George Gardner’s catalogue of Brazilian plants

[In progress]

Ethnopharmacological relevance

Information regarding the beneficial use of native Brazilian plants was compiled by a number of European naturalists in the 19th century. The Scottish surgeon botanist George Gardner (1812–1849) was one such naturalist; however, the useful plants recorded in his manuscripts have not yet been studied in depth.

Aim of the study

To present data recorded by Gardner in his manuscript Catalogue of Brazilian Plants regarding the use of native plants by Brazilian people and evaluate the extent to which they have been explored.

Materials and methods

Data on useful plants were obtained from Gardner׳s manuscript Catalogue of Brazilian Plants deposited in the Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK. The identification of each plant was determined and/or updated by consulting the preserved botanical collections of Gardner deposited in the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (hereafter K), and expert determinations in other herbaria where duplicates are held. Correlated pharmacological studies for each plant were obtained from the PubMed database. Information recorded in Gardner׳s diary and previously published elsewhere complemented these data.


A total of 63 useful plants was recorded from the Catalogue and a further 30 from Gardner׳s book Travels in the Interior of Brazil ( Gardner, 1846). Of the recorded names in the Catalogue, 46 (73%) could be identified to species by consulting specimens collected by Gardner and held at Kew. Thirty-six different traditional uses were registered for the identified plants, the most common being as febrifuges, to treat venereal complaints and as purgatives. Fewer than 50% of these species have been the focus of published pharmacological studies, yet for those which have been thus investigated, the efficacies reported by Gardner were confirmed.


The data recorded by Gardner represent a rich, relatively unexplored source of information regarding the traditional uses of Brazilian plants which merits further investigation.





Brugmansia arborea, Imbuhy

Solandea grandiflora, Antonio José’s

Franciscea hydrangeaeformis, Pohl Rancho

Franciscea ramosissima, Pohl



Cattleye crispa

Sophronitis pterocarpa

Govenia gardneri

Zygopetalum Mackaii



Bromelia sp.

Tillsandia sp. cyanaea



Solanum nodiflorum (White Nightshade)

Justicia Belaparone


From Organ mountains July 1837


Mikania sp


September  1837

Acanthospermum hispidum

Acanthospermum Hispidum (Family:Asteraceae) is an annual plant which is native to
tropical America. This plant is cited as a weed in cotton culture in Brazil, and it is also used as a
medicinal plant. The leaves and flowering tops of the plant have antimicrobial activity. The
ethanolic extract of leaves and flowering tops gives activities against wide range of pathogenic
bacteria. Crushed herb is use in the form of the paste to treat the skin aliments and leaf juice is
used to relieve the fever. A scrutiny of the literature revealed some notable pharmacological
activities of the drug like antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anthelmentic, immunomodulator,
abortifacient, antitrypanosomal and antileshmanial. The present review is an attempt to highlight
the various ethnobotanical and traditional uses as well as the various phytochemical and
pharmacological reports on Acanthospermum Hispidum


Centratherum intermedium (Braz. bachelor’s button)


Wedelia paludosa

Wedelia paludosa, a Brazilian medicinal plant employed in folk medicine against a variety of diseases, including dolorous pathologies. It was found that such fractions as well as kaurenoic acid and luteolin exhibit marked antinociceptive action in mice using acetic acid-induced writhing. They were more active than some well-known analgesic drugs, such as acetyl salicylic acid, acetaminophen, dipyrone and indomethacin. The results confirm our previous studies conducted with this plant, suggesting that different chemical constituents are responsible for the antinociceptive activity shown by the extracts and fractions prepared from W. paludosa.


Stemodia foliosa

From the hexane-soluble fraction of an ethanol extract from leaves and stems of Stemodia foliosa (Scrophulariaceae), the new stearic acid 4-[(n-pentoxy)phenethyl] ester (1) was isolated. This compound exhibited antibacterial properties at 10 microg/mL concentration by using disc diffusion method against Gram-positive bacteria Bacillus cereus and Bacillus subtilis and fast-acid bacterium Mycobacterium fortuitum. The structure of the new compound was elucidated by spectroscopic methods and by chemical conversion.


Pernambuco Oct Nov 1837

Nymphaea ampla

It has been reported that the flowers were used as a narcotic inebriant withopium-like effects during the first half of the twentieth century in Brazil. Throughout the 1960s, white lily flowers are said to have been used as a recreational drug (Emboden 1979).

The water lily was often portrayed in an iconographic context in the art of the classic Mayan period. One may interpret these appearances of the water lily in a variety of ways. In essence, there are three motifs: Water lilies sprouting from the backs of crocodiles, powerful jaws grazing the surface while swimming in the water; the head of the “earth monster,” around which water lilies are entwined; and jaguars (the animal symbol of the shaman), either wearing the stalks and buds of water lilies as head ornaments, or dancing with water lilies. The association between the water lily and the jaguar is especially common during the Mayan period (Rands 1953).


Cleome pungens


Vismia brasiliensis


Lantana trifolia

Lantana trifolia L. (Verbenaceae) is traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory medicinal plant in Venezuela. The methanol extract of the aerial parts of L. trifolia were assessed for the anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive and anti-pyretic properties. The extract produced an inhibition of carrageenan-induced edema in the rat paw over a dose range of 10-300 mg/kg i.p.; the dose-response curve was bell-shaped with a maximal effect at 100 mg/kg. The extract also produced a small but significant increase in the response latency of rats subjected to the hot plate, a thermal pain test that only detects analgesia by high-efficacy agents. The extract did not exhibit antipyretic activity. Thus, the L. trifolia extract could have therapeutically relevant anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in humans.


Acacia tortuosa



Pistia stratiotes

Pistia stratiotes (Family: Araceae) is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. This review article is a compilation of all the updated information on its phytochemical and pharmacological activities, which were performed by different methods. Studies indicate that P. stratiotespossesses diuretic, antidiabetic, antidermatophytic, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. These results are very encouraging and indicate that this plant should be studied more extensively to confirm the reproducibility of these results and also to reveal other potential therapeutic effects, along with some “leads” with possible isolation of active biomoieties and their mechanism of action.