Callicocca ipecacuanha Brot.
Cephaelis acuminata H.Karst.
Cephaelis ipecacuanha (Brot.) A.Rich.
Evea ipecacuanha (Brot.) Standl.
Psychotria ipecacuanha (Brot.) Stokes.
Uragoga acuminata (H.Karst.) Farw.
Uragoga ipecacuanha (Brot.) Baill.
Common Name: Ipecac
Fruits and leaves
Photograph by: Kurt Stüber
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Ipecac is a small shrub growing about 50cm tall.
The plant has been used medicinally by the native peoples of S. America for many centuries[
]. Its effectiveness against amoebic dysentery was shown by a French doctor in the late 17th century and the plant is now often cultivated for its medicinal uses, being employed both by conventional and herbal doctors[
]. It is a difficult plant to cultivate outside its natural rainforest habitat, attempts in southeast Asia have met with only limited success[
The plant can be toxic in doses larger than recommended for medicinal use[
S. America - Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador; through Central America to Nicaragua.
An understory shrub of rainforests[
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Prefers a minimum temperature in the range of 15 - 18°c[
Prefers a well-drained humus-rich soil and a shady position[
]. Plants need ample moisture and humidity if they are to thrive[
The roots of ipecac contain a number of medically active constituents including isoquinoline alkaloids, tannins and glycosides[
]. They have a violently irritant action, stimulating the gastric and bronchial systems, lowering fevers and preventing cyst formation in amoebic dysentery[
The roots are used internally in the treatment of coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough and amoebic dysentery[
]. One of the surest of emetics, even moderate doses will induce vomiting until the contents of the stomach have been voided making it especially useful in the treatment of drug overdoses[
]. It is used in a syrup to induce vomiting in children who have ingested toxins[
]. Smaller doses are strongly expectorant and it is a common ingredient in patent cough medicines[
The plant needs to be used with caution since excess causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea[
The roots are harvested, usually when about 3 years old and the plants are in flower, and are dried for later use[
]. The plants are replanted after partial removal of the roots[
The plant is used in homeopathy in the treatment of nausea[
Greenwood cuttings in a sandy compost[
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