- amily Rubiaceae
- Cephaelis ipecacuanha
- Ipecacuanha, Ipecacuanha Rio, Matto Grosso
Do not use the root or rhizome, except under knowledgeable guidance.
Take formulations containing ipecac carefully and only as instructed on the label. Deaths have resulted from overdose.
Do not use over an extended period of time as it can lead to myopathias. Frequent use can lead to allergic reactions.
Do not use during pregnancy.
This small shrub is indigenous to South America, mainly in the sparser woods of Brazil, preferring moist, shady woods. It is now cultivated in India and on the Malaysian archipelago. It produces a slender stem growing to a foot in height. It has a few oblong leaves, small white flowers, and purple-black berries. The root of three-year-old plants is unearthed while the plant is still in flower, then immediately dried.
Ipecac came to Europe in 1672 and achieved fame as a cure for dysentery. This controversial remedy appeared to work well in some cases, but had no effect in others. Today, we understand that there are two types of dysentery — amebic and bacillary. While the herb acts strongly against amebas, it has little effect on bacilli.
- isoquinoline alkaloids (2-4% mainly emetine and cephaelin)
- starch (30-40%)
- Root, rhizome
- The alkaloids are expectorants in lower dosages; but in larger doses, they cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Used in both conventional and herbal medicine, ipecac is listed in most national pharmacopoeias as being one of the surest of emetics and, even moderate doses, will stimulate vomiting until the contents of the stomach are cleared. It is particularly useful in drug overdose.
In lower doses, it is a strong expectorant and commonly found in many patent cough medicines and used in the treatment of bronchitis and whooping cough. As an expectorant, it soothes and assists in coughing up thick phlegm, especially in children.
It is also very effective for amebic dysentery.
Homeopathic remedies are used to treat bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, gastrointestinal inflammations, blood pressure disorders, and mucous membrane bleeding. Higher doses are used as an emetic.