We first encountered madre de cacao in Copán, where it was known as mata ratón or Gliricidia. This tree grows to just over 30 feet tall, and has a thin, dark brown trunk no more than a foot in diameter. The leaves are deciduous, divided into seven to 17 leaflets of 1 to 2.5 inches in length. The flowers range in color from white to bright pink. The pods are dark brown and grow up to 6 inches in length. We saw madre de cacao growing at ruin sites, in the forests and fields, and along the roadsides throughout our Central American trip.
WHERE IT CAN BE FOUND:
Mexico to Colombia, Venezuela to the Guianas, and tropical regions worldwide.
PROPERTIES AND USE:
Expectorant, insecticidal, vermicidal, sedative, and used to induce birth and for healing wounds, skin conditions, eye conditions, and diaper rash
For all conditions, boil a 1-inch by 3-inch piece of bark in 1 cup water for 10 minutes. Drink in one sitting. This same decoction, when strained through cheesecloth until just liquid remains, is used to wash eyes. For wounds, skin conditions, and diaper rash, mash fresh leaves, and apply as a poultice.