The tree called the andiroba is a large and towering tree found in the tropical rain forests of countries in the tropical regions of the world such as Brazil, the forests of Colombia, and Guyana-specimens are known to grow to an astounding 300 ft or 90 meters in the height, forming an important part of the rain forest canopy. The andiroba is known for the kind of flowers it produces, the tree gives out very fragrant smelling flowers when in blooms. The tree also produces a brown nut, which is woody and four-cornered measuring from three to four inches-about eight to ten centimeters across its length. This nut resembles a chestnut and has a very oil rich kernel in the middle. Herbal medicine makes use of the oil produced from the nut; herbalists also use the tree bark, the leaves, and the seed oils for various remedies to treat different disorders.
The anti-inflammatory property of the oil of the andiroba is because of the fact that the oil contains chemical compounds known as limonoids as a major constituent. This chemical compound present in the herbal oil actively promotes the normal circulation of blood in the skin and aids in bringing relief from the pain and swelling during an injury. The traditional use of the bark and the leaves by the Northwest Amazons was in reducing fever and they also boiled the bark and leaves for use as an herbal worm inhibiting tea. Topical remedies were also prepared from the tree bark and leaves for external application as a wash for the treatment of all kinds of skin problems, to treat different ulcers, and in the treatment of insect bites, this remedy was also applied on the skin as a natural insect repellent. The seed oil has been traditionally used by Brazilians to treat arthritis and for its anti-inflammatory properties; the oil from the fruit is also ingested to treat persistent coughs.
Scientific tests conducted to check the potential beneficial effects of the andiroba has demonstrated conclusively the bark has a bactericidal action, that the flowers act as anti-tumor agents, and that the heartwood has antifungal or fungicidal properties. The possible anti-carcinogenic properties of the andiroba have also been probed during tests at the Museum of Medicinal Plants in Macapa, Brazil, this study in 1993 suggested that andiroba may indeed posses some properties that are anti-carcinogenic. The herbal oil packed in gelatin capsules have been used to treat cases of internal cancers in Brazil-though their effectiveness has not been definitely proven in this role.
The various beneficial effects of herbal remedies made from the andiroba to specific health conditions include the ones given below.
Topical rubs can treat and relieve the physical symptoms associated with arthritis and rheumatism. An herbal remedy consisting of hot andiroba oil is rubbed into the skin of the affected individual to relieve the pain of arthritis and rheumatism-this heated herbal oil is a very effective topical remedy.
Topical herbal remedies made from the oil of the andiroba have also been successfully used in the treatment of fractures over a long period of time. The oil of the andiroba contains high quantities of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. When the oil is applied onto the skin, all of these essential fatty acids become quickly and completely absorbed, passing into the skin and they are circulated rapidly towards the region of the body with a fracture in the bone. Once present in the affected region, these essential fatty acids help in eliminating the production of various natural chemicals which can cause inflammation and restrict the normal circulation in the area. The swelling is slowly reduced by the increase in circulation of blood promoted by the applied oil-at the same time, the presence of the oil also decreases the body's production of all inflammatory chemicals and this results in a reduction in the pain felt by the affected individual.
The herbal oil remedy is also used in the treatment of skin damaged as a result of cuts and scrapes, and from injury related abrasions. It has also been used in the treatment of the symptoms of gonorrhea, as a topical remedy it has also been used in treating insect bites, as well as in treating skin conditions such as psoriasis. The acceleration in the healing of damaged skin is performed by the active compound myristic acid present in andiroba oil, this acid forms one of the vital chemical building blocks for an organic enzyme which is the main structure linking together many of the proteins which form the tissues on the skin outer layer-the part that has a protective function. This chemical also signals skin cells to stop growth and this factor is useful when the oil is used in the treatment of psoriasis, the signal results in the prevention of skin scaling which is quite common in many skin disorders. The restoration of a normal life cycle to skin cells is also another important function performed by one of the many fatty acids in andiroba herbal oil - the linolenic acid maintains normal life cycle in growth and death of skin cells. Psoriasis for example, can be cured as a result of the halting of the uncontrolled growth in the skin cells due to the presence of this chemical. The chemical also aids in putting a stop to the uncontrolled growth of all pigment producing cells which contribute to the cause of age spots in older people.
Topical applications of herbal andiroba oil are often daubed directly on to the affected skin. This herbal oil has also seen use as a natural oily base for many antiwrinkle creams such as Aveda and Oil of Olay-which are very common cosmetic products. The main benefits of the oil for skin is that the beneficial fats present in the oil aid in the transportation of healing alpha hydroxy acids and other essential ingredients-all of which are important in moisturizing and protecting the skin from the ravages of disease and time.
Other medical uses