Mulungu Bark Erythrina mulungu
Mulungu is a medium-sized, well-branched tree that grows 10-14 m high. It produces a profusion of pretty, reddish-orange flowers (pollinated by hummingbirds) at the ends of the tree’s many branches. The tree is sometimes called “coral flower,” as the flowers resemble the color of orange coral. It produces black seed pods containing large, red-and-black seeds, which are sometimes used by indigenous peoples to make necklaces and jewelry. Mulungu is indigenous to Brazil, parts of Peru, and tropical areas in Latin America and, typically, is found in marshes and along riverbanks. The Erythrina genus comprises more than 100 species of trees and shrubs (mostly all heavily armed with spines or thorns) in the topical and subtropical regions of both hemispheres. The mulungu tree (first recorded in 1829) is known by two botanical names, Erythrina mulungu and Erythrina verna. Another closely-related species, E. crista-galli, is used interchangeably in South American herbal medicine systems and is found farther south on the South American continent. The flower of E. crista-galli is the national flower of Argentina.
Tribal and herbal medicine uses of Mulungu Bark
Several Erythrina tree species are used by indigenous peoples in the Amazon as medicines, insecticides, and fish poisons. Mulungu Bark has long been used in Brazil by indigenous peoples as a natural sedative: it has been used to calm an overexcited nervous system and promote a restful sleep.
In both North and South American herbal medicine systems mulungu bark is considered to be an excellent sedative to calm agitation and nervous coughs and to treat other nervous system problems including insomnia and anxiety. It also is widely used for asthma, bronchitis, gingivitis, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver and spleen, intermittent fevers, and to clear obstructions in the liver. In both Brazil and Peru mulungu bark is used for epilepsy. Herbalists and practitioners in the United States use mulungu bark to quiet hysteria from trauma or shock, as a mild, hypnotic sedative to calm the nervous system, to treat insomnia and promote healthy sleeping patterns (by sedating overactive neurotransmitters), to regulate heart palpitations, and to treat hepatitis and liver disorders. Positive regulatory effects on heart palpitations and decreased blood pressure have been reported; Dr. Donna Schwontkowski, a chiropractor who has used Amazonian plants in her practice, recommends mulungu bark for hernias, stomachaches, and epilepsy – and to help augment milk flow as well.