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Dorstenia contrajerva

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Dorstenia contrajerva, by von Jacquin, 1793.

Dorstenia contrajerva is a plant species in the family Moraceae. It is native to Northern South America and Central America, and is cultivated elsewhere. The species name "contrajerva" is the Latinized form of the plant's Spanish name, "contrahierba," a name for plants used for treating poisoning and venomous bites and stings, and for which its rootstocks are used in folk medicine (as contrayerva).<ref>Standley, Paul Carpenter & Steyermark, Julian A, Flora of Guatemala, Chicago, 1946: 28–29.</ref> It is the type species of the Dorstenia genus and was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.<ref>Linnaeus, Carl. Species plantarum, Tomus I, Pars II, 1753: 683.</ref>

Description

Dorstenia contrajerva is a small evergreen perennial plant with a creeping rhizome from which emerges a rosette of leaves with long petioles. Leaves are variably shaped, with plants with lobed and unlobed leaves co-occurring in the same populations.<ref>Hayden, John, W. Flora of Kaxil Kiuic “Dorstenia contrajerva L.”. Retrieved 23.10.2017.</ref> Leaves are up to 20 cm long on petioles up to 25 cm long. When damaged the plant exudes a white latex. Tiny male and female flowers are distributed intermixed on a discoid receptacle of convoluted shape. The fruits are small and contained in a quadrangular container. The tiny seeds are explosively expelled.

Plants acaulescent or nearly so. The stems, if any, are very short and covered with persistent petiole bases. Leaves are often very numerous and crowded. Stipules persistent; petiole 8–25 cm. Leaf blade long-petiolate, oblong-ovate, deltate-ovate, or orbiculate, entire or deeply pinnately or almost palmately lobed, 6-20 × 7–22 cm, sparsely scabrous or pubescent. The lobes acute to acuminate, narrow or broad. Inflorescences: receptacle flat, curved, or undulate, quadrangular or irregularly lobed, accrescent in age and 2–5 cm. wide, scaberulous beneath. On long slender peduncle, 7–25 cm. Drupes somewhat globose, 0.25–1 cm in diameter. Seeds yellowish. 2 n = 30.<ref>Flora of North America. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Standley, Paul Carpenter & Steyermark, Julian A, Flora of Guatemala, Chicago, 1946: 28.</ref><ref>Hayden, John, W. Flora of Kaxil Kiuic “Dorstenia contrajerva L.”. Retrieved 23.10.2017.</ref>

In the United States Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary (1927), the rhizome of Dorstenia contrajerva or Contrayera is described as fusiform, 1–2 headed, 5–7.5 cm long, 12 mm thick, reddish, with an unpleasant odor and acrid, bitter taste.<ref>Culbreth, David M. A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, 1927:</ref>

Distribution

Dorstenia contrajerva is native to southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America including Peru.<ref name = Berg2001>Template:Cite journal</ref> It is cultivated in Indonesia (Java) and Malaysia (Malacca), and locally in Africa and South America.<ref>Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref> In North America Dorstenia contrajerva has been introduced to Florida and is a weed in greenhouses and nurseries. It is sometimes cultivated as a house plant.<ref>Flora of North America. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Hayden, John, W. Flora of Kaxil Kiuic “Dorstenia contrajerva L.”. Retrieved 23.10.2017.</ref>

Dorstenia contrajerva

Habitat

It grows in shady places in disturbed vegetation in mangroves, savannahs, thickets, and tropical forests.<ref>Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana, “Contrayerba Dorstenia contrajerva L. Moraceae”. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Hayden, John, W. Flora of Kaxil Kiuic “Dorstenia contrajerva L.”. Retrieved 23.10.2017.</ref>

Cultivation

Dorstenia contrajerva requires part to full shade and a rich soil that should be kept moist but not saturated. Fertilize weekly using a balanced fertilizer diluted to half of the recommended strength. It can become very weedy if the old receptacles are not picked off. The seeds are very viable and germinate on any soil. Repotting can be done at any time of the year. Easily propagated from seed or by division. Fresh seed will germinate in 7 to 14 days.<ref>Plant of the Week: Dorstenia contrajerva Contra Heirba Moraceae. Retrieved on 26.10.2017.</ref>

Medicinal uses

In folk medicine in Honduras the boiled root is used to cure diarrhea, dysentery, and stomach ache. The slightly roasted and ground root is used to treat intestinal worms and parasites. The crushed root is mixed with water to treat the bites of snakes. In Nicaragua the boiled root is used to prevent diarrhea; minced raw rhizomes are used to treat diarrhea, sickness, stomach upset, indigestion, and worms. In El Salvador it is used for stomachache and to prevent vomiting. In Costa Rica the boiled root is used in curing diarrhea, and an infusion to lower fever. It is considered useful in curing persistent diarrhea as well as an emmenagogue. In Mexico the latex is used to heal wounds and the inflorescenses are given to teething children. In the Amazone region of Peru it is used as a tonic, against gangrene, and as an antidote for bee and wasp stings. In Argentina, the whole plant is used to treat snakebite. In Venezuela it is used as a sudorific and as a cure for dysentery.<ref>Ocampo, Rafael & Balick, Michael J. Plants of Semillas Sagradas: An Ethnomedicinal Garden in Costa Rica 2009: 40–41.</ref>

Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America lists the following medicinal activities: alexiteric, anti-HIV, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenaggogue, febrifuge, leihmanicide, orexigenic, stimulant, tonic.<ref>Duke, James A. Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America, CRC Press, 2008: 273.</ref>

The United States Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary of 1927 says that the root of this plant was used for low fevers, typhoid, diarrhea, dysentery, serpent bites; in decoction, tincture.<ref>Culbreth, David M. A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, 1927:</ref> Maud Grieve writes in her Modern Herbal (1931) that contrayerva given as a powder or decoction is a “Stimulant, tonic, and diaphoretic; given in cases of low fevers, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhoea, and other illnesses needing a stimulant.” <ref>Template:WD1913</ref><ref>Grieve, M. “Contrayerva”, A Modern Herbal. Retrieved on 14.10.2017.</ref> In folk medicine it is used to treat bites of poisonous animals.

The first description of this plant and its medical usage in Mexico is said<ref>Weinmann, Johann Wilhelm. Phytanthoza-Iconographia, ben Hieronymi Lenz, 1739: 218.</ref><ref>Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana, “Contrayerba Dorstenia contrajerva L. Moraceae”. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref> to have been made by the Spanish naturalist and physician Francisco Hernández de Toledo in the 16th century: “The herb called Tozpàtli has a round root about the size of a hazelnut, with thin fibrous roots, and of an azure color, from which are born delicate petioles, on which are curved leaves, almost similar to those of the Polypodium, but smaller and more green. It is said that it carries no flower at all. It grows in high and flat, but hot places. The root is sharp and fragrant to taste, hot and dry almost in the fourth degree, and of subtle parts. This herb cures rashes/eruptions (empeynes),<ref>See Rozier, François. Curso completo ó Diccionario universal de agricultura teórica, práctica, económica, y de medicina rural y veterinari, Volume 8, Imprenta Real, 1800: 439.</ref> boils, whitlow, and also the so-called French illness (mal frances = syphilis), and clears up tumors and abscesses. The root applied externally or taken by the mouth alleviates many diseases that can be easily understood using the Method … considering the qualities and properties described (above). Finally, this is an important and noteworthy plant, without which our apothecaries cannot do without, and so those who spend in them.” .<ref>“A yerza llamada Tozpàtli, tiena la rayz redoda del tamaño de un auellana, con unas hebras delgadas, y de un color açul, de donde nacen unos peçoncillos delicados, y en ellos las ojas cymbossas/cymbrossas, y casi semejantes a les del polipodio, pero menores y mas verdes, segun dizen no lleua flor ninguna. Nace en lugares altos y llanos, pero calientes, la rayz es aguda y olorosa al gusto, caliente y seca casi enel quarto grado, y de partes sutiles, cura esta yerua los empeynes y los diuiessos, y panarriços, y tambien el que llaman mal frances, y resuelbe los tumores y apostemas, la rayz aplicada por defuera, o tomada por la boca, aproueccha aotras muchas enfermedades que facilmente podra entender el que usando de Methodo, y buen discurso, considerando las dichas virtudes y facultades, finalmente esta es una principal y notable planta, sin la qual no deuian estar nuestras boticas y que todos lo gastaran.” Hernández, Francisco.Quatro libros de la naturaleza, y virtudes de las plantas, y animales, 1615: 79–80. Later edition: J. R. Bravo, 1838: 115.</ref><ref>Modern translation: “cura los salpullidos, los lamparones, los forúnculos y el llamado mal gálico, resuelve los demás tumores y alivia otras enfermedades que por las propiedades dichas, fácilmente puede conocerse cuáles sean”, Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana, “Contrayerba Dorstenia contrajerva L. Moraceae”. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref>

In the entry “Contra-yerva” in Chambers Cyclopedia of 1728, it is said that its root “brought from Peru” is “esteem'd an Alexiterial, and a sovereign Antidote against Poison.” <ref>Chambers, Ephraim. Cyclopaedia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 1, London 1728: 318.</ref> It also says that the root and the recipe Lapis Contrayerva (see below) are of great efficacy in small pox, measles, fevers and in “all Cases where either a Diaphoresis or Perspiration is required.”<ref>Chambers, Ephraim. Cyclopaedia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 1, London 1728: 319.</ref>

The 18th–19th century Spanish Mexican physician and botanist Vicente Cervantes describes it as: "a plant with an aromatic smell, an acrid taste, somewhat bitter and persistent. Its virtue is stimulating, tonic and diaphoretic, it is recommended in putrid or adynamic fevers."<ref>"es una planta de olor aromático, sabor acre, algo amargo y persistente. Su virtud es estimulante, tónica y diaforética, se recomienda en las fiebres pútridas o adinámicas". Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana, “Contrayerba Dorstenia contrajerva L. Moraceae”. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref>

Other uses

In North America powder made from the rootstocks and leaves is mixed with tobacco for improving the taste of cigarettes.<ref>Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Ocampo, Rafael & Balick, Michael J. Plants of Semillas Sagradas: An Ethnomedicinal Garden in Costa Rica 2009: 40–41.</ref>

Chemical constituents

The United States Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary (1927) states that the root of Dorstenia contrajerva contains contrayerbine (= contrajervin, a peptide), cajapine, volatile oil, resin, a bitter principle, and starch.<ref>Culbreth, David M. A Manual of Materia Medica and Pharmacology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, 1927:</ref> A 2016 study isolated the following 11 compounds from Dorstenia contrajerva: dorsjervin A, dorsjervin B, psoralen, dorstenin, squalene, y-sitosterol, cycloartocarpesin, 1-O-linolenoyl-2-O-stearoyl-3-O-ß-D-galactopyranosyl glycerol, bergapten, dorsteniol, and xanthoarnol.<ref>Peniche-Pavía,H.A.,et al. “Metabolites isolated from the rhizomes of Dorstenia contrajerva with anti-leishmanial activity”. Retrieved 15.10.2017.</ref> The cardenolide syriogenin was isolated from the root.<ref>Casagrande, C., Ronchetti F., Russo, G. “The structure of syriogenin” Tetrahedron, Volume 30, Issue 19, 1974, Pages 3587-3589</ref>

Vernacular names

  • English: snakewort, tusilla
  • French: herbe aux serpents, racine de charchis
  • German: bezoarwurz, schlangenwurz
  • Spanish: contra de cobra, contrahierba, barbudilla (Mexico), hierba de sapo, higuerilla (Argentina), mano de leon (Venezuela)
  • Nahuatl: tozpatli, tuzpatli

<ref>Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Flora of North America. Retrieved 14.10.2017.</ref><ref>Díaz, J.L. Índice y sinonimia de las plantas medicinales de México, Instituto Mexicano para el Estudio de las Plantas Medicinales. Editorial Libros de México, 1976.</ref>

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References

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