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Botanical Description & Habitat

Jateorhiza palmata


Common Names
Colombo root

Indigenous to East Africa

Medicinal Parts
Dried slices of the root

Historical Properties & Uses

Calumba is used in folk medicine a lot like barberry, and a lot like gentian root. That is, it is used as a good antibiotic, and as a good bitter for gastrointestinal complaints.

Method of Action

Calumba has Antibiotic and Stomachic Actions

Calumba is a rich source of berberine-like alkaloids; in fact it may be one of the best sources worldwide: jateorrhizine, columbamine and palmatine. It is also a rich source of bitter principles. The medicinal properties are nicely accounted for by these constituents.

Clinical research suggests the use of whole calumba is better for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, that isolated components. Apparently, there are as yet undetermined interactions in this plant that significantly affect its effectiveness.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognizes calumba as an orexigenic and carminative; in other words, in Great Britain, the action of the alkaloids is completely ignored. Rather, calumba is recognized primarily for its bitters. It is used in the treatment of anorexia, hypochlorhydria, atonic dyspepsia and flatulence. It is combined with turtlebloom (balmony), gentian root or quassia in anorexia, and with acorus and galanga in intestinal flatulence.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

There is evidence combining bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the '-static' variety. How this finding applies to herbal antibiotics is not known.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Calumba, in therapeutic doses, is nontoxic, without side-effects.

Preparation & Administration

Use 0.5-1.0g of dried root

Liquid Extract
Use 0.5-1.0ml of 1:1 in 25% alcohol

Use 2.4ml

Concentrated Infusion
Use 2-4ml


British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Braun, H. & Frohne, D. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Ohigashi, H. & Mitsui, T. Antimicrobial substances in higher plants. Botyu-Kagak, 38(3), 165-180, 1973.


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