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Over the River and Through The Woods…

A variety of trees found in the Yucatan Peninsula have properties that are not well-known by many. Here are a handful of them

the chicle tree / Photos: Wikimedia Commons

the chicle tree / Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Chicle. One of Mexico’s most famed trees is the chicle tree (the word chicle comes from the Nahuatl word for gum, tziktli) and is part of the Manilkara genus. The tapping of gum is similar to the tapping of latex from the rubber tree, where zig zag gashes are made in the tree trunk by the chicleros and the dripping sap is collected. It is boiled until it reaches the correct thickness and then processed. Its crushed seeds help calm nerves, headaches and insomnia.

The tamarind tree

The tamarind tree

Tamarind. Grab some leaves from the tamarind and use them to soothe aging and swollen joints, while the pods can be ground into a paste or pulp and added to sauces like Pad Thai. Pulverized seeds are supposed to help those with diabetes.

Parota tree

Parota tree

Parota. Also known as elephant ear tree, this plant has been cultivated since ancient Maya times. Carved for mirrors, frames, decorative paneling and tabletops, it has a light reddishbrown hue. Its blossoms are a favorite among stingless bees. The green, unripe fruit of the tree is a frequent ingredient in native cuisine while its seeds are used for crafts and jewelry.

The chechen tree

The chechen tree

Chechen. Run for the hills if you encounter the shiny redbarked chechen, or black poisonwood tree, as the touch of its leaves will instigate a rash similar to poison oak. If luck prevails, then the soothing gumbo limbo tree won’t be too far away with a resin that is used as a treatment for gout, and whose leaves have been shown to possess anti‐inflammatory properties.

The mahogany tree
The mahogany tree

Mahogany. Also known as Swietenia macrophylla, it is one of three species that yields genuine mahogany timber and has a variety of names including cobano, venadillo or zapaton. Although it has been over exploited in making beautiful and lasting furniture, its seeds are being touted for its pharmacologically active compounds in treating numerous illnesses.

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