Tropical Ecology and Conservation [Monteverde Institute]

Alternative Title

Los efectos de Cecropia obtusifolia y Cecropia polyphlebia en la capacidad pulmonar en relación con la concentración de alcaloides


Mai Lee Xiong



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Publication Date

May 2009


For centuries, people have depended on nature to alleviate their ailments. A popular natural remedy for asthma is the use of Cecropia adenopus (Rivero 2008). In this study, I looked at two Cecropia spp., C. obtusifolia and C. polyphlebia, found in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Cecropia obtusifolia is found at lower elevation and has a mutualism with Azteca ants while C. polyphlebia is found at higher elevation in the Cloud Forest with no ant mutualism. A previous study by Ross (2003) found that ingestion of C. obtusifolia leaf decoction increased lung capacity by three to four percent compared to a placebo group. A possible reason is the presence of alkaloids (Schmeller & Wink 1998) in leaves of Cecropiaceae (Morton 1981). I predicted that since C. obtusifolia has a mutualism with ants, it would have less alkaloids compared to C. polyphlebia, thus rendering it less effective as an anti-asthmatic agent. I followed the protocols from Ross (2003) for tea preparation and lung capacity measurement and Gottheiner (1998) for alkaloid extraction. I found no increase in lung capacity from drinking Cecropia decoctions. The mean rate of change, which is the final lung capacity measurement minus the initial divided by the number of samples in a group, for the control is 0.136 L with a standard error of 0.066; C. obtusifolia, 0.180 L and 0.090; and C. polyphlebia, 0.172 L and 0.100 (one-way ANOVA; F2,52 = 0.056, p = 0.946). Further, while C. polyphlebia may have more alkaloids, this was not significant enough to make a difference in lung capacity. Durante siglos los seres humanos han dependido de la naturaleza para aliviar sus dolencias. Un remedio natural popular para el asma es el uso de Cecropia adenopus. Estudie Cecropia obtusifolia y Cecropia polyphlebia en Monteverde, Costa Rica.


Asthma, Asma, Herbs--Theapeutic use, Hierbas--Usos therapeuticos, Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone, Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Zona de Monteverde, CIEE Spring 2009, CIEE Primavera 2009


Student affiliation : Department of Microbiology, University of Wisconsin – Madison Born Digital

Subject: topical

Asthma; Asma; Herbs--Theapeutic use; Hierbas--Usos therapeuticos; CIEE Spring 2009; CIEE Primavera 2009

Subject: geographic

Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone; Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Zona de Monteverde



Holding Location

Monteverde Institute MVI



The effects of Cecropia obtusifolia and Cecropia polyphlebia on lung capacity in relation to alkaloid concentration



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