Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Wisdom Wednesday: Crataeva
This Ayurvedic herb is native to India and Bangladesh. It comes from the varuna tree which grows to a height of 50 feet. It is frequently grown around the temples of India. Although the leaves, bark and root bark all have medicinal uses, I am only familiar with the therapeutic properties of the bark.
Traditionally, Indians have been using this tree for several centuries to help discharge surplus water from the body as well as to invigorate the functions of the liver. The bark contains lupeol, a chemical that neutralizes enzymes associated with BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy). In addition, crataeva also possesses diuretic and stimulant (tonic) features.
In Hindi, varuna is known as ‘barun’ but it is also called three-leaved caper from the dense canopy the leaves provide. In fact, when I was searching for a source of crataeva as a single herb, I keep reaching dead ends until I searched for varuna.
For many years I have used crataeva in combination with other herbs for UTI (urinary tract infection), kidney stones, gout, and BPH. However, it was my interest in the tonic qualities of this herb that sent me on a quest to find the pure herb.
This tonic effect is most apparent on the bladder but it effects all smooth muscle. So you might have guessed that I now use it to treat urinary incontinence. Obviously, in the absence of UTI, kidney stones, etc., I did not want to use the herbal combinations specifically designed for those purposes and regardless, the dosage is too low.
Crataeva is contraindicated in pregnancy but has been used to stimulate the onset of labor (uterine contraction). I also would refrain from using this herb in any patient with a history of AF (atrial fibrillation) or spastic colitis. All these tissues are smooth muscle rather than skeletal (voluntary) muscle. I do have a new patient with bowel incontinence and I would like to add this herb to their nutritional protocol if QA (Quintessential Application) testing indicates it might be helpful.
Initially, I found it as a wild crafted bulk powdered herb from India. Recently I found a liquid extract (Ayurvedic method) from Oregon. You know Oregon, the place where anything goes – smoke pot, assisted suicide, even naturopathy is legal there! It is a high quality product that rivals the liquid extracts I order from Australia. I know the Australians use crataeva as a common herb in their arsenal. However, its popularity in the U.S. is not high enough to warrant importation. Unfortunately, this is true of several important herbs.
Bladderwrack is no longer available from Australia due to lack of popularity. Black Cohosh is readily available, but not its cousin, Blue Cohosh. Combining these two herbs can work wonders in stubborn hot flash cases. Corydalis is another herb that I purchase in from Oregon as so few herbalists use this product.
The Bottom Line:
Crataeva is an effective herb in the treatment of a variety of urinary tract issues. However, its ability to strengthen smooth muscle contraction of the bladder is the benefit that most intrigues me. If you suffer from urinary incontinence, please seek the advice of a qualified herbalist and ask about crataeva/varuna/barun/three-leaved caper.