Cedron - Botany And History

Cedron is a relatively obscure medicinal herb said to be native to Colombia and several parts of Central America. It belongs to the quassia family (Simarubaceae) and is related to bitter wood (Quassia amara). Cendron is a relatively small tree, measuring some five to six feet tall, with dark-green elliptical leaflets. It also features a large panicle of flowers, some measuring as long as three feet, replete with small florets of either a pale white hue tipped with a bare hint of lavender, or otherwise a golden-yellow to rich golden hue.

The plant bears a singular, edible fruit resembling a swan's egg in size and only slightly in shape, and is a fuzzy, light-brown to tan-hued while unripe, and a rich, dark, velvety moss-green to greenish-black when ripened. The fruits, when ripe, are known to exude an aroma strongly redolent of coconuts. The fruit possess five cells, four of which are barren, and one possessing a singular seed about a quarter the size of the fruit which may outgrow its cell to occupy the whole middle-area of the fruit, and which possesses a similar, albeit stronger aroma than the fruit. [1] Cedron is largely unknown outside of South American territory, although it has for a time been cultivated exclusively for its seeds which are employed medicinally.

Nowadays, cedron is grown outside of the South American and Ecuadorian areas as an ornamental or landscape plant, and while its medicinal uses are relatively unknown outside of its ethnobotanical range, it is nevertheless still employed by traditional healers within its native area.

Cedron - Herbal Uses

Of the various constituent parts of cedron, the fruit is primarily employed as a foodstuff, although nowadays, the practice of consuming it has somewhat declined. Although there is little mention of the use of the leaves and bark of the plant, enthnobotanical applications are known, albeit only rarely employed. The leaves of the cedron are often decocted while fresh and drunk as a tea prior to, and after meals as a digestif and a stomachic. [2] Very potent decoctions of the leaves were drunk as emmengogues. When dried and powdered, the leaves were employed both in tribal medicine and in the veterinary medicine of the early to late Industrial Period as a remedy for mange and, if strongly decocted, as a means to kill mites and ticks. [3] The bark itself possessed significant emmenagogue properties, although it was more often employed as an anthelmintic vermifuge, and an early type of insecticide. When dried and powdered, it was said to be able kill parasites of various kinds when decocted and consumed, or otherwise applied topically. It may even have been employed as poison for rats, as it has been suggested that it was employed to kill 'vermin'. [4] The roots are equally effective for such purposes, and may even act as an antidote to some mild poisons, and as an antihistaminic for mild and moderate allergies. [5]

The seeds of the plant are its most active constituents, as it has long been employed medicinally in its whole and fresh, whole and dried, or dried and processed form. The seeds, whether decocted in its fresh or dried form is believed to be a very potent febrifuge. The medicinal efficiency of the seeds remains active even in its dried state, although it does become increasingly bitter the more it dries out. The seeds, while fresh, are scraped - the subsequent shavings then being infused (but more often decocted) in hot water and drunk in hourly intervals, or as varies depending upon the severity of the fever. It is often given in minute doses or in weak infusions for chills and mild fever, and in stronger, full decoctions for intermittent fevers. Because of this employment, it may be assumed that the seeds may have been or may be employed in the treatment of malarial fever, as it has also been prescribed as an antiperiodic (a remedy which prevents the recurrence of diseases). [6] The seed is strongly valued by many herbalists in the area not only due to its febrifuge properties, but because it is believed to treat other minor to moderate diseases.

When decocted lightly, it was drunk daily as a tonifying beverage. Because of its bitter principle, it was believed to act as an appetite stimulant, a digestif, and a cholagogue (a substance which promotes the production and flow of bile). It was even believed to help tonify the liver and the kidney, and was often taken in liberal dosages by individual who were afflicted with urinary trouble, diarrhoea, dysentery, dyspepsia, and indigestion. [7]

Very strong decoctions of the herb have even been employed for the treatment of spasms, tremors, and convulsions. It is nigh-revered ethnobotanically for its believed antivenin and antidote properties, which has elicited a long-standing use of powerful decoctions of the seed as a remedy for snakebite and as a cure for poison. The decoction was also employed externally by soaking a cloth and applying it to the affected areas. This method was generally allotted to lowering high temperature in the case of fever, reducing swelling and acting as an anti-inflammatory when employed for the treatment of bruises, sprains, and fractures, or in aiding in the detoxification of the body when it was employed as a remedy for snakebite. [8]

The use of the seeds as a remedy for various ailments or as a general tonic persisted until well into the mid-Victorian period, where it was recorded in various herbals as a remedy for stomach ailments and as a tonifying agent (a stomachic), spasms (antispasmodic), and even mild to moderate cases of poisoning (antidote). By this time, tincture were preferred means of preparation, and it was discovered that its essences were more readily extracted by macerating whole or shaved seeds in a solution of alcohol and diluting it in water. It was also at this time that the supposed compound called 'cedrin' was reportedly isolated by one (assumed) Major George Lowery, although this claim is considered spurious by most scholars of Western alternative medicine. It may have been employed as an intravenous drug (suggested or recorded by one Maude Grieve in her stellar work A Modern Herbal) as a remedy for palsy and spasms, although it's true employment in such a manner is doubtful, and perhaps even dangerous. [9] Today, there is no known medicinal employment of the herb outside of still extant ethnobotanical usage, and the occasional modern application by aspiring herbalists - the latter being a practice that must be done with the utmost care.

Cedron - Esoteric Uses

Because of its relative obscurity, there is no known esoteric application for cedron within the collective magickal pharmacopoeia or table of correspondences in Western magick, Wicca, or in any other system of magick. It can be assumed that it must have been employed by shamanic cultures within South America and its underlying territories, although what esoteric usage exactly has not been recorded by ethnobotanists. It can be assumed that, outside of its medicinal usage which was undoubtedly deemed magickal in itself, the seeds of the plant may have been carried around by tribal peoples as a form of talisman or amulet. Extant ethnobotanical studies have shown that several tribal societies in South America and New Grenada carried the seeds of the plant during hunting as an amulet against poison from snakes and other dread creatures. It can be considered a practical form of magick in that the seed can be employed as a ready cure in the event of snakebite or other such happenstances. [10] The capacity of the seed to ward off serpents eventually became ingrained in the consciousness of the tribal folk, and the seed became a full talismanic item in its own right heedless of its medicinal powers.

Cedron - Contraindications And Safety

Because cedron has lately become a very obscure remedy, drug interactions with modern synthetic and other, still-extant traditional medicines are not recorded. As a general rule of safety however, cedron must never be given to pregnant or nursing woman, with the former being due to the fact that it is an emmenagogue, and may cause complications and possibly even miscarriage. It is advisable to avoid if taking medications as interactions are likely to be unknown territory. Remedies containing cedron should also not be given to children below the age of ten for general safety reasons. While very potent decoctions of cedron have long been employed as a remedy for snakebite, one must not attempt to use if for such purposes if a reliable and faster source for better means of treatment (antivenin and hospitalisation) are available.

Cedron - Other Names, Past and Present

Chinese: sai de long (approximated onomatopoeia of the English 'cedron')
French: cedron / simab cedron
Spanish: cedron
Italian: cedrone
English: cedron / rattlesnake weed / rattlesnake bean (not to be confused by other plants possessing these names)
Latin: Simaba cedron / Quassia cedron. [Cendron should not be confused with lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), which is also referred to in French, Italian, and Spanish as 'cedron'].


[1] https://eol.org/pages/5631838/overview

[2][3][4] https://earthnotes.tripod.com/cedron.htm

[5] https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/cedron42.html

[6] https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/usdisp/simaba.html

[7] https://www.webhomeopath.com/homeopathy/homeopathic-remedies/homeopathy-remedy-Cedron.html

[8 - 9] https://ip.aaas.org/tekindex.nsf

[10] https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=YC_lAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA3452

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.
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