BuruBuru Root from Guyana, South America
Solanum stramoniifolium Jacq. SOLANACEAE Buruburu
Vernacular names: Buruburu plimpla, Bulibuli, Dog plimpla (Cr), Boboro (Ar), Paremuru (C),
Botanical description: Spiny shrub, to 2 m tall, armed with straight or recurved spines to 12 mm
long, young branches purplish, covered with stellate hairs. Leaves simple, alternate; stipules absent;
petiole ca. 2.5 cm long, armed; blades broadly ovate, more or less pinnately lobed, ca. 20 x 12 cm,
sparsely puberulous above, densely puberulous below, with a few straight spines on midrib and lateral
veins, apex bluntly acuminate, base asymmetric. Inflorescences lateral, cymose, to 30-flowered,
densely stellate-puberulous; pedicels ca. 6 mm long. Flowers actinomorphic; calyx broadly
campanulate, shortly 5-dentate; corolla white, 5-lobed, lobes ovate to narrowly elliptic, ca. 11 mm
long, with purple stellate hairs on the outside; stamens 5, anthers more or less connivent, yellow;
ovary superior, 2-locular, style and stigma 1. Fruit globose, ca. 2 cm in diam., yellow to orange-red,
first densely covered with rusty-brown stellate hairs, becoming glabrous when ripe; seeds numerous,
flat, light brown, globose to kidney-shaped, ca. 3 mm in diam.
Distribution and ecology: Northern South America and the Amazon basin, in open vegetation and
savanna edges. In northwest Guyana, abundant in secondary shrubland and abandoned fields.
Flowering and fruiting throughout the year. Seeds are dispersed by bats, birds, and monkeys (van
Use: The red berries have a soursweet, tomato-like taste and are popular with children, who search
the shrubby school yards during class breaks and collect the fruits by the dozens. They first rub or
blow off the brown hairs before swallowing them. Around mining camps, or other places in Barama
where only adults have access to, shrubs always seemed to be full of fruits, while those growing in the
village were always stripped bare. Children in Moruca said the fruits were given to toddlers to
stimulate them to talk. In coastal Guyana, the fruit juice is rubbed on the skin to relieve ant bites
(Lachman-White et al., 1992).
In Peru and Colombia, the species is occasionally cultivated. Probably as a result of selection by man,
individuals from the western Amazon region tend to have larger fruits and fewer spines. Therefore,
some authors distinguish two taxonomic varieties: the prickly S. stramoniifolium var. stramoniifolium
as described above, and the unarmed S. stramoniifolium var. inerme from the Andes (Whalen et al.,
The root has a good reputation to combat malaria and fever. An entire root is cut into pieces and
boiled. A quarter cup of the bitter tea is drunk three times a day for a week, until the fever stops. The
decoction may be enriched with lemon juice or peel, quashi wood (Quassia amara), white yarula bark
(Aspidosperma marcgravianum), and five bamboo leaves (Bambusa vulgaris). Some people said this
medicine only eased down the fever, but others claimed this was the most effective remedy against
malaria they knew. In Georgetown, the malaria therapy included buruburu root, bamboo leaves, and
sinkola bark (Cinchona sp.), the latter a cultivated tree of Andean origin of which the bark is the
natural source of quinine. Sinkola bark is sold on medicinal herb stalls in the capital, but the species
is not grown in the interior.
Buruburu root is also used in a treatment for venereal diseases, (‘V.D.’ or ‘the runnings’), which in
most cases applies to gonorrhoea. An entire root is boiled with a root of a pawpaw tree (Carica
papaya), several sweet broom plants (Scoparia dulcis), and some lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus).
A rum bottle is filled with the concoction, and the patient must drink some each morning, midday,
and evening. When the bottle has finished, the runnings should be finished too. Only one elderly
Carib man in Koriabo knew the precise way of preparing this drug. Gold miners from the Tassawini
mine (Barama River) walked a day through the forest to visit the old man for a bottle of his medicine.
The root scrapings are plugged in decayed teeth to relieve toothache. This burns at first, but cools
down the pain later.Non-Timber Forest Products of the North-West District of Guyana Part II
A remedy for severe back pain is made by boiling a whole cockshun root (Smilax schomburgkiana)
and a 5 cm long piece of buruburu root. If the tea is drunk in one day; the following day the back pain
will be vanished. Roth (1924: 710) mentioned that in Essequibo a decoction of several buruburu roots
was drunk to treat snakebites, while some of the tea had to be poured on the bite. He saw ‘several
cases of recovery by means of this root’, but the patients still suffered from trembling and ‘aberration
of mind’, caused by the snake venom. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat thrush, and a syrup
from leaves and flowers boiled in sugar water is taken for colds (Lachman-White et al. 1992). In
Moruca, the tea is drunk for stomach ache. In Barama, the leaves are used in a herbal bath for fever.
In Colombia, the fruit is applied to sore gums to stop bleeding. The sap of the stem is mixed with oil
and applied to painful nipples of nursing mothers. The genus is rich in potentially biodynamic
principles, particularly in steroid and other alkaloids (Schultes and Raffauf, 1990)