Rainforest Plants – Curare

Family: Menispermaceae

Genus: Chondrodendron

Species: tomentosum

Common Names: Curare, grieswurzel, pareira brava, pareira, vigne sauvage, uva-da-serra, uva-do-mato, ampihuasca blanca, antinupa, antinoopa, comida de venados, curari, ourari, woorari, worali, velvet leaf

General Description: Curare is a large vine found in the canopy of the South American rainforest. It is only four inches in diameter, but it grows high in the top of the canopy-100 feet. Also known as velvet leaf, its large heart-shaped leaves have a soft silky underside made up of tiny white hairs.

Uses: Curare, injected in high doses into straight muscle tissue, is a highly poisonous extract; it has been prepared throughout tribal history in South America, for the purpose of poisoning the points of arrows. Curare, in large doses, paralyses the motor nerve-endings in striped muscle, and death occurs from respiratory failure. Curare is very bitter, and is actually a common name for various dart poisons originating from South America. Curare is not to be confused with Curara.

Curare has differing effects depending upon dosage, whether it is injected into muscle tissue, or ingested. Curare is used internally in tribal medicine for edema, fever, kidney stones and testicular inflammation. It is also known to relax muscles into a state of inactivity.

Under appropriate medical care and attention, curare is also used to relieve spastic paralysis, to treat some mental disorders, and to induce muscle relaxation for setting fractures. Curare is now used extensively in modern medicine. It is only toxic if it enters the bloodstream. Curare is not for sale to the general public.

As with many Amazonian tribal plant history and legend, curare is prepared by old women. In some traditions, the witch doctor has a monopoly of the business, but generally, wise old men get together to brew a batch. Extra curare was usually carried by tribal members in a gourd or calabash, and stored with weapons.

Disclaimer: The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Any reference to medicinal use is not intended to treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease.