What is Pilocarpus?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A shrubby tree found in South and Central America, the pilocarpus is an important pharmaceutical plant. Used as an herbal remedy for centuries, parts of the plant are now commonplace in homeopathic medicine. A wide variety of health conditions, from glaucoma to poor milk production, may be treated with the tree.

Pilocarpus is used to boost breast milk production.
Pilocarpus is used to boost breast milk production.

Pilocarpus roots and leaves are used to treat several different ailments of the body. Glaucoma, an optic nerve disease, can be reduced through use of the herb remedy. Inflammation of various body areas may also be tamed through its use. Bodily fluids can also be impacted by pilocarpus. The plant can be used to promote perspiration, as well as to increase the flow of saliva, urination, and breast milk.

Use of pilocarpus may cause excessive sweating.
Use of pilocarpus may cause excessive sweating.

Traditional uses of the shrub date back hundreds of years. The Guarani tribes of Brazil were known to use the remedy for treating mouth ulcers, a cold and flu treatment, and a healing agent against kidney stones and gonorrhea. Due to is sweat-increasing characteristics, it was also commonly used to treat venomous bites, toxins, or poisons.

As a folk remedy in the rain forest, the pilocarpus has been used to treat epilepsy, bronchitis, laryngitis, fever, asthma, diphtheria, and convulsions. Tribes have also made use of the plant in healing skin irritations such as psoriasis. Gastrointestinal inflammation may be cured from the home herbal remedy.

Hair tonics can be made from the shrub as a beauty regimen. Using such a concoction may help clean hair follicles, open up the pores, and help control unmanageable hair. People also use it to prevent hair loss. Neurosis, diabetes, hepatitis, and pneumonia are also treated with pilocarpus.

The plant is more commonly known as jaborandi. Other names of the tree include Indian hemp, arruda do mato, jaborandi-do-norte, juarandi, arruda brava, pimenta-de-cachorro, jamguarandi, ctai-guacu, and ibiratai. Pilocarpus, which is the scientific name of the bush, means "cap-shaped fruit." Smooth gray bark, small red-purple flowers, and big, thick leaves are trademarks of the shrub. Its leathery green leaves produce a pleasing balsamic aroma when compressed.

Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid this herbal remedy, as it has been known to cause birth defects and other problems in some studies. A health care professional should be consulted prior to use. Pilocarpus use may cause many side effects, including an increase in heart rate, headaches, nausea, dehydration, flushing, vomiting, contracted pupils, excessive sweating or salivation, stomach irritation, bradycardia, and diarrhea. Overdose can even lead to death.

Glaucoma, an optic nerve disease, may be treated with use of pilocarpus.
Glaucoma, an optic nerve disease, may be treated with use of pilocarpus.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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