Guajacum officinale

Guajacum officinale

The guaiacwood known as Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale L.), is an arboreal species belonging to the Zygophyllaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Sapindales Order, Zygophyllaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Guaiacum and to the G. officinale Species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Guaiacum verticale Ortega (1798);
– Guaiacum multijugum Stokes (1812);
– Guaiacum parvifolium Nutt. (1849);
– Guaiacum sloanei Shuttlew. ex A.Gray (1852);
– Guaiacum guatemalense Planch. ex Hemsl. (1879);
– Guaiacum guatemalense Planch. ex Rydb. & Vail (1910).

Etymology –
The term Guaiacum derives from the Spanish “guayaco” or “gayacan”, in turn derived from an indigenous name, “guaiac”.
The specific officinal epithet derives from offícina, a medieval laboratory, as a usable plant in pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine, liqueur, perfumery and the like.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The guaiacwood is a plant native to Central America and today it is found mainly in Southern Mexico, the Antilles, Colombia and Venezuela.

Description –
The Guaiacum officinale is an evergreen arboreal species, with slow growth, which can reach a height of 10 m.
It is characterized by a very dark, heavy and resinous wood.
The leaves are composed of 4 to 28 leaves.
The flowers are small, about 2 cm wide, blue-blue in color.

Cultivation –
For the cultivation of this plant it must be taken into account that it is a particularly slow growing species and can be cultivated in the tropical and subtropical climate zones in full sun, to grow at best, or slight shade; on the other hand, he has no particular details regarding the soil, even the poor. Well rooted plants can also withstand periods of drought. It is a plant of great ornamental and landscape value, it can be used as an isolated specimen or in rows to flank avenues, resists wind and salt air, can therefore be used near the sea.
It can also be cultivated in pots, where it requires limited pruning.

Uses and Traditions –
Guaiacum officinale, also known as Lignum vitae for its wood with properties of high mechanical strength, density and rigidity, is a plant whose medicinal properties were once used in the treatment of TB and syphilis (wood decoctions), while its sap has been registered in the French Pharmacopoeia since 1884 and enters the composition of the syrup composed of Sarsapariglia.
The flower of this plant is the national emblem of Jamaica.
The wood of this plant is one of the heaviest in existence, in fact it has a density that in the anhydrous state can reach about 1350 kg / m³. due to its characteristics it is used to make wooden sculptures and handles, due to its hardness and strength.
From Guaiacum officinale exudes a resin whose most important active ingredient is guaiacol as well as resins (guaiaconico acid, guaianetico, guaiacico), saponins (guaiasaponina), vanillina, terpenic substances (guaiaguttina, guaiazulene), essential oil (5-6%) , components that give it balsamic, expectorant, diuretic, sudoriferous, purifying, laxative, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties.
Due to its properties the guaiac is used for the treatment of rheumatism, poisoning, constipation, respiratory, for hard or soft or medium cellulite, lymphatic, free anti-radicals, rejuvenating, strongly draining.
Guaiac infusions are used in the areas of origin in the treatment of syphilis, although its effectiveness has not yet been demonstrated.
But be careful because the uncontrolled ingestion of guaiac can cause irritation to the mucous membranes of the digestive tract and scarlet-like skin rashes, the resin that exudes from the wood, on the other hand, can cause contact dermatitis.
The main indications for which this plant is used are:
– Purulent and hypertrophic tonsils or burning angina with abundant sweating. Mucopurulent bronchitis and pleurisy;
– Choleriform diarrhea of ​​children to be associated with Arsenicum album or Veratrum viride if there is dehydration;
– Gouty rheumatism, arthralgias that worsen with heat and improve with cold applications;
It can be used in homeopathy and in this case the resin is used, consisting of organic acids (guaiaconico, guaiaretico, guaiacico), esters of guaiacol, vanillin, saponins, etc.
In homeopathy, actions are noted on the digestive and respiratory mucous membranes, on the joints and peri-articular connective (edema, muscle and tendon pain), at the level of the digestive system (dry mucous membranes, flatulence and watery diarrhea) and of the respiratory (fat cough) with mucopurulent catarrh and dry cough with chest pains in deep inhalation).

Preparation Mode –
The guaiacwood , as well as the uses of its wood for various types of processing, is used both as a mother tincture and as infusions for the treatment of various syndromes and diseases, it is also used in the homeopathic sector starting from the resin with different dilution in operation of the recommended remedy.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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