Cheken - Botany And History

Cheken was once a commonly employed medicinal plant, native to Chile and its underlying territories. It is a relatively small plant that measures no more than some three to five feet tall, and is known for its strongly aromatic, near-sessile, dark-green leaves that are possessed of a slightly leathery, tough, wrinkled texture. The leaves are tiny, measuring no more than one to one-and-a-half inches in length. The plant is replete with tiny flowers which grow in the axils of its leaves, and is discernable for its off-yellow to off-while colouration, and for its numerous stamens. Surprisingly, the flowers lack the strength of the leaves' aroma and possess only a slight perfume of its own. [1]

The plant has long been wildcrafted in its native soil for its leaves, which are its primary medicinal constituent. Once sold commercially as 'cheken leaves', it was employed chiefly as a household remedy. The use of cheken leaves declined sometime in the early 1900s, as the advent of the Industrial Revolution gave way to more accessible medicines, that, while it was still based strongly on herbal medicine, later came to rely on more on locally grown herbs. Today, the use of cheken leaves as medicine is few and far flung, with only a handful of traditional herbalists in Chile, its surrounding territories, and areas beyond it which still grow and employ the plant for medicine.

Cheken - Herbal Uses

Of its various constituents, it was the leaves of the cheken plant which was strongly employed medicinally. It possessed some degree of edibility and may have been employed prior to its medicinal usage as a type of bitter vegetable or as salad greens. When consumed as such, it may have been employed as a liver or kidney tonic, and may possess some degree of tonifying ability due to its strongly tannic nature. [2]

Employed chiefly for medicine on the other hand, cheken was a choice herb for the treatment of various respiratory ailments, primarily due to its aromatic nature. The volatile oils found in the leaf which is the source of its distinctive aroma is the primary active constituent of cheken leaves, and is responsible for its curative capacity. When employed as a remedy for bronchial complaints, decoctions of dried leaves brewed for four to five minutes and then cooled prior to consumption is said to treat everything from asthma to chronic bronchitis. [3] It may possess significant expectorant properties in this light, and, if combined with other expectorant herbs such as wild mint or clover, may make for a more potent cough remedy. Cheken may also be employed as a general tonic for the upkeep of bronchial and cardiovascular health. When mildly decocted, cooled, and applied topically, it possesses powerful antiseptic and astringent properties. It may be useful for wound healing, and for curing various dermal problems, especially scalp problems like dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis, or for lessening the outbreak of acne and excessive sebum production. [4]

Due to its highly tannic nature, even infusions of dried cheken leaves may be employed as a diuretic for the treatment of urinary complaints and fluid retention. Other uses for the herb include it's having been used as a febrifuge, as a remedy for gout and, if taken in moderate doses, as a means to treat high blood pressure. [5]

Recent studies regarding the therapeutic benefits of the whole herb and its extracts have even revealed that it may be beneficial for heart health, as it may have the capacity to lower high triglyceride levels in the bloodstream, effectively combating hypertension. The herb may be of further use for weight loss management as it not only helps to break down fats, but may even help to increase the body's overall metabolism, although its efficiency in this regard is still strongly debatable. [6]

The dried leaves, when infused in one's choice of base oil, may be employed as a topical analgesic for the treatment of rheumatism and gout. When applied to the scalp, it may help to increase blood circulation, possibly making it a good plausible remedy for some types of non-inherited (i. e. non-genetically related) alopecia, especially if combined with other herbs and spices noted for their capacity to grow and thicken hair. The essential oil extract of cheken, when combined with a carrier oil, may also be used for any of the above-given purposes, although it may be more useful and effective as an analgesic. When mixed with hot water, it may be employed in much the same vein as peppermint oil - as an inhalant to help relieve congestion, treat coughs, and elicit expectoration. Fluid extracts of the leaf, which became quite popular in the late 1700s to mid-1800s have also been employed chiefly as remedies for bronchial complaints and as a treatment for chronic respiratory catarrh, detailed in various herbals which date from the time.

Cheken - Contraindications And Safety

There is not much known about the pharmacokinetics of the herb. Because of its relative obscurity in the modern day, not much is known about its possible drug interactions or side-effects, although it can be assumed that it is safe for regular moderate use. As a general rule of safety, pregnant and nursing women should refrain from consuming cheken beyond food-amounts (if employing the herb as a salad green, taking into consideration that even such usage is very rare). Similarly, children below the age of ten should only be given very light preparations of the herb. It should, under no circumstances, be given to infants.

Cheken - Other Names, Past and Present

Old French: arryan / chekan / aroyan (doubtful name)
French: chequen / myrte du chili / myrte du chilli blanc
Spanish: mirte / mirte de blanco
Italian: mirte
English: cheken
Latin (esoteric): myrtus / myrtus chekan
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Eugenia chekan DC. / Eugenia chequen Molina / Eugenia gayana Barnéoud / Eugenia myrtomimeta Diels / Eugenia pulchra O.Berg / Luma gayana (Barnéoud) Burret / Myrceugenella chequen (Molina) Kausel / Myrceugenella gayana (Barnéoud) Kausel / Myrceugenella langerfeldtii Kausel / Myrtus chequen (Molina) Spreng. / Myrtus gayana (Barnéoud) O.Berg / Myrtus luma Schauer nom. illeg. / Myrtus uliginosa Miq.








Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt.

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