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

West Indian Elm


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:

Guazuma ulmifolia

Botanical Family:

Malvaceae

Other Common Name:

Ajillá, Bastard cedar, Gunstock, Hay cedar, Jackocalaloo, Pricklenut, Bois De L’Orme, Bois de hetre, Bwa Dom, Guazuma, Guácima, Cuaulote, Caulote, Contamal, Huásimo, Mawo baba, Moena, Mutamba, Papayillo, Pixoy (Quattrocchi, 2012; Longuefosse, 2007; Martínez, 1994; White, 2002; Sánchez-Monge, 2001).

Common names in Spanish:

Bolaina negra, Bolita, Cabeza de negro, Cabeza de negrito, Caca de mico, Coco, Cerezo, Chicharrón, Guácimo blanco, Guácimo cimarrón, Guácimo de caballo, Guácimo dulce, Guácimo de ternero, Llucho vainilla, Majagua de toro, Tablote, Tapaculo, Yaco de granadillo, Yaco de venado (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; White, 2002; Sánchez-Monge, 2001; Martínez, 1994; Torkelson, 1996; Liogier, 1974).

Where is it found?

This medium-size to tall tree grows in the tropical and subtropical regions Mexico, as well as Latin America (including some Caribbean countries), and India (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008; Johnson, 1999; Martínez, 1994; Nunez-Melendez, ).

Parts of the plant used:

The leaves, bark, root, flowers, and fruit (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Adame and Adame, 2000).

How is it used?

The bark of the tree and the fruit can be decocted in water to make a tea. The decoction can also be used as a mouthwash or externally as a wash to treat various skin disorders.

What is it used for?

The leaves taken as a tea have antidiabetic properties, and help protect the gastric lining of the stomach (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011). Decoctions made with the fruit and bark are taken as a tea against syphilis, urinary problems, diarrhea, bronchitis, coughs, colds, malaria, fever, gastritis, rheumatism and problems related to the spleen. A tea made from the leaves is taken to treat gonorrhea, fever, liver and kidney problems, as well as to lose weight. A decoction made for the fruit is taken to treat diarrhea, kidney ailments, and colds. A decoction made with the bark of the root is taken to treat hemorrhoids and dysentery. The tender fruits and branches produce a mucilage (gummy substance) that can be used medicinally, both externally as well as internally (Adam and Adame, 2000; Martínez, 1989). Externally, the decoction of the bark can be applied against leprosy, elephantiasis, ulcerations, and infections (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Mabberley, 2008; Johnson, 1999; Vallejo and Oviedo, 1994).

In the Caribbean region, the tree is valued as an important medicinal and forage plant. A tea made from a decoction of the bark is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties, and is also used externally to treat fractures. The fruit is astringent, but edible for both humans and livestock, and can be applied externally as a poultice to treat skin problems. A decoction of the leaves is used to treat elephantiasis. The tree is also used to treat venereal diseases (syphilis), as well as to treat fever and malaria. A decoction of the bark is used in Venezuela as an emmenagogue (to promote menstruation). A poultice made from the leaves and bark is applied externally to wounds and cuts. The mucilage (gummy substance) from the bark is applied externally for burns and as an enema for the treatment of hemorrhoids and dysentery. A tea made from the flowers is used as a cough and cold remedy. The leaves chopped in rum and the young bark of the tree are applied externally against scratches, cuts, and skin abrasions. The young leaf buds are decocted in water and taken as a tea to treat coughs, colds, and sore throat. The bark and leaves are used as a vaginal wash (douche). The decoction of the bark and leaves is applied externally as a wash to treat baldness (Longuefosse, 2007; Liogier, 1990; Nuñez-Melendez, 1982; Pittier, 1971).

Ethnobotanical research undertaken with G. ulmifolia in Latin America has found that this plant has active ingredients that are active against various species of pathogenic bacteria, and can be useful in treating various gastrointestinal infections in humans (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Caceres et al., 1990). Extracts from the bark of possess various active ingredients that exert important antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, and antibacterial properties (Lopes et al., 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Kaneria et al., 2009).

Ethanol extracts obtained from the leaves of G. ulmifolia showed significant inhibition against the protozoan parasites Trypanosoma cruzi, Leishmania brasiliensis, and L. infantum. The authors of the study suggested that the extract’s leishmanicidal activity was possibly due to the presence of quercetin, a natural phytochemical known to be a powerful leishmanicidal compound (Calixto Júnior et al. 2016).

The antimicrobial effects of G. ulmifolia was evaluated against various human multi-drug resistant pathogens, including bacterial and fungal species. The results of the study showed that the plant’s bioactive ingredients exerted powerful antimicrobial effects against the infectious species Candida albicans and Acinetobacter lwoffii. The authors if the study concluded that this plant could be an important source of antimicrobial agents for the treatment of human infectious diseases (Jacobo-Salcedo et al., 2011).

G. ulmifolia leaves combined with other plants are used as fodder in various parts of tropical America for ruminants (Castrejón-Pineda et al., 2016; Vallejo and Oviedo, 1994), as well as for rabbits (Safwat et al., 2014).

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.
  • The plant should be taken internally only in moderation, as large doses can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (Longuefosse, 2007; Vallejo and Oviedo, 1994).

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!

References:

Adame J, Adame H. Plantas Curativas del Noreste Mexicano.
Monterrey, N.L.: Ediciones Castillo; 2000; pp. 109-110.

Argueta A. Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana Vol.2.
Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista; 1994; pp. 717-718.

Caceres A, Cano O, Samayoa B, Aguilar L. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of
gastrointestinal disorders. Screening of 84 plants against enterobacteria.
J Ethnopharmacol. 1990;30(1):55-73.

Calixto Júnior JT, de Morais SM, Gomez CV, Molas CC, Rolon M, Boligon AA, Athayde ML,
de Morais Oliveira CD, Tintino SR, Henrique Douglas MC. Phenolic composition and
antiparasitic activity of plants from the Brazilian Northeast "Cerrado".
Saudi J Biol Sci. 2016; 23(3):434-40. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2015.10.009.

Castrejón-Pineda F, Martínez-Pérez P, Corona L, Cerdán JL, Mendoza GD. Partial substitution
of soybean meal by Gliricidia sepium or Guazuma ulmifolia leaves in the rations of growing
lambs. Trop Anim Health Prod. 2016;48(1):133-7.

Jacobo-Salcedo Mdel R, Alonso-Castro AJ, Salazar-Olivo LA, Carranza-Alvarez C, González-
Espíndola LA, Domínguez F, Maciel-Torres SP, García-Lujan C, González-Martínez Mdel R,
Gómez-Sánchez M, Estrada-Castillón E, Zapata-Bustos R, Medellin-Milán P, García-Carrancá
A. Antimicrobial and cytotoxic effects of Mexican medicinal plants. Nat Prod Commun. 2011
;6(12):1925-8.

Johnson T. CRC Ethnobotany Desk Reference.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1999; p. 386.

Kaneria M, Baravalia Y, Vaghasiya Y, Chanda S. Determination of antibacterial and antioxidant
potential of some medicinal plants from saurashtra region, India. Indian J Pharm Sci.
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Languefosse JL. Plantes Medicinales Caribeennes.
Paris: Editions Orphie; 2007; pp. 54-55.

Liogier HA. Diccionario Botánico de Nombres Vulgares de la Española.
Santo Domingo: UNPHU; 1974: p. 395.

Liogier, AH. Plantas Medicinales de Puerto Rico y el Caribe.
San Juan, PR: 1990; pp. 249-251.

Lopes GC, Longhini R, Dos Santos PV, Araújo AA, Bruschi ML, de Mello JC. Preliminary
Assessment of the Chemical Stability of Dried Extracts from Guazuma ulmifolia Lam.
(Sterculiaceae). Int J Anal Chem. 2012; 2012:508945. doi: 10.1155/2012/508945.

Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 378.

Martínez M. Las Plantas Medicinales de México.
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Martínez M. Catálogo de Nombres Vulgares y Científicos de Plantas Mexicanas.
México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica; 1994; p. 1125.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 428-429.

Nuñez-Meléndez, E. Plantas Medicinales de Puerto Rico.
San Juan, PR: Editorial Universitaria de Puerto Rico; 1982; pp. 190-191.

Pittier H. Manual de Plantas Usuales de Venezuela y Su Suplemento.
Caracas: Fundación Eugenio Mendoza; 1971; p. 240.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants (Vol. 3).
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 393-394.

Safwat AM, Sarmiento-Franco L, Santos-Ricalde RH, Nieves D. Determination of tropical
forage preferences using two offering methods in rabbits. Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2014
;27(4):524-9. doi: 10.5713/ajas.2013.13163.

Sánchez-Monge E. Diccionario de Plantas de Interés Agrícola Vol. 1.
Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura; 2001; pp. 516-517.

Torkelson A. The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants. Vol. 3.
Boca Raton, FL.: CRC Press; 1996; p. 1003-1004.

Vallejo, M.A., and F.J. Oveido. 1994. Características botánicas, usos y distribución de los
principales árboles y arbustos con potencial forrajero de América Central. In: Árboles y arbustos
forrajeros en América Central. Volumen 2. Serie Técnica, Informe Técnico N° 236. Centro
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