- Family Apocynaceae
- Alstonia constricta
- Alstonia scholaris
- Alstonia Bark, Australian Quinine, Australian Febrifuge, Australian Fever Bark/Bush, Alstonia Bark, Bitter Bark, Devil Tree, Dita Bark, Pale Mara, Devil’s Bit, Pali-mara
- Take only under professional supervision as the herb is toxic in large doses.
The herb is obtained from an evergreen tree, growing to 50 feet with glossy oblong leaves and creamy white, star-shaped flowers. A. constricta is native to Australia and the one more preferred medicinally. A. scholaris is native to India, Pakistan, and the Philippines and grows more prolifically. Both are now found in tropical regions around the world and are a protected species in some countries.
In the past the Alstonia tree, also known as Milkwood because of its milky sap, provided a popular fever tonic which was thought to rival quinine.
The bitter taste contributed to its nickname of Bitter Bark and which led to its reputation as a quinine alternative since that plant was equally bitter. It could not fully rival that of the cinchona (quinine) species, but it did eventually prove to be a useful medicine for other reasons, especially in lowering blood pressure.
The Aborigines collected the sap on a twig and put it on small sores. It was handled with great care, as eye contact could cause blindness.
- indole alkaloids (including resperpine, echitamin, alstonine, alstonidine)
Stem bark, root bark
Reserpine and echitamin are powerful hypotensives (lower blood pressure).
When alstonine was discovered, it proved to have a hypotensive action twice as potent as that of reserpine.
In Chinese medicine, the bark is used for diarrhea and malaria, as well as a uterine stimulant.
In the past, it has been used in Australia and New Zealand as a cure for rheumatism.