Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Mimosa hostilis or Mimosa tenuiflora is a perennial tree native to the northeastern region of Brazil and found as far north as southern Mexico.
Mimosa hostilis history
The Mimosa hostilis tree has been used for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Mayan communities. Appropriately named the “Skin tree”, mimosa hostilis been used for a number of reasons related to skin health throughout history.
Although mimosa hostilis bark use dates back to the 10th century, it was thoroughly studied only in the 1980’s after two horrific accidents and an earthquake in Mexico which killed at least 12500 people and left many more injured.
In 1982 an apparently dormant volcano called El Chichón in Chiapas, Mexico produced three Plinian eruptions that killed at least 1,900 people living near the volcano and left a countless number of people injured with severe burns. Due to the proportions of the catastrophe, lack of health professionals and adequate medication, the people in Chiapas turned to Tepezcohuite to treat the burn victims. In 1984, only 2 years after the El Chinchon volcano eruption, another disaster struck Mexico. The explosion of a gas plant in San Juan Ixhuatepec plant killed more than 500 people and left another 5000 to 7000 people with severe burns. Due to the success of Tepezcohuite in treating the burn victims from the volcano disaster 2 years back, the Red Cross suggested that the bark of the Mimosa hostilis tree should be used on the burn victim’s wounds. The results amazed the doctors and the international press reported Tepezcohuite’s successful use in the treatment of the victims.
In 1985 after the Mexico City earthquake, Mimosa hostilis was once again used successfully to treat burn victims from the fires that resulted from the earthquake, resulting in a significant decline in the death rate of those affected by the fires. Due to its overwhelming success as a natural remedy with powerful healing properties, mimosa hostilis was extensively studied after the Mexican disasters.
Phytochemistry of Mimosa hostilis
Mimosa hostilis bark has been found to contain several saponins like triterpene saponins (mimonosides A, B, and C) and steroid saponins (3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-stigmasterol, 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-β-sitosterol and 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-campesterol) Studies suggest these compounds are clearly bioactive (Jiang, 1991)
Mimosa hostilis bark also conatins stigmasterol, campesterol, lupeol, and β-sitosterol. It also contains copious amounts of calcium oxalate crystals and a great deal of starch and tannins which makes it so useful as a natural dyeing agent. (Anton et al. 1993)
Also, some novel chalcones have been found in the mimosa bark and were named kukulkanins, after the Mayan deity Kukulcan (“feathered serpent”) (Dominguez et al. 1989).
Mimosa hostilis uses
For its traditional use in South America, the trunk and the root bark are pulverized and the Mimosa hostilis powder is applied topically on the skin.
It produces analgesic effects that last for two to three hours and clearly shortens the regeneration period of the epidermis. The bark also appears to have a stimulating effect on the immune system (Anton et al. 1993) The leaves and stem bark are boiled (decocted) in water and applied externally as a washing agent against skin ulcers as well as to treat vaginal infections (Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; de Fatima et al., 2007), In some cases, the Mimosa hostilis powder is mixed with Aloe Vera gel in order to improve its effectiveness, especially in first-degree burns (Adame J, 2000)
Mimosa hostilis is also traditionally used against coughs and bronchitis, a handful of stem-bark and leaves are decocted in a liter of water to make a tea or syrup that is taken until the symptoms abate (Cruz et al., 2016; Mors et al., 2002),
In Mexico it’s common to see capsules containing the powdered tree bark being sold in markets for the treatment of gastrointestinal ulcers. However, there are no known clinical trials to access its safety or effectiveness.
Aside from the well-known anti-microbial, anti-fungal and wound healing properties of Mimosa hostilis, the root bark powder also counts with regenerative properties and has been used for a long time as a natural anti-aging treatment and maintaining hair healthy. Several studies have attributed the improvement in skin regenerative treatments to condensed tannins and triterpenoid saponins (Camargo, 2000).
Studies have also shown that certain polysaccharides present in the Mimosa hostilis bark promotes the viability of connective tissue cells and the predominant cells of the outer layer of the skin (Megías et al, 2019). These are thought to be the characteristics that promote tissue regeneration after injury. (Martel et al. 2014)
Additionally, the tannins present in the Mimosa hostilis bark react with the collagen proteins of the skin, binding them together and increasing resistance to friction and to chemical agents, solvents and pathogens (Blanxart,2017)
Mimosa hostilis also counts with incredible benefits for hair growth. Being one of the most popular collagenase inhibitors (which are responsible for increasing the amount of collagen or elastin in the skin) it stimulates the hair structure, through the support of the dermis and the basal membrane, which is the layer of the scalp that works as a hair support. (Mammone et al. 2017)
Salma Hayek, a famous Hollywood actress said during an interview with Elle magazine that she uses Mimosa hostilis as part of her beauty routine, a secret passed to her by her grandmother. The actress, being of Mexican origin stated that she was surprised that the use of tepezcohuite was little known in the USA. She took the opportunity and launched a line of cosmetics, skincare and haircare products with Mimosa hostilis as a main ingredient in 2011.
Jiang, Y. B. (1991). Biological Effects of the Saponins from Mimosa tenuiflora on Fibroblast Cells in Culture. Planta Medica, 57
Anton, R., Y. Jiang, B. Weniger, J. P. Beck, and L. Rivier. 1993. Pharmacognosy of Mimosa tenuiflora (Willd.) Poiret. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 38:153–57
Dominguez, Xorge A., Sergio Garcia G., Howard J. Williams, Claudio Ortiz, A. Ian Scott, and Joseph H. Reibenspies. 1989. Kukulkanins A and B, new chalcones from Mimosa tenuefolia. Journal of Natural Products 52 (4): 864–67
Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México. Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 804-805.
Adame J, Adame H. Plantas Curativas del Noreste Mexicano. Monterrey, Mexico: Ediciones Castillo; 2000; p. 231
Cruz MP, Andrade CM, Silva KO, de Souza EP, Yatsuda R, Marques LM, David JP, David JM, Napimoga MH, Clemente-Napimoga JT. Antinoceptive and Anti-inflammatory Activities of the Ethanolic Extract, Fractions and Flavones Isolated from Mimosa tenuiflora (Willd.) Poir (Leguminosae).
Mors, W., Toledo-Rizzini, C., Alvares-Pereira, N. (2000). Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Algonac, MI: Reference Publications; p. 238
Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. (2000). Descripción, distribución, anatomía, composición química y usos de Mimosa tenuiflora (Fabaceae-Mimosoideae) en México. Revista de Biología Tropical. 48 (4): 939-954
Megías M, Molist P, Pombal MA. (2019). Atlas de histología vegetal y animal. Tipos celulares. Recuperado 11 de agosto de 2020.
Martel, Adriana & Olivas-Armendariz, Imelda & Santos-Rodríguez, Elí & Martinez Perez, Carlos & Garcia Casillas, Perla E & Hernandez-Paz, Juan & Rodriguez, Claudia & Chapa, Christian. (2014). 2014 Evaluation of in vitro Bioactivity of Chitsan Mimosa tenuiflora composites.
Blanxart, E. (2017). Composición farmacéutica para el tratamiento de alopecia. Patente. ES2613888B1: España.
Mammone, T., Gan, D., Hawkins, G., Et al. (2017). Método para aumentar el crecimiento del cabello. Patente. ES2641280T3: España.