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Thursday, March 22, 2012


Kalingag is the usual name of this cinnamon tree which only grows in forests in the Philippines, from the Babuyan Islands and northern Luzon to Mindao. In the past it was used for timber as well as for medicine and this felling of these trees means that it is now on the IUCN Red list and is listed as ‘vulnerable’. The tree is small to medium sized with the trunk reaching a little more than 60 centimetres in diameter. It has small fruit after an ochre coloured flower has bloomed.
  As a member of the Lauraceae family of plants it is related to culinary cinnamon, sassafras and the bay tree. It is unusual in the cinnamon family in that its essential oil consists of large amounts of safrol, whereas other oils of cinnamon contain cinnamaldehyde. The oil of Kalingag, from the leaves and bark, smells like sassafras, and is pale yellow.
  The bark of the tree and leaves are used in traditional medicine in the Philippines, with the bark being chewed to aid digestion and cure flatulence, as an expectorant, and for stomach pains. It is soothing for the stomach and is also a stimulant with astringent, antiseptic, antifungal and antiviral properties. It has been found that cinnamaldehyde is an analgesic comparable to the actions of aspirin, and it also has antifungal and anti-diarrhoea properties, as well as having the ability to kill parasites such as head lice.
  The bark is used powdered to prevent the onset of diabetes, and a decoction of the leaves is also a remedy for flatulence. It is said that the leaf decoction also helps women with menstrual problems. A paste made from the powdered bark is applied externally to parts affected by neuralgia and to the forehead for severe headaches. It is also said to be effective against yeast infections such as candida.
  The sassafras aroma and taste means that the leaves and bark may be added to root beers to give them flavour. Kalingag is also said to help to improve loss of appetite and be both a diuretic and stop diarrhoea and dysentery as well as being useful for promoting sweat in fevers.
  Clearly this is a valuable tree for health in the Philippines, but as it has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, it may verge on the brink of extinction as men in the West seek ways of improving their erections. Sad isn’t it?

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