Conventional as well as herbal medicine continues to make use of ipecac and the herb is itemized in nearly all national pharmacopeias. Ipecac is considered to be among the surest emetic and even giving a restrained dose of the remedy will encourage vomiting till the stomach is cleared of all its contents. In effect, ipecac is especially effective when any drug is taken in excess. When used in small doses, ipecac works in the form of a potent expectorant. Many patented remedies for cough usually contain ipecac and it is also employed in treating whopping cough and bronchitis. In addition, ipecac continues to be employed for treating amebic dysentery successfully. Ipecacuanha or the dried up root of ipecac promotes the production of saliva and, at the same time works as an expectorant by stimulating the secretion of mucus and subsequently removing it. During the period between the 18th century and the early part of the 20th century, ipecac has been used both in the form of an expectorant as well as a constituent of cough mixtures. In effect, opium and ipecac were employed to prepare Dover's powder, which was eventually used in the form of syrup. There was a time when pediatricians suggested that people should keep ipecac in their home in the form of an emetic that is ready to use in the instance of any accidental poisoning. However, the latest guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics vehemently advises against doing so and suggest that people should dispose of all syrups containing ipecac that may be present in people's homes. Besides, several toxicological organizations too have brought out position papers that recommend against using ipecac in the form of a standard treatment for most cases of ingesting poisons, since there is no scientific evidence that says that ipecac syrup facilitates improvement in instances of poisoning. In addition, if ipecac is given at home without the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner, it may also result in accidental poisoning. On the other hand, when cases of poisoning are handled in hospitals, it is often difficult to get a differential analysis, especially when the ipecac syrup has been already administered to the patient. This may, in effect, result in additional symptoms.
Ipecac is native to South America, primarily in Brazil. This is a small shrub that has a preference for damp, shaded woodlands. Although people in South America have tried to cultivate this plant, so far, they have been partially successful in their endeavour. Ipecac also has a preference for a humus-rich, well-drained soil and grows well in shade where the air has enough moisture and humidity and the minimum temperature is in the range of 59�F and 64�F. Ipecac is generally propagated by means of its greenwood cuttings during the latter part of spring. These cuttings are plant in mix of sandy soil at a temperature ranging between 70�F and 75�F. As an alternative method, you may also propagate ipecac with its root cuttings undertaken during the harvesting season. The rootstocks of plants that are about three years old are harvested all through the year. However, the local Indians only harvest the roots during the period between the middle and late winter when the plant is in bloom. The roots are generally dried up and stored for future use. Only dry roots of ipecac are used for therapeutic purposes.
A study undertaken by a scientific panel that was funded by HRSA in 2005 arrived at the conclusion that vomiting by itself is not sufficient enough to eliminate poisonous substances from the stomach. Therefore, the study recommended that using ipecac syrup for the purpose was not adequate for this purpose and the patients ought to be treated more effectively applying safer methods. Moreover, the use of ipecac may potentially cause side effects like stupor, which may be mistaken with the effects of the poison, thereby making diagnosis more complicated. In addition, using ipecac syrup may possibly also holdup administering other treatments or even diminish the efficacy of these therapies, for instance, using activated charcoal, oral antidotes or whole bowel irrigation.
Chemical analysis of the ipecac root has shown that it encloses tannins, isoquinoline alkaloids and glycosides. The alkaloids contained by the plant's root possess expectorant attributes and, when used in higher doses, they may result in vomiting as well as diarrhea. In addition the alkaloids are also potently amebicidal (having the ability to destroy ameba).
Besides being used in the form of syrup, ipecac may also be used as an infusion. Since ipecac infusion is extremely potent, you need to use just a small dose of it, for instance. 0.01 gram to 0.25 gram of this herb is used to prepare the infusion. To prepare this infusion, add a cup (250 ml) of boiling water to a little amount of ipecac (just about the amount equivalent to a pea) and allow it to permeate for about five minutes. You may drink this infusion thrice daily. In case you require using a potent emetic, take 1 gram to 2 grams of the herb (one-fourth to half teaspoonful) while preparing the infusion.
While using ipecac, it is advisable that you exercise additional caution. When you have used the herb in the form of an emetic, you need to drink plenty of water to enable the medication to reach the stomach and begin working. Ipecac may possibly interact with other medications that you may be using. Hence, it is important to consult your physician prior to using this herb.
The actions of this herb inside the body are primarily attributed to those of its major constituents - alkaloids, cephaeline and emetine (methylcephaeline). These chemicals work locally by means of causing irritation to the gastric mucosa and also centrally by means of invigorating the trigger zone of medullary chemoreceptor to promote vomiting.
The root of ipecac, a small shrub native to South America, is harvested all through the year. However, the local Indians only gather the roots during January and February when the plants are in bloom.
To cure bronchial problems, you may combine ipecac with other herbs like coltsfoot, horehound and grindelia. To treat amebic dysentery, it is advisable that you use this herb in combination with Echinacea or American cranesbill.