Posted tagged ‘medicinal plants in costa rica’

The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

February 7, 2014

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.


This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends…..you have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns her own Vacation Rental Home company on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica at Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.
Sources:
http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Gumbo-limbo/gumblimb.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Burssima
http://www.plantcreations.com/bursera_simaruba.htm

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The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

August 14, 2013

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.


This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends…..you have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Gumbo-limbo/gumblimb.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Burssima
http://www.plantcreations.com/bursera_simaruba.htm

Costa Rican Guaro! Belly up to the Bar and Party!

July 14, 2013

Popular throughout Central American countries, though not readily available in the USA, “Guaro” is a distilled liquor originating in Costa Rica. Manufactured from sugar cane juice, Guaro has a high alcohol content, clear coloring and a strong but slightly sweet flavor. Most commonly mixed with fruit juice or soda (Fresca being a favorite), few people choose to consume this liquor in straight shots.  Referred to as an “aguardiente,” the words “agua” and “ardiente” when combined translate to basically mean Guaro is “burning water”.  A fairly accurate description if you ask me!  Once considered the “moonshine” or “chicha” of Central America, Guaro is no longer a product of homemade stills, but an almost patriotic part of Costa Rican popular culture.

 
 
History:
In an attempt to end the kitchen sink production of clandestine “Guaro”, the Costa Rican government approved the manufacturing and eventual bottling of the clear liquor by Costa Rica’s National Liquor Factory (la Fábrica Nacional de Licores or “FANAL”) back in 1851.  At that time it was sold in barrels via “liquor agencies”, with the clients providing their own container.  Starting in 1980, a new division was created in FANAL, with “Cacique” becoming the official Guaro brand name in Costa Rica.  With it’s distinctive red label and iconic Indian Chief (that’s what “Cacique” means….Chief), Cacique quickly became the more commonly used name, since “Guaro” can often times refer to almost any distilled spirit. Easily one of Costa Rica’s most popular “beverages”, bottles of Cacique line the shelves of every Costa Rican grocery store and bar in even the most remote corner of this country, as well as being offered at every Costa Rica Hotel and Restaurant to be found.
 
 
Characteristics:
FANAL originally decided to market this popular liquor in 1 liter glass bottles containing a lower alcoholic content then vodka, but with the continued growth in popularity, they later began providing consumers with the options of 750 ml glass bottles and 365 ml “pachitas”….or plastic bottles (the handy travel size!).  FANAL takes great pride in producing a high quality product of licensed ethyl alcohol, guaranteeing a high purity for “safe” drinking.  The brand has proven so popular, that over the years it hs expanded from only 60 proof Guaro Cacique (with the red label) to the 70 proof Cacique Superior (with the black label), the latter offering an even higher purity of “rubbing alcohol”via further filtered purification through activated carbon and increasing not only it’s purity, but perfecting it’s mostly neutral aroma.  They also produce a lesser know black label, offering a whopping 80 proof and referred to as “Super Caňita” (Super Cane)!
 
 
Origin of the Name:
The present name of Guaro as “Cacique” (or “Chief”) is thought to originate from FANAL.  Since several circumstances.  Between 1977 and 1980 an excavation made by the Costa Rica National Museum revealed on of the largest indigenous settlements to date near the town of Grecia on land that occupied by the liquor had remained for decades as one of Costa Rica’s most enduring and popular products, indigenous societies considered their “leaders” to be their “Chiefs”, thus the name “Cacique” stuck.  Often times referred to as “Cuatro Plumas” in joking reference to the Four Feathers on the chief’s headress found on the ubiquitous red labels, just saying the word “Guaro” brings smiles to almost every Tico’s face!
 
 
Guaro Recipes & Purchasing:
Over the years, Guaro’s popularity has reached international proportions.  New companies have opened making their own brands of “pirated” Guaro recipes and attempting to market this “poor man’s vodka”, as the newest upscale spirit.  No worries though!!  With the ease of the internet you can now buy the “real” Costa Rican Guaro and not at over inflated prices!  Check out the website www.guaroliquor.com for puchasing details, as well as their page dedicated to some of the best Guaro recipes I have found.  (Not that I haven’t invented a few of my own over the years!)
 
 
Now, some 160 years later, Guaro continues to be as popular as ever!In fact, this liquor is such an integral part of Costa Rican culture that a recent exhibit at the Museos del Banco Central (Central Bank Museum) featured one work representing three icons of daily Costa Rican life; Cacique Guaro, a Soccer Ball and a representation of the celebrated Black Virgin!
 
For those of you lucky enough to be visiting beautiful Costa Rica, a little word of warning….. the pronunciation of “water” has been known to be misinterpreted as “guaro” by eager waiters not completely versed in the English language.  This has led to incidences where thirsty American tourists having asked their waiter for a glass of water and the waiter, ever so happy that the tourists wanted to try his country’s famous Guaro returned from the kitchen with a glass of the clear beverage. The tourist innocently takes a generous swallow and have experienced a coughing and sputtering surprise in Costa Rican thirst-quenching!!  Consider yourself warned!!
 
 
Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years.  Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.  Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the  Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.
 
 
 Sources:

Soursop (aka: “Guanabana”)…. a Sour name for a Sweet Cancer Fighting Costa Rican Fruit!

May 26, 2013

Circulating around the internet these days, this latest “favorite” tree has been making headlines everywhere touting it’s remarkable cancer curing properties discovered and actually being proven in scientific studies. In case you haven’t seen the articles, I’m referring to the Soursop Tree (Annona muricata), known in Spanish as the Guanabana (say that 3 times fast!). The Guanabana fruit is one of the most delicious and odd looking tropical fruits you will commonly find here in Costa Rica. Guanabana fruits are easily recognized in local farmers markets with their large heart-shaped form, rich green color, spiny skin and a white, creamy pulp peppered with elongated, black seeds. The pulp when eaten straight from the fruit is a bit sour to the taste buds…thus earning the name “Soursop”, but with a little added sweetener, this tropical gem blends into a creamy, fruity smoothie that rivals a fattening a much less healthy milkshake. It is also commonly used in ice creams, yogurts and other tasty delicacies.

The Soursop Tree is a really quite small considering the size of each fruit it produces. Growing up to 10 meters (a large specimen), this can make this non-descript tree ideal for a home garden orchard. The young branches, as well as the trunk of the tree eventually bear pale yellow, conical flowers which later turn into the large green fruits. The ovate, glossy leaves have a peculiar odor when rubbed and have proven to be valuable as a natural medicine in both ancient and now modern herbal remedies. In early times, the leaves of the Guanabana were used for tea to reduce swelling of the mucus membranes or to treat liver disease. The black seeds were often crushed and used as a vermifuge to help with parasite infestation. All parts of the tree were also ground and used as a sedative or as an anti-convulsant. The fruit was used to reduce joint pain, to treat heart conditions, as a sedative, to induce labor, or to reduce coughing or flu symptoms, just to name a few of its many benefits.

Thrifty home gardeners can start their own Guanabana trees simply by saving the seeds from a fruit you buy at the local market. Plant one oblong seed per planter filled with fertile soil and sit back and relax. Germination can take as much as 2 weeks or more,
so just be patient and keep the container watered several times a week. Once the seedlings begin to emerge when they are around 30cm, you will want to transplant them to a more permanent place in the yard. These trees do well on a wide range of soils, as long as good drainage is present. It takes a Guanabana tree some 5 years before it can begin to produce fruit, so you need to be in for the long haul when planting this unique tree. It’s important to protect the trees and fruits from disease and insect attacks, so it is not uncommon to see these fruits covered with loose recycled plastic bags as they mature to protect the fruits from fruit flies without the use of harmful insecticides, as well as in some cases, citric oil is rubbed on the bark of the trees to help protect them from other diseases.

The leaves, roots and bark of the Soursop have also been studied extensively by some of the more prestigious institutions known for their cancer research departments. These institutions such as the Health Sciences Institute, Journal of Natural Products, Catholic University of South Korea, Purdue University, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK have definitively concluded that the Guanabana contains special organic compounds called “annonaceous acetogenins”, which effectively target and kill malignant cells in 12 types of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer. These acetogenins are inhibitors of enzyme processes that are only found in the membranes of cancerous tumor cells, and have no toxicity to healthy cells. These means they not only attack the bad cells and leave the good ones to do their work, but the natural compounds in Guanabana lessen the side effects like nausea, hair and weight loss during the treatment. The tree compounds have proven to be up to 10,000 times stronger in slowing the growth of cancer cells than Adriamycin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug, which is pretty impressive stuff!

These studies have confirmed the anti-tumor, anti-parasitic, insecticidal, and anti-microbial activities of Soursop, which indigenous people discovered centuries ago and yet, the US government seems to dispute the documented findings!

As rapidly as excitement had skyrocketed about the Soursop, skeptics rushed to denounce the “cancer cure” as a fraud and scam afflicting the needy, the desperate, and the gullible. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) swooped in to fine and close various businesses that had unwisely reported an ability to cure cancer. And in September 2008, Medical News Today publicized the FTC’s actions, quoting its director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Lydia Parkes, as saying: “There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind”.
Is this a Big Pharma conspiracy or what? We need to focus on not just enjoying this delicious fruit, but helping people with cancer as well!! So when if Costa Rica, if you see this fruit at your Costa Rica hotel, or have the chance to buy “Guanabana”, “Soursop”, “Graviola”, “Pawpaw” or whatever it may be called in
that part of the world at a local market, jump on the opportunity! Not only will you get a sweet tasty surprise, but you may end up eventually helping the world come up with a natural remedy that could lead to lessen the suffering cancer patients currently must endure! Now that is Pura Vida!

On a lighter note…….

Cancer fighting qualities aside, next time you find the opportunity to taste Guanabana, I can personally recommend its sweet pleasures! Be it fresh, yogurt, ice cream, natural juice or a delicious smoothie, its unique tropical flavors will win you over immediately!

Watch this video for more information on how to prepare the fruit, as well as for the sheer entertainment!
“RasKitchen”, the Rasta Mon of cooking and the benefits of Soursop. He speaks English, but we still needed the subtitles! “Good for your dick mon!” I love at the very end when the gringo really does not want to take a sip of the Guanabana juice, as I think he just watched Rasta Mon prepare it in less than sanitary conditions. It’s all good “mon”, “Good for the Dick”!! Now that is Pura Vida at its best!!

CLICK FOR VIDEO HERE!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/201107/fighting-cancer-science-and-nature
http://www.christopherlane.org
http://degraviola.com/guanabana
http://www.blackherbals.com/graviola.htm

The Tourist Tree? The Naked Indian Tree? It’s the Gumbo Limbo Tree in Costa Rica!

June 11, 2011

Living in the rainforest in Costa Rica means being surrounded by an abundance of interesting trees. One of my personal favorites is the Gumbo Limbo tree! A wildly popular tropical tree, it is native to the southeastern United States, but found widely throughout the Americas, West Indies and especially prominent in Costa Rica. This tree easily adapts to a variety of both dry and moist habitats, and is a fairly salt-tolerant species, enabling this tree to be found along most coastlines including around the Hotels of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Though consisting of a fairly soft wood, the Gumbo Limbo is considered a very wind-tolerant tree, making this species a good choice for hurricane or extreme weather areas.


This fast-growing canopy tree reaches heights of 50-60 feet and more, with a trunk that bears a striking color of green and red, with a thin paper like exfoliating bark. The Gumbo Limbo or Bursera Simaruba, goes by several aliases, such as the Spirit Gum, Birch Gum, Turpentine, Naked Indian, or more commonly named in popular vacation destinations…..the “Tourist Tree”, because of its red color and peeling skin!

The Gumbo-limbo is generally planted for shade and ornamental use in front or backyards, can be found along streets and highways, but it is also commonly used throughout Costa Rica as a “living fence” since it easily sprouts from cut branches that are stuck into the ground. With it’s naturally rapid growth, within no time farmers have a strong, natural, eco-friendly fence with which they can corral their livestock and mark their land.

The arils (or etable part surrounding the seed) provides an important source of food for winter migrating birds, including many migrants from North America, as well as local residents such as the Masked Tityra, Bright-rumped Attila, and Black-faced Grosbeak, the Baltimore Oriole, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and many species of Vireos. Additionally, Gumbo-limbo’s rapid growth, easy and low cost of propagation, and it’s ecological versatility make this species an ideal “starter” tree for reforestation projects.

There are so many more natural benefits to this great tree, as the sticky, turpentine-scented resin has been used for centuries for making glue, varnish, liniments, as well as a water resistant coating for dugout canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as an anti-inflammatory, a treatment for gout, a form of incense, as well as the leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea for a wide variety of ailments. The bark is also considered a treatment against rashes caused by plants such as poison ivy and poison oak. Though the actual wood of the tree is rather soft and spongy, this versatile wood is traditionally used to manufacture the colorful carousel horses you see at county fairs, and other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal, boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from the Gumbo-Limbo wood.

Tribal or Native Indian medicinal uses include remedies for skin infections, skin sores, ingesting a bark tea for urinary tract infections, pain, colds, flu, sun stroke, fevers and to purify the blood. A length of bark about 5 cm x 30 cm is boiled in a gallon of water for 10 minutes or so for these local remedies and then used topically or can be sipped as a tea 2-3 times per day. Not only is it touted to provide the above medicinal remedies, but it is also said to kill bacteria, stop excessive bleeding, increase urination, increase perspiration, cleanse the blood, neutralize various venoms, helpful as a cough expectorate, reducing fevers and my favorite remedy…..increasing libido!!

So when out hiking, exploring, or just taking a drive around Costa Rica, no more passing that Gumbo Limbo tree and not even giving it a second thought. Just look at how much one can do and “cure” with this beautiful and unique tree!

But my friends…..you have been warned!!!! None of these uses are FDA approved, so please do not try these remedies at home! At least not without a Shaman present!!

Author:
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Gumbo-limbo/gumblimb.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Burssima
http://www.plantcreations.com/bursera_simaruba.htm