TECHNICAL PLANT DATA
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Species: amara, glauca
Synonyms: Quassia simarouba, Zwingera amara, Picraena officinalis, Simarouba medicinalis
Common Names: Simarouba, gavilan, negrito, marubá, marupá, dysentery bark, bitterwood, paradise tree, palo blanco, robleceillo, caixeta, daguilla, cedro blanco, cajú-rana, malacacheta, palo amargo, pitomba, bois amer, bois blanc, bois frene, bois negresse, simaba
Part Used: Bark, wood, leaves
From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:
| SIMAROUBA |
| HERBAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIONS |
||Decoction: 1 cup 2-3
|| times daily
||Tincture: 5-10 ml twice daily
|kills leukemia cells
|reduces tumor growth
Simarouba is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 20 m high, with a trunk 50 to 80 cm in diameter. It produces bright green leaves 20 to 50 cm in length, small white flowers, and small red fruits. It is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas in Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Central America.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
The leaves and bark of Simarouba have long been used as a natural medicine in the tropics. Simarouba was first imported into France from Guyana in 1713 as a remedy for dysentery. When France suffered a dysentery epidemic from 1718 to 1725, simarouba bark was one of the few effective treatments. French explorers "discovered" this effective remedy when they found that the indigenous Indian tribes in the Guyana rainforest used simarouba bark as an effective treatment for malaria and dysentery - much as they still do today. Other indigenous tribes throughout the South American rainforest use simarouba bark for fevers, malaria, and dysentery, as a hemostatic agent to stop bleeding, and as a tonic.
Simarouba also has a long history in herbal medicine in many other countries. In Cuba, where it is called gavilan, an infusion of the leaves or bark is considered to be astringent, a digestion and menstrual stimulant and an antiparasitic remedy. It is taken internally for diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, and colitis; it is used externally for wounds and sores. In Belize the tree is called negrito or dysentery bark. There the bark (and occasionally the root) is boiled in water to yield a powerful astringent and tonic used to wash skin sores and to treat dysentery, diarrhea, stomach and bowel disorders, hemorrhages, and internal bleeding. In Brazil it is employed much the same way against fever, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasites, indigestion, and anemia. In Brazilian herbal medicine, simarouba bark tea has long been the most highly recommended (and most effective) natural remedy against chronic and acute dysentery.
The main active group of chemicals in simarouba are called quassinoids, which belong to the triterpene chemical family. Quassinoids are found in many plants and are well known to scientists. The antiprotozoal and antimalarial properties of these chemicals have been documented for many years. Several of the quassinoids found in simarouba, such as ailanthinone, glaucarubinone, and holacanthone, are considered the plant's main therapeutic constituents and are the ones documented to be antiprotozal, anti-amebic, antimalarial, and even toxic to cancer and leukemia cells.
The main plant chemicals in simarouba include: ailanthinone, benzoquinone, canthin, dehydroglaucarubinone, glaucarubine, glaucarubolone, glaucarubinone, holacanthone, melianone, simaroubidin, simarolide, simarubin, simarubolide, sitosterol, and tirucalla.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
After a 200-year documented history of use for dysentery, its use for amebic dysentery was finally validated by conventional doctors in 1918. A military hospital in England demonstrated that the bark tea was an effective treatment for amebic dysentery in humans. The Merck Institute reported that simarouba was 91.8% effective against intestinal amebas in humans in a 1944 study and, in 1962, other researchers found that the seeds of simarouba showed active anti-amebic activities in humans. In the 1990s scientists again documented simarouba's ability to kill the most common dysentery-causing organism, Entamoeba histolytica, as well as two diarrhea-causing bacteria, Salmonella and Shigella.
Scientists first looked at simarouba's antimalarial properties in 1947, when they determined a water extract of the bark (as well as the root) demonstrated strong activity against malaria in chickens. This study showed that doses of only 1 mg of bark extract per kg of body weight exhibited strong antimalarial activity. When new strains of malaria with resistance to our existing antimalarial drugs began to develop, scientists began studying simarouba once again. Studies published between 1988 and 1997 demonstrated that simarouba and/or its three potent quassinoids were effective against malaria in vitro as well as in vivo. More importantly, the research indicated that the plant and its chemicals were effective against the new drug-resistant strains in vivo and in vitro. While most people in North America will never be exposed to malaria, between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria occur each year in the world, leading to more than one million deaths annually. Having an easily-grown tree in the tropics where most malaria occurs could be an important resource for an effective natural remedy-it certainly has worked for the Indians in the Amazon for ages.
It will be interesting to see if North American scientists investigate simarouba as a possibility for North America's only malaria-like disease: the newest mosquito-borne threat, West Nile virus. It might be a good one to study because, in addition to its antimalarial properties, clinical research has shown good antiviral properties with simarouba bark. Researchers in 1978 and again in 1992 confirmed strong antiviral properties of the bark in vitro against herpes, influenza, polio, and vaccinia viruses.
Another area of research on simarouba and its plant chemicals has focused on cancer and leukemia. The quassinoids responsible for the anti-amebic and antimalarial properties have also shown in clinical research to possess active cancer-killing properties. Early cancer screening performed by the National Cancer Institute in 1976 indicated that an alcohol extract of simarouba root (and a water extract of its seeds) had toxic actions against cancer cells at very low dosages (less than 20 mcg/ml). Following up on that initial screening, scientists discovered that several of the quassinoids in simarouba (glaucarubinone, alianthinone, and dehydroglaucarubinone) had antileukemic actions against lymphocytic leukemia in vitro and published several studies in 1977 and 1978. Researchers found that yet another simarouba quassinoid, holacanthone, also possessed antileukemic and antitumorous actions in 1983. Researchers in the UK cited the antitumorous activity of two of the quassinoids, ailanthinone and glaucarubinone, against human epidermoid carcinoma of the pharynx. A later study in 1998 by U.S. researchers demonstrated the antitumorous activity of glaucarubinone against solid tumors (human and mouse cell lines), multi-drug-resistant mammary tumors in mice, and antileukemic activity against leukemia in mice.
Simarouba is the subject of one U.S. patent so far and, surprisingly, it's not for its antimalarial, anti-amebic, or even anticancerous actions. Rather, water extracts of simarouba were found to increase skin keratinocyte differentiation and to improve skin hydration and moisturization. In 1997, a patent was filed on its use to produce a cosmetic or pharmaceutical skin product. The patent describes simarouba extract as having significant skin depigmentation activity (for liver spots), enhancing the protective function of the skin (which maintains better moisturization), and having a significant keratinocyte differentiation activity (which protects against scaly skin).
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
While at least one scientific research group attempts to synthesize one or more of simarouba's potent quassinoids for pharmaceutical use, the plant remains an important natural remedy in the herbal pharmacopeias of many tropical countries and in the rainforest shaman's arsenal of potent plant remedies. Natural health practitioners outside of South America are just beginning to learn about the properties and actions of this important rainforest medicinal plant and how to use it in their own natural health practices.
Simarouba bark tea is still the first line of defense for amebic dysentery and diarrhea among the natural products available. It's also a good natural remedy for viruses. Although not widely available in the U.S. today, it can be found in bulk supplies and in various natural multi-herb anti-parasite and anti-viral formulas.
| SIMAROUBA PLANT SUMMARY |
Main Preparation Method: decoction or tincture |
Main Actions (in order):
antidysenteric, amebicide, antiparasitic, antiviral, antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding)
Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
- for dysentery (amebic and bacterial) and diarrhea
- for intestinal worms and internal parasites
- for malaria
- as an astringent to stop bleeding internally (stomach ulcers, hemorrhages, etc) and externally for wounds
- for viral infections
amebicide, antibacterial, anticancerous, antidysenteric, antileukemic, antimalarial, antimutagenic (cellular protector), antiparasitic, antitumorous, antiviral, vermifuge (expels worms)
Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
analgesic (pain-reliever), antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding), astringent, bitter, carminative, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive stimulant, febrifuge (reduces fever), menstrual stimulant, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions)
Cautions: Large dosages might cause nausea and vomiting.
Traditional Preparation: For diarrhea or dysentery, the traditional remedy calls for preparing a standard decoction with the bark. A teacup full (about 6 ounces) is taken 2-3 times daily. Five to ten ml of a bark tincture twice daily can be substituted if desired.
Contraindications: Reported side effects at high dosages (approx. three times the traditional remedy) include increased perspiration and urination, nausea, and/or vomiting.
Drug Interactions: None reported.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
||for bleeding, constipation, dysentery, fever, malaria|
||for bowel disorders, diarrhea, dysentery, excessive menstruation, hemorrhages, internal bleeding, skin, sores, stomach disorders, wounds|
||for anemia, anorexia, bitter digestive aid, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, hemorrhages, intestinal parasites, malaria|
||for bleeding, colitis, diarrhea, digestive sluggishness, dysentery, malaria, menstrual disorders, parasites, sores, wounds|
|for colic, diarrhea, gonorrhea, malaria|
||for amebic infections, digestive stimulation|
||for aches (body), anemia, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, menstrual disorders, pain, rheumatism, skin problems, and to increase perspiration|
||for amebic infections, dyspepsia, fever, malaria|
||for diarrhea, dysentery, fever, intestinal gas, malaria, stomach pains|
||for bleeding, colds, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, malaria, |
The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.
A complete Technical Data Report is available for this plant.
† The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the
Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant
database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not
intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease.
Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.
Third-Party Published Research on Simarouba
All available third-party research on simarouba be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the third-party published research on simarouba is shown below:
Antimalarial, Antiparasitic, & Antiamebic Actions:
Muganza, D., et al. "In vitro antiprotozoal and cytotoxic activity of 33 ethonopharmacologically selected medicinal plants from Democratic Republic of Congo." J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 May 7;141(1):301-8.
Garcia, M., et al. "Activity of Cuban Plants Extracts against Leishmania amazonensis." ISRN Pharmacol. 2012;2012:104540.
Francois, G., et al. ”Antimalarial and cytotoxic potential of four quassinoids from Hannoa chlorantha and Hannoa klaineana, and their structure-activity relationships.” Int. J. Parasitol. 1998; 28(4): 635-40.
Franssen, F. F., et al. “In vivo and in vitro antiplasmodial activities of some plants traditionally used in Guatemala against malaria.” Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 1997; 41(7): 1500–3.
Wright, C. W., et al. “Quassinoids exhibit greater selectivity against Plasmodium falciparum than against Entamoeba histoyltica, Giardia intestinalis or Toxoplasma gondii in vitro." J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 1993; 40(3): 244–46.
Kirby, G. C., et al. “In vitro studies on the mode of action of quassinoids with activity against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum.” Biochem. Pharmacol. 1989; 38(24): 4367–74.
O’Neill, M. J., et al. “Plants as sources of antimalarial drugs, Part 6. Activities of Simarouba amara fruits." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1988; 22(2): 183–90.
O’Neill, M. J., et al. “The activity of Simarouba amara against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro." J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 1987; Suppl. 39: 80.
Monjour, I., et al. “Therapeutic trials of experimental murine malaria with the quassinoid, glaucarubinone.” C. R. Acad. Sci. Ill. 1987; 304(6): 129–32.
Trager, W., et al. “Antimalarial activity of quassinoids against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro." Am. J. Trp. Med. Hyg. 1981; 30(3): 531–37.
Duriez, R., et al. “Glaucarubin in the treatment of amebiasis." Presse Med. 1962; 70: 1291.
Spencer, C. F., et al. “Survey of plants for antimalarial activity.” Lloydia 1947; 10: 145–74.
Cuckler, A. C., et al. “Efficacy and toxicity of simaroubidin in experimental amoebiasis.” Fed. Proc. 1944; 8: 284.
Shepheard, S., et al. "Persistent carriers of Entameba histolytica." Lancet 1918: 501.
Valdes, A., et al. "In vitro anti-microbial activity of the Cuban medicinal plants Simarouba glauca DC, Melaleuca leucadendron L and Artemisia absinthium L." Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2008 Sep;103(6):615-8.
Apers, S., et al. "Antiviral activity of simalikalactone D, a quassinoid from Quassia africana." Planta Med. 2002 Jan;68(1):20-4.
Morre, D. J., et al. “Effect of the quassinoids glaucarubolone and simalikalactone D on growth of cells permanently infected with feline and human immunodeficiency viruses and on viral infections.” Life Sci. 1998; 62(3): 213-9.
Rahman, S., et al. “Anti-tuberculosis activity of quassinoids.” Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1997; 45(9): 1527-9.
Kaif-A-Kamb, M., et al. “Search for new antiviral agents of plant origin.” Pharm. Acta Helv. 1992; 67(5–6): 130–147.
Caceres, A. “Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. 1. Screening of 84 plants against enterobacteria." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990; 30(1): 55–73.
May, G., et al. “Antiviral activity of aqueous extracts from medicinal plants in tissue cultures.” Arzneim-Forsch 1978; 28(1): 1–7.
Anticancerous & Antileukemic Actions:
An important area of research on simarouba and its plant chemicals has focused on cancer and leukemia. The quassinoids responsible for the anti-amebic and antimalarial properties of simarouba bark have also shown in clinical research to possess active cancer-killing properties. Early cancer screening performed by the National Cancer Institute in 1976 indicated that an alcohol extract of simarouba root (and a water extract of its seeds) had toxic actions against cancer cells at very low dosages (less than 20 mcg/ml). Following up on that initial screening, scientists discovered that several of the quassinoids in simarouba (glaucarubinone, alianthinone, and dehydroglaucarubinone) had antileukemic actions against lymphocytic leukemia in vitro and published several studies in 1977 and 1978. Researchers found that yet another simarouba quassinoid, holacanthone, also possessed antileukemic and antitumorous actions in 1983. Researchers in the UK cited the antitumorous activity of two of the quassinoids, ailanthinone and glaucarubinone, against human epidermoid carcinoma of the pharynx. A later study in 1998 by U.S. researchers demonstrated the antitumorous activity of glaucarubinone against solid tumors (human and mouse cell lines), multi-drug-resistant mammary tumors in mice, and antileukemic activity against leukemia in mice.
Reynertson, K., et al. "Induction of murine embryonic stem cell differentiation by medicinal plant extracts."
Exp Cell Res. 2011 Jan 1;317(1):82-93.
de Mesquita, M., et al. "Cytotoxic activity of Brazilian Cerrado plants used in traditional medicine against cancer cell lines." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jun 25;123(3):439-45.
Rivero-Cruz, J. F., et al. “Cytotoxic constituents of the twigs of Simarouba glauca collected from a plot in Southern Florida.” Phytother. Res. 2005; 19(2): 136-40.
Mata-Greenwood, E., et al. “ Novel esters of glaucarubolone as inducers of terminal differentiation of promyelocytic HL-60 cells and inhibitors of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced preneoplastic lesion formation in mouse mammary organ culture.” J. Nat. Prod. 2001; 64(12): 1509-13.
Morre, D. J., et al. “Mode of action of the anticancer quassinoids--inhibition of the plasma membrane NADH oxidase.” Life Sci. 1998; 63(7) :595-604.
Valeriote, F. A., et al. “Anticancer activity of glaucarubinone analogues.” Oncol Res. 1998; 10(4): 201–8.
Ohno, N., et al. “Synthesis of cytotoxic fluorinated quassinoids.” Bioorg. Med. Chem. 1997; 5(8): 1489-95.
Klocke, J. A., et al. "Growth inhibitory, insecticidal and antifeedant effects of some antileukemic and cytotoxic quassinoids on two species of agricultural pests." Experientia. 1985 Mar 15; 41(3): 379-82.
Handa, S. S., et al. “Plant anticancer agents XXV. Constituents of Soulamea soulameoides.” J. Nat. Prod. 1983; 46(3): 359–64.
Polonsky, J. “The isolation and structure of 13,18-dehydroglaucarubinone, a new antineoplastic quassinoid from Simarouba amara.” Experientia. 1978; 34(9): 1122–23.
Ghosh, P. C., et al. “Antitumor plants. IV. Constituents of Simarouba versicolor.” Lloydia. 1977; 40(4): 364–69.
Ogura, M. et al. “Potential anticancer agents VI. Constituents of Ailanthus excelsa (Simaroubaceae)." Lloydia. 1977; 40(6): 579–84.
Antipsoriatic & Skin Protective Actions:
Casetti, F., et al. "Dermocosmetics for dry skin: a new role for botanical extracts." Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2011;24(6):289-93.
Bonte, F., et al. “Simarouba amara extract increases human skin keratinocyte differentiation." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 53(2): 65–74.
Zarse, K., et al. "The phytochemical glaucarubinone promotes mitochondrial metabolism, reduces body fat, and extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans." Horm Metab Res. 2011 Apr;43(4):241-3.
Coelho, A., et al. "Insecticidal activity of cerrado plant extracts on Rhodnius milesi Carcavallo, Rocha, Galvão & Jurberg (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), under laboratory conditions." Neotrop Entomol. 2006 Jan-Feb;35(1):133-8.
* The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the
Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant
database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.
© Copyrighted 1996
to present by Leslie Taylor, Milam County, TX 77857.
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Last updated 12-30-2012