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Cashew

( Anacardium humile or occidentale )

 

Family

Anacardiaceae

 

Synonyms

Caju do campo, cazuzinho

 

Character

Anthelmintic, antiparasite

 

Description

The cashew family of plants consists of over fifty genera and nearly 600 species. These shrubs or trees grow in tropical forested areas. Cashew trees are small but tall with stubby twisted leaves. They bear a smooth, grey, kidney-shaped fruit from October to November and this fruit yields the nut. The peduncle is fleshy and either red or yellow. Cashew bark is resinous and produces a gum that has been used like gum arabic in varnish products.

 

Phytochemistry

The fleshy capsule which holds the fruit contains a rich supply of riboflavin and ascorbic acid. Cashew oil contains cardol and anacardic acid. The anacardiaceae family of plants is known for its phenol and phenolic acid content ( anacardol, anacardic acid, etc) which is responsible for casing significant skin irritation. Anacardic acid has been reported to have anthelmintic properties. Terpenes, triterpenes, polyphenols and tannins are also found in this family. The leaves are alkaloid positive.

 

Traditional rain forest use

The Tikunas used juice extracted from the peduncle of the cashew for flu-like symptoms. Decoctions made from the bark and leaves of the cashew tree were prescribed fro cases of diarrhea. The Tikunas also used bark teas during menstruation because they believed the plant had contraceptive properties. Caju or cashew oil was used to treat leprosy. Bark shavings were heated to make a mouthwash for ulcers and sore throats. Bark infusions were also used to treat diabetes and asthmatic conditions. Tonics made from the pods that contain the cashew fruit were used in cases of diarrhea and as sedatives. Cashew oil was prescribed for syphilis and skin diseases. Bark extracts treated hemorrhages and were also considered anti-diabetics. When combined with sugar cane, cashew bark was also used as an aphrodisiac. A golden resin that was collected after cutting the tree was traditionally mixed with water and used as an expectorant for coughs. This same resin could also be dried and when mixed with water was used to treat amenorrhea ( missed menstrual periods ).

 

Modern medicinal applications

Due to its caustic properties, cashew oil has been used as natural antiseptic and as a treatment for warts and other neoplastic skin disease. ( NOTE: Nut-bearing trees such as black walnut often possess antiparasitic properties. )

 

Safety

Use cashew under the supervision of a health-care professional

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