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CALABAR BEAN HERBAL DESCRIPTION
Calabar Bean (Physostigma venenosum) is also known as Ordeal Bean or Chop Nut. It derives the first part of its scientific name from a curious beak-like appendage at the end of the stigma, in the center of the flower. This appendage, though solid, was supposed to be hollow (hence the name from a bladder and stigma).
Calabar Bean is the seed of a leguminous plant, a native of tropical Africa. It can be found in western Africa in an area around Nigeria once known as Calabar. It has been introduced into India and Brazil. The plant is a large, herbaceous, climbing perennial creeper, with the stem woody at the base, up to 2 inches in diameter and grows to a height of about 50 feet. The leaves ae pinnately trifoliate. The flowers, resting on axillary peduncles, are large bean-like, about an inch long, grouped in pendulous, fascicled racemes pale-pink or purplish in color, and beautifully veined. The dark brown, kidney-shaped seed pods, which contain two or three seeds or beans, are 6 to 7 inches in length. They are about 1 inch long, rounded ends, roughish but a little polished, and have a long scar on the edge where adherent to the placenta. The seeds ripen at all seasons, but are best and most abundant during the rainy season in Africa, June until September. The beans are about the size of an ordinary horse bean but is much thicker, with a deep chocolate-brown color. These beans are poisonous and can be fatal to humans.
Up until the past century, native Africans used the beans in their justice system. If a person was accused of a crime, he was fed Calabar Beans. If the prisoner vomited within a half an hour, he was presumed innocent, but if the prisoner was poisoned to death, it was a guilty verdict. Even though Calabar Bean is poisonous, it also has medicinal benefits. A drought of the pounded seeds infused in water is said to have been fatal to a man within an hour.
Calabar Bean contains several alkaloids; however, physostigmine, a reversible cholinesterase inhibitor alkaloid, a powerful stimulant of muscular contractions, is by far the most potent. Other constituents include calabarines, eseridine, and eseramine. Eseridine is not employed medicinally. The alkaloid physostigmine actss in effect like nerve gas, disrupting communication between the nerves and muscles, and resulting in copious salivation, seizures, loss of control ove the bladder and bowels, and eventually loss of control over the respiratory system, causing death by asphyxiation. Physostigmine causes death by paralyzing the heart, diaphragm, and pulmonary muscles, but that same property has proven useful in reversing the actions of poisonous substances such as atropine and curare, which kill by relaxing the same muscles.
The main antidote to Calabar bean poisoning is atropine, which may often succeed; and the other measures are those usually employed to stimulate the circulation and respiration. Unfortunately, the antagonism between physostigmine and atropine is not perfect, and Sir Thomas Richard Fraser has shown that in such cases there comes a time when, if the action of the two drugs is summated, death results sooner than from either alone. Thus atropine will save life if three and a half times the fatal dose of physostigmine has been taken, but will hasten the end if four or more times the fatal dose has been ingested.
CALABAR BEAN USES, HEALTH BENEFITS & SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
MEDICAL ACTION & USES
Chiefly used for diseases of the eye, it causes rapid contraction of the pupil and disturbed vision. Physostigmine is mainly used though in the field of ophthalmology. This property causes the pupil of the eye to contract and drain excess fluid, which helps prevent optic nerve damage and the blindness associated with glaucoma. Physostigmine Salicylas is preferred for the preparation of eyedrops.
It has also been used as a stimulant to the unstrikped muscles of the intestine in chronic constipation. Health practitioners used physostigmine and its synthetic counterpart, neostigmine, to stimulate intestinal muscles after the shock of surgery and to neutralize the symptoms of myasthenia gravis, a muscle-weakening disease. Its action on the circulation is to slow the pulse and raise blood pressure. It depresses the central nervous system, causing muscular weakness.
It has been employed internally for its depressant action in epilepsy, cholera, etc. and given hypodermically in acute tetanus. Calabar Bean is being studied as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Homeopathic Physostigma Venenosum preparations are used to treat related disorder symptoms such as muscle soreness and headache.
They constitute the E-ser-e or ordeal beans of the people of Old Calabar, being administered to persons accused of witchcraft or other crimes. In cases where the poisonous material did its deadly work, it was held at once to indicate and rightly to punish guilt; but when it was rejected by the stomach of the accused, innocence was held to be satisfactorily established. A form of dueling with the seeds is also known among the natives, in which the two opponents divide a bean, each eating one half; that quantity has been known to kill both adversaries.
Although thus highly poisonous, the bean has nothing in external aspect, taste or smell to distinguish it from any harmless leguminous seed, and disastrous effects have resulted from its being incautiously left in the way of children. The beans were first introduced into Britain in the year 1840; but the plant was not accurately described until 1861, and its physiological effects were investigated in 1863 by Sir Thomas Richard Fraser. The bean usually contains a little more than 1-percent of alkaloids. Two of these have been identified, one called calabarine with atropine-like effects, and the other, the drug physostigmine, used in the treatment of anticholinergic syndrome, myasthenia gravis, glaucoma and delayed gastric emptying.
CALABAR BEAN DOSAGE INFORMATION
Under no circumstances should Calabar Bean be taken without the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner. Calabar bean is a source of the prescription drug physostigmine (Isopto Eserine, Antilirium). The appropriate dose of Calabar Bean depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions.
PREPARATION OF DOSES
Extract of Calabar Bean, B.P.: dose, 1/4 to 1 grain.
Extract of Physostigma, U.S.P.: dose, 1/8 grain.
Tincture of Calabar Bean, B.P.C.: dose, 5 to 15 minims.
Tincture of Physostigma, U.S.P.: dose, 15 minims.
Physostigmine Eyedrops, B.P.C. Physostigmine eye ointment, B.P.C. Fluid extract, 1 to 3 drops.
CALABAR BEAN SAFETY, CAUTIONS & INTERACTIONS INFORMATION
SIDE EFFECTS & SAFETY
Calabar bean is unsafe and extremely toxic.
Calabar bean can cause excessive saliva and sweating, reduced eye pupil size, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, blood pressure changes, confusion, seizures, coma, severe muscle weakness, paralysis, severe breathing problems, and death.
SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS & WARNINGS
While calabar bean is not safe for anyone, some people are at even greater risk for serious side effects. Be especially careful to avoid calabar bean if:
You are pregnant or breast-feeding.
You have Parkinson's disease.
You have heart disease or slow heartbeat.
You have asthma.
You have diabetes.
You have poor blood circulation leading to tissue death (gangrene).
You have blockage of the intestinal tract.
Moderate Interaction - be cautious with this combination: Drying medications (Anticholinergic drugs) interacts with Calabar Bean. Calabar bean contains chemicals that can affect the brain and heart. Some of these drying medications called anticholinergic drugs can also affect the brain and heart. But calabar bean works differently than drying medications. Calabar bean might decrease the effects of drying medications. Some of these drying medications include atropine, scopolamine, and some medications used for allergies (antihistamines), and for depression (antidepressants).
POISONS & ANTIDOTES
Calabar Bean is a poison and can be fatal. If poisoning should occur, the stomach should be evacuated and antropine injected until the pulse quickens. With poisoning by physostigmine the stomach should be washed out with 0.2 per cent of potassium permanganate and atropine and strychnine administered hypodermically.
CALABAR BEAN HERBAL & RELATED PRODUCTS
QUALITY PRODUCTS & SUPPLEMENTS
CALABAR BEAN (PHYSOSTIGMA VENENOSUM HOMOEPATHIC HERBAL PRODUCTS
Amazon: Physostigma Venenosum Homeopathic Products
6X 6C 9C 12C
30C 1M 10M
Nutrition Basics: Calabar Bean Herbal Information
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