Angostura

Angostura trifoliata / Galipea officinalis

Herbs gallery - Angostura

Common names

  • Angostura
  • Carony Bark
  • Cusparia Bark
  • True Angostura

Angostura trifoliata (botanical name Angostura trifoliata/Galipea officinalis) is a somewhat ambiguous tree or shrub that is mainly found growing in South America. This tree is evergreen in nature, distinguished by its comparatively tall standing and deep colored compounded leaves. Generally, the angostura grows anything between 10 meters and 20 meters in height and has plenteous chunky external bark, which the natives usually use in the form of a traditional medicine. Usually, the bark is removed from the tree in elongated, straight shreds, which are either used fresh or dried out and stored for use later.

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Dissimilar to the curly dry bark of cinnamon, the edges of the bark of angostura trees remain straight even after they are dried, primarily owing to their partially spongy structure. However, when the bark becomes very dry, it is easily broken and it comes off to form a crude powder when you apply even little pressure with your hands. However, people prefer to use the angostura bark in its whole form. Since ancient times, the indigenous tribes of South America have used the bark of this evergreen tree in the form of a traditional medicine. However, in present times, this herb is seldom used outside folk remedy and it is not even mentioned in most herbal texts, perhaps barring some incorrect relation to the Angostura® bitters, a completely different substance having no relation with the tree. However, in recent times, people interests in angostura are arisen once again mainly following the discovery of the fact that the bark of this herb contains several active compounds, some of which possess specific cytotoxic (a substance having a toxic effect on particular cells) attributes.

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Interestingly, this shrub is generally not cultivated. The trees grow in the wild and their bark are taken away manually and dried out for future use. When the bark is completely dried out, it is used for various purposes, including preparing infusions, liquid extracts as well as making powders. The trees produce white tubular blooms that have an awful smell. However, you need not worry about them, as they are left untouched and do not have any use. On the other hand, the leaves of the shrub are different from the flowers. When the leaves are bruised or crushed, they emit an odour that reminds one of tobacco.

Parts used

Dried bark.

Uses

Although angostura is a relatively unrecognized herb in the West in contemporary time, native tribes of North America have been using this herb since ages in the form of an herbal medicine for treating various health conditions. This herb is known for its extremely bitter or astringent nature. In fact, people often mistake this herb for the Angostura® brand of bitters, which are named so because they are made in Angostura in Venezuela, for the bitter attribute as well as the name of the plant. Precisely speaking, the herb angostura and the bitter brand Angostura® are two entirely different things with no relation whatsoever. According to folk medicine, the bark of this tree possesses a number of therapeutic attributes.

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The bark of angostura is usually collected from growing trees by stripping them manually. Then they are dried out in the sun before use to help preserving them for some time. Generally, the bark of angostura is used to make an extremely potent decoction. This decoction is consumed unsweetened in the form of a bitter tisane for alleviating stomach cramps, helping digestion and even improving appetite. The function of angostura decoction is similar to that of other bitter tonics. The use of the bark as a bitter is enhanced further when the dried out bark is left to soften by steeping (macerate) in any alcoholic beverage for a particular period of time. Macerating the dry bark of angostura produces a drink, which serves the same purpose as the Angostura® bitter brand and other similar products. However, the flavour of the macerated herb and that of Angostura® brand of bitters may always not be the same.

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The effect of angostura decoction may be improved further by blending it with other different bitter herbs and also by preparing a typical formula that contains traditionally used bitter tonics. However, it is worth mentioning here that blending other bitter herb products with angostura may be done primarily for improving the flavour of this decoction rather than to enhance the therapeutic property of the remedy. This is mainly because any preparation containing only the bark of angostura is extremely unpalatable.

If you prefer alternative medicine, there is no doubt that you will like angostura. This herb offers several health benefits, which are mainly attributed to its antispasmodic properties. In case your digestive system is weak and you are enduring conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease, you may consult with your healthcare provider or physician regarding the use of angostura. In addition to helping solve your digestive disorders, this herb will also help in having regular bowel movements.

It is said that the bark of the angostura tree has a constructive action on our spinal nerves. Therefore, this herb is recommended for people suffering from particular paralytic conditions.

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People who are enduring diarrhea and dysentery usually feel feeble, dehydrated as well as miserable. While such people may change to the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet, they may also try taking an angostura recipe. In South America, people employ this herb for treating dysentery and diarrhea.

It has also been reported that the use of angostura is effective for promoting blood circulation - only outward (blood flowing from the heart) blood circulation.

It may be noted that angostura also functions in the form of a diuretic, as it increases urination as well as sweating. Hence, it is believed that use of this herb may also be helpful in weight loss programs, especially for women, who frequently grumble about water retention in the body.

Angostura also offers additional health benefits, such as stimulating hair growth as well as promoting its health. This is primarily because this herb encourages outward blood circulation. In other words, angostura helps to augment the blood circulation to the scalp. As the blood flow to the scalp increases, it helps additional nutriments to be transported to the hair follicles, thereby making the hair healthy and stronger.

As we are all aware, the skin's appearance affects our self-esteem. In case you are troubled with pimples and acne all over your face, you will naturally feel shy in meeting new people or attend social gatherings. In many instances, people with such skin afflictions actually abstain from both, causing them to become unsocial. Thanks to angostura, you can now have a healthy, glowing and blemish free skin.

Angostura induces perspiration, while improving bowel movement and evacuating bowels regularly. Check with any qualified alternative medicine practitioner and he will inform you that when bowel movements are irregular, they often result in the accumulation of toxins as well as detrimental pathogens inside your body. In such circumstances, you may be plagued with pimples and acne. When perspiration is normal and the bowel movements are healthy, they help you to rinse out the toxic substances as well as the harmful pathogens from the body.

From all what has been discussed so far as well as more, we understand that using angostura indirectly helps us to get a soft and unblemished skin that most of us crave for always. Notwithstanding the fact that angostura is a relatively little known tree, several studies undertaken to ascertain the effectiveness of the bark of angostura professed therapeutic properties that have shown many helpful results. These positive results include the herb's apparent cytotoxic properties or aptitude to kill specific cells. As far as the treatment of cancer is concerned, this particular attribute of angostura may be very significant. However, as of date, there is no scientific evidence that supports the above mentioned therapeutic use of this herb. Moreover, even traditional usage of angostura does not support the use of this herb for this purpose.

Angostura bark has been traditionally used for various remedial purposes, including in the form of a general tonic, as an antimicrobial and antibacterial rinse. Generally, a decoction prepared with the angostura bark has been prescribed to people suffering from various different skin complaints as well as for sterilizing small and also major injuries. Traditionally, people have also been using an extremely strong decoction of angostura bark internally for treating recurrent coughs, whooping coughs as well as common complaints related to the pulmonary system. Findings of many recent studies on angostura bark have shown that it may also have considerable anti-tuberculosis attributes - primarily because the bark encloses two vital active chemical compounds like galipine and angosturin.

The bark of angostura is often used in the form of an infusion or a tincture to cure malarial fever (generally used in conjunction with or as an alternative to cinchona - another herb that possesses anti-malarial as well as anti-pyretic properties). The infusion or tincture prepared with angostura bark is also used for treating paralysis, as it has a positive effect on our spinal nerves. Traditionally, it is believed that the bark of angostura possesses tonifying properties that may aid in arousing the paralytic nerves and, at the same time, promote speedier recuperation from palsy, numbness and tremors. Scientists are still examining the effectiveness, safety as well as the potential modern applications of the bark of angostura. Already a number of alternative medicine stores and speciality apothecaries are selling the processed or refined bark of angostura, usually in the form of powder packed inside capsules.

You can obtain the whole bark of this tree from wherever it grows, because the native sell this bark along with other therapeutic herbs. In the absence of any standardized dosage or safety guideline for using this herb, it is advisable that you should use it in moderation. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid using this herb, unless it is absolutely necessary for them and is used under the direction of a professional and very experienced herbal medicine practitioner or healthcare professional. People who are undergoing treatment for malaria or cancer using specific prescription drugs should also use angostura very cautiously.

Angostura has potently bitter flavour along with tonic properties. This herb generally helps to stimulate the stomach as well as the digestive tract. Usually, angostura is prescribed to people suffering from poor digestion.

Some people also use angostura internally to treat fever, spasms and diarrhea. It is also used to prevent the relapse of malaria. Sometimes, larges dosages of this herb are also employed for emptying the bowels as well as inducing vomiting.

Culinary uses

The bark of angostura is also used in foods, especially while preparing alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, "angostura bitters", a brand of angostura that is occasionally employed for mixing alcoholic beverages, is no longer used for this purpose. Instead, gentian and other different bitters are used for this purpose now.

Research

Scientists have undertaken numerous studies on angostura, a shrub-like tree, for its potential cytotoxic (aptitude to kill specific cells) and antibiotic actions. It is believed that the bark of this tree is the major source of its therapeutic properties.

While both, the angostura shrub as well as Angostura® aromatic bitters go by the same name, actually the bitters derived their name from Angostura, a city in Venezuela. Moreover, the branded product does not enclose any element of the angostura tree.

Although angostura is used to treat a number of health conditions, sufficient data is not available supporting the use of angostura for any human health condition.

Usual dosage

The standard dose of therapeutic formula prepared from angostura is dependent of a number of factors, including the age, health and many different health conditions of the user. Currently, sufficient scientific data is not available for deciding on the suitable range of angostura doses. While using natural products, you should always bear in mind that they are not always essentially safe and, therefore, the dosage of these products may be vital. At the same time, you should ensure that you follow the pertinent instructions on the product labels. In addition, you should also necessarily check with your physician or pharmacist or any professional healthcare provider prior to using these natural products to ensure that they are safe for you.

Side effects and cautions

Generally, the extract obtained from angostura bark is known to be safe for use by nearly all adults, provided it is employed in reasonable amounts, similar to what is present in different foods and beverages. However, sufficient information regarding the safe use of angostura for therapeutic purposes is not available. Usually, the therapeutic doses of angostura is larger compared to the amounts used in foods and beverages. It has been found that taking angostura in large doses may result in nausea and vomiting.

It is also not certain whether using angostura is safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Hence, it is advisable that they should keep away from using this herb during such times.

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