Amargo herb or hombre grande is a tropical small tree found in rain forests in Pacific coastal areas. It has oblong opposite leaves about 5 to 10 centimetres in length. Brilliant red flowers some 3 centimetres long grow in long clusters. The fruit appears in five black capsules about 1 to 1.5 centimetres long. It has smooth whitish wood that is extremely bitter.


Native to the Caribbean, Jamaica, and northern Venezuela, amargo can be found growing from southern Mexico to Brazil. The name Amargo is a Spanish term that means “bitter,” which clearly entails that this herb has bitter taste. 


Although a tincture of the wood chips is prepared for use today as a digestive aid, native Jamaicans long ago devised another method to accomplish the same purpose. They carved cups and bowls from the wood, which imparted the bitter flavour of amargo to any food that was poured into them.

Amargo Herb

Amargo Herb

The traditional remedy as a digestive aid is 1/2 teaspoon of wood powder infused in one cup of boiling water. This is taken 10-15 minutes before or with meals. Alternatively, 1g in tablets or capsules can be taken two or three times daily on an empty stomach for an internal parasite cleanse. In addition, it is used as an insecticide and tonic, and for hepatitis. Brazilian Indians use the leaves in a bath for measles as well as in a mouthwash used after tooth extractions.


The liquid obtained from a maceration of the bark is an effective bitter tonic to combat stomach-aches and is a useful appetite stimulant. It is also useful for treating liver and kidney stones. It removes facial blemishes of hepatic origin and reduces the desire for drinking alcohol. In Britain, a water extract of the wood is used topically against scabies, fleas, lice, and other skin parasites.


Amargo should not be used during pregnancy. Amarlo has been documented to have an anti-fertility effect in studies and men undergoing fertility treatment or those wishing to have children should avoid using this herb.