Hawaiian Baby Woodrose - Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions


It is amazing how bits of random information can transform themselves into fact over time. This is the case with Argyreia nervosa, or Hawaiian Baby Woodrose. We have done a great deal of research into HBWR plants, seeds and the closely related Morning Glory family, not in an attempt to encourage abuse or misuse of this beautiful plant, but to provide accurate information based on fact, rather than hearsay and propaganda, to be freely disseminated.

Erroneous Information Regarding the Seed Coats

The below except was taken from the “definitive” reference on Argyreia nervosa seeds; “Handbook of Medicinal Herbs”:

“Immature seeds contain lysergic acid amides, and, according to one anonymous author, innocuously small quantities of strychnine and other alkaloids.”

This is EXACTLY the kind of information that frustrates us. This author wrote an authoritative book on Medicinal Herbs, yet included an incorrect and inaccurate reference about strychnine from an unpublished pamphlet created by an anonymous author. The amount of strychnine that could fit on or in a seed would not be enough to have any negative effect. Laboratory tests have shown that the seed coat is no more or less toxic than any other part of the seed as well. The sickness from seeds that were consumed came from the the essential oils contained within the seeds.

Ritualistic Use, Folk Use, Shamanic Use

There is little evidence that Hawaiian Baby Woodrose was ever used ritualistically or by Shamans in India or the Pacific Islands. Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds are an important part of Ayurvedic medicine in India, though, and are still used today in various forms for various ailments. Powder of the root is given with “ghee” as an alterative; in elephantiasis the powder is given with rice water. In inflammation of the joints it is given with milk and a little castor oil. A paste of the roots made with rice water is applied over rheumatic swelling and rubbed over the body to reduce obesity. The whole plant is reported to have antiseptic properties.1 The leaves are antiphlogistic; they are applied over skin diseases and wounds;109 the silky side of the leaf is applied over tumors, boils, sores, and carbuncles;, as an irritant to promote maturation and suppuration.[50] The leaves are also used for extracting guinea worms.

The least known in the outside world of the convolvulaceae family of plants is ololiuhqui, yet it might be the best known and most widely used among the Indians of that country. In the race for world attention ololiuhqui has been a slow starter. Beyond the confines of the Sierra Madre few except specialists have heard of it, and the bibliography on it is short. Its identity was settled in 1941. The enigma of its chemistry was resolved in 1960 when, on August 18 of that year, Dr. Albert Hofmann read his paper in Australia before an audience of scientists, many of whom were plainly incredulous, so astonishing were his findings. (22)

Ololiuhqui in Nahuatl is the name of the seeds, not of the plant that yields the seeds. The word means ’round thing’, and the seeds are small, brown, and oval. The plant itself is a climber, called appropriately coaxihuitl, ‘snake-plant’, in Nahuatl, and hiedra or bejicco by the Spanish writers. It is a morning glory, and it grows easily and abundantly in the mountains of southern Mexico. Unlike teonanacatl, it bears seed over months, and the seed can be kept indefinitely and carried far and wide to regions where the plant itself does not grow.

In Spanish it is commonly known as semilla de la Virgen, and in the various Indian languages there are names for it that should be carefully assembled by teams of linguists and then studied for their meanings and associations. In Oaxaca, only among the Trique of Copala have I found no familiarity with it.