Economic Botany

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 397–409 | Cite as

The past and present uses of rhatany (Krameria, Krameriaceae)

  • Beryl B. Simpson


Rhatany, the name given to several species of Krameria, figured prominently in European and Euro-American medicine between 1820 and 1920. Uses for rhatany were numerous but generally centered around the astringent properties of the tanniniferous root extracts. Evidence suggests that the adoption ofKrameria as a medicinal plant resulted from the advocacy of its use by Hipólito Ruiz following his return to Europe from Perú in 1797. Native American uses known at the time of Ruiz’s writing were different from those espoused in Europe by the Spanish botanist. Traditional Pre-Colombian uses ofKrameria species by native peoples of North and South America are difficult to assess because records of use appear to have been influenced by the uses devised later by Europeans. There is little doubt of native uses of the roots for chewing sticks and as a source of dye. During the last 25 years, there has been an attempt to link the use ofKrameria teas with high incidences of esophageal cancer. However, examination of the data resulting from experiments to test the cancer-causing properties ofKrameria extracts does not indicate that rhatany teas are highly carcinogenic. Recent studies of the tannins and lignans present in root and leaf extracts suggest their possible future uses in anti-bacterial and ultraviolet light blocking preparations.

Key Words

chewing sticks dye esophageal cancer Krameria Krameriaceae rhatany tannins 

Los Usos Históricos y Actuates de Rhatanhia (Krameria, Krameriaceae)


Rhatanhia, el nombre común de algunas especies del géneroKrameria, fue una hierba muy importante en la medicina europea y euro-americana entre los años 1820 y 1920. Los usos de rhatania fueron numerosos, pero se centraron en las propiedades astringentes de los extrados taniniferos de las raices. Al parecer, la adopción deKrameria como planta medicinal proviene de los trabajos de Hipólito Ruiz a su regreso a Europa del Perú in 1797. Los usos de los indígenas americanos fueron diferentes a los expuesots por el botánico espanol, pero son dificiles de determinar ya que parecen haber sido influenciados por los usos posteriores de los europeos. No hay duda de que los nativos usaban las raices para masticarlas y para tenir. En los últimos veinticinco años, se ha sugerido queKrameria puede causar cáncer del esófago, sin embargo la evidencia experimental no indica ninguna relación. Estudios recientes de los taninos y lignina en hojas y raices sugieren a futuro un uso como antibiótico y bloqueador contra luz ultravioleta.


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Copyright information

© New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY 10458 U.S.A 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beryl B. Simpson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyThe University of TexasAustin

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