Pilocarpus microphyllus

Herbs gallery - Jaborandi

Common names

  • Jaborandi

The herbal plant known as the jaborandi can reach heights of four to five feet tall. It is a perennial shrub that grows in the Amazonian tropical forests. The jaborandi plant has distinct grayish green colored large sized leaves that are covered with many minute oil secreting glands on the lamina. The plant has a smooth textured and grayish colored bark; it bears small sized reddish purple colored flowers when in bloom.

When any leaf of the jaborandi tree is held up to sunlight or any other source of light, the surface of the lamina appears to be sprinkled with numerous translucent dots, almost as if many tiny insect pests were attacking the lamina surface at once. Every individual dot on the surface of the leaf is a gland that exudes an oil rich in alkaloid compounds. The harvesting of jaborandi leaves from the wild is just for the sake of getting this oil, which is used in herbal medicine as well as conventional medications. Various extracted substances from the oil are used in many kinds of useful medications; the alkaloid called pilocarpine found in the oil is primary treatment in dealing with the dangerous blinding disease glaucoma - that affects thousands of people across the world.

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An herbal jaborandi leaf tea has a long history of use in Brazilian traditional folk medicine; the indigenous peoples of Amazonia used the herbal tea in treating many different problems. The herbal tea can be consumed, when used in this manner the jaborandi tea has a potent diuretic effect and induces perspiration in the body of the person. The herbal tea can also be used as a topical remedy and can help in preventing baldness if it is applied to the scalp - however, scientific studies have not substantiated this traditional belief in the herb. The herbal infusion prepared from the powdered down dried leaves of jaborandi has also been used as a stimulant and expectorant in other places. The infusion is often included in the herbal treatment regimens for a number of well known diseases, such as rheumatism and pleurisy. The leaf extracts were at one time employed in the United States, to stimulate urinary flow in patients affected by problems with bladder function in cases when bladder inactivity was induced by the shock of a surgical procedure - these days, this problem is treated using other techniques.

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The real nature and ways in which the alkaloid pilocarpine works inside the human body is indicated by these different effects it induces. The alkaloid tends have a behavior that resembles the action of a substance in the body that actively aids the body in transmitting impulses from the ends of autonomous nerves in the nervous system - particularly the ones that are involved in triggering the automatic functions in the body, including the nerves in the cardiac muscles that are responsible for the stimulation of the beating of the heart and those included in optical focusing of the human eye, as well as the muscle groups involved in strength and movement. The other actions of this alkaloid include the stimulation of the heartbeat, inducing peristaltic contractions in the muscles lining the intestinal region, and in the muscular contractions of the uterine muscle group.

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The alkaloid has beneficial effects on glaucoma affected eyes. If a little of the alkaloid extract is daubed on the eye of a person suffering from the initial symptoms of glaucoma, it tends to stimulate the optic muscles in the eye responsible for the contraction of the pupils - this effect results in relieving the pressure inside the eyeball. While this action of the herbal remedy will not result in a complete cure from glaucoma, it can at lest alleviate the symptoms of this dreaded disease and the eyesight of the affected individual during glaucoma, blindness results by the gradual accumulation of pressure inside the eyeball, till all the nervous mechanisms operating in the eye stop functioning. In a little over fifteen minutes, the beneficial effects of an application of pilocarpine become apparent and the alkaloid continues to protect the eye for a full twenty four hours after a single application.

Parts used



Natives of Amazonia have used the herb in many traditional remedies, and name "jaborandi" is a derivation from a native word that can be translated as "slobber weed", due to the intense salivation the herb induces in a person who has consumed it. The name "alfavaca" has also been used to refer to the jaborandi in some other South American regions; the herb is marketed in much of Latin America and the United States as an ingredient in herbal shampoos under this name. The natives of present day Brazil used to believe in earlier eras that the application of the jaborandi on the head would prevent baldness - this traditional belief in the ability of the herb in preventing baldness needs to be studied in a clinical setting before it can be given any merit.

The jaborandi remedy was also used by native peoples in Brazil are a treatment for diabetes and to stimulate perspiration in the body. Foreign scientists would become attracted to the latter effect of the herbal remedy. The plant was introduced to Europeans in the 1870s, when a man called Symphronio Continho brought back plant specimens to the European continent. In Europe, the ability of the plant to induce perspiration in people and its power to bring forth salivation came into use as a medicine for individuals affected by a dry mouth. Dryness of the mouth is a symptom that is still treated using the herbal jaborandi medication; this type of dryness is particularly observable in individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy in case of cancer. The active principle in the herb, pilocarpine would be isolated from the extracts by contemporaries of Continho. This compound was found to have great use in ophthalmology as it could easily bring forth contraction in the pupils and help in the treatment of glaucoma especially in the early stages of the disorder. The medication used in homeopathic medicine for the treatment of mumps includes the jaborandi as one of the primary ingredients. Two beneficial alkaloids, called pilocarpine and jaborine are found in the oil extracted from the leaves of the jaborandi plant. The alkaloid known as pilocarpine boosts and mimics the action of the primary neurotransmitting substance called acetylcholine in the nervous system. Acetylcholine is the main chemical transmitter of all nerve impulses in the parasympathetic system as well as the brain. The alkaloid pilocarpine affects and regulates salivation in the mouth, perspiration rates, and the functioning of the tear glands - it also influences the muscular contraction of the eyes. The effect of other dangerous alkaloids like atropine in the body is counteracted by the pilocarpine by the process of stimulation of the paralyzed nerve endings. The other alkaloid fraction called jaborine is similar to atropine in its action within the human body.

Habitat and cultivation

The Amazonian tropical forest is the native habitat of the jaborandi plant; this plant is indigenous to the rainforests found in Brazil and the neighboring South American countries that are included in the region called Amazonia.


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