Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation

Little Hand Flower

Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:

Chiranthodendron pentadactylon

Botanical Family:


Other Common Name:

Devil’s hand tree, Handflower tree, Mexican handplant, Macpalxóchitl, Mapilxóchitl, Mecapalxóchitl, Cacpalxóchitl, Camxóchitl, Canaco, Canahue, Papasúchil, Teyacua (Quattrocchi, 2012; Wieresma and León, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; White, 2002; Linares et al., 1999; Martínez, 1994).

Common names in Spanish:

Flor de manita, Árbol de las manitas, Manita, Mano de dragón, Mano de león, Mano de mico, Palo de mecate, Palo de tayuyo, (Quattrocchi, 2012; Wieresma and León, 2012; White, 2002; Sánchez-Monge, 2001; Argueta, 1994; Schoenhals, 1988).

Where is it found?

This tree is native to southern Mexico and Guatemala (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008; Johnson, 1999; Argueta, 1994; Martínez, 1994).

Parts of the plant used:

Principally the flowers, although sometimes the leaves and the bark of the tree are also used (Argueta and Zolla, 2014; Berdonces, 2009).

How is it used?

In Mexico and parts of Central America, the flowers are commonly decocted in water and taken as a tea for various medicinal purposes, including the treatment of diarrhea (Velázquez et al., 2012). The decoction can also be applied externally as a wash (Martínez, 1989).

What is it used for?

The flowers have been used in Mexican traditional medicine for centuries, especially in combination with various other medicinal plants, for the treatment of diverse health problems. These include nervousness, epilepsy, headaches, insomnia, depression, dizziness, as an anodyne (for pain), inflammation, ulcers, eye inflammation, piles, and as a stimulant for heart problems (Argueta and Zolla, 2014; Jiménez, 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Quattrocchi, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; Mabberley, 2008; Adame and Adame, 2000; Johnson, 1999; Linares et al., 1999; Argueta, 1994). Externally, the decoction of the flowers is used as a wash to treat afflictions affecting the pubic area, as well as a poultice to treat hemorrhoids (Linares et al., 1994, 1999; Martínez, 1989).

Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez (2011) mention that the plant has an anti-cholinergic effect. Additionally, the alkaloids and glycosides contained in the flowers have a combined synergistic action that exerts a digitalis-like effect that stimulates the heart.
However, there are no known clinical studies published in the English language to confirm its effectiveness for the treatment of cardiovascular problems.

There are scientifically-documented studies regarding little hand flower extracts that confirm their potential use for the treatment of certain gastrointestinal diseases, including diarrhea and dysentery (Calzada et al., 2010; Velázquez et al., 2006). Research by Velázquez et al. (2009) employed a methanol extract of the flowers and their flavonoid compounds in order to assess their antisecretory activity against cholera toxin-induced intestinal secretion in an animal model (rat jejunal loops). One for the plant’s flavonoids, epicatechin, demonstrated the most powerful antisecretory activity with a potency that was very similar to that of loperamide, the drug used as a control. This finding partially supports the traditional use of the plant against dysentery and diarrhea.

Studies have shown that extracts obtained from the flowers possess important antibacterial as well as anti protozoan actions that are useful in the treatment of certain infectious gastrointestinal diseases (Calzada et al., 2006; Alanís et al., 2005).

Velázquez et al. (2012) conducted computational, in vitro, and in vivo studies to assess the antisecretory activity of a flavonoid compound (epicatechin) isolated from a crude extract obtained from the flowers. The results of this study, including the effects of the plant compound on pathogenic bacterial toxins (Vibrio cholera and Escherichia coli), demonstrated the potential of epicatechin as a novel antisecretory compound. These results seem to back up the traditional medicinal use of the little hand flower for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea.

Safety / Precautions


  • The safety of using products made from this plant (either internally or externally) during pregnancy and lactation has not been established.
  • Avoid taking this plant during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider first before taking this plant if you are currently taking anti-hypertensive or anti-epileptic prescription medications, to avoid a possible herb-drug interaction.
  • Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!


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