Amor Seco - Desmodium adscendens Amor Seco - Desmodium adscendens

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Amor Seco
(Desmodium adscendens)

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Amor Seco - Desmodium adscendens PLANT

Amor Seco - Desmodium adscendens

Amor Seco

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  • Family: Fabaceae
    Genus: Desmodium
    Species: adscendens
    Synonyms: Desmodium coeruleum, D. caespitosum, D. glaucescens, D. heterophyllum, D. oxalidifolium, D. triflorum, Hedysarum adscendens, H. caespitosum, Meibomia adscendens
    Common Names: amor seco, amor-do-campo, strong back, pega pega, margarita, beggar-lice, burbur, manayupa, hard man, hard stick, mundubirana, barba de boi, mundurana, owono-bocon, dipinda dimukuyi, dusa karnira, tick-clover, tick-trefoil
    Part Used: aerial parts, leaves

    From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

    Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • reduces pain
  • cleanses blood
  • Leaves, Whole herb
  • blocks allergies
  • detoxifies
  • Infusion: 1-3 cups daily
  • reduces asthma
  • increases urination
  • Tincture: 4-6 ml daily
  • reduces convulsions
  • mildly laxative
  • Capsules: 4-5 g daily
  • blocks histamine
  • heals wounds
  • reduces inflammation
  • reduces spasms
  • dilates bronchials
  • relaxes muscles

    Amor seco is a weedy, perennial herb that grows to 50 cm tall and produces numerous light-purple flowers and green fruits in small, beanlike pods. It is indigenous to many tropical countries and grows in open forests, pastures, along roadsides, and like many weeds - just about anywhere the soil is disturbed. In Brazil, the plant is known as amor seco or amor-do-campo; Peruvians call the plant manayupa. The Desmodium genus is a large one, with about 400 species of perennial and annual herbs growing in temperate and tropical regions in the Western hemisphere, Australia, and South Africa. In the South American tropics, Desmodium axillare, a closely related plant, is used interchangeably in herbal medicine systems.


    Today, tribes in the Amazon rainforest use amor seco medicinally much as they have for centuries. A tea of the plant is given for nervousness, and it is used in baths to treat vaginal infections. Some tribes believe the plant has magic powers, and it is taken by lovers to rekindle a waning romance. Rio Pastaza natives in the Amazon brew a leaf tea and wash the breasts of mothers with it to promote milk flow. Additional indigenous tribal uses include a leaf decoction for consumption, an application of pounded leaves and lime juice for wounds, and a leaf infusion for convulsions and venereal sores. A survey, in which more than 8,000 natives in various parts of Brazil were interviewed, showed that a decoction of the dried roots of amor seco is a popular tribal remedy for malaria. The indigenous Garifuna tribe in Nicaragua uses a leaf decoction of amor seco internally for diarrhea and venereal disease and to aid digestion.

    Amor seco is also quite popular in herbal medicine throughout South and Central America. In Peruvian herbal medicine today, a leaf tea is used as a blood cleanser; to detoxify the body from environmental toxins and chemicals; as a urinary tract cleanser; and to treat ovarian and uterine problems such as inflammation and irritation, vaginal discharges, and hemorrhages. In Belize (where the plant is called "strong back"), the entire plant is soaked in rum for 24 hours, and then 1/4 cup is taken three times daily for seven to ten days for backaches. Alternatively, an entire plant is boiled in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes, and 1 cup of warm tea is taken before meals for three to five days for relief of backache, muscle pains, kidney ailments, and impotence. In Brazilian herbal medicine, the dried leaves are used for the treatment of asthma, vaginal discharge, body aches and pains, ovarian inflammation, excessive urination, excessive mucus, and diarrhea. In Ghana, a leaf decoction is a popular remedy for bronchial asthma, constipation, dysentery, and colic, and is also used to dress wounds.


    Amor seco is known to be rich in flavonoids, alkaloids, and chemicals known as soyasaponins. A novel soyasaponin in amor seco is dehydrosoyasaponin. It is considered a highly active chemical with therapeutic actions for asthma. Amor seco also contains a chemical called astragalin, which is a well-known antibacterial chemical found in the popular medicinal plant astragalus. Amor seco's traditional uses for infections, venereal diseases, and wounds are probably related to this particular chemical in the plant.

    Main chemicals found in amor seco include astragalin, beta-phenylethylamines, cosmosiin, cyanidin-3-o-sophoroside, dehydrosoyasaponins, hordenine, pelargonidin-3-o-rhamnoside, salsoline, soyasaponins, tectorigenin, tetrahydroisoquinolines, and tyramine.


    Herbalists in Ghana have long used amor seco leaves to treat bronchial asthma. The treatment was so successful that it attracted attention from the scientific community. In 1977, a clinical observational study on humans showed that 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried amor seco leaf powder daily (in three dosages) produced improvement and remission in most asthma patients treated. In an effort to understand the anti-asthmatic properties of this effective natural remedy, scientists conducted various animal studies to determine how it worked. In ten different studies, researchers found that amor seco interfered with the production of many of the chemicals normally produced during an asthma attack: chemicals called spasmogens that cause contractions in the lung; histamine that triggers the allergic response; and chemicals called leukotrienes that are known to stimulate bronchoconstriction and increase mucus production in the airway - all key features of asthma. Many substances and allergens can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis. Several of these animal studies reported that amor seco had an anti-anaphylactic action against many known substances that trigger such allergic reactions.

    Bronchoconstriction (the tendency of airways to constrict or become too narrow, thereby making it hard to breath) in response to various stimuli and allergens is a universal feature of asthma and anaphylactic reactions. Some researchers noted that amor seco has a muscle-relaxing effect in lung tissues (bronchodilator) and inhibited contractions and constriction induced by a variety of substances. Amor seco has also been shown to activate the chemical process known as potassium maxi-K channels. Maxi-K channels play an important role in regulating the tone of airway smooth muscle and the release of constrictive substances in the lungs. One of amor seco's chemicals, dehydrosoyasaponin I, was cited as being "the most potent known potassium (maxi-K) channel opener." This effect is also thought to contribute to amor seco's therapeutic activity in asthma.

    Amor seco's documented anti-allergic activity acts to inhibit not only contraction of smooth muscle in the airways of the upper respiratory tract but also muscle contraction at multiple other sites throughout the body. These documented antispasmodic and muscle relaxant actions help explain why amor seco has been traditionally used for backaches and muscle spasms. Amor seco has also recently been documented in animal studies to have pain-relieving actions as well as anticonvulsant actions.

    Leslie Taylor's 2013 Update on Amor Seco

    In a study published in 2011, researchers once again validated amor seco's traditional uses as a natural remedy for asthma. They reported that the methanol extract of amor seco was the strongest in relaxing the tracheas of mice and ethanol extracts and water extracts had the same activity but to a lesser degree. Other researchers in France were studying amor seco's polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and tannin chemicals in 2010. Their published research indicated that amor seco leaves had a considerable antioxidant effect that were attributed to the large amount of polyphenols (including gallic acid). They concluded that these antioxidant properties might increase the therapeutic value of this medicinal plant.


    Natural health practitioners and herbalists in South America today use this herbal remedy mainly for asthma and allergies and for muscle spasms and back pain. With some newer published research linking arthritis and rheumatism to various allergic reactions (and some of the same allergy-induced chemical processes found in asthma), the indigenous use of amor seco for back pain and arthritis may become the subject of future research. Amor seco is easy to administer and is highly effective at low dosages. In addition, its lack of side effects or toxicity places it in the first line of defense in the herbalist's medicine chest of natural remedies.

    Main Preparation Method: infusion or capsules

    Main Actions (in order):
    anti-asthmatic, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, muscle relaxer, antihistamine

    Main Uses:

    1. for asthma and allergies
    2. for respiratory problems (bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], emphysema, excessive phlegm/mucous)
    3. as a general antispasmodic, muscle relaxant, and pain-reliever for colic, stomach and bowel cramping, arthritis, muscle/joint aches, pain, injuries and spasms
    4. for menstrual disorders (cramps, excessive bleeding, pain, vaginal discharge)
    5. for convulsions (allergic reactions and epilepsy)
    Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
    analgesic (pain-reliever), anti-anaphylactic (stops allergic reactions), anti-asthmatic, anticonvulsant, antihistamine, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, muscle relaxant, potassium maxi-K inhibitor

    Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
    antidiuretic, anti-inflammatory, antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding), blood cleanser, central nervous system (CNS) tonic (tones, balances, strengthens), contraceptive, cough suppressant, digestive stimulant, lactogogue (promotes milk flow), laxative, nervine (balancing/calming nerves), vermifuge (expels worms), wound healer

    Cautions: none

    Traditional Preparation: Generally, 1-3 cups of amor seco leaf tea (standard infusion) daily, 4-6 ml of a standard tincture, or 4-5 g of powdered leaves in capsules daily are used for most conditions.

    Contraindications: None known.

    Drug Interactions: None known.

    Africa for asthma, bronchitis, central nervous system disorders, colic, ringworms, wounds
    Amazonia for backache, convulsions, headache, inflammation, muscle spasms, nervousness, pain, stimulating breast milk, and as a contraceptive
    Belize for aches (back, joint, muscle), headache, kidney disorders
    Brazil for body aches, cough, diarrhea, excessive mucus, excessive urination, inflammation, malaria, ovarian inflammation, spasms, vaginal discharge
    Ghana for anaphylaxis, asthma, colic, constipation, dysentery, wounds
    Nicaragua for diarrhea, digestive disorders, venereal disease
    Peru for detoxing blood, hemorrhage, inflammation, nervousness, ovarian problems, urinary problems, vaginitis
    Trinidad for detoxing blood, malnutrition, urinary disorders, venereal disease
    United States for asthma, backache, headache, impotency, joint aches, kidney, muscle pain, muscle spasms
    Elsewhere for asthma, constipation, convulsion, cough, fractures, scabies, sores, stimulating milk flow, tuberculosis, venereal disease, worms, wounds

    The above text has been reprinted from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
    All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.

    † The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

    Quoted References for Amor Seco

    10. "Desmodium adscendens (Sw.) DC. Fabaceae. "Amor seco", "Beggar-lice", "Margarita". The plant infusion is given to people who suffer from nervousness. It is also is used in baths to treat vaginal infections. Because they believe this plant has magic powers, it is given to the lover who has lost interest in his mate, to make him/her come back. It is also used as a contraceptive (RVM). Rio Pastaza natives wash the breast of dry mothers with the leaf tea (SAR)."

    16. "Traditional Uses: Soak the entire plant in rum for 24 hours and use as a cordial for relief of backache; take 1/4 glass 3 times daily for 7-10 days. Boil 1 entire plant in 3 cups water for 10 minutes; drink 1 cup warm tea before meals for 3-5 days for relief of backache, muscle pains, kidney ailments, and impotency. Use decoction of entire plant to bathe head to relieve headaches; bathe body to relieve joint aches.
    Research Results: In Ghana and Sierra Leone, the plant is used in traditional medicine to treat asthma (Macfoy and Sama 1983). When the use of this plant against asthma was studied in Ghana, 1-2 teaspoons of dry powder given in 3 divided doses daily prevented asthma in an adult (Ampofo 1977). In guinea pigs, antispasmodic activity was observed from a hot water extract of an unspecified part of this plant (Addy and Dzandu 1986)."

    Tico Ethnobotanical Dictionary:
    "DESMODIUM ADSCENDENS DC. Beggarlice (E); Pega-pega (P). A leaf decoction is drunk for consumption. Pounded leaves are applied with lime juice to wounds. A leaf infusion is used for convulsions and venereal sores."

    Third Party Research

    All available third-party documentation and research on amor seco can be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the published third party research on amor seco is shown below:

    Anti-asthmatic, Bronchodilator & Smooth Muscle Relaxant Actions:
    Irié-N'guessan, G., et al. "Tracheal relaxation of five Ivorian anti-asthmatic plants: role of epithelium and K? channels in the effect of the aqueous-alcoholic extract of Dichrostachys cinerea root bark." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Nov 18;138(2):432-8.
    Rastogi, S., et al. "An ethnomedicinal, phytochemical and pharmacological profile of Desmodium gangeticum (L.) DC. and Desmodium adscendens (Sw.) DC." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 22;136(2):283-96.
    Barreto, G. S. “Effect of butanolic fraction of Desmodium adscendens on the anococcygeus of the rat.” Braz. J. Biol. 2002; 62(2): 223–30.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Dose-response effects of Desmodium adscendens aqueous extract on histamine response, content and anaphylactic reactions in the guinea pig.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 18(1): 13–20.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “An extract of Desmodium adscendens activates cyclooxygenase and increases prostaglandin synthesis by ram seminal vesicle microsomes.” Phytother. Res. 1995; 9(4): 287–93.
    McManus, O. B., et al. “An activator of calcium-dependent potassium channels isolated from a medicinal herb.” Biochemistry 1993; 32(24): 6128–33.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Some secondary plant metabolites in Desmodium adscendens and their effects on arachidonic acid metabolism.” Prostaglandins Leukotrienes Essent. Fatty Acids 1992; 47(1): 85–91.
    Boye, G. and O. Ampopo. “Plants and traditional medicine in Ghana.” Economic and Medicinal Plant Research 4 1990. Devon, England: Academic Press Ltd.: 33–4.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Effect of Desmodium adscendens fraction 3 on contractions of respiratory smooth muscle.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990; 29(3): 325–35.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Effect of Desmodium adscendens fraction F1 (DAFL) on tone and agonist-induced contractions of guinea pig airway smooth muscle.” Phytother. Res. 1989; 3(3): 85–90.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Several chromatographically distinct fractions of Desmodium adscendens inhibit smooth muscle contractions.” Int. J. Crude Drug Res. 1989; 27(2): 81–91.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Effect of Desmodium adscendens fractions on antigen- and arachidonic acid-induced contractions of guinea pig airways.” Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 1987; 66(6): 820–25.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Dose-response effect of one subfraction of Desmodium adscendens aqueous extract on antigen- and arachidonic acid-induced contractions of guinea pig airways.” Phytother. Res. 1987; 1(4): 180–86.
    Addy, M. E., et al. “Effects of the extracts of Desmodium adscendens on anaphylaxis.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1984; 11(3): 283–92.
    Ampopo, O. “Plants that heal.” World Health 1977. 1977: 26–30.

    Antioxidant Actions:
    Muanda, F., et al. "Chemical Composition and, Cellular Evaluation of the Antioxidant Activity of Desmodium adscendens Leaves." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:620862.

    Pain-relieving & Anticonvulsant Actions:
    N’Gouemo, P., et al. “Effects of an ethanolic extract of Desmodium adscendens on central nervous system in rodents.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 52(2): 77–83.

    Antimalarial Actions:
    Brandao, M., et al. “Survey of medicinal plants used as antimalarials in the Amazon.” J. Ethnopharmacol. 1992; 36(2): 175–82.

    * The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

    © Copyrighted 1996 to present by Leslie Taylor, Milam County, TX 77857.
    All rights reserved. Please read the Conditions of Use, and Copyright Statement for this web page and web site.
    Last updated 1-19-2013