Cephaëlis ipecacuanha


Folk names: Ipecac, Rio, Matto Grosso.

Habitat: Native to tropical South America, including Brazil, and cultivatedin southern Asia.

Part used: Root and rhizome.

Collection: The root of this small South American shrub is gathered throughout the year, although the Indians collect it when it is in flower during January and February.


  • Isoquinoline alkaloids; usually about 2-3%, consisting mainly of emetine and cephaeline, with psychotrine, O-methylpsychotrine, emetamine and protoemetine

  • Tannins; ipecacuanhin and ipecacuanhic acid

  • Glycosides such as ipecoside (a monoterpene isoquinoline derivative) & saponins

  • Allergens, a mixture of glycoproteins of mol. wt. 35, 000-40, 000

  • Miscellaneous; starch, choline, resins.

Actions: Expectorant, emetic, sialagogue, anti-protozoal.

Indications: Ipecacuanha is mainly used as an expectorant in bronchitis and conditions such as whooping cough. At higher doses it is a powerful emetic and as such is used in the treatment of poisoning. Care must be taken in the use of this herb. After an effective emetic dose has been given, large amounts of water should be taken as well. In the same way that Ipecac helps expectoration through stimulation of mucous secretion and then its removal, it stimulates the production of saliva. It has been found effective in the treatment of amoebic dysentery.

Combinations: In bronchial conditions Ipecac combines well with WhiteHorehound, Coltsfoot and Grindelia. In amoebic dysentery it may be used with American Cranesbill or Echinacea.

Preparation and dosage: Infusion; as this is a very powerful herb, only a small amount should be used. 0.0l-0.25 grams of the herb are used for an infusion. Pour a cup of boiling water onto a small amount of the herb (equaling the size of a pea) and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. This can be drunk three times a day. If you need to use it as an emetic, l-2 grams should be used, which equals l/4 – l/2 teaspoonful when used for an infusion.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021