Brazilian orchid tree for diabetes or Pata de vaca
he Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forticata) is shaped like a cow’s hoof hence the Brazilian name: Pata de vaca. It is a medium size tree growing to about 25 -30 feet in height. It presents a large drooping of white flowers and brown seed pods. The Bauhinia genus comprises of about 500 species of shrubs and small trees. The Bauhinia forticata is the hardiest variety. Some of the other varieties also posses anti diabetic properties. It thrives in rain forests and tropical areas of Brazil, Peru, Eastern Paraguay, and Northeast Argentina. It is quite common in Rio de Janeiro and the south of the Atlantic rain forest.
Pata de vaca is very common anti diabetic medicine in Brazil and other parts of South America, and can be found in pharmacies which sells herbal remedies. Even though historical documentation is poor, pata de vaca have been known and used for over 60 years as a trusted hypoglycemic, diuretic, and blood purifier.
In Brazil and other parts of South America a leaf decoction is used internally and externally to cure elephantiasis and snakebites and also a variety of skin conditions including syphilitic problems.
As for diabetes treatment, pata de vaca is sometimes called “vegetable insulin”. Infusion made from the leaves and tea bags are used not only to help control blood sugar levels but also to treat other diabetes symptoms such as polyuria, urinary, and kidney problems.
Pata de vaca is well known as a botanical remedy and it was first studied for its anti-diabetic properties in a in vivo clinical trial in 1929 by a Brazilian researcher. This study was then followed by a second one in 1931 using dogs.
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In 1941 the same Brazilian researcher published another study investigating blood sugar-lowering properties of pata de vaca in humans, dogs, and rabbits. Another study was then funded in 1945 to find out what active compounds were present and their efficacy in treating diabetes. No subsequent studies were done until the 1980’s.
Even prior to these studies, pata de vaca was a popular remedy to lower blood sugar. In the mid 1980’s two other studies would emerge validating the popular use of the plant as a natural insulin substitute. Both studies demonstrated hypoglycemic properties in various animals and human models alike.
A Chilean study reported anti diabetic properties in rats in 1999. The study determined that pata de vaca decreased blood sugars in diabetic rats by 39%. Two other studies were conducted in 2002 by separate research groups in Brazil. Studies also found that after one month of receiving an infusion of pata de vaca a “significant reduction in serum and urinary glucose was noted”. In 2004 a research group also noted that triglycerides were lowered and total cholesterol. Antioxidant properties were also noted. Studies also indicated that there were no toxic effects in either diabetic or normal rats including pregnant diabetic rats.
Anti diabetic properties
The possible main chemical agents found in Pata de vaca are:
- Organic acids
Astragalin as well as flavonoids, alkaloinds and glycosides are found in the leaves. Some of these compounds help to repair kidney cells and also have diuretic properties.
Pata de vaca achive better glucose control by an improvement in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It appears that this improvement occurs without damage to the liver, bile ducts or muscles.
How to use it
One-half to 1 cup of a standard leaf infusion 2–3 times daily with meals. Use liquid tincture as directed or as tolerated. Check blood sugar levels frequently. Be careful if you are taking insulin or other oral anti hyperglycemics.
Pata de vaca has been documented to have a hypoglycemic effect in animal and human studies. It is contraindicated in those with hypoglycemia. Diabetics who wish to use this plant should seek the advice and supervision of a qualified health care practitioner while using this plant as blood sugar levels will need to be monitored carefully and medications may need adjustments. Drug Interactions: May potentiate antidiabetic and insulin medications.
- Evaluation of toxicity after one-months treatment with Bauhinia forficata decoction in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats
- Antidiabetic Activity of Bauhinia forficata Extracts in Alloxan-Diabetic Rats
- Bauhinia forficata: Brazilian Orchid Tree
- Tropical plant dababase
- Technical Data Report for PATA DE VACA