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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BOX MYRTLE - EVERGREEN TREE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF BOX MYRTLE TREE


BOX MYRTLE, MYRICA NAGI-THUNB OR MYRICA ESCULEN    Box myrtle is and evergreen tree, native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayas, as well as to the Malaysian islands, China, Singapore and Japan. It is used for its edible fruit which have a lot of seeds and are red, about 13 millimetres in diameter, as well as for medicine. The fruit are offered to Druga, one of the Hindu gods and the tree is sacred to both Shiva and Sakti. The tree is mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic texts and the bark and fruit are mainly used in medicines. It is thought the tree is harmful for the liver and spleen, but it is used for bronchial problems such as coughs and catarrh, asthma, to reduce fevers, to help patients with diabetes, for cancerous tumours and halitosis (bad breath).The powdered bark is put on external wounds and has astringent properties. It is also used as snuff to get rid of nasal mucous and to stop headaches. A decoction of the bark, ginger root and cinnamon is used for coughs and lung congestion as well as to stop diarrhoea and dysentery as this has astringent properties. It is thought that the fruit is good to regulate a woman’s period and the wax from the fruit is put on skin ulcers to heal them. The juice from unripe fruit is though to be good to get rid of internal worms.
  The flowers, which are catkins (similar to the flowers of the willows, birch, oak, alder and beech trees), contain an oil which is used for earache and as a general tonic. The flowers can be seen through February until April and the fruit ripens in May. Unfortunately it only has a short shelf-life or two to three days, so can only be sold in local markets.
   The fruit is coated in wax, which has to be boiled and skimmed to make sweet smelling candles which are brittle, but don’t melt in hot summers. This wax can also be used as soap, like the soapwort and soapnut. The wood is used for fuel and poles in the construction industry.
  When mixed with ginger, the bark juice is used as a counter-irritant for rheumatism and gout. When the bark is boiled to get a jelly-like mass, this is used as a poultice for sprains like mallow poultices are.
  The fruit contains small amounts of vitamin C, the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium, as well as flavonoids which have potent antioxidant properties to fight free radicals according to a research paper, “Antioxidant Activity of Some Wild Edible Fruits of Meghalaya State in India” published in the journal, Advances in Biological Research Volume 5 (3) pages 155-160, 2011 by Tapan Seal.
  It would seem that this is yet another plant which could be beneficial for our health.
   

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