Cayaponia ficifolia

Despite a staggeringly bitter taste, Tayuya has found wide use by indigenous South Americans, Africans and Indonesians all the way back into the deep fog of prehistory. In 1991, many of Tayuya’s useful properties were scientifically validated in a study entitled Superoxide Scavenging Properties of Flavonoids in a Non-enzymic System.There were shown to be phytonutnients (Saponins and others), which are unique and potent antioxidants.

Quoted from Raintree Nutrition

In related activity, Tayuya is being used by athletes to help remove lactic acid accumulations, greatly reducing the swelling and pain of over-exercised muscles. As far as I am personally concerned, being a 45-year-old alpine snow skier, understanding the significance of this benefit, makes this the one most exciting feature mentioned in this newsletter. Japanese researchers are investigating Tayuya’s “significant inhibitory effects on Epstein-Barr virus (related to chronic fatigue syndrome).” Others are employing it to relieve emotional exhaustion and depression, while yet others are focusing on its ability to ease excess stomach acid and reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is used by Amazonia’s indigenous people in cases of snake bite, and now, logically, by city dwellers as a general blood purifier. One of Tayuya’s favored anti-inflammatory uses is to relieve rheumatism. Thyroid hormones are essential for turning couch-warming flab into productive energy and activity.

Tayuya is a woody vine found in the Amazon rainforest (predominantly in Brazil and Peru) as well as in Bolivia. This important Amazon plant belongs to the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family, which comprises over 100 genera and over 700 species-most of which are characterized by their long, tuberous roots. It is this root that is employed medicinally. Harvesting of it can only be performed during rainy season, when the ground is soft and wet; during dry season, the ground is too hard to extricate the root (which can extend to three feet long) from the dry clay soils in the Amazon. About 50 species of Cayaponia occur in the warmer parts of the Americas, West Africa, Madagascar and Indonesia. In Brazil, Cayaponia tayuya is known as taiui’; in Peru, it is called tayuya.

Tribal & Herbal Medicine Uses

South American Indians have been using tayuya since prehistoric times, and the plant’s value is well known. It has been used as a tonic and blood cleanser traditionally (and, usually, with a bit of honey or stevia added to tone down the strong, bitter taste). In the Amazon rainforest, Indians have used the root of tayuya for snakebite and rheumatism for centuries. Indians in Colombia use the plant for sore eyes; indigenous tribes of Peru use it for skin problems.

Tayuya has a long history in Brazilian herbal medicine; it was first recorded in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia as an official herbal drug in 1929. Brazilian botanist J. Monteiro da Silva reports tayuya is used for the treatment of all types of pain and, recommends it as an anti-syphilitic agent. Monteiro also believes that tayuya helps to regulate metabolism. In Brazil today, tayuya is used as an analgesic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, blood purifier and detoxifier; to treat diarrhea, epilepsy, metabolism disorders, backache, sciatic pain, headaches, gout, neuralgia, constipation, anemia, cholera, dyspepsia, stomach problems, fatigue and debility, skin disorders, arthritis and rheumatism, syphilis, tumors (especially in the joints)-and as a general analgesic for many conditions.

Currently, tayuya is employed in North and South America for its pain-reducing properties and more. Natural health practitioners in the United States are using tayuya to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), dyspepsia and sluggish digestion, neuralgia, sciatica, gout, headaches, rheumatism, and as a metabolic regulator. Because of its reported effectiveness as a blood purifier and detoxifier, it is also being used to treat water retention, wounds, splotchiness on the face, eczema, herpes, severe acne, and other skin problems. It is also being used in athletic training and recovery to help remove lactic acid accumulation, reduce swelling, and to relieve emotional fatigue and depression.

Plant Chemicals

Tayuya is phytochemically rich in flavones, glucosides, and cucurbitacin triterpenes. Almost every species in the huge Cucurbitaceae family is documented to contain cucurbitacin compounds-many of which evidence biological activity (and, oftentimes, the plant’s medicinal activity is ascribed to these chemicals). Novel cucurbitacins have been discovered in tayuya and named cayaponosides (24 distinct cayaponosides have been discovered thus far). These phytochemicals have been documented to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and, more recently, to have anticancerous potential.

The National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan reported (in 1995) that five cayaponosides in tayuya “… exhibited significant anti-tumor-promoter activity in screening tests using an Epstein-Barr virus activating system.” and that two other cayaponosides “… also suppressed mouse skin tumor promotion in a two-stage carcinogenesis experiment …” Another cucurbitacin found in tayuya, cucurbitacin R, has been studied extensively in Russia. There it is cited as a powerful adaptogen, preventing stress-induced alterations in the body. Other flavone phytochemicals in tayuya have been reported act as potent scavengers of free radicals, providing an antioxidant effect as well as protecting against damage induced by gamma-radiation. The main plant chemicals found in tayuya include: alkaloids, cayaponosides, cucurbitacins, isoorientin, isovitexin, orientin, resins, saponins, spinosin, sterols, swertisin, vicenin 2, and vitexin.

Biological Activities & Clinical Research

While tayuya’s compounds have come under some scientific scrutiny (and many of the documented uses in herbal medicine could be explained by some of the activities of its chemicals), very little research has been performed on the biological activity of the plant itself. Two animal studies (performed in the early 1990s) do verify that root extracts provide analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions. One study documented that a root infusion given intragastrically to mice had an analgesic action. Another research group prepared the root in a methanol extract and reported mild anti-inflammatory actions when administered orally to mice. The latter group reported no toxic effects in mice (oral dosages of a methanol root extract) at 2 g per kg of body weight; however, an LD50 of 500 mg/kg was established when injected intraperitoneally. One in vitro study by Brazilian scientists reported that tayuya did not evidence any antimicrobial properties (against several common bacteria, fungi, and yeast microbes they tested).

The above text has been quoted from the book, Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest

Author: Life Enthusiast