Guaiacum officinale (Lignum vitae) is the tree with the name translated from Latin as “long life”. This must be attributed to the tree’s slow growth and hard wood, the hardest of the woods known and not sinking in water.
Guaiacum is widely known as evergreen ornamental tree reaching up to 40-60 feet height. It is well recognized by its crooked stem, often represented by several trunks clustered together and furrowed bark carrying knobby branches. The flowers are bright blue, growing in clusters as well, and after flowering in spring, produce bright orange fruits with the red seeds in them. The red seed turns dark after it is released from its capsule and dried out.
The two most common guaiacum species, except G. officinale, are Guaiacum sanctum, distinguished by aromatic leaves, and Guaiacum Resin, cultivated for the resin.
Guaiacum habitat is the areas of West Indies, South and North America. Climatic conditions the tree grows in define the density of the wood. In the regions with medium rainfalls and coastal areas, the tree grows dry and hardy. In general, guaiacum prefers deep rich soil and free from other threes areas.
The guaiacum hardwood is higly favoured for its firm and practical wood. It is used for furniture, house appliances and tools. For medicinal purposes resin and bark are processed into herbal preparations, as a component or an independent herbal remedy.
Despite being seldom used in the medicine, the wood does have certain health benefits and is sold in form of the fine shavings from the tree. Exposed to air, they turn green – and prove being genuine. Bark and resin are available powdered, tinctured and in form of decoction.
Resin has quite a number of beneficial actions due to its chemical value – it contains resin acids, guaiaretic and hydroguaiaretic acids, and lignans. Other components include terpenoids (guaiacsaponin), and vanilin. Anti-rheumatic, laxative, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic actions of the plant are associated with its rich chemical content.
Guaiacum resin has advantage over other resins by being not as irritating for the stomach and bowel. Being easy to absorb, it provides fast relief for the symptoms it is taken for. It has been mostly used in herbal medicine for rheumatic conditions and related symptoms. Patients with inflammation and painful joints have been reporting the healing effects of guaiacum. Its anti-inflammatory actions are both helpful in rheumatoid arthritis and chronic rheumatism, lessening recurrence of the attacks.
For digestive disorders, guaiacum is used as laxative, and for the urinary tract conditions – as diuretic. The guaiacum decoction provides the latter effects if taken cool, and while taken hot with preserving body’s warmth – it works as diaphoretic.
Powdered extract of the plant is known to treat tonsilitis, while slightly affecting bronchi. Although, strong actions on the respiratory tract have not been noted.
By increasing body heat and circulation, the herb acts as a general stimulant.
For people with peptic or gastritic ucleration guaiacum is not recommended due to high resin content.
Do you sell guaiacum? If so, what is the cost and the quanity? If not, do you know where it can be purchased? I prefer purchasing the leaf/bark/root, which ever part is best for rheumatoid arthritis. Thank you.