Palmyra palm (scientific name Borassus flabellifer) is a type of palm believed to be native to India and other parts of Southeast Asia. It can be found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. It has also been introduced in Pakistan, some of the Chinese provinces, as well as the Yemeni island of Socotra.
Like most species of palms, the Palmyra palm is a sizeable tree that can grow up to 30 meters high. It has a strong trunk covered in grey bark and scars from old leaves, which often remain attached to the trunk for several years. They are about 3 meters long, with the fan shape typical for palms. The leaf stalks have black teeth on their edges. The Palmyra palm is a dioecious plant.
The flowers of Palmyra palm have a different look, depending on their sex. The male ones are tiny, smaller than 1 cm, and can be found grouped on inflorescences that look similar to catkin, concealed under scaly bracts. The female ones are larger in size, about as big as a golf ball, and grow individually on the surface of the inflorescences. The fruits have a diameter between 15 and 25 cm, with a thin layer of flesh and maximum 3 seeds. They have a dark skin that can be brown or black and the seeds are protected by a woody shell inside the fibrous but sweet pulp.
The fruits of Palmyra palm can be usually found in clusters. Cutting the top part of the black fruits exposes the transparent white seed sockets, with a jelly consistency. These are very sweet and their taste is similar to the one of lychee but with a lesser intensity and without a pit. These jelly sockets can be found in combinations of two, three or four inside the Palmyra palm fruits. Their skin is usually very thin and the white flesh has a high content of water, with a diluted juice inside.
The tree tends to grow very slowly when young and the seedlings need some time to become established. They only develop a few leaves in their first years but can grow explosively after a period of time that varies widely and is influenced by unknown factors.
Fruits, roots, sap.
All parts of Palmyra palm have numerous medical uses. Even the very young Palmyra palms are considered potent and thought to cure gonorrhea, biliousness or dysentery. A decoction prepared from the immature roots is a cure for breathing problems and is considered anthelmintic and diuretic. Burning the inflorescence results in an ash that can treat oversized liver and spleen, as well as heartburns. A separate decoction can be prepared from the bark with added salt, which serves as a mouthwash. Charcoal of the bark can also be useful in oral hygiene. The sap extracted from the flower stalks is especially prized and considered tonic, anti-phlegmatic, amebicide, diuretic, stimulant and laxative. This fluid can be refined into sugar, which is believed to be a treatment for liver problems and a poison antidote, or turned into candy and employed against cough and various other respiratory issues. The fresh fruit can be used to treat external ulcers if applied in bandages after fermentation is started by heating. The pulp is also a possible remedy for dermatitis. Both the male flower spikes and the dried leaf stalks have a diuretic effect.
The fruit of the Palmyra palm has a very healthy composition. It is rich in the vitamins A, C and B complex and has the ability to cool and hydrate the body. It is also a rich source for the minerals calcium, zinc, potassium and iron. It acts as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory and can treat a variety of problems, from parasite infestation to nausea or vomiting. Other common uses are as a laxative and expectorant.
The tree sap has tonic properties and is also used in the treatment of ulcers, liver disorders and as a laxative. When applied on the skin, the fruit pulp has the ability to reduce inflammation, regardless of the cause. As many other tropical fruits, the Palmyra palm can provide coolness and heat relief during very hot times.
The Palmyra palm fruit has a number of other medical benefits. It relieves heartburn and is particularly effective against stomach disorders caused by increased acidity. Because of its high content of water, consuming the fruit prevents dehydration. It can also provide an energy boost in very hot days, by restoring some of the lost essential nutrients. The same package of vitamins and minerals in the fruit is known to relieve irritation during urination or even cure the pain associated with it.
The fruit should be consumed daily during hot summers because it combats dehydration and maintains proper energy levels. This is not only because of the fruit's water content, but also the richness in minerals such as potassium or sodium. These minerals are essential for a proper balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body.
The main edible part of the fruit is the sweet jelly found under its black skin. The jelly is not only delicious but also very healthy. The fruit also provides a watery juice that has a very pleasant taste. It is a very refreshing drink choice during the summer because it has a cooling effect.
The refreshing capability of the juice is mainly due to the high amounts of vitamin B complex and vitamin C. It is also very rich in vitamin A, which is needed by our eyes and skin and improves vision.
The pulp is known as an external remedy for skin inflammation of any type. Palmyra palm tree sap can be consumed as a tonic but also has laxative properties and the ability to cure ulcers and liver issues. It has an overall positive effect on health, while increasing appetite and making digestion more effective. A Palmyra palm fruit sap can treat anemia.
The fruit is normally consumed in an unusual way: the seeds are eaten even if the fruit is not mature yet. However, it is also possible to allow the fruit to become fully ripe. At that point, the fibrous pulp becomes edible as well. It can be served raw but also boiled or fried. When fully ripe, the skin of the fruit turns dark purple or black. The flesh has a taste similar to the one of related coconut. You don't have to peel off the skin since it is edible as well and often consumed with the pulp, like a mango fruit. The viscous fluid inside a ripe fruit can be used to prepare various sweets, which is traditional in Bengal.