Cryptolepis Benefits & Uses: An African Herbal Gem
Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, a West African herb that has been used medicinally for thousands of years, has many benefits that apply to the common health challenges of today. This article explores the history of indigenous use as well as the growing body of research and contemporary application for this highly regarded plant medicine.
Some additional names for Cryptolepis include Ghanaian quinine, kadze, nurubima, paran pupa, and yellow dye root. The roots are used for dying leather, treating snake bites, and as a tonic. The leaves are eaten as a vegetable, and the fibers found in the stems are used in building houses and making rope. (2)
The Medicinal Benefits of Cryptolepis:
Cryptolepis contains several compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds help reduce inflammation in the body and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, Cryptolepis has been used traditionally to treat malaria and other parasitic infections due to its antiparasitic properties. It is also beneficial for digestive health and may help improve liver function.
The roots of this twining shrub are also used by African herbalists for the treatment of upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, fever, stomach and intestinal disorders, septicemia, tuberculosis, wounds, and hepatitis. A combination of roots and leaves are used for hypertension, malaria, and inflammation. (1)
My first introduction to Cryptolepis came from seeking the most potent herbal medicines available for the treatment of Lyme disease many years ago. Cryptolepis was one of a handful of plants that herbalist Stephen Buhner discussed in his book Healing Lyme. I was eager to try it. Since then I have used it in the herbal formulas of many hundreds of patients with excellent effect. I often combine it with herbs like Japanese knotweed, Sweet wormwood, and Black walnut hull for the treatment of Lyme and co-infections.
Digging deeper to understand this herb’s nature and character I discovered that Cryptolepsis has been used traditionally for a wide array of ailments for people of all ages (including pregnant women). Its safety profile is superb (there is no evidence of toxicity with long-term use when used appropriately).
In our clinic, we find it to be very well-tolerated, one of those rare herbs that is a potent antimicrobial on the one hand, while simultaneously reinforcing balanced immune response and overall detoxification on the other. The result is that the body receives multi-dimensional healing support. Needless to say, it’s a clinical favorite!
A Broad Spectrum Antimicrobial:
Based on lab studies, traditional use, and our clinical outcomes, Cryptolepis has antimicrobial effectiveness against:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- E. coli
- Salmonella typhi
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Candida albicans
- Klebisella pneumonia
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Borreliosis burgdorferi
- Bartonella spp.
- Babesia spp.
The main constituent, cryptolepine, is most known for its antimalarial effects, but has also been studied for its potential in treating cancer. (4)
Cryptolepis is an ideal herb for gut-based and food-related infections, as well as many vector-borne infections. An in vitro study of gastroenteritis-causing bacteria called, Campylobacter spp, found this plant’s constituents to have strong antimicrobial activities. Its constituent, cryptolepine, was found to be the most effective. (7)
Cryptolepis also reduces blood glucose, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Extracts of this plant have shown effectiveness in treating diabetes. (6)
Suggestions for Use:
We recommend taking Cryptolepis foremost as a brew (a tea that is simmered for approximately 90 minutes). The second best way to receive the benefits of Cryptolepis is as a tincture.
Cryptolepis is a leading plant medicine in Bloom & Reveal’s Exterminator formula which is directed at the treatment of Lyme-borreliosis and co-infections. It is also plays a starring role in Bart-None , which targets Bartonella infection; and Liberate , which addresses Babesia infection. These formulas are all available as brews (decocted teas), granules, and tinctures so that you may choose the form that works best for you.
Plant Habitat and Description:
Cryptolepis sanguinolenta likes water and sunlight. It grows in the thickets, woody savannahs, rainforests, and deserted farmland of mountainous areas and inland lowlands (avoiding salty waters).
A shrub described as twining with oblong leaves and small greenish yellow star-like flowers, its fruit grow in horn-like pairs. The bitter sap housed in its yellowish roots quickly turns red when released.
Cryptolepis is an unusual and prized botanical medicine in that it has broad application for difficult to treat infections while being safe and well-tolerated by most people. If you’re struggling with chronic infection, this might be an important herb to try. It is safe in pregnancy, post-partum, and also for children.
- Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (Lindl.) Schlecter. Newman Osafo, Kwesi Boadu Mensah, Oduro Kofi Yeboah. s.l. : Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3026370.
- P.C.M. Jansen, G.H. Schmelzer. Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (PROTA). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. [Online] http://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Cryptolepis_sanguinolenta_(PROTA).
- Antimicrobial activity of Guinea-Bissau traditional remedies. O. Silv, A. Duarte , J. Cabrita , M. Pimentel , A. Diniz , E. Gomes. 1, s.l. : Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1996, Vol. 50. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-8741(95)01323-7.
- A Review of the Anticancer Potential of The Antimalarial Herbal Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta and Its Major Alkaloid Cryptolepine. C Ansah, K B Mensah. 3, s.l. : Ghana Medical Journal, 2013, Vol. 47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3875281/.
- Clinical Efficacy of a Tea-Bag Formulation of Cryptolepis Sanguinolenta Root in the Treatment of Acute Uncomplicated Falciparum Malaria. K A Bugyei, G L Boye, M E Addy. 1, s.l. : GMJ – Ghana Medical Journal, 2010, Vol. 44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2956309/.
- Effect of ethanolic extract of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta stem on in vivo and in vitro glucose absorption and transport: Mechanism of its antidiabetic activity. A. F. Ajayi, R. E. Akhigbe, O. M. Adewumi, L. O. Okeleji, K. B. Mujaidu, S. B. Olaleye. s.l. : Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2012, Vol. 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354926/.
- A Systematic Review of In Vitro Activity of Medicinal Plants from Sub-Saharan Africa against Campylobacter spp. Delfina Fernandes Hlashwayo, Filomena Barbosa, Sílvia Langa, Betuel Feng J, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Evaluation of Natural and Botanical Medicines for Activity Against Growing and Non-growing Forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 21;7:6. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00006. PMID: 32154254; PMCID: PMC7050641.
- Sigaúque, Custódio Gabriel Bila. s.l. : Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020, Vol. 2020. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2020/9485364/.
- Zhang Y, Alvarez-Manzo H, Leone J, Schweig S, Zhang Y. Botanical Medicines Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, Artemisia annua, Scutellaria baicalensis, Polygonum cuspidatum, and Alchornea cordifolia Demonstrate Inhibitory Activity Against Babesia duncani. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 Mar 8;11:624745. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2021.624745. PMID: 33763384; PMCID: PMC7982592.