Clavo Huasca Summary:
Clavo huasca (Tynanthus panurensis) is a large jungle vine found in the Amazon rainforest. It uses its tendrils to climb its way up the canopy trees towards the light.
It goes by a few common names such as clove vine (english translation) and palo huasca as well, but the most common name by which it's found is clavo huasca. There's a characteristic "maltese cross" in its cross section, which makes clavo huasca easy to identify from other, similar looking vines.
This herbal medicinal plant is fairly unknown to the general public, yet has a wide range of medicinal benefit including antibacterial, aphrodisiac, analgesic, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory. It has been used for a wide range of conditions as well including; toothaches, infection, low libido, and digestive complaints.
The libido enhancing effects of clavo huasca have been found to work in both males and females, but are suggested to be strongest in females, and peak 3 hours after consumption.
Clavo huasca has a beautiful flavour similar in taste to clove or cinnamon. Some use the powdered vine as a culinary spice.
Although not well known by the general public, an increasing number of scientific studies are released each year on this herb, and more and more evidence is starting to point out the mechanism of actions of this herb in the medicinal field. You can expect this herb to become more well known by the public in the years to come.
Vine bark, heartwood, roots, resin, essential oil
- Libido enhancer
Not listed. Still compiling research.
- Lowered libido
- Weak erections
- Intestinal gas and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Toothaches (bark resin and essential oil)
- Arthritic pain
- Muscle aches
- General energizer
- Clove vine
- White clove
- Cipó cravo
- Cipó trindade
- Tynanthus micranthus
- Tynanthus densiflorus
- Tynanthus espiritosantensis
- Tynanthus miers
The shipibo-conibo, Kayapó, and Assurini Indian tribes in the Amazon have a long history of use with clavo huasca. The main uses of this plant in these cultres is as an aphrodisiac, and sexual potency herb. They used it to treat erectile dysfunction, impotence, and weak erections (Taylor L. 2005). Another common use of this plant is as an additive in Ayahuasca, or taken shortly after its consumption to settle the stomach. Ayahuasca is highly purgative and can cause intense vomiting for hours. Clavo huasca was used to combat and reduce these negative effects from being as drastic.
In Modern day Peruvian medicine, this herb is still used as an effective aphrodisiac, and sexual potency herb for both men and women (Morales L. et al., 2011). The vine tincture is also used for fevers, arthritis, rheumatism,inflammation, aching muscles, to improve appetite,and as a digestive stimulant (Morales L. et al., 2011; Taylor L. 2005).
The powder of the dried stem is also used as a spice in the same way as cinnamon (Morales L. et al., 2011).
In Brazil, T. panurensis is used to treat dyspepsia, and digestive complaints, and intestinal gas (water infusion), and as an aphrodisiac (alcohol extraction) (Taylor L. 2005).
The fresh resin released by the root is used to treat toothaches, likely due to the eugenol content (which is also found in high concentrations in clove).
Clavo huasca is a large liana (woody) vine, growing up to 80 m in length. There are many species under the genus Tynanthus, such as T. miers, T. densiflorus, T. espiritosantensis, and T. micranthus (Medeiros M.P. & Lohmann L.G, 2014). The one most commonly used for medicine however is T. panurensis, although some other species have been shown to contain medicinally active effects as well such as T. micranthus (especially on sexual potency) (Cansian F. C et al., 2014).
In a similar way to Catuaba, there are multiple species of unrelated plants in this region being referred to as clavo huasca. The one referred to in this article is Tynanthus panurensis, and the other, completely unrelated species is actually a Mandevilla genus.
The flowers of T. panurensis are small, white and pollinated by bees, and butterflies.
The fruit of clavo huasca is small, and bean like.
The vine bark and root have a distinctive “clove-like” aroma. The leaves also have this scent, but not nearly as distinctly. This scent is what accounts for some of the common names such as clove vine or white clove. The woody vine, also has a very distinct “maltese cross” visible in its cross section.
Habitat, Ecology, Distribution:
Clavo huasca is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, as well as other parts of tropical South America (Taylor L. 2005).
Harvesting, Collection, Preparation:
Herbal tincture at a standard ratio of 1:5 is best.
In preliminary phytochemical studies, Brazilian researchers discovered an alkaloid they named tinantina (Taylor L. 2005). Other phytochemicals include other alkaloids, phenylpropanoid glycosides, coumarins, anthraquinones, tannins, tannic acids, eugenol, and other essential oils, saponins, and high concentrations of phenols and flavonoids. (Morales, L. et al., 2011; Plaza A. et al., 2005; Taylor L. 2005).
The essential oil, eugenol is best known for its presence in clove (Syzygium aromaticum, also known as Eugenia caryophyllata), but is also found in various other plants as well. It is an aromatic molecule that can be extracted easily through distillation, alcoholic tinctures, or supercritical CO2 extraction. There are numerous studies that have examined the biological activity of eugenol as an antibacterial agent and its effects on the immune, reproductive, cardiovascular, gastric, nervous, and urinary systems. This chemical has been used extensively in dentistry for its analgesic and antibacterial properties, which lines up with the traditional use of T. panurensis root resin for toothaches in traditional Amazonian medical systems.
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
Despite the long history of use, and apparent effectiveness of this medicine, there is little in the way of scientific research on this fairly obscure herb. Some of the chemicals found during preliminary phytochemical analysis have been studied closely however as they are found in other botanicals as well. The alkaloids contained, such as tinantina, which likely produce physiological and pathophysiological effects within the body, need to be studied further to understand their role and effectiveness in the traditional uses of this herb. Alkaloids often have strong effects within the body, but the range of effects from different alkaloids is massive. As the more people learn about the uses of this plant, more research will be conducted. Below are some of the current research that has been done, highlighting several of the major uses of this plant.
Eugenol, which is a volatile oil found in various plants including clavo huasca (T. panurensis) has been shown to exert many effects within the body. One of the best known effects of Eugenol are its analgesic effects. One study investigating the mechanism of action for these effects found that eugenol works (at least to some extent) by interfering with GABA receptors. More specifically, eugenol inhibits GABA induced currents in the TG cells, and α1β2γ2 subtype-expressing HEK 293 cells of rats (S. H. Lee et al., 2014).
GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter, which plays a major role in various physiological activities of the CNS, including the mediation, and perception of pain. Therefore these results make a strong case towards the mechanism of action of eugenols analgesic effects.
Eugenol is a known antibacterial agent against pathogens including Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus, Lactobacillus sakei and Helicobacter pyroli and is reported to act primarily by disrupting the cytoplasmic membrane (S. Hemaiswarya S. & Doble M., 2009). Its actions are mainly due to eugenols ability to damage the plasma membrane of bacterial cells.
Antioxidants are an important part of daily life, as they reduce oxidative stresses, by scavenging free radicals within the body. Phenolic compounds and flavonoids are particularly well known, efficient antioxidants, and are very well studied, especially in the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), and yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis).
It can be hypothesized then, that Tynanthus panurensis will also deliver efficient antioxidant effects due to its high concentrations of both phenols, and flavonoids.
A study done by Morales, L. et al., (2011), found that T. panurensis extract is in fact a potent antioxidant in both in vitro and in vivo experiments. These effects are more than likely due to the high phenol, and flavonoid contents.
Due to the confirmed antioxidant activity of T. panurensis (Morales, L. et al., 2011),
Clavo huasca’s traditional use often includes inflammation, but due to the lack of focus on this herb, a set of researchers decided to investigate further, and conducted a study investigating both the antioxidant, and anti inflammatory potential of this herb. These researchers (Morales, L. et al., 2011) discovered that T. panurensis had both antioxidant, and powerful anti inflammatory effects, through both similar, and different mechanisms,
These researchers stated that “In this test, the early phase of inflammation (1–2 hours) is known to be mediated mainly by histamine, serotonin, and kinins and is followed by the release of prostaglandins; on the other hand, the second phase is more related to neutrophil infiltration and the production of the reactive free radical species” (pg. 942). They then discovered that T. panurensis extract pretreatment was able to significantly inhibit edema, from the first hour, until the end of the experiment. This confirms Clavo huasca’s effectiveness as an anti inflammatory, and suggests several mechanisms are at play, including modulation of TNF-alpha, and antioxidant actions, addressing factors in both stages of inflammation.
T. panurensis has been used and highly valued as an aphrodisiac in the Amazonia region, and is suggested to exert effects on both men and women, however the strongest effects are suggested to be on premenopausal women (Taylor L. 2005).
A related species, with a similar chemical makeup (T. micranthus), has been found to provide specific support for sexual potency in mice, measured by mounting attempts (Cansian F. C et al., 2014). Researchers in this study suggested that the high content of the essential oil eugenol may play a role in these effects, due to past reporting of eugenols vasodilating, and smooth muscle relaxant effects. Other eugenol containing medicinals such as cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), and nutmeg (Myristicum fragrens), also have well documented aphrodisiac effects (Cansian F. C et al., 2014). These researchers also suggested that part of the sexual potency enhancing effects of this herb may be involved with the neurotransmitters responsible for the smooth muscle relaxation of the corpus cavernosum. In this study, it was noticed that the greatest improvement in sexual activity was 3 hours after treatment, in a dose dependant manner.
Eugenol in high concentrations can be an irritant, therefore the essential oil of this herb may produce some irritating effects. These effects are not likely found in the standard 1:5 tincture, or bark tea, however more concentrated extracts may contain high enough amounts of eugenol to produce some irritating effects. If using the essential oil, be sure to dilute, or not apply directly to the skin in order to avoid these irritating effects.
Eugenol has been found to be synergistic with many antibiotics, due to its membrane damaging abilities. Hydrophilic antibiotics, can be ineffective on gram negative bacteria, however bacteria pretreated with eugenol, and then subjected to the antibiotics result in a much higher success rate at killing this bacteria (S. Hemaiswarya S. & Doble M., 2009). This suggests that plants containing eugenol such as T. panurensis, might be a useful adjunctive therapy to reduce antibiotic dosage and toxicity, reduce antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and increase effectiveness in stronger bacteria.
Eugenol has also been shown to produce synergistic actions with carvacrol and cinnamaldehyde. This combination is reported to be effective as an antibacterial agent against several different bacterial strains (S. Hemaiswarya S. & Doble M., 2009).
Potential synergy with damiana (Turnera diffusa/ulmifolia/aphrodisiaca) due to different actions on the cell walls of bacteria, aiding the effectiveness of other antibacterial agents. This synergy deserves further investigation to improve current antibacterial agents.
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The Sunlight Experiment
Updated: June 2017
Recent Blog Posts:
- Cansian F. C, Merino F. J. Z, Amaral V. L. L, Salvador R. A, Campos P. M, Montrucchio D. P, Miguel O. G, and Miguel M. D. (2014). Aphrodisiac properties of Tynanthus micranthus Corr. & Mello ex. Schum in male mice. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 8. 47. DOI: 10.5897/AJPP2014.4149
- Hemaiswarya S, Doble M. (2009). Synergistic interaction of eugenol with antibiotics against Gram negative bacteria. Phytomedicine. 16. 997-1005.
- Lee SH, Moon JY, Jung SJ, Kang JG, Choi SP, Jang JH (2015) Eugenol Inhibits the GABAA Current in Trigeminal Ganglion Neurons. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0117316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117316
- Medeiros M.C, Lohmann L. G. (2014). Two new species of Tynanthus Miers (Bignonieae, Bignoniaceae) from Brazil. Phyto Keys, 42: 77-85
- Morales L, Acero N, Galán A, Perez-Garcia C, Alguaci L.F, and Munoz-Mingarro D. (2011). Bioactive Properties of Tynanthus panurensis (Bureau) Sanwith Bark Extract, the Amazonian ‘‘Clavo Huasca’’. Journal of Medicinal Food. 14(9). 939-943. DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0171
- Plaza A, Montoro P, Benavides A, Pizza C, and Piacente S. (2005). Phenylpropanoid Glycosides from Tynanthus panurensis: Characterization and LC-MS Quantitative Analysis. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 53. 2853-2858.
- Taylor, L. (2005). The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.