Scientific name: Jaetorhiza palmata
Arabic names: الكلومبا (al kelomba)
Rain Forest names:
Approximate number of species known:
Common parts used: Root
Actions: Bitter, digestive stimulant, sialgogue
Known Constituents: Alkaloids including calumbamine, jateorrhizine, palmatine and glycosides
A digetive herb that is used to tone the digestive tract.
Herb Name: Calumba
Other names: Cocculus Palmatus. Colombo.
Latin name: Jateorhiza calumba
Family: N.O. Menispermaceae
Common part used: The dried root sliced transversely.
This is a clearly tropical herb, and is found in the jungles and forests of East Africa, as also on the island of Mozambique. It grows abundantly in it’s home environment, flourishing as do most truly tropical herbs.
If one examines the Calumba, one finds that it is a climbing plant. it is dioecious, and it’s roots are perennial and tuberous. This plant has tiny and not very conspicuous flowers.
It is the root of this plant that is favored for it’s medicinal properties. It must be handled carefully if it is to remain fresh and usable – for example, it is only dug up in the dry season, and selected portions are used. Worms tend to attacks these roots, therefore the least worm-eaten pieces are selected, also those of a bright color. When the root is to be used, it is ground into a greenish powder that turns brown with time. This powder has a very aromatic smell, and is extremely bitter to the taste. However, both the root and the powder have a tendency to decompose if carelessly stored, or they may be attacked by worms.
The chemical breakdown of the extract generally tends to contain Columbamine, Jateorhizine and Palmatine – these are yellow crystalline alkaloids, and are extremely similar to the compound berberine. Of course, the extract also contains a great deal of mucilage from the central pith of the root, and a large amount of starch.
This root is given as a medicinal tonic – though it generally acts more to improve digestion and appetite rather than strengthening the body internally. Though it is essentially a bitter tonic, it has the advantage that it is not nauseous, unlike other remedies of this category. Substances present in the mixture increase the rate of transfer of leucocytes from glands in the intestine to the bloodstream. It is also a mild antiseptic and disinfectant, and a rectal infusion of the root mixture has been known to kill threadworms.