Espinheira santa: what are the properties? Is it used to treat gastritis?

Medicinal plants have been studied and used for thousands of years, serving as a basis even for many medicines and even cosmetics. Each of them has different properties and can have different purposes and benefits.

Thinking about it, we separated some information about one in particular: the holy thorn.

Espinheira santa: what is it?

The holy espinheira, or Maytenus ilicifolia (scientific name), is a plant belonging to the family Celastraceae . It usually appears in countries and regions with a mild climate, being very common in southern Brazil.

Its use is mainly done in order to combat or ameliorate disorders related to the gastrointestinal system – it may involve disorders such as stomach pain, reflux, heartburn , burning, etc.

What is possible due to its medicinal properties, provided by phytocomplexes such as alkaloids, terpenes, tannins, among others present in its natural composition.

It is commonly used from teas, compresses or homeopathic options. However, even though it is of natural origin and without chemical mixtures, it has some contraindications for use – especially for pregnant women (which may be abortion) and lactating women.

What is the holy thorn?

The holy espinheira has several properties that can be beneficial to health. In this sense, it can be used in complementary treatment or as a way of relieving conditions such as ulcers, gastritis , indigestion, constipation (stuck intestine), recurrent abdominal pain and liver problems.

Therefore, it can be effective in helping to combat symptoms and complications such as:

  • Heartburn and stomach acidity;
  • Reflux;
  • Enteritis (inflammation of the intestine);
  • Flatulence (gases);
  • Bad breath caused by stomach disorders.

It should be noted that the plant also has a mild laxative and diuretic effect, which favors its action in combating problems of the intestinal tract – such as the feeling of bloating or constipation, for example.

In the sequence, understand better about some of the disorders for which the use of holy espinheira can be indicated as complementary therapy:

Hiatus hernia

Hiatal hernia is a condition in which a small part of the stomach invades the chest cavity, from the opening that connects the alimentary tube (esophagus) with the stomach.

The symptoms of this problem involve acid reflux, heartburn, regurgitation, vomiting, pain in the middle of the chest and even irritation in the throat (often caused by reflux). As a form of treatment, some medications and, in more severe cases, surgery may be indicated.

Among the complementary therapies, that is, those that can be done as a way to help the treatments prescribed by specialists or to provide symptom relief, is the use of medicinal plants such as the holy espinheira.

Considering its properties and help in combating complications such as reflux and abdominal pain, it can be useful in these cases. Remembering that this use does not replace traditional therapies.


Gastritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the stomach lining. It can be caused by infections, injury, regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), excessive alcohol consumption and even be triggered due to emotional problems.

Symptoms may vary in intensity, as well as appear sporadically or frequently. Among the most common, there is pain in the upper belly, nausea and vomiting.

It is also common for a person to experience loss of appetite, belching, heartburn, abdominal bloating, indigestion and hiccups.

Treatment is through the use of medication and changes in eating habits. It may include complementary therapies for symptom relief, such as the use of holy espinheira, as it helps in the control of reflux, heartburn and other symptoms of this disorder.


As we have seen, the use of holy espinheira to treat reflux is quite common. However, contrary to what one might imagine, reflux is not just a symptom. It can also be characterized as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

In such cases, what usually occurs is the presence of heartburn and reflux more than twice a week without an apparent cause. It is, then, a chronic condition that occurs when gastric acid (or bile) enters the alimentary tube and irritates the mucosa.

Whether in the treatment of reflux as a symptom of other conditions (such as gastritis) or during therapy for GERD, plants such as holy thorn can be used in a complementary way.

Remembering that the use of natural options does not replace conventional therapies, prescribed by the responsible physician!

Properties of espinheira santa

The espinheira santa is a plant that has different phytocomplexes, which are directly related to its therapeutic properties. In this sense, the following compounds can be cited as an example:

  • Terpenes – there are thousands of types of terpenes , with different properties. But, in general, they may have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, bactericidal, fungicidal and antinecrotic actions;
  • Tannins – can reinforce arterial walls (preventing vein clogging), paralyze gastrointestinal fermentations, reduce bad cholesterol and delay cell aging;
  • Alkaloids – have complex structures that allow their use in medicines. They usually act by stimulating the central nervous system and can also have an analgesic and sedative function (as is the case with morphine);
  • Macrolides – make up a group of broad spectrum antibiotics (such as Azithromycin), so they are used to treat common bacterial and fungal infections;
  • Flavonoids – can slow the aging of cells, have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, vasodilatory, anti-hepatotoxic and may have anti-cancer effects, in addition to antimicrobial and antiviral activity.

What is the other name of the holy thorn?

The holy espinheira, a plant whose scientific name is Maytenus ilicifolia , is also popularly known by other names: espinheira-divine, herb-cancerous, thorn-of-god, congorça.

In some regions, it may also be known as mayonnaise, lifeguards or bull’s shadow. In this sense, it is worth noting that the popular names of this and other plants (medicinal or not) may vary depending on the location.

However, it is worth noting that the scientific name does not vary, except when they are different plants – even if similar or from the same species / family.

Espinheira santa lose weight?

No . Using plants that are supposed to lose weight or methods that promise rapid weight loss is usually not an effective measure.

This is because there is only the elimination of liquids, leading to a decrease in weight on the scale, but not actually a loss of fat – not characterizing real weight loss.

In the case of holy espinheira, some people may see its use as a way to help in the weight loss process. This is due to the fact that this plant (usually ingested as tea) helps in the functioning of the intestine.

That way, it can help to decrease the feeling of bloating. Along with this, its diuretic action also contributes to this effect and in the elimination of toxins.

However, as mentioned, what is being eliminated from the body is the excess of water and compounds not necessary for the functioning of the organism. Not fat. So that, when you eat food again, the little weight lost should soon return.

Therefore, those who want to lose weight should look for healthy and effective ways to do this, which is linked to a balanced diet and physical exercises. Preferably, together with a professional, ensuring better results.

How to use it and how long does it take for the espinheira santa to take effect?

The traditional ways of using the holy espinheira are: teas, capsules, hot compresses and tinctures – liquid preparations based on water, alcohol or glycerin, made to extract the active ingredients from plants and are the basis of several homeopathic formulas.

Therefore, for the use of capsules and tinctures, it is necessary to follow the guidelines prescribed by the manufacturer of the homeopathic medication and / or professional indication.

As for hot compresses made with tea from this plant, they can be applied directly to the lesion. They are used to alleviate skin problems such as eczema , scarring or acne .

The use of tea aims to provide effects against problems in the intestinal tract (heartburn, reflux, constipation, indigestion, etc.).

Regarding the duration of effect of the holy espinheira, it is worth mentioning first that this is a complementary therapy and is not related to the cure of diseases that cause the mentioned symptoms.

Therefore, it can cause momentary relief depending on the intensity of the symptoms. For example, drinking tea can help to contain reflux immediately but not prolonged.

Homeopathic therapies, on the other hand, can have more lasting effects with prolonged uses, usually showing significant improvements after 30 days by administering the capsules or tincture.

Side effects of holy espinheira tea

Contrary to what some people think, even natural or homeopathic plants and treatments can cause side effects. In the case of the holy espinheira, it is very common to make use of your tea, however this must be done with moderation and care.

Considering that it can cause some adverse reactions, such as:

  • Nausea and dry mouth;
  • Strange taste in the mouth;
  • Headache;
  • Somnolence;
  • Tremor and pain in the joints of the hands;
  • Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder);
  • Polyuria (excessive urination).

Therefore, when presenting any of these changes, the use of holy espinheira is suspended and seek the help of a professional.

Contraindication of espinheira santa

The use of espinheira santa is not recommended for people with a history of allergy to this plant or others of the same family. In addition, it is especially not recommended for pregnant women, considering that it can have an abortion effect .

Lactating women should also not use the plant, as it can cause a decrease in the amount of breast milk or even dry the milk.

For pediatric use, prior medical advice should be sought. As is the case with people with chronic pathologies (such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure) and with associated digestive pathology (tumor).

The use of medicinal plants such as the holy espinheira can be quite beneficial. However, it must be borne in mind that these therapies are a form of complementary treatment and should not replace the care of traditional medicine.

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