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Species: jaborandi, microphyllus, pennatifolius
Synonyms: Pilocarpus cearensis, P. officinalis
Common Names: Jaborandi, indian hemp, jaborandi-do-norte, catai-guacu, ibiratai, pimenta-de-cachorro, arruda do mato, arruda brava, jamguarandi, juarandi
Part Used: Leaves, roots
From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:
| JABORANDI |
| HERBAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIONS |
||increases milk flow
|increases heart rate
Jaborandi refers to a three to seven meter high shrubby tree with smooth grey bark, large
leathery leaves and thick, small, reddish-purple flowers. The leaves contain an essential oil
which gives off an aromatic balsam smell when they are crushed. Jaborandi is native to South
and Central America and to the West Indies. Several Pilocarpus species are called jaborandi
and used interchangeably in commerce and herbal medicine, including the main Brazilian
species of commerce: P. jaborandi, and P. microphyllus, and the Paraguay species P.
pennatifolius. All three tree species are very similar in appearance, chemical constituents and
traditional herbal medicine uses. The word jaborandi comes from the Tupi Indians and it means
“what causes slobbering” describing its ancient use in their rainforest herbal pharmacopeia.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
In 1570, Gabriel Soares de Souza, a European observer, first recorded that the Guarani Indians of Brazil were using jaborandi to treat mouth ulcers. In the 1630's two Dutch West Indian Company scientists documented other Brazilian Indians using it as a tonic or panacea for colds and flu, a remedy against gonorrhea and kidney stones and found that it was often used as an antidote to various poisons or toxins due to its ability to promote sweating, urination and salivation. The indigenous tribes prized the pronounced sweat-inducing properties of the plant particularly since they viewed sweating as a treatment in many diseases. The Indians also well knew of the plant's ability to induce salivation; several tribes named the plant "slobber-mouth" in their own languages.
In folk medicine systems in the tropics where it grows jaborandi has been used as a natural remedy for epilepsy, convulsions, gonorrhea, fever, influenza, pneumonia, gastrointestinal inflammations, kidney disease, psoriasis, neurosis, and as an agent to promote sweating. In Brazil jaborandi has been used by herbalists for bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, diphtheria, colds and flu, laryngitis, renal insufficiency, hepatitis, diabetes, kidney diseases, edema and fever. An infusion or cold maceration of the leaves induces sweating within 10 minutes - as much as 9 to 15 ounces of sweat can be excreted from a single dose! Externally it is used as a hair tonic which is believed to open pores and clean hair follicles, prevent hair loss, and generally aid in the manageability of hair.
The introduction of jaborandi leaves to western medicine was in 1873, when Symphronio Coutinho, a Brazilian doctor, went to Paris for a European doctoral degree, taking with him samples of the leaves. The copious sweating and salivation brought about by the leaves attracted the attention of French physicians who began clinical research, publishing their first studies just one year later. The studies showed that jaborandi leaves "increases enormously the perspiration and saliva, and, in a much less degree, the secretion from the mucous membranes of the nose, the bronchial tubes, and the stomach and intestines." By 1876, Jaborandi leaves were being employed in Europe in the treatment of many diseases including fever, stomatitis, colitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, influenza, pneumonia, and psoriasis.
Jaborandi is a perfect example of a plant which made the transition from Amazonian indigenous tribal use, to folklore use, and then into modern medicine based upon natural chemicals found in the plant. In 1875, two researchers independently discovered an alkaloid in jaborandi leaves which was named pilocarpine. Tests revealed that pilocarpine was responsible for much of the biological activity of the plant-especially it's ability to induce sweating and salivation, as well as to lower intraocular pressure in the eyes (making it an effective treatment in certain types of glaucoma). In 1876, the isolated pilocarpine alkaloid was introduced into conventional ophthalmology for the treatment of glaucoma. The mixture of pilocarpine and another natural product, physostigmine, remains to this day one of the mainstay drugs in ophthalmology. Interestingly, scientists have never been able to fully synthesize the pilocarpine alkaloid in the laboratory; the majority of all pilocarpine drugs sold today are derived from the natural alkaloid extracted from jaborandi leaves produced in Brazil.
Pilocarpine eye drops are still sold as a prescription drug worldwide for the treatment of glaucoma and as an agent to cause constriction of the pupil of the eye (useful in some eye surgeries and procedures). In the treatment of glaucoma, pilocarpine causes the iris of the eye to contract, which leads to the opening of the space between the iris and the cornea and, in effect, relieves narrow-angle glaucoma. It is even being used as a tool for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in early stages; the eye constriction response to pilocarpine was found to be greater in Alzheimer's patients than in controls. Tablets of pilocarpine are also manufactured and prescribed to cancer patients to treat dryness of the mouth and throat caused by radiation therapy as well as to patients with Sjogren's syndrome (an autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack the moisture-producing glands causing dry mouth and eyes). So as history shows; the Indian's "slobber-mouth" plant made it out of the jungles of the Amazon and into mainstream medicine and pharmaceutical use (for the identical uses the Indians employed it for). As usual, however, the Indians never realized any profits from the resulting manufacture and sales of several drugs over the last 50 years that made use of their plant knowledge.
In addition to pilocarpine, jaborandi leaves contain terpenes, tannic acids and other alkaloids. The natural leaf contains an average of 0.5% pilocarpine, plus similar amounts of other alkaloids such as isopilocarpine, jaborine, jaboridine and pilocarpidine. The alkaloids in jaborandi (including pilocarpine) are a rather rare and unique type of alkaloid that are derived from histidine (an amino acid) and classified as imidazole alkaloids. The main chemicals found in jaborandi include: 2-undecanone, alpha-pinene, isopilocarpidine, isopilocarpine, isopilosine, jaborine, jaborandine, jaboric, limonene, myrcene, pilocarbic acid, pilocarpidine, pilocarpine, pilosine, sandaracopimaradiene, and vinyl-dodecanoate.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
There are well over a thousand clinical studies published on pilocarpine. As with most plant-based drugs, however, the use of the whole natural plant fell out of use as a natural remedy (and failed to attract further research efforts) in favor of the single isolated active ingredient that was turned into a prescription drug. The PDR for Herbal Medicines indicates that the effects of jaborandi leaves are as follows: increases the secretion of saliva, sweat, gastric juices and tears, and stimulates the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract, bronchi, bile duct and bladder. Herbalists and natural health practitioners attribute the same biological activities for the plant as the main activities clinically validated for pilocarpine, but there is no actual clinical research on leaf extracts to support them or qualify them. Another problem is trying to determine effective dosages of leaf extracts (in the absence of clinical research). The pilocarpine content of the leaf can vary - between different "jaborandi" tree species, as well as when different harvesting methods, growth habitats, and even storage, handling and drying methods of the harvested leaves are used. The pilocarpine chemical is fragile; dried jaborandi leaves have shown to lose as much as 50% of their pilocarpine content in as little as a year of storage. Another alkaloid in the leaf, jaborine, has shown to counteract or decrease the effects of pilocarpine, which means that one cannot simply relate the effective dosage of a leaf extract based solely upon the pilocarpine content of the extract.
Finally, one must consider that the longstanding documented use of pilocarpine is not with side effects, toxicity or contraindications. Knowing at least an approximate amount of such an active chemical in a leaf extract is certainly necessary to help determine the extract's efficacy and safety. The lethal dose of pilocarpine is reportedly 60 mg, which could correspond to as little as 5-10 grams of the leaves. Individuals with cardiac and circulatory problems may even have a lower lethal dosage. Reported side effects for non-lethal dosages of pilocarpine include vomiting, nausea, sweating, convulsions, increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, and bronchial spasms. Interestingly, a positive side effect of reported use of the pilocarpine eye solution drug was an improvement in sleep apnea and snoring in glaucoma patients using the drug.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
The use of jaborandi is best left in the hands of experienced herbalists and health practitioners since pilocarpine has such pronounced biological activities and it occurs in significant amounts in the natural leaf. (The oral pilocarpine prescription drug, Salagen® is only 5 mg of pilocarpine, so very little is required for a pharmacological effect.) In recent years demand by U.S. consumers for the natural leaf has been increasing, mainly fueled by the high cost of pilocarpine drugs and the rather new uses of it in cancer therapy (as a saliva enhancement agent). However, it still is not recommended to be used by the average lay-person. The natural leaf is not widely available in the U.S. today and importation of it as a natural product is a bit in the grey area since pilocarpine is sold as a regulated prescription drug. In fact, Brazil is the largest producer today of jaborandi leaves. However, 100% of Brazil's jaborandi leaf production goes into drug manufacture, including Merck Pharmaceuticals who located a manufacturing plant in Brazil specifically for the processing and manufacture their pilocarpine prescription drugs. Current laws in Brazil prohibit the export of jaborandi leaves as a natural product, as they regulate even the leaves as a drug.
| JABORANDI PLANT SUMMARY |
Main Preparation Method: decoction |
Main Actions (in order):
diaphoretic (promotes sweating), sialagogue (increases saliva), anti-glaucomic, diuretic, febrifuge (reduces fever)
Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
- for glaucoma
- for detoxification through copious sweating
- for dry mouth disorders
- for hair loss (applied topically)
- for colds, flu, and pneumonia
diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive stimulant, diuretic, sialagogue (increases saliva)
Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, cardiac depressant, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), lactagogue (promotes milk flow), spasmogenic (induces spasms)
Cautions: Use under practitioner supervision only. See contraindications in main plant section.
Traditional preparation: Not recommended
- Pilocarpine has shown to increase the rate of birth defects in animal studies. Jaborandi
should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- Both jaborandi and pilocarpine may cause headaches and can irritate the stomach and
cause vomiting and nausea. An overdose may cause such symptoms as flushing, profuse
sweating and salivation, urinary frequency, nausea, rapid pulse, contracted pupils, diarrhea or
fatal pulmonary edema.
- The plant may induce bradycardia. Those with cardiac or circulatory conditions should
not take jaborandi.
- Jaborandi may induce dehydration due to excessive perspiration and urination. If using
jaborandi, electrolyte and fluid status must be monitored and maintained.
- May potentiate cardiac medications.
- May potentiate diuretic medications.
- May potentiate cholinergic medications.
- May potentiate diaphoretics.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMDEICAL USES
||for asthma, bronchitis, colds, diabetes, diphtheria, dry mouth, edema, eye disorders, fever, flu, glaucoma, hair loss, hepatitis, laryngitis, nephritis, pleurisy, pneumonia, rheumatism, urinary insufficiency, and as an expectorant and to promote perspiration and salivation|
||for dry mouth, edema, hair loss, rheumatism, and to promote perspiration|
||for eye disorders, glaucoma, and to promote perspiration and salivation|
||for edema, nephritis, pleurisy, rheumatism|
||promote perspiration, salivation, urination and milk flow|
||for asthma, baldness, catarrh, deafness, diabetes, edema, lactation aid, glaucoma, intestinal problems, jaundice, nausea, nephritis, pleurisy, prurigo, psoriasis, renitis, rheumatism, syphilis, tonsillitis, and as an antidote (atropine & belladonna), and to promote perspiration and salivation|
- Ringold, S., et al. "On Jaborandi." The Lancet 1875; 30: 157-159.
- Holmstedt, B., et al. "Jaborandi: An Interdisciplinary Approach." J. Ethnopharmacology 1979; 1(1) :3-21.
- Merck Index. An encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs and biologicals. Merck & Co., Rahway, New Jersey. 1983.
- Distelhorst, J. S., et al. "Open-angle glaucoma." Am. Fam. Physician 2003; 67(9): 1937-44.
- Kaneyuki, H., et al. "Enhanced miotic response to topical dilute pilocarpine in patients with Alzheimer's disease." Neurology 1998; 50(3): 802-4.
- Hawthorne, M., et al. "Pilocarpine for radiation-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer." Int. J. Palliat. Nurs. 2000; 6(5): 228-32.
- "Oral pilocarpine: new preparation. Xerostomia after radiation therapy: moderately effective but costly." Prescribe. Int. 2002; 11(60): 99-101.
- LeVeque, F. G., et al. "A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-titration study of oral pilocarpine for treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients." J. Clin. Oncology 1993; 11(6): 1124-31.
- PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd Edition. Medical Economics Company., Montvale, New Jersey.
- Pinheiro, C. U. B. "Jaborandi (Pilocarpus sp., Rutaceae): A wild species and its rapid transformation into a crop." Econ. Bot. 1997; 51(1): 49-58.
The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
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Last updated 12-17-2012