Psychotria ipecacuanha (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Psychotria ipecacuanha (Brot.) Stokes

Protologue: Bras. Bot. Mat. med. 1: 365 (1812).


Cephaelis ipecacuanha (Brot.) A. Rich. (1818).

Vernacular names

  • Ipecac, ipecacuanha (En).


Native to South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia) and Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua). Widely cultivated in the semi-humid and humid tropics.


The dried rhizomes have long been an important medicine as an emetic, expectorant and for amoebic dysentery, and also in the treatment of bilharzia, guinea worms and sores. In small doses the drug is a stimulant, increasing appetite and facilitating digestion. In larger doses it is an expectorant and diaphoretic and in even larger doses it is nauseating and emetic. It is used in the form of syrup, powder, tinctures and lozenges.


  • A small, straggling shrub, up to 30 cm tall, young branches densely short-hairy, glabrous when mature, main rhizome thick, compact, horizontal rhizomes 3-8, slender, whitish when young, thick and brownish when older, with transverse furrows.
  • Leaves elliptical or obovate, 5-9 cm × 2.5-5.5 cm, base acute, apex shortly acuminate, petiole 0.5-1 cm long, stipules deeply divided into 8-10 lobes, 5-7 mm long; involucrum shortly hairy, 1-–3 cm long.
  • Inflorescence corymbiform.
  • Flowers white, calyx small, short pubescent, corolla 5-6 mm long, sparsely hairy outside, tube inflated above the middle, long hairs at base inside, lobes acute.
  • Berry ellipsoid, about 7 mm long, 6-ribbed.

In South-East Asia, P. ipecacuanha occurs only in cultivation in per-humid climate, at low altitudes.

Selected sources

126, 130, 134,

  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A-H) pp. 1-1240, Vol. 2 (I-Z) pp. 1241-2444.

151, 170, 399, 407, 489, 643, 844, 1036, 1037, 1113.


H.C. Ong & S. Brotonogoro