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Mimosa tenuiflora is a beautiful, fern-like tree native to the southern Mexican lowlands that has been used in traditional medicine for over 1,000 years. Known as tepezcohuite in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, Mimosa tenuiflora is still used as a treatment for burns and skin lesions by their modern day descendants. The bark has also been used as a treatment for bleeding, as an antiseptic, and as a topical anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compound. These properties have led to research into its utility as an adjunct therapy in the management of psoriasis, acne, herpes, and venous leg ulcerations in diabetic patients. Its ascribed beneficial effects on the skin and hair have unsurprisingly led to its use in many commercial cosmetic formulations for the treatment of aging skin and hair as well.
These skin health-promoting properties are not due to any one, isolatable compound within Mimosa tenuiflora. Instead, it is likely that the presence of a number of different compounds that each help encourage skin health are responsible. Mimosa tenuiflora bark is rich in saponins, lipids, sterols, steroids, glucosides, tannins, alkaloids, lupeol, methoxychalcones, kukulkanins, and a number of different polysaccharides. The polysaccharides exhibit a wide range of tonifying, anti-inflammatory, astringent or antiseptic effects when applied to the skin and may even promote the health or stimulate the growth of collagen.
Mimosa tenuiflora is perhaps best known for the treatment of burns and ulcers. During the petroleum gas explosions of 1984 in San Juan Ixhuatepec, the plant was used to treat thousands of burn victims, prompting international interest into its efficacy. The most current research as of 2011, however, is focused on its use among diabetic patients to prevent necrosis in venous leg ulcers — a condition for which it has shown some promise. Research has also been conducted into its use as a treatment for multi-drug resistant staphylococcus infections (MRSA). The results have been positive, but the authors suggest that further research is needed.
Use of the plant as a treatment for bleeding, however, is quite well supported. The bark of Mimosa tenuiflora is quite rich in tannins, known for their tissue tonifying and styptic properties. In addition to stopping the flow of blood from minor injuries, tannins have historically been used as a treatment for minor diarrhea.
Despite these findings, the use of Mimosa tenuiflora bark or preparations has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has not made any statements as to the safety or efficacy of this plant as a preventative or treatment for any condition. As of 2011 more research is still required before the plant can be conclusively considered to be effective for many of the conditions for which it is currently used.