- Family Celastraceae
- Maytenus ilicifolia
- Maytenus laevis
- Espinheira Santa, Cancerosa, Cangorosa, Maiteno, Limaosinho, Chuchuhuasha, Chucchu, Chuchuhaso
- Do not use during pregnancy.
- The plant does have significant sedative effects and might cause drowsiness in some people, much like that of some antihistamines.
Indigenous to South America, it is also found in the West Indies. It grows mainly in areas of the Amazon basin, including Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. The plant is a dioecious evergreen shrub or tree, reaching 100 feet, creating a canopy in the forest. The tree produces small, white flowers and berries that resemble holly. Its leaves grow to twelve inches. Its Argentinean name is sometimes confused with (or products adulterated with) Yerba Maté.
With over 200 species of Maytenus distributed in temperate and tropical regions throughout South America and the West Indies, many are indigenous to the Amazon region; but all have been used medicinally by indigenous tribes in one way or another.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that the leaves of the tree are often used to make a tea known as “abafado”.
- cangorins A through J
- cangorosin A and B
- ilicifolinoside A through C
- kaempferol trisaccharides and disaccharides
- maytenoic acid
- salaspermic acid
Leaves, bark, roots
Italian researchers have extracted chemicals from the bark and found that they have anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory effects. However, a study done in Spain showed that extracts of a related species, Maytenus macrocarpa, did not have any anti-tumor activity against human lung, colon, and melanoma cancer cells in a laboratory setting.
It is used mainly in South America for anemia, stomach and gastric ulcers, cancer, constipation, gastritis, dyspepsia, and liver disorders and as a contraceptive.
In Brazil, external use is for such skin conditions as eczema and ulcers, as well as for skin cancers. Internal use includes skin cancer, gastrointestinal complaints, hyperacidity, flatulence, dyspepsia, pain, exhaustion or anemic states.
In Argentina, it is used for asthma, alcoholism, and for eye inflammations or swellings. The entire plant or leaves are infused or decocted for its antiseptic and wound healing properties. It is commonly used internally for asthma, respiratory and urinary tract infections, diarrhea and to induce menstruation.
In Paraguay, women use it as a contraceptive and fertility regulator, and to induce menstruation and abortions.
An alcohol infusion made from the powdered root bark is used as a tonic for healing arthritis and rheumatism.
The plant has also been used for skin cancer.