Samambaia -- a medicinal fern that grows in Latin America's drier tropical forests -- has been used historically by Amazonian Indians such as the Boras and Witotos to treat fever, whooping cough and kidney disorders. Indigenous Hondurans have long used the plant as an all-natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and malignant tumors. Some Peruvian tribes have used the roots of the plant -- the rhizome -- for peptic ulcers, diarrhea and pain in joints and tendons. Samambaia is used throughout the Amazon as a tonic for detoxification and immune support.
Even today, samambaia is used in herbal remedies in Brazil and Peru as a tonic, expectorant, sweat-promoter and blood cleanser. Supplements of the plant can treat a wide variety of skin problems, including boils, abscesses and ulcers. It also acts as a natural sunscreen to prevent sun-induced skin damage, which can lead to skin cancer and other skin problems.
The samambaia plant is high in alkaloids, lipids and flavonoids, and is a rich source of fatty acids. Toxicity studies have revealed no known toxicity for humans taking oral doses greater than 1000 mg. Studies of the plant in the 1970s and '80s revealed it to be an effective treatment for psoriasis, and a Spanish company produced a samambaia-based herbal drug to treat the skin condition that is sill prescribed today.
In more recent studies, samambaia has been shown effective at treating AIDS- and cancer-related wasting syndrome, as well as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. A 2004 human study by Harvard researchers found samambaia provided "substantial benefits of skin protection" to prevent sunburn and subsequent skin aging. The plant is currently being researched for possible roles in cancer treatment.
Several herbal retail companies offer samambaia supplements via the internet and other outlets, including Taylor's www.Rain-Tree.com, which offers a samambaia powder supplement, and the Amazon Herb Company's Recovazon product, available at http://amazondreams.amazonherb.net.