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Botanical Name : Hippomane mancinella
Species: H. mancinella
Common Name :Manchineel .
The name “manchineel” (sometimes written “manchioneel”) as well as the specific epithet mancinella is from Spanish manzanilla (“little apple”), from the superficial resemblance of its fruit and leaves those of an apple tree. A present-day Spanish name is in fact manzanilla de la muerte, “little apple of death”. This refers to the fact that manchineel is one of the most poisonous trees in the world.
Manchineel is a tree reaching up to 15 meters high with a greyish bark, shiny green leaves and spikes of small greenish flowers. Its fruits, which are similar in appearance to an apple, are green or greenish-yellow when ripe.
The manchineel tree can be found near to (and on) coastal beaches. It provides excellent natural windbreaks and its roots stabilize the sand, thus helping to prevent beach erosion.
Manchineel is occasionally used in folk medicine to treat parasitic disease of the skin. It is diuretic, and in 2-drop doses is reputed actively purgative. The Cubans make use of it in tetanus. It has been used in homeopathic medicine
The tree and its parts contain strong toxins, some unidentified. Its milky white sap contains Phorbol and other skin irritants, producing strong allergic dermatitis. Standing beneath the tree during rain will cause blistering of the skin from mere contact with this liquid (even a small drop of rain with the milky substance in it will cause the skin to blister). Burning the tree may cause blindness if the smoke reaches the eyes. The fruit can also be fatal if eaten. Many trees carry a warning sign, while others are marked with a red “X” on the trunk to indicate danger. In the French Antilles the trees are often marked with a painted red band a few feet above the ground.
The tree contains 12-deoxy-5-hydroxyphorbol-6gamma, 7alpha-oxide, hippomanins, mancinellin, and sapogenin, phloracetophenone-2,4-dimethylether is present in the leaves, while the fruits possess physostigmine.
The Caribs used the sap of this tree to poison their arrows and would tie captives to the trunk of the tree, ensuring a slow and painful death. A poultice of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) was used by the Arawaks and Taíno as an antidote against such arrow poisons. The Caribs were known to poison the water supply of their enemies with the leaves. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was struck by an arrow that had been poisoned with Manchineel sap during battle with the Calusa in Florida, dying shortly thereafter.
To Europeans, the manchineel quickly became notorious. The heroine of Giacomo Meyerbeer‘s 1865 opera L’Africaine commits suicide by lying under a manchineel tree and inhaling the plant’s vapours. In the 1956 film Wind Across The Everglades, a notorious poacher named Cottonmouth (played by Burl Ives) ties a victim to the trunk of a manchineel tree.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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