Jatoba Bark


Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Hymenaea
Species: courbaril
Synonyms: Hymenaea animifera, H. candolleana, H. multiflora, H. resinifera, H. retusa, H. stilbocarpa, Inga megacarpa
Common Names: Jatoba, jatobá, stinking toe, algarrobo, azucar huayo, jataí, copal, Brazilian copal, courbaril, nazareno, Cayenne copal, demarara copal, gomme animee, pois confiture, guapinol, guapinole, loksi, South American locust
Part Used: Bark, resin, leaves

The following text has been reprinted from: The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs © 2005 by Leslie Taylor.

Herbal Properties and Actions

kills fungi
reduces spasms
kills Candida
decogests bronchials
Decoction: 1/2 – 1 cup 1-3
kills mold
dries secretions
times daily
increases energy
increases urination
Tincture: 1-3 ml twice daily
kills bacteria
protects liver

stimulates digestion
expels worms

mildly laxative

fights free radicals
In the Amazon, jatobá's aromatic copal resin is dug up from the base of the tree and burned as incense, used in the manufacture of varnishes, used as a glaze for pottery, and is employed medicinally. Indians in the Amazon have long used the resin in magic rituals, love potions and in wedding ceremonies. Although the name Hymenaea is derived from Hymen, the Greek God of marriage, it refers to the green leaflets that always occur in matching pairs, rather than the Indian's use of it in marriage ceremonies. Jatobá's bark and leaves also have an ancient history of use with the indigenous tribes of the rainforest. The bark of the tree is macerated by the Karaja Indians in Peru and Creole people in Guyana to treat diarrhea. In Ka'apor ethnobotany, jatobá bark is taken orally to stop excessive menstrual discharge, applied to wounded or sore eyes, and used to expel intestinal worms and parasites. The bark is used in the Peruvian Amazon for cystitis, hepatitis, prostatitis, and coughs. In the Brazilian Amazon, the resin is used for coughs and bronchitis, and a bark tea is used for stomach problems as well as foot and nail fungus.
With its long history of indigenous use, it would follow that jatobá has a long history of use in herbal medicine systems throughout South America. It was first recorded in Brazilian herbal medicine in 1930. The bark was described by Dr. J. Monteiro Silva who recommended it for diarrhea, dysentery, general fatigue, intestinal gas, dyspepsia, hematuria, bladder problems, and hemoptysis (coughing blood from the lungs). The resin was recommended for all types of upper respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems. In the mid-1960s an alcohol bark extract called Vinho de Jatobá was widely sold throughout Brazil as a tonic and fortificant, for energy, and for numerous other disorders.

In traditional medicine in Panama, the fruit is used to treat mouth ulcers and the leaves and wood are used for diabetes. In the United States, jatobá is used as a natural energy tonic, for such respiratory ailments as asthma, laryngitis, and bronchitis, as a douche for yeast infections and it is taken internally as a decongestant and for systemic candida in the stomach and intestines. It is also used in the treatment of hemorrhages, bursitis, bladder infections, arthritis, prostatitis, yeast and fungal infections, cystitis, and is applied topically for skin and nail fungus. At present, none of the research has indicated that jatobá has any toxicity. One study highlighted the mild allergic effect that jatobá resin may have when used externally.

Chemical analysis of jatobá shows that it is rich in biologically active compounds including diterpenes, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, and oligosaccharides. The phytochemical makeup of jatobá is very similar to another resin-producing rainforest tree, copaiba, which is also featured in this book. Some of these same chemicals occuring in both plants (such as copalic acid, delta-cadinene, caryophyllene and alpha-humulene) have shown to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antitumor activities in clinical studies. In other research, another of jatobá's phytochemicals, astilbin, was shown in a 1997 clinical study to provide antioxidant and liver protective properties.

Jatobá also contains terpene and phenolic chemicals which are responsible for protecting the tree from fungi in the rainforest. In fact, the jatobá tree is one of the few trees in the rainforest that sports a completely clean trunk bark, without any of the usual mold and fungus found on many other trees in this wet and humid environment. These antifungal terpenes and phenolics have been documented in several studies over the years and the antifungal activity of jatobá is attributed to these chemicals.

The main chemicals found in jatobá include: Alpha-copaene, alpha-cubebene, alpha-himachalene, alpha-humulene, alpha-muurolene, alpha-selinene, astilibin, beta-bisabolene, beta-bourbonene, beta-copaene, betacubebene, beta-gurjunene, beta-humulene, beta-selinene, beta-sitosterol, calarene, carboxylic acids, caryophyllene, catechins, clerodane diterpenes, communic acids, copacamphene, copalic acid, cubebene, cyclosativene, cyperene, delta-cadinene, gamma-muurolene, gamma-cadinene, halimadienoic acids, heptasaccharides, kovalenic acid, labdadiene acids, octasaccharides, oligosaccharides, ozic acids, polysaccharides, selinenes, and taxifolin.

In addition to its antifungal properties, jatobá also has been documented to have anti-yeast activity against a wide range of organisms including Candida. Other clinical studies have been performed on jatobá since the early 1970s which have shown that it has antimicrobial, molluscicidal (kills/controls snails & slugs), and antibacterial activities, including in vitro actions against such organisms as E. coli, Psuedomonas, Staphylococcus and Bacillus. In addition, a water extract of jatobá leaves has demonstrated significant hypoglycemic activity, producing a significant reduction in blood sugar levels (which validates another traditional use).

Practitioners have long reported that jatobá bark has shown dramatic results with acute and chronic cystitis and prostatitis. Many practitioners today are discovering that these chronic conditions oftentimes can be fungal in nature rather than bacterial. The widespread use of antibiotics to treat these conditions can actually kill off friendly bacteria which live off fungi – and increase the chances of a fungal problem or encourage fungal growth – even to the point of making the condition chronic. When these types of chronic prostatitis and cystitis cases react so quickly and dramatically to jatobá supplements, is it probably from jatobá's antifungal and anti-yeast properties at work, not its antibacterial properties.

Natural health practitioners in the United States are learning of jatobá's many uses and employing it as a natural remedy for prostatitis and cystitis, as a healthful tonic for added energy (without any caffeine or harmful stimulants), and for many fungal and yeast problems such as candida, athlete's foot, yeast infections and stubborn nail fungus. It is a wonderful, helpful natural remedy from an important and ancient rainforest resource.