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Barbatimão works to treat wounds, but drinking tea can be dangerous

Collaboration for VivaBem 05/06/2022


Barbatimão is a plant rich in bioactive compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, alkaloids, and especially tannins. In some parts of the country, the plant's bark is used for decoctions or infusions, but evidence of its benefits is limited, and ingestion may pose risks.


What is barbatimão?


The barbatimão, scientific name Stryphnodendron astringent, is a tree native to Brazil, with an elongated crown and height between four and eight meters. It has a stout and tortuous trunk and is more common in the savannahs of the Southeast and Midwest. In its structure, there are flowers, small yellowish leaves, and fruits like cylindrical pods with many seeds of brown color.





What is the barbatimão for?


Barbatimão is used to help treat wounds and skin infections. The species were included in the Renisus list (National List of Medicinal Plants of Interest to the Unified Health System) and recommended in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia phytotherapy form as a healing agent in the pharmaceutical form of cream. Scientific publications that show safe and compelling results are related to the plant's biological properties for the treatment and healing of wounds due to its astringent and healing properties.


What are the benefits of barbatimão?


The benefits of barbatimão are related to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, and healing properties. Therefore, the plant is studied to treat various diseases, from female genitourinary disorders (such as urinary tract infection) to cancers. However, scientific proof of any effect beyond healing and astringent (external use, in the form of ointment or soap) has only occurred in experimental models. This means that the results are limited to the bodies of animals such as rats, oxen, cows, and insects and human cells in vitro.

The therapeutic dose of barbatimão is considered very close to the amount of toxicity, and, because of this fine line, the plant is quite toxic to different species of living beings. Even in the animal results, it was deduced that barbatimão would be safe in the short term but of doubtful safety in the long time, as shown in a publication by Renisus.


What is barbatimão tea for?


Among popular beliefs, it is believed that barbatimão tea helps in oral health, skin, and digestion, and treats bleeding, candidiasis, ulcer, and diarrhea. However, as described above, no robust studies prove the benefits in humans, as there is no dose of tea intake considered safe.


What are the dangers of barbatimão?


There are reports of the seeds having abortive properties for cattle and in studies with rodents. In toxicity studies in cattle, 60 g/kg as a single dose or 10 g/kg on consecutive days can cause death. Some studies have shown toxic actions of barbatimão bark extract, causing damage to the central nervous system, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract of animals.


How to make barbatimão tea?


Tea is made from the bark of the tree. It is not recommended that the drink be ingested without a doctor's prescription - which should only happen if science can prove the effectiveness and safety of barbatimão tea.


What are barbatimão ointment and soap for?


Both soaps and ointments (products that usually have a higher concentration of barbatimão) have antiseptic, healing, and antibacterial action, helping to treat wounds or skin infections.


Does Barbatimão help against discharge?


There are reports of use in genitourinary infections (such as urinary tract infection and cystitis), which cause discharge externally, taking a bath with barbatimão tea. The reports, however, are limited to individual experiences, without scientific proof that the technique is safe or effective.


Sources:

Andrea Pereira, Clinical Nutrition Physician at the Department of Oncology and Hematology at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein (SP) and co-founder and coordinator of the NGO Obesidade Brasil; Tatiana Pizzato Galdino, Master Clinical Nutritionist at PUC-RS (the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul); and Arthêmis Moreira, a nutritionist at the HU-UFPI (University Hospital of the Federal University of Piauí), which is part of the Ebserh network.

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