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Everything Else You Wanted to Know About Mutamba (And Weren’t Afraid To Ask)

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Recently I wrote an article about one method of treating and quite possibly curing asthma using mutamba bark. Written as a follow-up to an article I wrote in April 2012, which was about alternate treatments for asthma, its sole purpose was to tout mutamba as a possible cure for asthma.

Despite the hours of research that went into writing mutamba article, some of the questions and comments I received suggested that I hadn’t done my due diligence to report other treatments for asthma or other indications for mutamba. (Indeed I had not, given that I felt I had covered alternate treatments for asthma in April.) As a result, I decided to write an article that addresses these questions, as well as let you know where you may purchase mutamba, as this was a concern for many and admittedly not well addressed in the original article.

Mutamba Revisited

The term “mutamba bark” refers to the bark of several related species of trees indigenous to South American rainforests, commonly used as natural remedies for a number of ailments. In addition to bark form, which is often boiled and brewed into a medicinal tea, mutamba is generally available in in an essential tincture form. Notable species of mutamba often used as natural remedies include Bubroma guazuma, Diuroglossum rufescens, Theobroma guazuma, Guazuma coriacea, G. inuira, G. polybotra G. tomentosa, and G. utilis. Repeated from my original mutamba article:

The mutamba tree is native to the Amazon rainforest and grows across the tropics in both Central and South America, including parts of the Caribbean. The tree can grow to be up to sixty-five feet in height, and a mature tree can have a trunk that spans seven to fourteen inches in diameter. The leaves can grow to be up to one foot in length, and the flowers that grow range from white to shades of light yellow. The tree also produces a strong honey-scented fruit that’s covered in rough barbs.

Specifically, mutamba grows in the parts of Central and South Americas, and parts of the Caribbean that are in the tropic zone.

One reader’s comment: “I realize that trees from South America may have difficulty growing outside a rain forest, but there are parts of the country that are very similar to rain forests here.” Indeed, there are small pockets of rainforests in North America, including parts of:

  • Northern California
  • Pacific Northwest
  • British Columbia
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

However, it is important to make the distinction between rainforest and the tropics. Because an area may receive a certain amount of annual rainfall to create a rainforest in all of the regions mentioned above, the temperatures drop too low for it to be considered tropical. While there are places in the southeast United States that are sub-tropical, even there the winters are too harsh for the majority of tropical plants to survive. Exceptions are bananas in the southeast and y palm trees in southern California and Florida.

With this in mind, mutamba cannot survive in North America. All mutamba available for sale in the United States was grown in the tropics. I will go into where you may purchase mutamba in all its forms later in the article.

Does Mutamba Work As A Treatment For Other Conditions?

Mutamba has been proven an effective treatment for many conditions, including asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, and hypertension. However, its effects are narrow, and research fails to support its use as a treatment for diseases that are chronic, degenerative, or with a very specific bacterial or microbial origin.


One reader asked whether mutamba is effective in the treatment of COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease involves vasoconstriction that leads to the airway diminishing in width, making it more difficult to maintain respiration. As a result, COPD patients are often short of breath and have low blood-oxygen counts, which leads to fatigue and eventual death. While mutamba does have a vaso-relaxant effect, in essence reversing vasoconstriction in some cases (as that of asthma), the chronic nature of COPD makes it unlikely that patients will experience relief. Most COPD patients have irreversible lung damage as a side effect of chronic emphysema or bronchitis, which mutamba cannot effectively treat. I have found no research to suggest that mutamba can successfully treat or cure COPD.

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Mutamba Is Not A Cure-All

Much as I am impressed with what mutamba can treat and cure, I do take it with a huge grain of salt when I read that mutamba can cure everything from baldness to rheumatoid arthritis. In doing research for this article, I came across several articles, including this one that claims mutamba can cure and/or treat myriad conditions, including:

  • Dysentery
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Prostate problems (sounds very ominous and vague)
  • Colds
  • The flu
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Elephantiasis
  • Migraine and cluster headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney problems
  • Problems of the uterus (sounds equally ominous and vague)
  • Infections (Very vague!)
  • Baldness
  • Leprosy
  • Bacillus
  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
  • Neisseria gonorrhea
  • Herpes simplex 1
  • Irritation (So vague I have to ask myself—physical, emotional, or external? Will it banish annoying people?)

On the face of it, one might easily draw the conclusion that mutamba can treat nearly all of what ails human beings. However, as I often discover after reading many articles written about this and other “miracle cures” is the lack of evidence to support such fanciful claims. When an article uses the expression “numerous studies have been conducted” or “recent studies confirm” without citing a single one, it makes me a tad nervous to report to you that something will work when I cannot verify it. Rather than tackle every indication on the above list, I decided to pick a few and verify the claims.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

No current research suggests that mutamba has the ability to treat or cure rheumatoid arthritis. It is possible that the anti-inflammatory properties of mutamba may extend to reducing the inflammatory joint response involved in the condition, but there is no data indicating that this is true.


In a 1992 study, researchers observed many habits of indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. One such observation was made when many in the community were afflicted with gastrointestinal symptoms (including diarrhea, nausea, stomach ache, and constipation); during these times, researchers described the Oaxaca community as choosing plants such as mutamba that had bitter-tasting qualities for medicinal purposes, which coincided with high amounts of tannins and astringent properties. This may attribute to the efficacy of using mutamba as a treatment for diarrhea.


Leprosy is a chronic disease that leads to external skin lesions, caused by Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. While the root of leprosy is bacterial and mutamba has antibacterial properties, it is unclear whether mutamba is specifically effective toward the bacteria that cause leprosy.

Where to Buy Mutamba Bark or Tincture

I found the following online stores that sell the powdered form of mutamba bark:

Mutamba tincture is more difficult to find online, but it should be available in local herb and health food stores, particularly stores that focus on organic products or natural medicine.

Other Natural Remedies for Asthma?

One reader offered this comment on my original mutamba article: “I have cured all my asthma symptoms using nothing but food-grade hydrogen peroxide. It has a history of curing many of the problems of mankind but was left in the dustbin when penicillin came along.”

I was extremely fascinated by this comment. Knowing what a miracle penicillin is (except for those with allergies to it), I set out on a search to find any evidence of the miracle drug that preceded it. I found nothing on Google and then did a more thorough search using Pub Med. I couldn’t find a single study or any data supporting the use of hydrogen peroxide as a remedy for asthma. Hydrogen peroxide has no vaso-relaxant properties, and it is most commonly used as an antimicrobial agent or a debriding agent. Because asthma is not microbial in origin, this might explain why researchers haven’t caught onto using hydrogen peroxide to treat asthma. I am not suggesting this reader’s experience didn’t take place, but I cannot form a logical connection, and therefore I personally cannot recommend it.

Additionally, hydrogen peroxide is an emetic (a substance that causes vomiting) and highly toxic and caustic when ingested, and downing a 35 percent hydrogen peroxide solution (which is the strength of food-grade peroxide) is borderline suicidal. It will cause vomiting as well as burns to the throat and stomach. Hydrogen peroxide is not selective—the same destructive action it takes on bacteria is the same destructive action it will wreak on any cell in your body it comes into contact with.

Avoiding Dairy

Another reader’s comment: “I’m amazed that you fail to mention the connection between dairy and both acute and chronic upper respiratory conditions like sinusitis, asthma, COPD, pneumonia, etc. Most of the world does not eat dairy for a reason.”

I actually replied to this comment because it threw me for such a loop! I thought the reason most of the world avoided dairy is because of the enzyme lactose, which is present in all dairy products. Many, as a result, drink any of the following:

  • Goat’s milk
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Lactose reduced or lactose-free milk

The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

  • Gas (usually painful)
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Numbers vary, but somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of the world’s population has some form (mild to severe) of lactose intolerance. Nearly all people of Asian and African descent are lactose intolerant, which explains my extreme reaction to the enzyme. I stopped drinking milk shortly after I turned thirty, which I can tell you had no effect (positive or negative) on my asthma symptoms. I truly did think this to be the reason most people avoid dairy.

As a result, I did what I feel is a pretty exhaustive Google search for a connection between eliminating dairy and reduction of asthma symptoms. I came up pretty empty until I came across this recent article (June 2012) in Natural News:

Avoiding certain foods also plays a role in the treatment for asthma. Dairy products can increase mucus production. Andrew Weil, PhD recommends that people with asthma eliminate milk products, animal protein and fried foods from their diets. He also says to stay away from polyunsaturated vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils.

More asthma guidelines for diet include increasing omega-3 intake, relying on extra-virgin olive oil as a main source of fat and consuming organic fruits and vegetables daily. Apples, carrots, leafy vegetables and tomatoes have all demonstrated beneficial effects for preventing asthma in studies.

With a vague reference to eliminating dairy (as well as animal products and fried foods) from one’s diet to help treat asthma, Natural News cites the authority of Andrew Weil, PhD. I can forgive the fact that the author got his credentials incorrect. Dr. Weil, M.D. is a pretty well-known proponent of natural remedies, and I do often refer to his expertise, but I can’t understand why, if there is such a strong and obvious connection, the article doesn’t cite any studies or perhaps even one other source.

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I found an article on Dr. Weil’s website about asthma (explaining it in depth, and offering tips to control it). In this article he too only makes a vague reference to eliminating dairy from one’s diet. Toward the end of the article, Dr. Weil adds numerous bulleted suggestions to consider as long-term control and prevention. Among them, he suggests that asthma sufferers should “eliminate milk and milk products, substituting other calcium sources.” He doesn’t explain the reasoning behind his suggestion.

Unable to find any other link, I once again went to my friends at Pub Med. In a study that was published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, participants on dairy and non-dairy diets showed no significant difference in their asthma symptoms, specifically bronchoconstriction leading to decreased capacity to inhale and exhale. It is the conclusion of the study that is unlikely that a non-dairy diet would successfully treat or cure asthma. It is possible that your personal experiences may differ, but as I cannot find any studies that validate the theory, I cannot tout dairy elimination as a cure for asthma.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Asthma

It seems that although Natural News failed to cite any studies and that they only alluded to Dr. Weil’s expertise, they were right about one connection made between a reduction of asthma symptoms and a natural remedy. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which helps reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. Data suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is likely to reduce inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tissue, making attacks less frequent and less severe. Supplementing omega-3 fatty acids can mean eating a diet rich in fish (salmon is healthy and yummy), or supplementing with capsules or fish oil on a daily basis.

A Note About My Methods Of Research And Why I Am Picky About My Resources

I get annoyed when I read things in articles like “have all demonstrated beneficial effects for preventing asthma in studies.” What studies? Where are they published, and why can’t I find them on the Internet? Maybe I am making mountains out of molehills, but I believe that it is irresponsible of me to recommend something to improve health and be unable or unwilling to cite credible sources to back up my claims. Without proper sources, I feel this is reckless and dangerous. When I purposely omit certain publications from my research, despite how often they come up in Google when I begin my research, it is because without the ability to prove their findings, I cannot in good conscience cite that article as a reliable source.

If after you read my articles you do research on your own, find articles that validate your suspicions about something, and you are comfortable taking the word of a site that does not cite any verifiable sources, that is certainly your right. But as my mother used to say, “That’s on you.”

Works Cited

Magos, Gil A. “Hypotensive and Vasorelaxant Effects of the Procyanidin Fraction from Guazuma Ulmifoliabark in Normotensive and Hypertensive Rats.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 117.1 (2008): 58-68. Print.

Heinrich, M., H. Rimpler, and N.Antonio Barrera. “Indigenous Phytotherapy of Gastrointestinal Disorders in a Lowland Mixe Community (Oaxaca, Mexico): Ethnopharmacologic Evaluation.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 36.1 (1992): 63-80. Print.

De Lima, Maria Raquel Ferreira, Josiane De Souza Luna, Aldenir Feitosa Dos Santos, Maria Cristina Caño De Andrade, Antônio Euzébio Goulart Sant’Ana, Jean-Pierre Genet, Béatrice Marquez, Luc Neuville, and Nicole Moreau. “Anti-bacterial Activity of Some Brazilian Medicinal Plants.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 105.1-2 (2006): 137-47. Print.

Woods, R., J. Weiner, M. Abramson, F. Thien, and E. Walters. “Do Dairy Products Induce Bronchoconstriction in Adults with Asthma?” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 101.1 (1998): 45-50. Print.

Nagakura, T. “Dietary Supplementation with Fish Oil Rich in Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Children with Bronchial Asthma.” European Respiratory Journal 16.5 (2000): n. pag. Print.

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