Tournefortia hirsutissima L. – Hog Hook

Introduction:

Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Tournefortia L.
Species: Tournefortia hirsutissima L.

Hog Hook (Tournefortia hirsutissima L.) is a shrub that often grows as a climbing vine that blooms short curved spikes of fragrant tiny white flowers. This plant, which is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies, is also found growing in the southern states of the United States. It is listed as endangered by the state of Florida.

Tournefortia hirsutissima L. is a synonym of Heliotropium verdcourtii Craven, and the plant belongs to a genus of flowering plants having pharmacological properties inherent to the Boraginaceae family. It is used as a hypoglycemic agent to treat Type 2 diabetes and also known to successfully treat diabetic foot wounds and ulcers.

Description Of Hog Hook (Tournefortia hirsutissima L.):

Tournefortia hirsutissima L. is a climbing woody shrub, climbing to approx. 5 m (16 ft). It is a perennial that flowers all year long.

This high climbing vine has branches and leaves that are rough to the touch with stiff plant hairs. The flowers are small, white, sweetly scented borne on scorpioid (i.e. scorpion-shaped) racemes covered with a mat of short, white hairs. The fruits are round fleshy berries or drupes, white when ripe with a sweetish taste resembling grapes.

Hog Hook (Tournefortia hirsutissima L.) is a withe or vine used as a medicine against colds hence it being called “Cold Withe”. It is also known as Chigger Nut, Chiggery Grapes, (Horse-bath?), and Crocus Bush.

Medicinal Properties:

Tournefortia hirsutissima L. is found to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities, its phosphate derivatives also show apoptotic activities.

Ethyl ester hexadecanoic acid (palmitic acid) and γ-sitosterol are the compounds of Tournefortia hirsutissima L. that produce the healing. In another work, a hybrid biomedical material, containing EtOH extract of T. hirsutissima, potentially useful in the healing of diabetic foot ulcerations was developed.

The in vivo hypoglycemic and anti-hyperglycemic effects of this species were demonstrated in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Medicinal Uses:

  • The parts of the plant Tournefortia hirsutissima L.  are used as follows:
    • Crushed leaves are used against skin diseases and mouth ulcers and also used against diarrhea and vomiting.
    • Leaf decoctions are used as depuratives that clean the body by causing it to excrete wastes.
    • The leaves and roots are diuretic and have been used against venereal diseases.
    • An infusion of the dry stem after boiling is drunk during the course of the day as the traditional treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
  • In Jamaica, Hog Hook (Tournefortia hirsutissima L.) is used for colds, cough, fever, nervous trouble, chest pains, stomachache, and diabetes. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of colds, coughs, and fever. Both the leaves and stems are used to make the decoction. For coughs, it is used in conjunction with sweetsop and young calabashes.
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    A bath containing this plant is also used after childbirth, the tea is used “to clear the system“, while for “gentleman’s complaint” (i.e. Erectile dysfunction) it is used with other plants (wild sage?) and a dose of salts.
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  • In Mexico, the leaves of Tournefortia hirsutissima L. (“hierba rasposa”) are used to wash wounds, and for chafing, diarrhea, and inflammation of the kidney. An infusion of the stems is also used to treat diabetes.
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  • In Trinidad and Tobago, it is used for hypertension, jaundice, and diabetes.
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  • Hog Hook (Tournefortia hirsutissima L.) is also considered a remedy for chiggers or red mites (Eutrombicula alfreddugesi). The crushed leaves are applied to the skin to alleviate itching.

Other Uses:

The fruits of Tournefortia hirsutissima L. are eaten in Hispaniola and Costa Rica.

Additional Information:

The plant is given the Spanish name “Lagrima de San Pedro” (i.e. Tear of St. Peter) because if the woody stem is transversally cut, one can see a “tear” inside.
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Sources:
https://jamaicajamaicawi.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/medicinal-plants-of-jamaica.pdf
http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77069564-1
https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1929.31.3.02a00030 [see pg 434]

https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/palmetto/austin_dr_dan_chiggery_grapes_no_1_people__plant_interaction_series_discovering_fls_ethnobotany_vol_20_no_2_summerfall_2000.pdf

https://www.backyardnature.net/chiapas/chiggery.htm
http://etnof.fciencias.unam.mx/P3Pub/Pdf/017.pdf
https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/24/13/2366/htm
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Photos:
https://inaturalist.nz/taxa/770204-Heliotropium-verdcourtii/browse_photos
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