A woody, climbing vine found in the rainforests of tropical Central America and South America, abuta belongs to the genus Cissampelos. The leaves of this vine measure about 30 cm in length, while its fruits are dark, inedible, grape-sized berries. The genus comprises about 30 to 40 species, mostly native to the tropical regions.
This tropical climbing vine is tough and has a blackish-brown hue. Freshly cut vines have a waxy shine. Abuta is found growing naturally all over the Amazon region, including Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador. This vine is also cultivated in gardens as an ornamental plant.
Cissampelos pareira is a lean tomentose climbing vine belonging to the family Menispermaceae. This is a flowering species, whose leaves are peltate. The leaves are triangular-shaped and broadly ovate or obtuse, orbicular, base cordate or truncate, mucronate, tomentose on either sides. The petiole of this plant is pubescent. Cissampelos pareira bears small flowers whose small stalks are filamentous (filiform).
The male flowers of Cissampelos pareira appear as a cluster at the small leaf axils. Each flower has four sepals which are ovate-oblong shaped and their outside is hairy. The flowers have four petals each that are fused to appear like a four-toothed cup and, like the sepals they are also hairy on the outside.
On the other hand, the female flowers appear in clusters in the axils of the hoary imbricate, orbicular bracts on elongated racemes that measure anything between 5 cm and 10 cm in length. The female flowers have only one sepal, one petal and one carpel and are heavily hairy. The style is also short and split into three at the top.
The fruit is a drupe measuring 4 mm to 6 mm in length and 3 mm to 4 mm broad. It is partially globe shaped, compressed, and covered with fine short hairs. The fresh fruit is red hued, while its color changes to black when dried. The endocarp is diagonally ripped, while the seeds of Cissampelos pareira have a horseshoe shape.
Commonly, Cissampelos pareira is known as abuta, which had given rise to some puzzlement in the present day herbal trade. While the vine is called abuta in Brazil, its common name in Peru is abuta or barbasco. In present day herbal commerce abuta may refer to Cissampelos pariera or even an entirely different herb, Abuta grandiflora.
Although Abuta grandiflora is also a tropical climbing vine widely found in South America, it is completely different from Cissampelos pareira and encloses altogether different compounds. Even the therapeutic uses of these two herbs are different. In Peru, Abuta grandiflora is known as chiric sanago and also abuta, which is the main reason behind the confusion.
Seeds, bark, leaves, root.
Abuta (Cissampelos pariera) has various therapeutic applications. Conventionally, people used this herb in the form of an antispasmodic and it was useful in alleviating menstrual cramps. Abuta is especially useful for treating ailments associated with women, for instance, preventing uterine hemorrhages and miscarriages.
In addition, this herb also stimulates production of breast milk and, hence, is known to be an effective lacto-stimulator. Herbal practitioners also prescribed formulations prepared from abuta to treat dysentery, urogenital problems and piles.
All over South America, abuta is generally known as a midwives' herb. This is mainly because this herb has a long reputation of effectively treating various health problems related to women. In tropical countries, people use the vine or the root of Cissampelos pariera to avoid risks of miscarriage and also to discontinue uterine bleeding following childbirth.
Even to this day, midwives in the Amazon rainforest region carry this herb with them for treating a variety of women's ailments, including excessive menstrual bleeding, menstrual cramps, uterine hemorrhaging and pre- as well as postnatal pain. It is believed that abuta also helps to promote digestion, alleviate constipation and lethargy after meals.
Over several thousand years indigenous people inhabiting the Amazon rainforest in South America have used almost the entire abuta plant for treating various ailments. In fact, they continue to use this herb even to this day.
Natives belonging to the Palikur tribe in Guyana have been preparing a poultice from the leaves of abuta to relieve pain. On the other hand, members of the Ketchwa tribes in Ecuador prepare a decoction from the leaves of this herb and apply it for treating eye infections as well as snakebite.
The Wayãpi Indians in the Amazon rainforest use the decoction prepared from the leaves and stem of abuta in the form of an analgesic. In Guyana, the Créoles steep the leaves, roots and bark of this herb in rum and utilize the solution as an aphrodisiac.
The native tribes of Peru utilize the abuta seeds for treating fevers, venereal disease and snakebite. They also use these seeds in the form of a diuretic and expectorant. Herbal healers in Amazon, known as curanderos, toast the abuta seeds and subsequently make a brew from them to prepare an herbal tea, which is used for treating external bleeding as well as internal hemorrhages.
Members of this tribe also prepare a tea from the abuta leaves and use it to treat rheumatism. In addition, they prepare a tea from the woody vine and its bark for treating excessive menstrual bleeding and irregular heartbeat.
These days, abuta is extensively used in the herbal medicine of Brazil. People in this Latin American nation use this herb in the form of a diuretic as well as a tonic, which is taken as an overall balancer. They also employ abuta for treating fever and alleviating pain.
Often, they also use abuta to treat poor digestion, dyspepsia, constipation, colic, menstrual pains, problematic menstruation, uterine haemorrhages and excessive bleeding, pre- and postnatal pain as well as fibroid tumours. In Mexico, people have been traditionally using this herb to treat diarrhea, dysentery, rheumatism, snakebite and menstrual difficulties, in addition to alleviating muscle inflammation.
In the herbal medicine of North America, abuta has the same therapeutic applications like in South America. In addition to that it is also used for treating minor kidney disorders and inflammation of the testicles.
Traditionally, people inhabiting the Amazon rainforest have been using abuta for therapeutic purposes for several hundred years and even today people there continue to use this herb for the same reasons - treating ailments related to women and also to aid childbirth.
In South and North America, natural health practitioners generally depend on abuta for its excellent therapeutic properties, which help in treating menstrual problems such as excessive bleeding, cramps, pains, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and fibroid tumours. This herb can also stop excessive menstrual bleeding very effectively and quickly.
Often this herb is used in several general balancing formulae especially meant for women. It is also widely used in kidney remedies, as it possesses diuretic properties and because it helps to unwind the smooth muscles in our body. Abuta is also combined with other herbs to prepare remedies for high blood pressure and heart tonics.
Chemical analysis of abuta (Cissampelos pariera) has shown that the main constituent of this climbing tropical vine's root is an alkaloid called hayatine (dl-beberine). The two main derivates of hayatine are methiodide and methochloride. Both these derivatives are very strong neuromuscular blocking agents. The antispasmodic property of this herb is attributed to these two derivatives of hayatine.
Two animal studies have documented that abuta is effective in lowering high blood pressure. As a result, people with low blood pressure should essentially avoid using this herb. Abuta contains an alkaloid called tetrandrine, which has been found to have a variety of effects on the functioning of the heart in animals as well as humans.
Therefore, people already suffering any heart related problem or taking medications for treating heart diseases need to check with their physician before they start using this herb.
It has been found that abuta (Cissampelos pariera) works to relax the uterine. Therefore, this herb was traditionally used to aid childbirth. Nevertheless, pregnant women should always use this herb under the direct supervision of their gynaecologist or any competent healthcare professional.