Several species of Maytenus are known by the name “chuchuhuasi” in Central and South America. “Chuchhu huashu” means “trembling back”, and the herb is used by indigenous communities for arthritis, back pain, and rheumatism. Chuchuhuasi bark is used as an alcohol extract and a decoction. It is sometimes used as a tea, but the active compounds may not dissolve effectively in water when steeped so boiling it into a decoction is preferred.
Chuchuhuasi contains a variety of active substances including alkaloids and terpenes. The bark and root are used most often, and the leaves are sometimes used as well. It grows to about 30 meters and can be found in the rainforests of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.
Natives add chuchuhuasi bark to aguardiente, an alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane. They drink it for energy and to relieve muscular pain. It is also considered an effective tonic for the body overall, and it is considered an aphrodisiac and one of the more effective herbs for adrenals.
Benefits of Chuchuhuasi
Joint & Muscular Pain
Chuchuhuasi is commonly used for its effects on symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism and for back pain. It is a muscle relaxant and is thus effective at relieving sore muscles. Extracts show analgesic properties as well as anti-inflammatory activity. It inhibits production of the enzyme protein kinase C (PKC), which is indicated in the development of health problems including arthritis.
Chuchuhuasi shows anti-diarrheal effects, and is also used for stomach aches, upset stomach, and hemorrhoids. Women benefit from using chuchuhuasi from pain and discomfort associated with the menstrual cycle, and it is also an effect herb for adrenals. Natives use chuchuhuasi for bronchitis and asthma, perhaps because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Some of the substances in chuchuhuasi have demonstrated anti-tumor activity, and a decoction is used as a tonic for the immune system. It can increase the ability of immune cells to attack bacteria and other invading organisms.
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Sources & Resources
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs, Leslie Taylor, ND
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch
Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America, James A. Duke
Pau D’arco: Immune Power from the Rain Forest, Kenneth Jones