scientific name: Aristolochiagrandiflora other common names: Duckflower, alcatraz, hierba del indio
growing areas: The southern part of Mexico to Panama
physical description: A hairy vine that grows along streams and in other wet areas. The leaves are long-stemmed and appear heart-shaped. In her encyclopedic atlas of plant life, Julia Morton has described the flower of the vine before opening as resembling the shape of a duck, with the stalk appearing like a bill and a slender tail dangling at the other end.
traditional uses: It has a number of reported uses in Central America. Based on their studies in Central America, Michael Balick and Rosita Arvigo say that contribo is one of the most popular herbal remedies in Belize. They report that contribo can often be seen soaking in a bottle of rum at saloons, since it is taken by the shot for everything from hangovers and flu to flatulence, late menstrual periods, and irregular heartbeat. The crushed leaves are sometimes applied as a plaster for skin diseases, as a poultice for snakebite, and as an emmena-gogue and treatment for diarrhea, according to Morton.
availability and dosage: Generally not available in the United States. In Belize, the vine is used to make a decoction or infusion.
contraindications: None noted.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes.
It has reportedly been used to poison humans, according to Morton. Balick and Arvigo also note that contribo contains aristolochic acid, a mutagen and carcinogen in animals, and that the use of the plant on a continuing basis "cannot be recommended." That being the case, it should be avoided. medical research: Balick and Arvigo reported that contribo extracts have been tested and were not found to have any antimalarial or insecticidal activity.