This tree is an enormous canopy tree that is native to the Amazon rain forests of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. It has a long history of use by tribes people of these regions for centuries. Its leaves are large and it has small white flowers and an incredibly tough and heavy bark that is reddish-brown in color. The Peruvian name is Chuchuhuasi which translates to ‘trembling back’ and refers to its use for arthritis, rheumatism and back pain. Traditionally, the bark of the tree was the part used as either a tea, decoction or tinctures. An old remedy used by indigenous people of the Amazon calls for one cup of a bark decoction three times daily for more than a week. Some tribes believe that Chuchuhuasi is an aphrodisiac as well as a general tonic. Typically the bark would be soaked in aguardiente, a local alcohol made from sugar cane. This is a popular drink served in bars and is more commonly known as “go-juice”.
In Peru, it is also used for adrenal support, as an immune stimulant, a muscle relaxant, bronchitis, osteoarthritis, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, for menstrual pain and to restore vigor after a debilitating disease.. Other uses include for sore and achy muscles taken for long jungle treks, as well as for relief of pain. Chuchuhuasi has also been used to speed healing and is also regarded as a synergist, meaning it helps to activate other medicines for healing. Made into a strong decoction,the Sion Indians will use it for the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. In Ecuador, the Quichua Indians also use it for menstrual pain and irregularities as well as stomach aches.
Chuchuhuasi Contains numerous plant chemicals, including triterpenes, flavonols and sesquiterpene alkaloids. However, the most commonly understood chemicals are mayteine and maytansine, which are alkaloids that have been documented to contain antitumor activity. On a side note, though Maytenus krukovii contains these compounds, they are not in high enough amounts to have therapeutic activity for cancer treatment. Two other constituents that are considered active in this plant are two triterpenes called dammarane and friedelane. Among other constituents, there is also catechin tannins and proanthocyanins.
Chuchuhuasi is also an anti-inflammatory and analgesic.