Medicinal Plants Amazon Region Ecuador

Misahualli - Pununo
Napo Province
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1.1.Yahuaticaspi – Abuta grandifolia, Menispermaceae 

Yahualicaspi is a 2 - 5 meter high tree, with yellow eatable fruits. Much more important than the fruits is the medicinal usage of the leaves, the bark and the roots. Each tribe in the Amazon Region knows and uses this plant against several troubles such as headaches, stomachache, toothache, colds, sore throat, colic and tuberculosis. You just have to cook the useful parts of the plant and take a drink of it.
It should be mentioned that Abuta grandifolia belongs to the same family as Chondrodendron tormentosum and Curares toxifera, which are the main components o the poison curare. But both species are found more frequently further in jungle than at the foot of the Andes.
Curare is a poison, which paralyses the muscles when it gets into the blood circuit. The animals hunted with blowpipes and poisoned arrows or even humans die of the breakdown of the respiratory and heart muscles. This effect utilises even our modern medicine injecting an extract of Chondrodendron tormentosum to relax the muscles of the patients during surgery. But today this substance is produce artificially.
The poison curare usually is made of a mixture of several plants, the combination depends on the tribe and the shaman, but it contains always one of the species mentioned above. Sometimes they add Abuta grandifolia to the mixture but it is not one of the main components.
The family of Menispemaceae is rich in alkaloid, which explains the usefulness of this group of plants. 

1.2.Sangre de drago – Croton lechleri, Euphorbiaceae
Quichua: Lanhuiqui
Sangre de drago, in English is dragon's blood. It is an about 30 meters high tree with leaves in the shape of a heart. The name comes from the red liquid, which well from the tree when you cut the bark. 
According to the information of several natives this juice helps against almost everything. You can apply it external and internal.
Applied on wounds it improves the healing and prevents infections.
The Quichua use sangre de drago also for itching mosquito bites, rash, herpes and toothache. For this the fresh juice is applied directly on the affected zone.
For internal use the juice has to be watered down because it is very sticky. Allegedly it helps curing kidney diseases, gastric ulcer, tuberculosis and even cancer.
This medicine is known everywhere in the Amazon region but it is also available in the biggest and modern shopping mall in the cities of the Andes. The improvement of the healing of wounds is recognised and, in the meantime, proved scientifically.
The big demand offers the Quichua an additional income. They can collect the liquid in a large quantity, more than they need for themselves, and sell it.
As you don’t kill the tree, extracting the liquid skilfully and sensibly, you can find it often in the rainforest. Nevertheless recently there are plantations of sangre de drago to be able to satisfy the increasing demand for this medicine.

1.3.Uña de Gato – Uncaria tomentosa, Rubiaceae
Uña de gato is a woody, up 20 meters reaching climbing plant and its name – cat nail – derived from the curved thorns at the bottom of the leaves. Those thorns you can find only at the new, skin shoots, the older thin trunk does not show them anymore.
The trunk of this liana is reduced to small pieces and the red wood is cooked with water. The liquid produced in this way is known as medicine for several illnesses such as arthritis, bladder- and kidney diseases, asthma, stomach ulcer, cancer, diabetes, menstruation problems, gonorrhoea, allergies and general weakness.  Rarely used is the tea made of the leaves.
Apart from sangre de drago, uña de gato is the best-known and mostly used medicinal plant of this region. Like dragon's blood you can buy pieces of the trunk or even the liquid made from it everywhere in South America, also in the cities.
Uncaria tomentosa is rich in alkaloids for which reason it is an interesting object for scientific investigations. Numerous experiments verify clearly the anti-inflammatory effect of this plant.
Besides uña de gato has an anti-mutation effect and slows down or inhibits cell growing, which predestines this natural medicine for the use against tumours and cancer.

1.4.Guayusa – Ilex guayusa, Aquifoliaceae
Every morning the Quichua drink their typical tea de guayusa. The leaves of the holly are used for this. They contain caffeine that is why it has a waking up effect in the morning. "Morning" for the Quichua really means early in the morning, at 4 - 4.30 a.m. So they are ready after breakfast when the sun rises and they can make use of the daylight. In order to compensate this they go early to bed, towards 19.30 - 20.30.
The Quichua also are convinced that the daily use even protects against snakebites.
In every shop with natural medicine even in the cities you can find leaves of guayusa.
The Ecuadorians appreciate a warm alcoholic drink, which they take at any party, too: guayusaso.
This is the warm tea of guayusa mixed with high - proof, sugar - cane liquor and sometimes with fruit juice.

1.5.Chiriguayusa – Brunfelsia grandiflora, Solanaceae 
The Quichua name sounds similar as the name above, but the plant looks completely different and the tea produced from the leaves is a medicine against fever. Chiriguayusa belongs to the same family as huantuc and has similar, although poorer qualities. It is used for ritual cleanings and as a tranquillising and cleaning tea before bedtime.
Take a bath with leaves against body pain and apply the leaves direct against swellings and muscle pains.Chiriguayusa you can find everywhere as an ornamental plant in the gardens because it is appreciated for its permanent splendid blooms.

1.6.Hierba Lisa – Cymbopogon citratus, Poaceae
Hierba Luisa, the English name is Lemon grass, is a popular aromatic tea in all over Ecuador. The plant does not come originally from America; it was imported in the 16th century. The Quichua plant it always close by their houses to enjoy the tea, which also has medicinal effects. It helps against headache and stomachache.

1.7.Liana de ajo – Mansoa alliaceae, Bignoniaceae
As the Spanish name says, it means garlic liana, this medicinal plant is another climbing plant. The bark smells strongly of garlic that is why it has its name.
The scraped off bark is cooked in water; afterwards you can either stuff the soft pieces directly in your nose or drink the tea.
Also as steam bath of leaves and pieces of the trunk Mansoa Allicea helps against colds, fever and rheumatic pains.
It is interesting that the natives do not use the bark of the garlic liana as spice.

1.8.Cebolla del monte – Eucharis amazonica, Amaryllidaceae
Eucharis amazonica is an herb plant, similar to daffodil known by us. Its blooms are white, the fruits are glowing orange when they are ripe and have black seeds.
The subterranean roots of Euchans amazonica resemble those of an onion of which reason it has its name cebolla del monte, in English wild onion.
This onion is diged up and reduced to small pieces. Of these pieces the Quichua prepare a tea, which helps, like the tea of the liana de ajo, against influenza.
The liana de ajo and the cebolla de monte each work against influenza, could and fever, but together they have a synergetic effect. You remember the old receipts of garlic tea and onion bends
The aborigines of South America did not know the influenza virus. The virus came with the Spanish conqueror from Europe. A lot of aborigines have died because of it and still today they are much more affected by the virus than the Europeans. 

1.9.Higeron, leche de ojé – Ficus insipida, Moraceae
Quichua: ila
When you cut the bark of Ficus insipida a white milky juice wells, called leche de ojé and used for medicine by the Quichua. They use it efficacious against every kind of intestinal parasites: worms, amoebas and bacteria.
As it is a strong medicine children take less juice than adults. The milky juice is taken pure or with water. Most species of Ficus are big trees with impressing table-roots. The family of big trees is very large in the Amazon region, you can find also the Ficus strangulans, a name for a couple of Ficus species, which begin as "climbing plants" and at the end they overwhelm the tree which is a support for them and strangulate it. Later on they look like a tree.
The leaves of many species of Ficus  are used for substitutes for bandages or plasters by fractures and inflammatory processes.

1.10.Chuchuhuasu – Maytenus krukovii, Celastraceae
It is relatively simple to recognise a chuchuhuasu-tree in the rainforest. They have a yellow bark and they never grow straight just like other species. They always look a little sit crooked and gnarled. Their trunk shows many hollows where night - active animals find a shelter during the day.
The red bark of the roots is, reduced to small pieces, used for medicine.
The piece is inlayed in alcohol or cooked in water. With both methods you extract the chemical substances like tannin and others, which colour the liquid red.
This infusion is used for diarrhoea, muscles pain, bladder- and kidney problems, as well as for rheumatism. You have to take the medicine 3 times a day as long as the symptoms get better.
There is also the possibility to take the raw bark without any liquid or preparation to improve generally one's physical conditions and to feel stronger