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The main active group of chemicals in simarouba are called quassinoids. The antiprotozoal and antimalarial properties of these chemicals have been documented for many years.* Several of the quassinoids found in simarouba, such as ailanthinone, glaucarubinone, and holacanthone, are considered the plant's main therapeutic constituents and are the ones documented to be antiprotozal, anti-amebic, antimalarial, and even toxic to cancer and leukemia cells.* To learn more about this wonderful rainforest plant, go to the Tropical Plant Database file on Simarouba. To see pictures of simarouba, click here. More information can also be found in the new Antimicrobial Guide.
Traditional Uses:* for dysentery (amebic and bacterial) and diarrhea; for intestinal worms and internal parasites; for malaria; as an astringent to stop bleeding internally (stomach ulcers, hemorrhages, etc) and externally for wounds; for viral infections
Suggested Use: This plant is best prepared as a decoction. Use one teaspoon of powder for each cup of water. Bring to a boil and gently boil in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and settle for 10 minutes and strain warm liquid into a cup (leaving the settled powder in the bottom of the pan). It is traditionally taken in 1 cup dosages, 2-3 times daily. For more complete instructions on preparing herbal decoctions, see the Methods for Preparing Herbal Remedies Page.
Contraindications: Reported side effects at high dosages (approx. 5 times the suggested use) include increased perspiration and urination, nausea, and/or vomiting.
Drug Interactions: None known.
Third-Party Published Research*
All available third-party research on simarouba be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the third-party published research on simarouba is shown below:
Antimalarial, Antiparasitic, & Antiamebic Actions:
Muganza, D., et al. "In vitro antiprotozoal and cytotoxic activity of 33 ethonopharmacologically selected medicinal plants from Democratic Republic of Congo." J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 May 7;141(1):301-8.
Garcia, M., et al. "Activity of Cuban Plants Extracts against Leishmania amazonensis." ISRN Pharmacol. 2012;2012:104540.
Francois, G., et al. ”Antimalarial and cytotoxic potential of four quassinoids from Hannoa chlorantha and Hannoa klaineana, and their structure-activity relationships.” Int. J. Parasitol. 1998; 28(4): 635-40.
Franssen, F. F., et al. “In vivo and in vitro antiplasmodial activities of some plants traditionally used in Guatemala against malaria.” Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 1997; 41(7): 1500–3.
Wright, C. W., et al. “Quassinoids exhibit greater selectivity against Plasmodium falciparum than against Entamoeba histoyltica, Giardia intestinalis or Toxoplasma gondii in vitro." J. Eukaryot. Microbiol. 1993; 40(3): 244–46.
Kirby, G. C., et al. “In vitro studies on the mode of action of quassinoids with activity against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum.” Biochem. Pharmacol. 1989; 38(24): 4367–74.
O’Neill, M. J., et al. “Plants as sources of antimalarial drugs, Part 6. Activities of Simarouba amara fruits." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1988; 22(2): 183–90.
O’Neill, M. J., et al. “The activity of Simarouba amara against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro." J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 1987; Suppl. 39: 80.
Monjour, I., et al. “Therapeutic trials of experimental murine malaria with the quassinoid, glaucarubinone.” C. R. Acad. Sci. Ill. 1987; 304(6): 129–32.
Trager, W., et al. “Antimalarial activity of quassinoids against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in vitro." Am. J. Trp. Med. Hyg. 1981; 30(3): 531–37.
Duriez, R., et al. “Glaucarubin in the treatment of amebiasis." Presse Med. 1962; 70: 1291.
Spencer, C. F., et al. “Survey of plants for antimalarial activity.” Lloydia 1947; 10: 145–74.
Cuckler, A. C., et al. “Efficacy and toxicity of simaroubidin in experimental amoebiasis.” Fed. Proc. 1944; 8: 284.
Shepheard, S., et al. "Persistent carriers of Entameba histolytica." Lancet 1918: 501.
Valdes, A., et al. "In vitro anti-microbial activity of the Cuban medicinal plants Simarouba glauca DC, Melaleuca leucadendron L and Artemisia absinthium L." Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2008 Sep;103(6):615-8.
Apers, S., et al. "Antiviral activity of simalikalactone D, a quassinoid from Quassia africana." Planta Med. 2002 Jan;68(1):20-4.
Morre, D. J., et al. “Effect of the quassinoids glaucarubolone and simalikalactone D on growth of cells permanently infected with feline and human immunodeficiency viruses and on viral infections.” Life Sci. 1998; 62(3): 213-9.
Rahman, S., et al. “Anti-tuberculosis activity of quassinoids.” Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1997; 45(9): 1527-9.
Kaif-A-Kamb, M., et al. “Search for new antiviral agents of plant origin.” Pharm. Acta Helv. 1992; 67(5–6): 130–147.
Caceres, A. “Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. 1. Screening of 84 plants against enterobacteria." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990; 30(1): 55–73.
May, G., et al. “Antiviral activity of aqueous extracts from medicinal plants in tissue cultures.” Arzneim-Forsch 1978; 28(1): 1–7.
Anticancerous & Antileukemic Actions:
An important area of research on simarouba and its plant chemicals has focused on cancer and leukemia. The quassinoids responsible for the anti-amebic and antimalarial properties of simarouba bark have also shown in clinical research to possess active cancer-killing properties. Early cancer screening performed by the National Cancer Institute in 1976 indicated that an alcohol extract of simarouba root (and a water extract of its seeds) had toxic actions against cancer cells at very low dosages (less than 20 mcg/ml). Following up on that initial screening, scientists discovered that several of the quassinoids in simarouba (glaucarubinone, alianthinone, and dehydroglaucarubinone) had antileukemic actions against lymphocytic leukemia in vitro and published several studies in 1977 and 1978. Researchers found that yet another simarouba quassinoid, holacanthone, also possessed antileukemic and antitumorous actions in 1983. Researchers in the UK cited the antitumorous activity of two of the quassinoids, ailanthinone and glaucarubinone, against human epidermoid carcinoma of the pharynx. A later study in 1998 by U.S. researchers demonstrated the antitumorous activity of glaucarubinone against solid tumors (human and mouse cell lines), multi-drug-resistant mammary tumors in mice, and antileukemic activity against leukemia in mice.
Reynertson, K., et al. "Induction of murine embryonic stem cell differentiation by medicinal plant extracts."
Exp Cell Res. 2011 Jan 1;317(1):82-93.
de Mesquita, M., et al. "Cytotoxic activity of Brazilian Cerrado plants used in traditional medicine against cancer cell lines." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jun 25;123(3):439-45.
Rivero-Cruz, J. F., et al. “Cytotoxic constituents of the twigs of Simarouba glauca collected from a plot in Southern Florida.” Phytother. Res. 2005; 19(2): 136-40.
Mata-Greenwood, E., et al. “ Novel esters of glaucarubolone as inducers of terminal differentiation of promyelocytic HL-60 cells and inhibitors of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced preneoplastic lesion formation in mouse mammary organ culture.” J. Nat. Prod. 2001; 64(12): 1509-13.
Morre, D. J., et al. “Mode of action of the anticancer quassinoids--inhibition of the plasma membrane NADH oxidase.” Life Sci. 1998; 63(7) :595-604.
Valeriote, F. A., et al. “Anticancer activity of glaucarubinone analogues.” Oncol Res. 1998; 10(4): 201–8.
Ohno, N., et al. “Synthesis of cytotoxic fluorinated quassinoids.” Bioorg. Med. Chem. 1997; 5(8): 1489-95.
Klocke, J. A., et al. "Growth inhibitory, insecticidal and antifeedant effects of some antileukemic and cytotoxic quassinoids on two species of agricultural pests." Experientia. 1985 Mar 15; 41(3): 379-82.
Handa, S. S., et al. “Plant anticancer agents XXV. Constituents of Soulamea soulameoides.” J. Nat. Prod. 1983; 46(3): 359–64.
Polonsky, J. “The isolation and structure of 13,18-dehydroglaucarubinone, a new antineoplastic quassinoid from Simarouba amara.” Experientia. 1978; 34(9): 1122–23.
Ghosh, P. C., et al. “Antitumor plants. IV. Constituents of Simarouba versicolor.” Lloydia. 1977; 40(4): 364–69.
Ogura, M. et al. “Potential anticancer agents VI. Constituents of Ailanthus excelsa (Simaroubaceae)." Lloydia. 1977; 40(6): 579–84.
Antipsoriatic & Skin Protective Actions:
Casetti, F., et al. "Dermocosmetics for dry skin: a new role for botanical extracts." Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2011;24(6):289-93.
Bonte, F., et al. “Simarouba amara extract increases human skin keratinocyte differentiation." J. Ethnopharmacol. 1996; 53(2): 65–74.
Zarse, K., et al. "The phytochemical glaucarubinone promotes mitochondrial metabolism, reduces body fat, and extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans." Horm Metab Res. 2011 Apr;43(4):241-3.
Coelho, A., et al. "Insecticidal activity of cerrado plant extracts on Rhodnius milesi Carcavallo, Rocha, Galv„o & Jurberg (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), under laboratory conditions." Neotrop Entomol. 2006 Jan-Feb;35(1):133-8.
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by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is
not intended to treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease.
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Last updated 1-2-2013