San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Plants at a Glance: Abuta

Common name: Abuta

Spanish names: Venadero, bejuco azul, oreja de ratón

Latin name: Cissampelos pareira

Family: Menispermaceae or moonseed

Geo-distribution: Distributed amply in tropical regions around the world. Commonly found growing wild in vacant lots, pastures, coffee fields, secondary growth and along roadsides.

Botanical description: Climbing vine with a pubescent stem and heart-shaped, lightgreen leaves 3.5 to 10 centimeters in width. The inflorescences of light-green flowers are born from the axils of the stem and leaves.

Medicinal uses: Traditionally, the leaves of this plant have been used as a digestive aid for stomachaches. The root has been used for irregular menstruation, fevers and upper respiratory infections, as well as for treating kidney and venereal diseases. The root was said to be a popular remedy for poisonous snakebites in many parts of the tropical Americas. The roots have been used for centuries by local indigenous tribes as a source for curare, a poisonous resin applied to blowgun darts that paralyzes the prey.

Preparation: An oral infusion is prepared with 10 grams of fresh leaves in 750 milliliters or three cups of water, boiled 10 minutes with a lid. Cool and drink one cup, three times a day.

Cautions: Research on tropical medicinal plants has concluded that the leaves of this plant are safe to use internally as a tea for stomachaches. However, it is not recommended during pregnancy or lactation, or for children under 12.

A total extract of the alkaloids present in the roots injected into rats caused muscle weakness and paralysis, which confirms why the roots have been employed by indigenous tribes as a source for curare.

Notes: Most folks consider abuta an invasive weed, since it can spread over large areas. For the most part, you can harvest this plant from the wild in areas free of contamination.


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