Botonical Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Class: Eudicots
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Psychotria
Species: P. Ipecacuanha

Similar Plants
  • Wild ipecacuanha: Euphorbia ipecacuanhae of North America
  • Venezuelan plant: Sarcostemma glacum, of the family Asclepiadaceae
  • Tylophora asthmatica was used in India
  • Gillenia stipulata was called American ipecac

Related Plants
Euphorbiaceae, the Spurge familyare a large family of flowering plants with 300 genera and around 7,500 species. Most are herbs, but some, especially in the tropics, are also shrubs or trees. Some are succulent and resemble cacti.

Common Name
Ipecacuanha, comes from the Tupi i-pe-kaa-guéne, which translates to "road-side sick-making plant"

The medicinal effects of ipecac were recognized centuries ago by the Portuguese who
settled in South America. They found a plant that can make people vomit and
named it Caephalis ipecacuanha, meaning sick-making plant.
Nowadays, ipecac is used to treat a variety of conditions. Its most widely
accepted use is to induce vomiting in cases of accidental poisoning. When
ipecac is swallowed, a substance in it called cephaeline irritates the
stomach and causes vomiting. Syrup of ipecac is now considered the safest
drug to treat poisoning and is often the most effective. There are different
types of ipecac preparations that vary greatly in strength. Syrup of ipecac is
best for use at home to treat accidental poisoning. Ipecac fluid extract and
ipecac tincture should be avoided as they are much stronger compounds and can be


Ipecacuanha is a homeopathic remedy made from ipecac by a process of
dilution and succussion (shaking). In contrast to syrup of ipecac, it is given
to relieve vomiting.


The homeopathic remedy made from ipecac is called Ipecacuanha. Homeopathic preparations are given for a reason completely opposite from that of standard allopathic treatment. In homeopathy, ipecac is given to stop vomiting rather than to induce it. According to Hahnemann's law of similars, a substance that would cause vomiting in large doses when given to a healthy person will stimulate a sick person's natural defenses when given in extremely dilute and carefully prepared doses. Ipecacuanha is a favorite homeopathic remedy for morning sickness associated with pregnancy.
Ipecac may be used for any of the following conditions that are not related to nausea and vomiting:
  • Nosebleeds producing bright red blood.
  • Dental bleeding.
  • Diarrhea with cramping abdominal pain. The stools are green with froth or foam.
  • Asthma of sudden onset. The patient has to sit up in order to breathe, but cannot bring up any mucus in spite of violent coughing.
  • Hoarseness or loss of voice following a cold.
  • Physical or mental exhaustion.

Wild Card
Lesson Plan: Have You Heard of Ipecac?

Grade level

One or two class periods

Students will research the ipecac plant and create a power point presentation that would include a youtube video.


  1. The teacher will begin the lesson by reviewing plant anatomy and physiology and then specifically the ipecac plant.
  2. Students will work in pairs to do research and create their final project.
  3. The criteria will be that students are able to: classify their plant, provide information on adaptations and reproduction. The use of Ipecac will be incluede. The power point must be creative and informative and show great collaboration and effort.
  4. Students will be given a rubric for presentations, collaborations as well as scientific understanding.

When the project deadlines are reached students have 10 to 15 minutes to present their power point and answer any questions from students. All students will be graded either by presenting or by being a polite audience. All students will have a rubric to give input into their peers work but the teacher will give the final grade.

Stewart, Amy. Wicked Plants. Workman Publishing, NY 2009.