ipecacuanha(redirected from American ipecacuanhas)
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(Cephaëlis ipecacuanha ), a small shrub of the family Rubiaceae, growing wild in Brazil’s tropical rainforests and cultivated in the tropics of both hemispheres. The stem length is 15–40 cm and can be as much as 60 cm. The leaves are opposite; the small flowers are gathered into hemispherical heads; and the roots have beadlike bulges. Ipecacuanha roots (and the roots of C. acuminata, which are similar in chemical composition) contain 2–3 percent alkaloids (emetine, cephaeline, and others) and are used in medicine as an expectorant. They are used to make extracts, water and alcohol infusions, and syrups. In small doses they cause thinning and discharge of phlegm; in large doses they act as an emetic.