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Trumpet Tree – Congo Pump – Cecropia peltata

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Common Name: Trumpet Tree o Congo Pump 
Cecropia peltata

 It is reported to have been the sacred tree and medicine of the Maya. This powerful botanical medicine is known for healing a wide range of illnesses because of its ability to restore the immune system. Traditional use of the bark has been reported to help with the following health problems: anemia, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, boils, cancer, candida, colitis, colds, constipation, coughs, cystitis, diabetes, diarrhea, emphysema, dysentery, eczema, fevers, flu, gastritis, gall bladder problems, infections, liver problems, lung problems, leukemia, pain, parasites, prostate problems, pyorrhea and wounds. No wonder the native indigenous people considered it a sacred tree.

To utilize the bark, carefully cut the outer bark from a mature branch down to the cambium layer or cortex. Next, slice off the cortex down to the wood of the branch. These strips of inner bark can be cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces on a clean cutting board and then dried quickly in a hot, dry place. Store the processed bark in an airtight container. To make a slightly bitter, woody-tasting tea, boil 1 to 2 grams of the bark in one cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. The dosage can range from 1 to 3 cups per week to prevent health problems to 1 to 6 cups per day for acute or chronic illnesses. The dried bark can also be ground in a blender to a dry powder and placed in empty gelatin capsules. Take three to six capsules per day for acute or chronic illnesses.

The trumpet tree is a small or medium-sized evergreen tree with a very open and thin crown comprised of a few stout branches arising high on the trunk and curving upward; it can sometimes reach a height of 20 metres. The bole is usually 10 – 30cm in diameter, occasionally to 50cm, with stilt or prop roots at the base that can be 1 metre tall. The tree becomes shortly deciduous in areas with a distinct dry season.

A multipurpose tree, it is gathered from the wild for food, medicine and various other uses. A very good pioneer species, it is also occasionally cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics, being valued for its large, umbrella-shaped crown of attractive leaves that are silver-felted beneath.

  • Known Hazards
    The branches and leaf petioles of Cecropia species are often hollow and can harbour stinging ants. The trees attract the ants by means of producing a honey-like sap and the ants respond by working to keep the tree free of leaf-eating pests – which can include humans[318

    Medicinal
    The bark and leaves are anticoagulant, antiinflammatory, antitumor, astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive and vasodilator.

  • A decoction of the young leaves is used to treat liver ailments and dropsy.
  • A tea or decoction of the dried leaves or inner stem-bark is used to treat hypertension, Bright’s disease, blennorrhagia, albuminuria, kidney infections, heart conditions and nervous diseases, and to promote good kidney function.
    A tea prepared from the dried leaves is used as a treatment for back pain.
    An infusion of the leaves is sometimes injected vaginally after childbirth.
    A hot poultice of the young shoots is used as a dressing for ulcers, abscesses, wounds, cuts and bush sores.
    The dried leaves are smoked to alleviate asthma.
  • The juice of the plant is used as a caustic to remove warts.
    The sap is used to treat fresh cuts.
  • A decoction of the inner bark is used in the treatment of dysentery.
  • Agroforestry Uses:
    A pioneer species, it is one of the first trees to appear in a disturbed habitat, growing rapidly and providing the ground cover necessary for the survival of less-hardy plant species.
  • It is an ideal species to use in the initial stages of a land reclamation or reforestation program. These hardy trees grow quickly when young and they can grow in poor, eroded soils while still withstanding the full brunt of the tropical sun. They have a shallow rooting system and cast only a light shade, thus do not compete with the deeper-rooted young trees growing under their canopy. In time, they will help to provide the shade and organic material necessary to allow these other, less rugged species to survive.
    The trees also benefit the local ecology, for they perpetually produce flowers and fruits that are staple foodstuffs to many bird and mammal species.
  • Other Uses
    The branches and leaf petioles are hollow. They can be cut and used as blow tubes or trumpets.
    The Uaupe Indians of the Amazon convert the hollow stems of this tree into a very curious kind of musical instrument, a species of drum, they call ‘Amboobas’.
  • A trunk, 10 – 12cm in diameter, is cut to about 1.2 metres long, removing the partitions and smoothing the inside by means of fire.
  • They then close up the lower end with leaves beaten down into a hard mass with a pestle, and cut two holes toward the top end so as to form a handle.
    These rude instruments are commonly used in native dances, the performer, holding by the handle, beats the lower end upon the ground, and moves his feet in unison with the sounds thus produced
  • A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of young branches. Said to be very tough, it is used for sacks, strong ropes and cordage.
  • A latex obtained from the trunk can be used to make a crude type of rubber.
  • The spongy wood ignites easily and can be used as friction sticks to start a fire.
  • The leaves have a rough texture and are traditionally used as a type of sandpaper to smooth the surface of Calabash fruit shells (Cresentia cujete) that are being used to make containers etc.
  • Freshly cut, the wood is whitish or light-coloured, becoming pale brown or oatmeal coloured upon exposure.
  • Sapwood and heartwood are not differentiated.
  • The texture is coarse; the grain straight or fairly straight; fairly lustrous; without distinctive odour or taste.
  • The wood is very light and soft, tough and strong for its weight, but perishable.
  • When seasoned it is very easy to saw and machine compared with green wood.
  • Surfaces tend to tear and fuzz in shaping and turning but gives good results in planing and sanding; it nails readily and holds screws well; it is difficult to finish with varnish or lacquer.
  • It is used for making boxes, crates, paper pulp and matches.
  • It is combined with cement and made into insulation board.
  • The lightest grade of this timber should be a good substitute for the moderately heavy grades of balsa wood.
  • The trunk is used as a trough to conduct water.
    The soft, resilient wood of the roots resists splitting – it has been used to make tool handles.

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