scientific name: Maranta amndinacea other common names: Sagu, Bermuda arrowroot, ararot
growing areas: Trinidad, Dominican Republic
physical description: Defined as an herb with a carrot-shaped, tuberous rhizome that grows to a length of 8 inches. The rhizomes are covered with a white, resinous skin coated with dry scales.
traditional uses: As with a number of the medicinal plants used among Hispanic cultures, arrowroot is also an important food product. Starch from the plant is used widely as a foodstuff, and the rhizomes can be eaten either boiled or roasted. Arrowroot is also used in the manufacture of face powders and glue.
In terms of medicinal uses, arrowroot is believed to have received its name from indigenous peoples in Latin America who applied it to wounds from poison arrows.
In Yucatan, a poultice made from pounded arrowroot rhizomes has been used on ulcers and wounds. The rhizomes are also eaten in Yucatan for urogenital tract ailments. In Trinidad, arrowroot is used to treat sunburn and as a demulcent.
availability and dosage: Arrowroot is available in powder and capsule form. Dosages vary.
contraindications: None noted.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes.
The starch of arrowroot can produce respiratory allergic reactions.
medical research: A pilot study by researchers in the United Kingdom found that arrowroot powder administered to eleven patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea had the effect of reducing the diarrhea and easing abdominal pain.
scientific name: Adiantum capillus-veneris
other common names: Maidenhair fern, maidenhair, adianto, culantrillo
growing areas: Southern United States to the Caribbean, tropical areas of Central and South America
physical description: It is a perennial herb with brown, hairy rhizomes, slender roots, and erect stems that can grow to a height of about 10 inches. Its roots are slender.
traditional uses: In a number of areas of South America, particularly Colombia and Brazil, avenca is used as an expectorant, with a decoction made from the entire plant. In Mexico and Argentina, a decoction of the fern is reported to be used to relieve sore throat and rheumatism.
It is also reported to be used in parts of Latin America as an emmenagogue, a substance that can induce menstruation. It also has been used to hasten labor in childbirth.
availability and dosage: Powdered avenca leaf is available in tablets or capsules. Dosages vary. Some herbalists recommend a half cup of a decoction taken twice a day. contraindications: None noted.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes. Avenca's use in traditional medicine to stimulate menstruation presents some risk that it could cause an
medical research: In 1989 Iraqi scientists reportedly demonstrated avenca's antimicrobial properties in a series of in vitro experiments using leaf extracts. The study showed the extract had antibacterial properties against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, according to the report.
It has also been reported that Belgian scientists in a study with mice determined that an avenca leaf extract had antihyperglycemic properties (i.e., prevented blood sugar from rising), according to author Leslie Taylor.