Carapa guianensis from the Meliaceae family is commonly known as Andiroba or Crabwood. It is also named a Brazilian or Bastard mahogany due to the similarities in the looks of both trees.
Andiroba is a tall (up to 300 ft) towering tropical tree with upright trunk, which lacks branches on about two-thirds of its length. The tree has flaking bark and soft but durable wood. Its sapwood is pink upon cutting, but it quickly turns grey or greyish-brown. The heartwood also loses its reddish-brown colour with time.
Multiple branches form a dense and wide crown. The leaves tend to accumulate at the ends of branches, being smaller in size on the top of the tree. Andiroba leaves are alternate, paripinnate often with a dormant leaflet at the apex. The leaflets are opposite and elliptic.
Carapa usually flowers once a year from January to March; however, sometimes it may be in bloom in August and September again. Its small unisexual flowers, gathered in large inflorescences, are white or creamy with delicate fragrance.
The fruit of Andiroba is a dehiscent 4-lobed rounded capsule, resembling a chestnut, with 2-4 seeds. They are red-brown in colour with hard smooth seedcoat.
Carapa guianensis is native to tropical rainforests. It grows abundantly in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama and other tropical countries. It prefers rich soils with much moisture. The tree grows mostly in the swamps, marshes and on the seaside or in the periodically flooded plains.
Oil from Andiroba seeds is most frequently used in herbal medicine; however, herbalists also made preparations from the bark and leaves of the tree, which are said to have many health benefits as well.
Andiroba remedies are mostly used in the form of cold pressed oil or capsules with oil. Anti-wrinkle creams with Carapa oil are available today. Traditional herbal healers make soaps with this oil, which have medicinal properties.
Using traditional extraction method herbalists get perfect Andiroba seed oil, which has been used for decades to relieve different health conditions. These days, scientists have defined the most efficacious components of Carapa oil.
It is known that preparations from this tree contain essential fatty acids, as oleic, palmitic, stearic, and linoleic acids. The latter, found in large amounts, is said to be capable of lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as of fighting cancer. It is also helpful in the treatment of skin conditions, for example, psoriasis, since it normalizes the life cycle of skin cells (balancing their normal growth and death).
Myristic acid promotes healing of damaged skin, being one of the building blocks for the formation of the new skin cells. Besides, essential fatty acids, applied topically, are quickly absorbed into the skin promoting pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
Another group of chemicals in Andiroba oil belongs to the terpenes called meliacins. They are believed to possess antimicrobial properties. To be exact, a chemical known as gedunin was studied in this respect and showed the above mentioned abilities.
Seed oil, bark, and leaves were discovered to contain limonoids (e.g. epoxyazadiradione and newly found andirobin), which might have anti-inflammatory, insect repellent, and antitumor properties.
Nowadays, scholars suggest that the bark of Carapa has antibacterial action, flowers prevent tumor growth, and the tree heartwood fights fungi.
Taking into account wide spectrum of Andiroba seed oil, bark and leaves preparations properties, these natural remedies are traditionally used to accelerate wound healing, promote skin health, delaying its aging, fighting many skin disorders, and eliminating skin parasites. Carapa is also used topically to relieve arthritis and rheumatism pain.
Internally taken Andiroba remedies treat coughs, flu, and intestinal worms. They reduce fever, relieve muscle pain, and fight ear infections. In some countries constipation, hepatitis, diabetes, cancer, and malaria are treated with Andiroba remedies.
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