This genus of two species of herbaceous, woody climbers occurs in tropical E Africa. Jateorhiza palmata (calumba) occurs in lowland rainforests and riparian forests. It was introduced to Europe in the 17th century by the Portugeuse as an antidote to poisons but was not widely used until the end of the 18th century. It contains isoquinoline alkaloids, similar to those found in Berberis vulgaris (See, bearberry) and is one of the bitterest plants known. Unusual among bitter herbs, calumba contains no tannins and very little volatile oil - less than 1 percent, which consists mainly of thymol. The closely related Coscinium fenestratum (calumba wood) also contains bereberis-like alkaloids and is used as a bitter tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. Cocculus and Stephania, to genera related to Jateorhiza, are much used in traditional Chinese medicine and also in Ayurvedic, Japanese and Korean herbal medicine. As they may be confused with Aristolachia spp. (See, birthwort), or may contain or be adulterated with aristolochic acid, they have been banned in a number of countries following cases of kidney failure.

Colombo was first recorded in herbal medicine in 1671, when Portuguese traders brought it back to Europe from Africa. A gentle but very effective digestive bitter, colombo is commonly cultivated as a medicinal plant in Brazil, where herbalists use the root to treat poor digestion, loss of appetite, low stomach acid, diarrhea, and flatulence.

Perennial, rhizomatous vine, with fleshy roots and long-stalked, hairy, heart-shaped, palmately lobed leaves, to 40cm (16in) long. Small, green-white flowers are borne in axillary clusters, males in panicles to 40cm (16in) long, and females in racemes to 10cm (4in) long, followed by globose fruits, 2.5cm (1in) long.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Colombo, Calomba Root
Botanical Name:
Jateorhiza palmata syn. J. calumba, Menispermum palmatum
Native Location:
E Africa
Moist, rich soil in shade, with high humidity. Cut back stems in early spring or train on supports.
By seed sown when ripe; by division in spring; by cuttings of semi-ripe shoots in summer.
Roots are lifted in dry weather in spring and dried for use in concentrated infusions, liquid extracts, powders, and tinctures.
15m (45ft)
Min. 15-18°C (59-64°F)
Parts Used:
A very bitter, mucilaginous herb that acts mainly as a tonic for the digestive system. It also lowers blood pressure and has anti-fungal effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for morning sickness, loss of appetite, anorexia, indigestion, atonic dyspepsia with low stomach acid, diarrhea, and dysentery. Combines well with Senna alexandrina (See, Alexandrian Senna) and Zingiber officinale (See, Ginger). Contraindicated during pregnancy, except in small, carefully prescribed doses for morning sickness.
To treat diarrhea, gastritis, dyspepsia, and colitis.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of colombo is approximately 2 tsp of boiled root strained and taken as a tea every hour.
Possible Side Effects:
Colombo's side effects include vomiting and stomach pain.
Drug Interactions:
Taking colombo with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Aluminum Hydroxide, (AlternaGel, Alu-Cap)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Carbonate, (Gaviscon Extra Strength, Gaviscon Liquid)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Maalox, Rulox)
Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Trisilicate, (Gaviscon Tablet)
Aluminum Hydroxide, Magnesium Hydroxide and Simethicone, (Maalox, Mylanta Liquid)
Calcium Carbonate, (Rolaids Extra Strength, Tums)
Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Mylanta Gelcaps, Rolaids Extra Strength)
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Esomeprazole, (Nexium)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Famotidine, Calcium Carbonate, and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Pepcid Complete)
Lansoprazole, (Prevacid)
Magaldrate and Simethicone, (Riopan Plus, Riopan Plus Double Strength)
Magnesium Hydroxide, (Dulcolax Milk of Magnesia, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia)
Magnesium Oxide, (Mag-Ox 400, Uro-Mag)
Magnesium Sulfate, (Epsom Salts)
Nizatidine, (Axid, PMS-Nizatidine)
Omeprazole, (Losec, Prilosec)
Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
Rabeprazole, (Aciphex, Pariet)
Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
Sodium Bicarbonate, (Brioschi, Neut)
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001. pg. 246.
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD Pp.159-160