Mimosa tenuiflora

Mimosa tenuiflora

The mimosa tenuiflora or leather tree (Mimosa tenuiflora (Willd.) Poir.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Fabaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Fabales Order,
Fabaceae family,
Subfamily Mimosoideae,
Tribe Mimoseae,
Genus Mimosa,
M. tenuiflora species.
The term is basionym:
– Acacia tenuiflora Willd..
The terms are synonyms:
– Acacia hostilis Mart.;
– Acacia jurema Mart.;
– Acacia penuiflora Willd.;
– Mimosa apodocarpa var. hostilis (Benth.) Hassl.;
– Mimosa cabrera H.Karst.;
– Mimosa hostilis (Mart.) Benth.;
– Mimosa limana Rizzini;
– Mimosa maracasensis Harms;
– Mimosa nigra Huber.

Etymology –
The term Mimosa comes from the Greek μῑμησις mímesis imitation: in reference to the Mimosa pudica which, when touched, withdraws as a person would behave.
The specific epithet tenui flora comes from tenuis slender, thin, delicate and from flos floris fiore: from slender, delicate flowers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Mimosa tenuiflora is a plant native to Central and South America, with precision of the north-eastern region of Brazil (Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Pernambuco, Bahia) and is found north up to southern Mexico (Oaxaca and Costa of Chiapas), and in the following countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela.
Its natural habitat is that of the dry forests of northeastern Brazil, where it is mainly found in secondary formations on the alluvial plains of rivers in deep, moist, fertile, usually alkaline soils.
It is most often found at lower elevations, but can be found up to 1,000 m elevation.

Description –
Mimosa tenuiflora is a very thorny tree that grows up to 8-10 meters in height and can reach 4-5 m in height in less than 5 years.
The canopy is sparse and irregular with a slightly sloping trunk which can have a diameter of 20 – 30 cm.
The bark of the tree is dark brown to gray in color. It splits lengthwise and the inside is reddish-brown.
The wood is dark reddish brown with a yellow centre. It is very dense, strong and tough, with a density of approximately 1.11 g/cm3.
The branches resemble the conformation of ferns and the leaves are finely pinnate; they grow up to 5 cm and contain 15-30 pairs of 5-6 mm bright-green leaflets.
The flowers are white and fragrant; they appear in vaguely cylindrical ears 4-8 cm long. In the northern hemisphere, it flowers and produces fruit from November to June or July. In the southern hemisphere, it flowers mainly from September to January.
The fruit is fragile and has an average length of 2.5–5 cm. Each pod contains 4-6 oval, flat, light brown seeds 3-4 mm in diameter. There are about 145 seeds/1g. In the southern hemisphere, the fruit ripens from February to April.

Cultivation –
Mimosa tenuiflora is a deciduous tree that is sometimes harvested from the wild for the local use of its wood. It can be used as a pioneer species to restore native woodlands.
Furthermore, like most plants of the Fabaceae family, Mimosa tenuiflora fertilizes the soil through nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The tree is useful for combating soil erosion and therefore, as mentioned, for reforestation.
It is a forest region plant with climate is hot and dry, usually there are 6 to 11 months without rain every year. The average annual rainfall varies from 250 to 1,000 mm and the average annual temperature is between 24 and 26 °C.
For its cultivation it requires a sunny position and in nature it grows mainly on alkaline soils.
As a pioneer species, it can rapidly invade rangelands within its native range and is considered a weed by cattle ranchers.
It is a fast growing plant and due to the symbiotic relationship with some soil bacteria, it forms nodules on the roots which are responsible for fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is used by the growing plant, but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
In nature, the Mimosa tenuiflora is disseminated by the wind within a radius of 5-8 m from the mother plant; rainfall carries them from hillsides to lower plains, and human activities contribute to their spread.
For cultivation, the pods are harvested once they begin to open spontaneously on the tree. The harvested pods are exposed to the sun so that the pods open and release their seeds. The seeds can then be planted in sandy soil with full sun exposure.
Propagation therefore takes place by seed; this has a tough seed coat and, unless sown when freshly ripe and still moist, may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of near-boiling water over the seeds (being careful not to cook them) and then soaking them for 12 to 24 hours in warm water. By now they should have absorbed the moisture and swelled – if not, it is advisable to carefully nip the seed coat (taking care not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
Sowing should be done in a sunny position in a nursery seedbed. A high germination rate can be expected, with the seed germinating within 14 – 28 days.
It is also possible to propagate Mimosa tenuiflora from cuttings. However, it is not recommended to cut the adult Mimosa tenuiflora during the rainy season as it could cause death.

Customs and Traditions –
Mimosa tenuiflora is an entheogenic plant (used for its particular psychoactive substances) used by the Jurema Cult (O Culto da Jurema) in northeastern Brazil.
Due to its healing properties it is also called Skin Tree and is used in Mesoamerica as a treatment for burns and ulcers (Tepezcohuite). The active ingredients are obtained from the bark of trees that have reached six years of age; the chemical composition, with marked regenerative properties of the epidermal tissue, in case of wounds, scars that are still red, contains: bioflavonoids, chemical substances that fight free radicals; tannins, which increase the impermeability of the skin; trace elements, indispensable in the biochemical processes of cellular functions. It is used for its remarkable healing, regenerating, repairing and protective properties.
The bark is rich in skin sanitizing active ingredients, whose properties were already known by the Maya (250-950 AD) who used it for its exceptional healing properties against ulcers, burns, wounds, drying it and pulverizing it for apply it directly on the skin lesions. In Mexico, the pharmacological use of this plant has continued over the centuries, reaching up to the present day for its healing virtues, which were considered almost miraculous, so much so that Mimosa tenuiflora was known by the name of Tepezcohuite, which means precisely “Tree of Skin “, and was considered part of Mexico’s national heritage. In Europe, its healing properties have only been discovered about 25 years ago, when some scientific studies validated the properties attributed by the traditional use of the ancient Mexican populations.
The drug, i.e. the part of the plant containing the active ingredients, endowed with marked regenerative properties of the epidermal tissue, is made up of the bark of the young branches, rich in flavonoids, saponins, trace elements and above all tannins, whose synergy considerably enhances the properties of the single components, with capabilities that go far beyond those demonstrated by each single active ingredient in the regeneration of damaged skin. The flavonoids, antioxidant, anti-radical and vasoactive substances, act on the permeability of the venous capillaries, improving the superficial microcirculation and favoring the exchange between the blood and the tissues, preventing the formation of serosity and edema; moreover, with the anti-hyaluronidase activity, which blocks the enzyme responsible for its degradation, they hinder the demolition of hyaluronic acid, which thus remains longer in the skin, maintaining its elasticity and turgidity.
Saponins also activate blood circulation, generating hyperemia which increases blood flow in the peripheral microcirculation.
The tannins, of which Mimosa tenuiflora is particularly rich, with their astringent action reduce cell permeability, induce a reduction in inflammation, increase the impermeability of the skin by narrowing its pores.
Trace elements are essential components, indispensable for the biochemical processes of cellular functions, of which they act as catalysts, modulating the activity of enzymes involved in the onset of inflammation, also intervening on the ability of epithelial cells to replicate, so as to stimulate regeneration cellular and lesion repair.
Mimosa tenuiflora also has strong broad-spectrum antimicrobial, antibiotic-like properties, which inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi; this capacity is particularly important in case of sores, burns, varicose and diabetic ulcers, which are preserved from infections.
The dried root bark of Mexican Mimosa tenuiflora was recently shown to have a dimethyltryptamine (DMT) content of approximately 1-1.7%. The bark of the stem has about 0.03% DMT.
It is not clear how plant DMT becomes orally active as an entheogen, because the psychoactivity of ingested DMT requires the presence of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), such as a β-carboline. If an MAOI is not present in the plant or added to the mix, the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAOI) will metabolize DMT in the human gut, preventing the active molecule from entering the bloodstream and brain.
However, in 2005 the chemical compound yuremamine was isolated from this plant and this active ingredient represents a new class of phytoindoles, which could explain an apparent oral activity of DMT in Jurema.
The plant is also used in the clandestine production of crystalline DMT. In this form, it is psychoactive on its own when vaporized and inhaled.
The bark is used to make a hallucinogenic drink.
The roots contain the alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine (XXV), which has hallucinogenic properties. A drink made from the roots is said to induce glorious visions of the spirit world.
A preliminary clinical study has shown that Mimosa tenuiflora is effective in the treatment of venous leg ulcers.
Other uses include agroforestry.
As mentioned, the Mimosa tenui flora is a natural pioneer species in its native range, it is rapidly growing and fixes atmospheric nitrogen; for this reason it can be used in mixed plants for the restoration of native woods.
Mimosa tenuiflora does very well after a forest fire or other serious ecological disturbance. It is a prolific pioneer plant that drops its leaves onto the ground, continuously forming a thin layer of mulch and eventually humus. Along with its ability to fix nitrogen, the tree conditions the soil, making it ready for the arrival of other plant species.
The wood is of medium texture, with straight grain, very heavy, with excellent mechanical properties and great natural durability.
Due to its small size, it is only used topically for items such as fence posts, posts, decks, wheels, rustic furniture, etc.
Wood is used as fuel and for making charcoal; it burns well and gives a lot of heat.
Furthermore, thanks to its high tannin content, the bark of the tree is widely used as a natural dye and in the production of leather.
Furthermore, Mimosa tenuiflora is an important source of food for animals during periods of drought.
The tree is a good source of fodder for animals, providing vital protein and other nutrients. It does well in dry season and drought, providing food for local livestock and animals. Cows, goats and sheep eat the pods and leaves. There appears to be evidence that Mimosa tenuiflora forage or forage causes developmental defects in pregnant ruminants in Brazil.
However the healing properties of the tree make it useful in treating pets. A solution of the leaves or bark can also be used for washing animals in parasite prevention. Because the tree retains most of its leaves during the dry season, it is an important source of shade for animals and plants during that time.
The tree is also an important source of forage for bees, especially during the dry season and at the beginning of the rainy season.

Method of Preparation –
The preparations based on Mimosa tenuiflora are indicated to promote the rapid healing of wounds, numb sores, herpes, psoriasis, burns, of which it reduces burning and pain, promotes rapid drying and healing, reconstituting damaged tissues in a short time .
The dried extract of the bark is indicated to relieve skin problems resulting from long-term hospitalization to prevent the formation of bedsores in bedridden people, to avoid varicose and diabetic ulcers and to promote healing when already present. The antibacterial activity can also be useful for fighting acne. The regenerative activity can also help slow down skin aging.
A tea made from the leaves and stem has been used to treat toothaches. For cases of cough and bronchitis, an aqueous extract (decoction) of Mimosa tenuiflora is drunk. A handful of bark in a liter of water is used alone or in a syrup. The solution is drunk until the symptoms disappear.
Mimosa aqueous extracts are widely used for healing wounds and burns in Central and South America. Consequently, the products of the plant (as mentioned grouped under the term “Tepezcohuite”) have become a popular and easily produced cosmetic ingredient in commercial skin care products, used and marketed on a large scale.
The parts of the tree are traditionally used in northeastern Brazil in a psychoactive decoction also called Jurema or Yurema. Similarly, the traditional sacrament of the western Amazon, ayahuasca, is produced from native ayahuasca vines. However, to date no β-carbolines such as the harmala alkaloids have been detected in decoctions of Mimosa tenuiflora, yet Jurema is used in combination with several plants.
Due to its properties, it can be used not only for the preparation of the psychedelic and curative decoction ayahuasca, but once dried, the active principle can be extracted through the use of solvents. Its hallucinogenic properties have been used as a remedy for depression and post-traumatic stress.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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