Black Catechu

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Acacia catechu (Willd.)

Synonyms: Catechu nigrum, cutch, dark catechu

Order: Leguminosae

Description: This tree is indigenous to eastern India, Bangladesh and Burma. 

Parts used: dried extract from the heartwood, occurring in commerce as black shining pieces or cakes.

Collection: The bark and sapwood are stripped from the felled tree and the heartwood cut into pieces and boiled with water. The decoction is then evaporated to a syrup and allowed to cool in moulds. The resulting dried mass is broken into irregular pieces.

Constituents: 20-35% tannins, mainly catechutannic acid; 2-10% acacatechin, quercetin and catechu-red.

Actions: Antiseptic, strong astringent

Indications: Chronic diarrhoea, dysentery, mucous colitis, as a douche in leucorrhoea, and as a mouthwash or gargle in gingivitis, stomatitis and pharyngitis.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Acacia is a useful remedy for arresting excessive mucous discharges and checking haemorrhages. It may be used as a douche for leucorrhoea or as a mouthwash or gargle for pharyngitis, laryngitis, gingivitis and stomatitis. Acacia has a very high tannin content and is therefore an excellent astringent for overcoming relaxation of the mucous membranes in general. Externally, it can be applied in the form of a powder to boils, ulcers and cutaneous eruptions as well as to spongy gums.

Combinations: It may be combined with  Acorus, Mentha piperata, Filipendula, Agrimonia and Quercus in lower bowel conditions. It may be used with Commiphora and Hamamelis as a gargle for pharyngitis, tonsillitis or gingivitis.

Caution: Incompatible with alkalis, lime water, metallic salts and gelatin.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory status GSL

Dried extract: 0.3-2g or by infusion

Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2.5-5ml

Additional Comments: The resin from the heartwood of black catechu can be used to tan leather, and it also produces a brown dye. Pale catechu (Uncaria gambier Roxb.) may be used medicinally in the same way but is slightly less astringent.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals