Regional medicine: Trumpet tree
The trumpet tree or embauba is widely used in traditional medicine throughout Central and South America.
Virtually every part is used – bark, roots, sap, leaves and fruit – to treat a diversity of ailments. Each country has different uses for extracts of this plant, such as treatment for bronchitis and snakebites in Trinidad and a cure for diabetes and hypertension in Guatemala.
Recent scientific research on the trumpet tree has shown potential for treating obesity, as well as bacterial infections and cancer. The tree is regularly used throughout the world by herbalists for treating respiratory disorders and diabetes.
Crawling with ants
In the wild, these trees are almost always inhabited by biting Azteca ants. The tree and ants form a mutually beneficially relationship where the ants, living in hollow steps and leaf surface, defend the tree from attackers such as leaf-cutter ants and other herbivores. Meanwhile, the ant benefits from shelter and a sugary food produced by the tree on the underside of leaf stalks.
At a glance
Distribution and Habitat
Native to Central America and northern South America, but has naturalised and become invasive in Malaysia, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon. It is a ‘pioneer’ tree, rapidly growing in disturbed areas in rainforest openings and along forest edges
Up to 20m (65’) tall with leaves up to 50cm (20’’) wide
A variety of important local medicines
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