Columbo is a bitter herb that also goes by the name calumba. It is found in East Africa, where it was traditionally used as a digestive tonic. The herb is known to stimulate the appetite and digestive activity. Today it is used as a valuable herbal medicine to treat anorexia. There are no recorded side effects and adverse reactions. Colombo can be found chopped for in pill form.
The medicinal parts of the plant are the roots cut in slices when fresh and then dried.
Flower and Fruit
The plant is dioecious. The male inflorescences are 40 cm long and have green sepals, which are 2.7 to 3.2 mm long and 1.2 to 1.6 mm wide. The stamens are free and are fused at the base with the involuted margins of the petals. The female inflorescence is 8 to 10 cm long and has a 1 to 1.5 mm rust-red, pubescent ovary. The fruit is a 2 to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm wide globose drupe containing a moon-shaped stone.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
The plant is a woody, branched liane, which can climb to tree height. The liane is initially downy, then bristly to villous. The leaves are opposite and have an 18 to 25 cm long petiole. The leaf blades are 15 to 35 cm long and 18 to 40 cm wide. They are bristly haired on both surfaces, broadly rounded, deeply cordate at the base and usually have 5 broad-ovate lobes. The root has a diameter of 3 to 8 cm. It is greenish-black. The root has a floury consistency, an indented center, and a thick bark. The transverse section is yellowish, with vascular bundles in radiating lines.
Colombo's taste is mucilaginous and very bitter; it has a slight odor.
Indigenous to Mozambique, east Africa and Madagascar. It is cultivated elsewhere.
Colombo root is the root of Jateorhiza palmata, which has been sliced horizontally and dried. The tuber roots, stemming from the rhizome, are dug up in March, washed, thinly sliced, and then dried quickly in the shade to avoid decomposition.
Actions & Pharmacology
Isoquinoline alkaloids: main alkaloid palmatine, additionally jatrorrhizines (jateorhizine), columbamine, and bisjatrorrhizines
Diterpene bitter principles: including palmarin, chasmanthin and their glucosides (palmatoside A and B), columbin, jateorin and their glucosides (palmatoside D and E)
The drug is no longer used as a bitter (amarum). The alkaloids have a narcotic effect. They act similarly to morphine, increasing resting muscle tone in the smooth muscle of the intestinal tract. Colombo alkaloids are said to act as a CNS paralyzing agent in frogs, and palmatin has the same effect on mammals. No further information is available.
Indications & Usage
In folk medicine it is used for digestive disorders accompanied by diarrhea, dyspeptic disorders, chronic diarrhea in patients with lung disease, subacidic gastritis, and chronic entercolitis.
The drug is used in some European countries as an antidiarrheal agent because of its morphinelike side effects.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Health risks or side effects following the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages are not recorded. Higher dosages of the drug may trigger vomiting and pains in the epigastrium.
According to older sources, very high dosages can also lead to signs of paralysis and unconsciousness (Lewin).
Mode of Administration
Due to its morphine-type action, its use as an antidiarrheal agent is limited. Otherwise, the chopped root is used (no preparations known).
Colombo liquid extract is prepared with diluted ethanol, according to the German pharmacopoeia. Colombo wine is prepared using 100 parts coarsely powdered drug and 1,000 parts xeres wine. The extract is pressed out after 8 days and filtered.
The dose of the decoction is 1 dessertspoonful every 2 hours. The liquid extract standard single dose is 20 drops. Tincture of Colombo standard single dose is 2.5 gm. Colombo wine standard single dose is 5 gm.
Colombo must be kept dry at all times.