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Andiroba, or carapa guianensis, is a tree related to the mahogany tree and grows in the Amazon basin. It is a giant of the rainforest, reaching heights of over 90 feet (27 m). The andiroba tree is easily recognizable by the large, fragrant, off-white flowers it exhibits when in bloom. A mature andiroba tree can also produce 150 pounds (68 kg) of nuts, which resemble four-cornered chestnuts and measure 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) across. The andiroba nut contains several kernels of a pale yellow oil, which has many herbal and medicinal uses.
Andiroba oil is valued for its insect-repelling properties. It has long been used in candles, soaps, and as an anti-insect lantern oil by the indigenous people of Brazil and the Amazon basin. It can also be used topically both to repel insects and to soothe and treat bites from mosquitoes, flies, and other pests.
In addition to its insect-repelling properties, andiroba oil is also used as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. Some users apply it to joints to relieve the pain and swelling from arthritis. When rubbed into bruises and wounds, it is believed to reduce pain and also seems to have antibiotic properties. The oil can also be ingested, and is believed to soothe sore throats, aid in digestion, and even eliminate intestinal parasites. A few drops of andiroba oil in the ear have been used as an herbal remedy for ear infections, as well as a treatment for ear mites in both humans and animals.
In addition to the oil, each part of the andiroba tree has been used as herbal medicine or remedy. The leaves are brewed into a tea to aid digestion when consumed, and used to reduce pain and swelling when applied as a compress. The flower has been studied as an anti-cancer agent, especially with skin and uterine cancers, although further study is needed on the plant's efficacy in this capacity. Andiroba bark has been noted to have antibacterial properties.
Besides the herbal and medicinal properties of the andiroba tree, the wood is valued highly as well. Its resemblance to mahogany has made it popular in furniture building, and it seems that the wood retains its insect-repelling properties even after the manufacturing process. Furniture crafted from the andiroba tree exhibits the beauty of mahogany plus has the advantage of naturally repelling termites and other pests.
The various herbal, medicinal, and structural advantages of the andiroba tree are many. The tree has been, to a certain extent, over-harvested in the rainforest because of its value. Fortunately, the tree is grown relatively easily from nursery-started seedlings, so replanting is very feasible to meet the current and future needs of the andiroba market.
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