic acid, choline, resin, pectin, starch, sugar, calcium oxalate, odorous, fatty matter and a disagreeable-smelling volatile oil. Cartagena Ipecacuanha contains 2 to 3 per cent more alkaloidal matter than the Brazilian drug, but a smaller proportion of Emetine, Cephaelin being the alkaloid present in largest quantities.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.