Papaya

Papaya

Carica papaya (Caricaceae)

Characteristics

Trees or shrubs 6-10 m tall. Stem (20 cm diameter) with leaf scars helically arranged, bark green to brown. Leaf blade 20-60 cm. Berries hanging from trunk near summit, green to orange. Edible.

Distribution

Papayas are grown throughout the tropics of the world, chiefly at low elevations, and tend to become escapes everywhere. Its natural origin is in the tropics of America, probably from southern Mexico

Natural Medical Properties

The skin of the unripe fruit, the leaves, sap and seeds of the papaya are all a source of the enzyme papain, a digestive stimulant that facilitates the digestion of protein.

The unripe fruit is an especially good source.

Papain can be used internally, especially in the form of the extracted enzyme, to treat digestive disorders.

It is also applied externally to aid the healing of deep or slow-healing wounds.

An infusion of the young, latex-filled, green fruit is used as a children’s vermifuge.

The juice of the fruit is used to treat diabetes and hypertension.

The immature fruit, sometimes combined with aspirin, is used as an abortifacient.

The fruit pulp is mixed with fat in a pomade to remedy abscesses.

The juice of the fruit is used to dissolve warts.

The leaves and the fruit, especially the unripe fruit, are taken internally in the treatment of a range of digestive disorders, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and painful womb.

The green leaves are cooked as a treatment for Dengue fever, tertiary malaria and for irregular bowel movement in children.

Externally, the leaves are applied to wounds as a dressing that helps to speed the healing process.
The leaves and seeds are used locally to rid the body of threadworms and roundworms.

The seeds are used as a gentle purgative to rid the body of worms.

Immature seeds are swallowed to treat diarrhoea.
The seed is eaten as a children’s vermifuge, and also to increase visual acuity.
The latex from the trunk of the tree has a strong purgative action when taken internally and is sometimes used to rid the body of worms.

The latex is applied externally to wounds, boils, ulcers, warts and cancerous tumours in order to speed their healing.

It is also applied to the gums to treat toothache.
The ripe fruit is a mild laxative.

A decoction of the ripe fruit is used to treat persistent diarrhoea and dysentery in children.

An infusion of the flowers is drunk in order to induce menstruation, and also to treat laryngitis, bronchitis and venereal diseases.

The flowers are used in combination with milk and butter as an appetite stimulant.
The bark is used to treat diarrhoea.

The inner bark is used to treat toothache.
The root is aphrodisiac, astringent and vermifuge.

The macerated root is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea.

An infusion of the root in alcohol is used to treat bladder and kidney problems.

A decoction is drunk to treat abdominal stricture, diarrhoea, malaria and intestinal worms.

Applied externally, an infusion of the root in alcohol is rubbed on the limbs to treat rickets.

A decoction of the root is used externally to treat abdominal stricture.

The latex contains the protein-degrading (proteolytic) and mucolytic enzymes papain and chymopapain.

The plant contains hydrocyanic acid, carpaine, terpene hydrocarbons, terpene alcohols, cyanogenic glycosides.

Did you know?

Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen, never fruit. The female produces small, inedible fruits unless pollinated. The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowets contain both male stamens and female ovaries. Almost all commercial papaya orchards contain only hermaphrodites.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Common Mango

Common Mango

Mangifera indica (Anacardiaceae)

Characteristics

Trees, 10-40 m tall. Leaves 10-30 cm long, 2-7cm wide, leathery, margin entire. Juicy, large and edible stone fruits (drupes). Depending on the cultivar, mango fruits vary in size, shape, sweetness, skin color and flesh color which may be pale yellow, gold or orange

Distribution

Although “Common Mango” is a native of the Indian Peninsula, it is cultivated throughout the tropics of the world in more than 500 varieties. In many regions, it has become a significant naturalized element of the flora..

Natural Medical Properties

The inner bark of the stem of Maqo (Fijian name) is used to treat dysentery and bacterial disease thrush.

Did you know?

“Common Mango” is the national tree of Bangladesh and related (same family) to the Cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) and the Pistachio tree (Pistacia vera). Allergic Urushiols are present in the peel of the mango fruit and can trigger contact dermatitis in sensitized individuals.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Kava (Kava Kava)

Kava (Fijian: Yaqona)

Piper methysticum (Piperaceae)

 

Characteristics

A clumping shrub with growth up to 2.5 meters tall, Kava thrives In loose well drained soils where plenty of air reaches the roots, needing high rainfall and humidity, It Is an understory plant, sensitive to sunlight and not salt tolerant. It cannot reproduce sexually with female flowers being extremely rare, they do not produce fruit even when hand pollinated.

Distribution

Thought to have originated from Vanuatu and descended from Papua New Guinea, Kava Is found In Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesian Islands.

Natural Medical Properties

Used to treat anxiety it is also excellent for improving the quality of sleep and as a mild euphoric. Known as “Yaqona”, it has been used for centuries as a sacred offering in traditional ceremonies. Only the non-aerial parts of the plants are consumed after being dried and pounded.

Did you know?

Clinical randomized controlled trials have proven the anxiolytic properties of kavalactones as psychoactive compounds for the treatment of generalised anxiety. the name Piper methysticum means “intoxicating pepper”.

Closely related (same genus) to “Black Pepper” (Piper nigrum).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Jungle Flame

Jungle Flame

Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae)

Characteristics

Dense, multi-branched, evergreen shrub, mostly 1-2 m tall. Leathery leaves, about 10 cm long, opposite, margins entire. Tubular flowers in dense rounded clusters, produced almost all year long.

Distribution

Native to Southern India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Today widespread as famous ornamental plant in many tropical and subtropical gardens.

Natural Medical Properties

Did you know?

The Jungle Flame is related (same family) to Coffee (Coffea arabica). It is the national flower of Suriname.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Passion fruit

Passion fruit

Passiflora edulis (Passifloraceae)

Characteristics

Perennial vine. Fast-growing (up to 7m per year). Short-lived (max. 7 years). Flowers 5-8 cm wide, at each node of the climbing plant. 5 green sepals and 5 white/purple petals. Fruit (botanically a berry) entirely fleshy, outside colour from dark-purple with fine white specks to light yellow, 4-8 cm in diameter. Within the berry, typically 250 black edible seeds, each of them surrounded by a membranous sac filled with pulpy juice. Flavour slightly acidic. Edible.

Distribution

Native to Southern Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentinia. Today cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas.

Natural Medical Properties

The pulp of the fruit is stimulant and tonic.

The flower is a sedative when made into a tea.

Did you know?

The flower of the Passion fruit was known by Spanish missionaries as the “Flor de las cinco lagas” (Flower of the five wounds) because it illustrated the crucifixion of Christ. Hence, the name “Passion fruit” was originated. In Portugese, Passion fruit is called “maracujà”, after a Native American word which is not so pleasant 😉

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Star fruit

Star fruit

Averrhoa carambola (Oxalidaceae)

Characteristics

Small deciduous tree, up to 10 m tall, short trunk with many branches. Leaves 15-25 cm long (5-10 ovate leaflets). Small lilac flowers. Orange-yellow fruit with a thin, waxy pericarp. Yellow flesh with juice when ripe. Fruit 5-15cm long. The entire fruit is edible (careful if you have kidney problems.

Distribution

Native to tropical Southeast Asia. Today, cultivated throughout tropical areas.

Natural Medical Properties

The fruit can be a laxative on account of the oxalic acid it contains.

It is also used in traditional medicine for skin disorders and fevers.

It is valued by Chinese communities as a remedy for high blood pressure, whilst it is also said to reduce blood sugar levels and so is of help to diabetics.
The flowers are used to relieve coughs.The leaves are used to treat rheumatism.

The seed is emmenagogue, galactagogue and abortifacient.

The powdered seed is a good anodyne for treating asthma, colic and jaundice.

Did you know?

The fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually 5-6). When cut in cross-section, it resembles a star, giving its name as “Star fruit”.

The Star fruit is related (same family) to “Wood sorrel” (Oxalis sp.), a common edible wild plant.

Star fruits contain Caramboxin and Oxalic acid (see name of the family) and are therefore harmful to individuals suffering from kidney problems.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Betel tree

Betel tree

Areca catechu (Arecaceae)

 

Characteristics

Medium-sized palm tree, growing straight, up to 20m. Trunk 10-15 cm in diameter. Leaves 2m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. Seeds of the fruit is a commercially important seed crop (Areca nut), mainly in India and SE-Asia. They contain intoxicating and slightly addictive alkaloids as well as carcinogenic tannins (oral cancer). Chewing Areca nuts is popular throughout many SE-Asian countries.

Distribution

Native to the Philippines. Today growing in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia and parts of East Africa.

Natural Medical Properties

Betel palm is an astringent, stimulant herb that relieves hunger, abdominal discomfort and weariness. It kills intestinal parasites and other pathogens, and also has diuretic and laxative effects.

It is used mainly in veterinary medicine to expel tapeworms.
The seed is used against anaemia, fits, leucoderma, leprosy, obesity and worms. It is also used in the treatment of dysentery and malaria.

In combination with other ingredients, it is also a purgative and an ointment for nasal ulcers.
Kernels of green and mature fruits are chewed as an astringent and stimulant, often with the leaves or fruit of betel pepper (Piper betel) and slaked lime.

The rind is also used as a laxative in cases of constipation with flatulence and bloating, as well as a diuretic in treating oedema.

 

The fruits are harvested when fully ripe and can be dried for later use.

The areca nut decoction as well as arecoline and its salts have been found to be effective on various parasitic helminth infections such as those caused by Taenia.

Did you know?

In English Areca catechu is called “Betel tree” because its fruit (Areca nut) is often chewed along with the leaf of “Betel” (Piper betle), a vine closely related (same genus) to Pepper (Piper nigrum) and Kava (Piper methysticum).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Mandarin Orange, Mandarine

Mandarin Orange, Mandarine

Citrus reticulata (Rutaceae)

Characteristics

Tree up to 8m tall. Tree trunk and major branches have thorns. Leaves shiny and green, rather small. Fruits orange, 4-8 cm, edible. Citrus species are usually self-fertile (a bee moves pollen within the same flower) or parthenocarpic (no need of pollination for fruit development, therefore seedless, like the cultivated forms of banana). The Mandarine is easily damaged by cold.

Distribution

Native to Vietnam, South China and Japan. Today, widespread in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

Natural Medical Properties

Citrus species contain a wide range of active ingredients and research is still underway in finding uses for them. They are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, acids and volatile oils. They also contain coumarins such as bergapten which sensitizes the skin to sunlight. Bergapten is sometimes added to tanning preparations since it promotes pigmentation in the skin, though it can cause dermatitis or allergic responses in some people.

Some of the plants more recent applications are as sources of antioxidants and chemical exfoliants in specialized cosmetics.

The fruit is antiemetic, aphrodisiac, astringent, laxative and tonic

The flowers are stimulant

The pericarp is analgesic, anti-asthmatic, anticholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, antitussive, carminative, expectorant, stomachic.

It is used in the treatment of dyspepsia, gastro-intestinal distension, cough with profuse phlegm, hiccup and vomiting.

The endocarp is carminative and expectorant.

It is used in the treatment of dyspepsia, gastro-intestinal distension, coughs and profuse phlegm.

The unripe green exocarp is carminative and stomachic.

It is used in the treatment of pain in the chest and hypochondrium, gastro-intestinal distension, swelling of the liver and spleen and cirrhosis of the liver.

The seed is analgesic and carminative.

It is used in the treatment of hernia, lumbago, mastitis and pain or swellings of the testes

Did you know?

The “Common orange” (Citrus x sinensis) is a hybrid between “Mandarine” (Citrus reticulata) and “Pomelo” (Cirtus maxima). Due to its thin skin, Mandarine is much easier to peel than other Citrus fruits

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Mulberries

Mulberries

Morus sp. (Moraceae)

Characteristics

The genus Morus contains around 15 different species of deciduous trees, growing wild and under cultivation.

Fast-growing when young, can grow up to 24 m. Leaves alternate and simple. Fruits white, red or black. Edible.

Distribution

Native to Southern Asia. Today, widely distributed across Europe, South Africa and the Americas.

Natural Medical Properties

The juice of the bark is applied to cuts and wounds

Did you know?

In Brazil, mulberries are regarded as invasive species.

Mulberries are related (same family) to the “Common Fig” (Ficus carica) and to “Breadfruit” (Artocarpus altilis).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Pygmy date palm

Pygmy date palm

Phoenix cf. roebelenii (Arecaceae)

Characteristics

Slow-growing tree, up to 3 m. Leaves 60-120 cm long, pinnate, with approx. 100 leaflets. Each leaflet 15-25 cm long and 1 cm wide. Flowers small, yellowish, on a 45 cm inflorescence. Fruit is botanically a drupe (1 cm), edible, resembling a small date.

Distribution

Native to south-eastern Asia, now popular as an ornamental plant in gardens in tropical and subtropical areas. With a minimum temperature requirement of -3°C, it is grown under glass or as a houseplant in cooler areas.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The NASA Clean Air Study concluded that the “pygmy date palm” is effective at removing common household air toxins like formaldehyde and benzene.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species