Alchornea cordifolia, also known as Christmas bush, is a medicinal plant with antibacterial, antifungal, antiretroviral, antiparasitic, and antitoxin properties. It grows throughout a large part of the African continent, and is used by natives to treat everything from malaria to snakebite. In the west, alchornea is not widely known, though some use it to treat Babesia. Alchornea is highly underutilized in the west, as it potentially can help with a wide variety of modern chronic diseases.
Alchornea has been widely studied as an antibiotic, and is comparable in effectiveness to several prescription antibiotics. In one study, it was an effective antibiotic against 71 out of 74 different pathogenic species.(1) It has also been shown to be effective against several species of MRSA, H. pylori, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella, Staph aureus, and Proteus mirabilis, among others.(2,3)
Alchornea is traditionally used as a broad spectrum antiparasitic. Studies have shown it to be highly antiamoebic, antiprotozoal, as well as anthelminthic. It is also used in veterinary medicine to treat Trypanosoma (African sleeping sickness), and studies have backed its effectiveness for this purpose.(4,5) Traditionally it is used to treat malaria, with research showing it to have activity against drug resistant malaria strains.(6) Its antiparasitic properties are strongest against amoebic infections, where it is commonly used to treat diarrhea.(7) Traditionally, alchornea is also used to treat various types of parasitic worms, including filariasis.(8)
There is still much to be learned about the antiretroviral properties of alchornea, but it does show promise in treating HIV. In one study, it outperformed the drug AZT.(9) It also has immune modulating and immune stimulating effects, which potentially could add to its antiviral potential.(10,11)
Though the whole plant is traditionally used, the leaves are the main medicinal part, used either as a decoction or as a tincture. Alchornea is hard to find in the US. Two reliable sources that sell alchornea in tincture form are Woodland Essence and Sage Woman Herbs. It can be used either as a single herb, or more commonly as a formula with Cryptolepis and Sida acuta (CSA formula). No side effects or toxicity has been found with alchornea, though it can be emetic at high doses. As with any antimicrobial herb, there is a potential for a die-off or herxhiemer reaction.