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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BEEFWOOD TREE,COAST SHE-OAK: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF BEEFWOOD


BEEFWOOD, AGOHO, CASUARINA EQUISETIFOLIA
The beefwood tree goes by a number of names in English, including the horsetail tree as its branches, with their drooping leaves resemble a horse’s tail and also the horsetail fern. It is also known as the She-oak or Coast She-oak, Ironwood, Australian beefwood or Australian pine, and the whistling pine. Its needle–like leaves resemble pine needles and it bears cone-like fruit with small, winged seeds and it looks a little like a pine tree. It is also an evergreen with a pyramid shaped crown which can grow to heights of 30 metres.
  The name Casuarina is believed to come from the Malay word kasuari from which we get the name for the bird, the cassowary, and it is called this as it resembles the bird’s plumage; equestifolia means horse-leaved. It is a member of the Casuarinaceae family of plants. The tree is actually native to Malaysia, South Asia, Australia and Oceania, although it has been planted around the world for its protection from the sea, and because it is a nitrogen fixer and helps make land more fertile.
  You can see this tree along coasts in North Africa, and Florida in the US where it is now an invasive species, having first been introduced in the 1800s when it was planted to stabilize ditches and canals and for its shade and timber. It is sometimes used as a nurse plant in coconut groves, and even for pine trees. In India lemon, orange and other citrus trees grow larger than they would usually do when they are grown under the protection of the Beefwood tree.
  The tree has a multitude of uses: in Thailand its timber is used for poles to make fish traps, and it is used for firewood around the globe, as it burns well even when freshly cut and yields high quality charcoal. It is valued in the leather industry in Madagascar for its tannin and is used for fences (with the trees coppiced, providing live fences and the cut timber also being utilized for the same purpose). It is also used for boat-building, for electricity poles, handles for implements and tools, for cart wheels and also the bark is a dye producer.
  It can be annoying as the leaf litter under trees deters wild life and so it can damage eco-systems where it has been cultivated. However it is used in folk medicine for a number of ailments, and has astringent properties (due to its tannin content), is used for menstrual irregularities, colic and stomach pains, headaches and more.
  In the Philippines a decoction of the bark is used to remedy diarrhoea and dysentery, and to promote menstruation, and in large doses it is used as a pain-killer. The liquid after boiling the bark is used as a lotion for beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency) and the powdered bark is made into a paste with water and applied to pimples, acne and other skin eruptions. An infusion of the bark is prescribed as a general tonic. A decoction of the twigs is made into a lotion for inflammatory swellings, while an infusion of the branches is used as a diuretic. The leaves are used in decoctions and infusions for colic and other stomach upsets and to stop spasms.
  The leaf litter can be used to start and feed fires, and the wood pulp can be used to make paper and the timber being resistant to some termites makes it useful in tropical countries.

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