By Francisco Nava
When I first arrived at lakeside nine years ago, I was living in upper Ajijic, hiking quite a lot in the mornings. After one of my hikes, I stopped at Donna’s Donuts for a cup of coffee, sat and watched as a Mexican family across the road used a long pole with a hook at its end to retrieve long, curly, rosy pods from a large shade tree. It seemed more of a game as they were obviously enjoying the work. I asked the mother of the group what the pods were and how were they used. She said they were the fruit of the Guamuchil tree. She offered me a pod and I ate the sweet and tart fruit, careful to remove the large black seeds. The taste was extraordinary, foreign, exciting. As I reached for another fruit the mother gently slapped my hand and told me to eat the fruit in moderation or expect to spend considerable time in the bathroom.
With time and research, I learned the Guamuchil tree is a native of Mexico.
Pithecellobium dulce, commonly known as Manila tamarind, Madras thorn, or camachile, is a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae. The Guamuchil tree can grow in sub-tropical climates and is resistant to drought. It spreads rapidly, mainly through the help of the birds that feed on its fruit by dropping the seeds.
Studies show that the Guamuchil can be beneficial to people’s health. Here are some of the health benefits this tree offers:
The flowers of the Guamuchil tree are said to possess anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and antibacterial properties effective for curing fever, general pain, burns, swelling and infections.
Extract from its leaves contain anti-oxidants that help cleanse the body from all toxins ingested from food. This ingredient is also used as anti-ulcer agents due to its free radical activities. It has antimicrobial properties due to the alcoholic content that can be extracted from it. Leaf extracts are also said to have anti-diabetic effects. There are studies that attribute the alcohol and hexane extracts to the cure of tuberculosis. The leaves’ juices are also a very effective astringent. The ethanol extracted from the leaves has antidepressant, skeletal and muscle relaxant properties.
Extracts from the Guamuchil bark are a very good cure for constipation, eye inflammation and dysentery. It is also used as an astringent and anti-hemorrhagic agent (stops any bleeding).
Guamuchil fruits contain both anti-diabetic and anti-ulcer properties.
In general, the Guamuchil tree is something of a miracle tree. There are newer studies linking this tree to the inhibition of cancer cells, particularly prostate and colon cancers.
The fruit is rich in vitamin B complex which aids in combating stress and increases appetite. It also has plenty of vitamin C which help strengthens the immune system.
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As we await our seasonal rains come mid-June, this would be a good time to put in ferns. Maiden hair ferns are quite sensitive (be careful with pesticides), but stag horns will be very happy if they are kept moist and out of direct sun. Some flower seeds to plant in June are cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Stake tall plants before the rains begin as they will grow quickly. Plant beans, beets, peppers, okra, sweet corn and tomatoes. If you have not been spraying for pests, now is a good time to start. Many Mexican gardeners swear by a mixture of shaved Lirio soap, dissolved in water with a pack of El Faro cigarettes (tobacco), as an effective spray for most insects, especially white fly. Don’t forget to strain the mixture before putting it through your sprayer.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com