CARIBBEAN SPIDER LILY ( HYMENOCALLIS CARIBAEA) - INFORMATION
The Caribbean Spider Lily or White Amaryllis belongs to the lily family and more specifically to the Amaryllidaceas. It gets its name from the long tendrils that grow from the flowers and it is a beautiful plant. It is native to the West Indies as its name suggests, and is grown as an ornamental plant in many countries. However if you visit Anguilla, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands you might come across these flowers.
The plants in the Amaryllidacea family grow from bulbs (you might have grown an amaryllis lily in water) and these bulbs and those of the Narcissus family of plants (which include the daffodil) have been shown to have alkaloids in them which may help kill tumours. Among these alkaloids are lycorine and narciclasine which may in the future be the basis for anti-cancer drugs. Galanthamine is also present in both types of plants (and the snowdrop) and this has been shown to reduce blood pressure in lab mice.
In folk medicine these plants have been used to treat tumours, as far back as the time of Hippocrates (BC 460-370) who prescribed pessaries of narcissus oil for the treatment of uterine tumours. This was also recommended by Dioscorides in the first century AD and Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79) also mentions that Narcissus poeticus was used for such treatments.
Some extracts from the Amaryllidaceas have been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties in lab tests in vitro and research is ongoing into the properties of these plants.
It is estimated that only 15 % of the world’s plants have been screened for their potential use in medicine, and bulbous plants such as the Caribbean Spider Lily have not received as much attention as have herbs and trees. Now that plants that grow from bulbs have been proved to have unique biological compounds, more research will be carried out on them to assess their potential therapeutic value.