Distribution and ecology
Uses and economic potential
Recent commercial data
Collection methods and yields
Propagation and cultivation methods
Giorgini A. Venturieiri & Maria Nilse de S. Ribeiro
Species: Croton cajucara Benth
names: Muirá-sacaca, cajuçara or caá-jussara (O'bidos)
casca-sacaca, sacaca (Manaus), marassacaca (Berg 1982, Le Cointe
1934). The name sacaca originated from the Tupi sake' ka
which means "witchcraft" or "spellcasting"
The name cajuçara originated from the Tupi ka'á (leaf)
and yu'sara (desire or longing) (Le Cointe 1934).
Croton tiglium L. - This Croton is native to East Asia, and is cultivated in India and Sri Lanka. A purgative oil (croton oil) is extracted from its seeds and is considered to be one of the strongest purgatives in the world (Purseglove 1968).
The sacaca is a small tree, 6-10 meters tall. Its elliptical or oblong-elliptical leaves are 7-16 cm long by 3.5-5 cm wide, generally with a pointed tip. They are smooth on the upper surface and pubescent of the lower surface. The raceme inflorescence has small bracts that envelope each female flower; there are 1-3 male flowers on each inflorescence. The calix of the female flower is conical, while that of the male is rounded. The androceum has 15 stamens with globous anthers, while the gineceum is bipartite at the tip. The fruit are three sectioned capsules (Berg 1982). The wood is soft and light, with a yellow color.
Sacaca is found only in eastern and central Amazon. In Pará state it is found in the estuary of the Amazonas River, along the margins of the Trombetas River, around the city of O'bidos (Müeller 1874). It is also found in the east of Amapá state (E. van den Berg, pers. com.). In Amazonas state it is only found cultivated.
generally found as a second growth weed, appearing soon after
small plots are abandoned or natural clearings are formed in low
lying forest areas. Although it is found in the varzea
(white water river floodplain terraces), it appears to be
restricted to the varzea alta, the upper terraces.
Sacaca is extremely rustic and grows easily in degraded and
abandoned fields. It seems to be undemanding of soils, growing
well on yellow clay oxisols of low fertility near Manaus.
The sacaca is the most fashionable plant in Belém among these who prefer to treat themselves with medicinal plants. A tea is made from the bark of the trunk and/or from the leaves. It is used as an anti-diarrhetic; in the treatment of diabetes; for liver, vesicular and kidney infections; and to lower the cholesterol level in the blood (Berg 1982). Among the people who treat themselves to lower their cholesterol level, sacaca has a reputation for working quickly, within a few days. Recently the dry, leaves have been put into gelatin capsules that are sold in the "natural product' shops of both Manaus and Belém for cholesterol control. If its effectiveness were proven in clinical tests, this use could expand rapidly in the northern hemisphere and among the middle and upper classes of the rest of the world where cholesterol worries are fashionable.
The sacaca has been suggested as a substitute for rosewood (Aniba roseodora) oil, especially for the extraction of linalool (Araújo et al. 1974), principally because rosewood is becoming extinct in Amazônia due to predatory exploitation techniques. Linalool is a terpenic alcohol that is important as a basis for the transformation of other terpenes, such as terpeniol, geraniol and others. It is also used in the preparation of citronelol, tonona, vitamin A, farnesol and sesquiterpenes (Bedoukian 1967). All of these compounds are used in the perfume, flavoring and detergent/soap industries, both in their free forms and in their multiple derived forms, especially acetates.
Dried sacaca leaves contain 0.8% essential oil, which contains terpenes (1.6%), 1,8-cineol (2.4%), linalool (66.4%) and sesquiterpenes (25%). In comparison, the leaves of rosewood contain 2-2.5% of the essential oil, which contains 27-85.6% linalool (Araújo et al. 1971).
In the perfume industry, linalool and its esters represent a source of fragrance that no other material can equal. Its soft character and fresh odor are extremely valuable because they confer a natural character to perfumes based on synthetic aromas. The esters of linalool, with a fresh citrus odor, are excellent fixatives and bases for fragrances, especially colognes, with possibilities for use with both floral and non-floral fragrances (Erickson 1976).
The bark of
the trunk is very aromatic and is widely used in perfumed herb
bags to scent stored clothes and closets (Le Cointe 1934). These
bags are especially popular in the handicraft and household shops
of Belém and other Amazonian cities.
Amazônia exported a total of 6.5 MT of rosewood essential oil to the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Japan in 1984 (AEZFM 1985). In the same year, Brazil imported approximately 17.5 MT of linalool and its derivatives from Germany, the United Kingdom, the US, Japan, Switzerland and France (CACEX 1985).
show that Brazil imports refined products from the same countries
to which it exports the natural essence of rosewood (CACEX 1985).
In other words, Brazil is paying a lot for not processing its own
natural products. Nonetheless, a majority of the imports are
beauty products that are sold more by name than by their chemical
content, so that it does not seem very likely that Brazil will be
able to substitute these imports easily. Rather, sacaca essential
oil and sacaca-derived linalool could be sold as an option to
saving rosewood from extinction.
The harvest of the leaves should be done periodically, perhaps at 3-month intervals, as the plant does not react favorably to complete defoliation. Local farmers prefer to collect old green or even yellowed leaves, that are at least 2025 cm from the terminal bud, because they believe that these have greater medicinal activity. It will be important to determine if these more mature and senescing leaves contain as much oil as younger leaves [younger leaves contain more oil in rosewood (Araújo et al. 1971].
A 4-year old plant may produce 10 kg of dry leaves per year. If sacaca is planted in monoculture, 10 kg/plant is equivalent to 6.25 MT of dry leaves per hectare. If industrial processing efficiency is equivalent to laboratory efficiency (0.8%), 50 kg of essential oil could be obtained per hectare, of which 33 kg would be linalool. Although this estimated yield seems low, it can probably be raised easily and rapidly with appropriate agronomic practices and a selection of germplasm with higher percentages of essential oil in the leaf. An additional advantage is that sacaca can be grown on degraded sites, thus helping to recuperate some of the very extensive areas of degraded lands in Amazônia.
rosewood yields considerably more essential oil than sacaca,
rosewood has several disadvantages vis-a-vis sacaca: it is
harvested destructively; it is a very difficult species to
propagate; it is very susceptible to pests and diseases; and it
grows slowly (Araújo 1967). Consequently, it is becoming
continually rarer in the forest. Its increased rarity is what may
allow sacaca to become a rosewood substitute in the market for
No experimental agronomic work has been done with sacaca to date. It is known, however, that sacaca shows very vigorous vegetative growth, similar to that of many second-growth invaders, suggesting that it is a pioneer plant. Exploitation of this vigorous growth offers the promise of developing the sacaca as a new crop.
Propagation is accomplished principally from stolons that arise spontaneously from the root. Apparently sacaca does not produce fertile seed (Moacir Tadeu Biondo, LBA, pers. com.), which suggests that it may be an Amerindian domesticate in eastern Amazônia Because the wood is so soft and light, cuttings dehydrate easily, which make them less useful than the stolons for propagation.
Observations on a small planting at the Legião Brasileira de Assistência, Manaus, Amazonas, suggests that a spacing of 4 × 4 m (625 plants/ha) is adequate for sacaca (Moacir Tadeu Biondo, LBA, pers. com.).
sacaca is a pioneer species, it seems possible to include it in
several types of agroecosystems: monoculture, although more
information on pests and diseases is urgently needed;
agroforestry, where it could be used along edges to catch the
sun; reforestation, where it could be a successional species used
to help recuperate degraded sites that would otherwise require
high capital inputs until climax species come into bearing.
MSc. Giorgini A. Venturieri, Universidade Federal do Pará, Depto. Genética, Centro Ciências Biológicas, Campus do Guamá, 66.076 Belém, Pará, Brazil.
Dr. Maria Nilse de Souza Ribeiro, Depto. de Produtos Naturais, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia - INPA, Cx. Postal 478, 69011 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.
Guilherme S. Maia, Diretor do Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Cx.
Postal 399, 66040 Belém, Pará, Brazil.
PRONATUS DO AMAZONAS; r. Visconde de Porto Alegre, 440 - Centro; 69000 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil; telephone (092) 234-8754 or 2343265. (ProNatus produces sacaca capsules, both pure and mixed with other herbs).
AMAZON ERVAS; Av. Joaquim Nabuco, 1.248 - Centro or Blvrd Alvaro Maia, 558 - Centro; 69000 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil; telephones (092) 236-6549 or 234-4141. (Amazon Ervas produces products similar to ProNatus).
Laboratório Farmaceútico Homeopático Ltda; r. 24 de Maio 590 -
Parque Dez; 69000 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil; telephone (092)
The authors thank Mr. Moacir Tadeu Biondo, a dedicated medicinal plants cultivator at the Legião Brasileira de Assistência - Amazonas, Manaus, for his assistance and information, and Dr. Elizabeth van den Berg, Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Belém, for her review of the manuscript and many valuable suggestions.