Shamy darling is native to tropical South America but now grows in many tropical regions. The plant is woody with spreading branches and has small compound leaves, which close when touched, hence the name. The stems have prickles and the plant bears small purplish flowers.
Shamy darling has a long history of use and in many of the countries where it grows, mainly as a sedative and general sleeping aid. The leaves and roots of shamy darling are used in Jamaica to treat colds, chest and stomach pains, and as a sedative.
It is traditionally combined with devil's horsewhip and strong back for colds, gonorrhoea and sexually transmitted infections. Shamy darling's stem and root are used in the Eastern Caribbean as a purgative, emetic, and for whooping cough.
It is also used with other herbs to treat gastric and urinary disorders, for nervous troubles and as an antidote for poisons.
The Garfuna people in Guatemala use shamy darling to treat urinary infections, but it is mainly used as a sedative in Central American countries. The herb is used in Vietnamese traditional medicine as a hypnotic tranquiliser. In India shamy darling is used for epilepsy and as an aphrodisiac. In Panama the stems are beaten and boiled to relieve arthritis.
In Polynesia, shamy darling is used to treat stress-related conditions and as a mild sedative. In Chinese herbal medicine this plant is used to treat bronchitis and asthma. The whole plant can be used as a diuretic and a wash to treat dermatitis. In Africa, a leaf decoction is used for dysentery, as a tonic and externally for guinea worm.
Modern Research & Uses
Many of the studies of shamy darling have confirmed some of the traditional uses of the herb. In scientific trials, shamy darling extracts were moderately diuretic and able to depress duodenal contractions similar to atropine sulphone. Shamy darling can promote regeneration of nerves and reduce excessive menstrual bleeding.
A recent study has reported that shamy darling demonstrated anitdepressant activity in humans. Shamy darling is also confirmed to be antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-neurasthenic, antispasmodic, nervine, and sedative. The root extracts are said to be a strong emetic.
The plant chemicals in shamy darling include: ascorbic acid; mimosine; crocetin; crocetin-dimethyl-ester; linoleic acid; D-xylose; norepinephrine; oleic acid; linolenic acid; palmitic acid; D-glucuronic-acid; stearic acid; mucilage; sitesterol and tannin.
There have been reports that with chronic use, shamy darling can be toxic. It is advisable to seek professional advice before using this herb for an extended period. Avoid use if pregnant or trying to get pregnant.