Mulungu is a medium-sized, well-branched tree that grows 10-14 m high. It produces many pretty, reddish-orange flowers (pollinated by hummingbirds) at the ends of the tree's many branches. The tree is sometimes called "coral flower," as the flowers resemble the color of orange coral.
Several Erythrina tree species are used by indigenous peoples in the Amazon as medicines, insecticides, and fish poisons. Mulungu has long been used in Brazil by indigenous peoples as a natural sedative: it has been used to calm an overexcited nervous system and promote a restful sleep.
In both North and South American herbal medicine, Mulungu is considered to be an excellent sedative to calm agitation and nervous coughs and to treat other nervous system problems including insomnia and anxiety. It also is widely used for asthma, bronchitis, gingivitis, hepatitis, inflammation of the liver and spleen, intermittent fevers, and to clear obstructions in the liver. In both Brazil and Peru Mulungu is used for epilepsy. Herbalists and practitioners in the United States use Mulungu to quiet hysteria from trauma or shock, as a mild, hypnotic sedative to calm the nervous system, to treat insomnia and promote healthy sleeping patterns (by sedating overactive neurotransmitters), to regulate heart palpitations, and to treat hepatitis and liver disorders.
Mulungu is not very widely known or used in North America; mostly appearing as an ingredient in only a few herbal formulas for anxiety or depression. It is a wonderful rainforest medicinal plant that is deserving of much more attention in herbal medicine outside of South America.
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