Herbs & Plants

Guaiacum officinale


Botanical Name: Guaiacum officinale
Family: Zygophyllaceae
Genus: Guaiacum
Species: G. officinale
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Zygophyllales
Synonym: Lignum Vitae.

Common Names: Roughbark lignum-vitae, Guaiacwood or Gaïacwood

Habitat: Guaiacum officinale is native to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America.

Guaiacum officinale is a small tree. It grows very slowly , reaching about 10 m in height with a trunk diameter of 60 cm. The tree is essentially evergreen throughout most of its native range. The leaves are compound, 2.5 to 3 cm in length, and 2 cm wide. The blue flowers have five petals that yield a bright-yellow-orange fruit with red flesh and black seeds….click & see the pictures

The tree blooms with pretty rich blue flowers, the trunk is a greenish-brown colour, stem almost always crooked, bark furrowed; the wood is extraordinarily heavy, solid and dense, fibres cross-grained; pinnate leaves, oval obtuse; fruit obcordate capsule seeds solitary, hard, oblong. The old heart wood is dark green, the sap wood little in quantity and of a much lighter yellowish colour; the wood is largely used by turners, where weight is not an obstacle; it is very hard and durable, suitable for making black sheaves, pestles, pulleys, rulers, skittle boards, etc.; it has a slight acrid taste and is odourless, unless heated, when it emits an agreeable scent. The bark yields 1 per cent volatile oil of delicious fragrance.

Guaiacum officinale is the national flower of Jamaica

Parts Used: Resin, bark & wood.

Medicinal Uses:
The wood is very little used in medicine; it obtained a great reputation about the sixteenth century, when it was brought into notice as a cure for syphilis and other diseases; later on the resin obtained from the wood was introduced and now is greatly preferred, for medicinal use, to the wood. The wood is sometimes sold by chemists in the form of fine shavings, and as such called Lignum Vitae, which are turned green by exposure to the air, and bluish green by the action of nitric fumes. This test proves its genuiness.

It is a mild laxative and diuretic. For tonsilitis it is given in powdered form. Specially useful for rheumatoid arthritis, also in chronic rheumatism and gout, relieving the pain and inflammation between the attacks, and lessening their recurrence if doses are continued. It acts as an acrid stimulant, increasing heat of body and circulation; when the decoction is taken hot and the body is kept warm, it acts as a diaphoretic, and if cool as a diuretic. Also largely used for secondary syphilis, skin diseases and scrofula.

Other Uses:
The leaves are sometimes used as a substitute for soap.

Guaiacum Resin. This is obtained from both the above trees and is procured by raising one end of the log and firing it; this melts the resin, which runs out of a hole cut in the other end, and is then caught into vessels. The resin is found in round or ovoid tears; some are imported the size of walnuts, but usually it is in large blocks; these break easily; the fracture is clean and glassy, in thin pieces, colour yellow-reddish brown. The powder is grey, and must be kept in dark-coloured bottles, as exposure to the light and air soon turns it green.


Is there a way to help your child avoid the common cold?

In the late 19th century Sir William Osler, one of the founding doctors of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, said that colds should be treated with contempt. It’s not known if Dr. Osler was suffering from a cold at the time, but this fact is known – we all get them from time to time and some kids get more than their share. It is nearly impossible for your child to avoid catching a cold. Adults average 2 to 3 colds per year and children 6 to 10, depending on their age and exposure. Youngsters are particularly susceptible to colds because of their close contact with other children, they have yet to learn good personal hygiene, such as hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes, and they constantly have their hands in their mouth and nose.

Yet, there are some things that can be done to reduce the frequency of colds in children (and adults, as well)
. First, parents should get to know their enemy, how we are infected, and if we can discover any weaknesses in our opponent. Second, parents should do all they can to keep their child’s immune system strong.

The enemy is one of over 100 different viruses, with strange sounding names like rhinovirus and adenovirus. The viruses first contaminate the hands of a child or adult with a cold as a result of nose blowing, covering sneezes, and touching the nose. The virus also contaminates objects (particularly toys) and surfaces in the environment of the cold sufferer. Casual contact transfers the virus to the hands of a non-infected child or adult, who then infects his or her self by touching their nose or rubbing their eyes (virus deposited in the eye promptly goes down the tear duct into the nose). Touching contaminated toys and surfaces, where they can survive up to three hours, can also pick up the virus. Less often, an adult or child can be infected when they breathe virus-containing droplets that were recently expelled in coughs and sneezes by an infected person (did you know that airborne droplets can travel up to 25 feet?).

Once infected, it takes only 8-12 hours for the viruses to begin multiplying and another 10-12 hours for cold symptoms to begin. Therefore, the only defense against the virus is to prevent this uninvited guest from entering the body in the first place.

Teach Your Kids to Wash Their Hands.
80% of all infectious disease could be eliminated by more frequent and proper hand washing with soap and water. This is the first line of defense against colds. It takes lots of soap, hot water, and 15 seconds of scrubbing to do any good. Remind your kids that they should never put their hands in their eyes or to their nose without washing them first.

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Encourage your kids to use tissue instead cloth handkerchiefs
Handkerchiefs catch and retain the viruses. Encourage your youngster to use paper facial tissue instead, and then throw them away immediately after each use. And remember to remind them to wash your hands after blowing your nose. Infectious disease specialists encourage parents to tell their kids to “blow, throw and wash” theory. After they blow their nose, be sure that they throw the tissue away…don’t carry it around… and then, wash your hands.

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Reduce your child’s social life. If you know that there is a high incidence of colds in your community, try to keep your child’s contact with other children to a minimum. Limit your youngster’s time they spend with infected kids.

Get some fresh air
During the cold season, kids tend to stay indoors and the germs spread faster this way. By opening windows and doors for a few minutes, and allowing air to circulate, you can push out airborne viruses. Viruses love stagnant air.

Help keep your child’s nasal passages clear Artificial heating tends to be very drying, so consider using a humidifier in the home to keep their air moist enough so as not to dry out the mucus membranes of the nose. Likewise, an air filter in an indoor environment, especially a HEPA type filter, can help remove airborne dust and germs.

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Eliminate Cigarette Smoke from Your Child‘s Environment Children exposed to passive cigarette smoke will get five times the number of colds when compared to youngsters who live in a smoke-free home.

Get Plenty of Sleep Our moms were right on when they encouraged us to get enough sleep. Although researchers have not directly proven that sleep deprivation causes more colds, some studies have sleep loss of three to four hours can cause a 50 percent decline in immune response.

When possible avoid closed-in spaces. Airplanes are virus-breading grounds. Cold viruses can’t escape these poorly ventilated areas. In addition, these areas are notorious for providing low humidity. This dries our mucous membranes that normally trap and dispose of viral invaders. A closed in space is just one more opportunity for the virus to spread to your child.

Health Problems & Solutions

First aid In Fever

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Fever is one of your body’s reactions to infection. What’s normal for you may be a little higher or lower than the average temperature of 98.6 F (37 C). That’s why it’s hard to say just what a fever is. But a “significant” fever is usually defined as an oral or ear temperature of 102 F or a rectal temperature of 103 F. For very young children and infants, however, even slightly elevated temperatures may indicate a serious infection. In newborns, a subnormal temperature   rather than a fever   also may be a sign of serious illness.

Don’t treat fevers below 101 F with any medications unless advised to do so by your doctor. If you have a fever of 101 F or higher, your doctor may suggest taking over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Adults may also use aspirin. But don’t give aspirin to children. It may trigger a rare, but potentially fatal, disorder known as   Reye’s syndrome.

How to take a temperature
You can choose from several types of thermometers. Today most have digital readouts. Some take the temperature quickly from the ear canal and can be especially useful for young children and older adults. Other thermometers can be used rectally, orally or under the arm. If you use a digital thermometer, be sure to read the instructions, so you know what the beeps mean and when to read the thermometer. Under normal circumstances, temperatures tend to be highest around 4 p.m. and lowest around 4 a.m.

Because of the potential for mercury exposure or ingestion, glass mercury thermometers have been phased out and are no longer recommended.

Rectally (for infants)
To take your child’s temperature rectally:

* Place a dab of petroleum jelly or other lubricant on the bulb.
* Lay your child on his or her stomach.
* Carefully insert the bulb one-half inch to one inch into the rectum.
* Hold the bulb and child still for three minutes. To avoid injury, don’t let go of the thermometer while it’s inside your child.
* Remove and read the temperature as recommended by the manufacturer.
* A rectal temperature reading is generally 1 degree F higher than an oral reading.

To take your temperature orally:

* Place the bulb under your tongue.
* Close your mouth for the recommended amount of time, usually three minutes.
* If you’re using a nondigital thermometer, remove it from your mouth and rotate it slowly until you can read the temperature accurately.

Under the arm (axillary)
Although it’s not the most accurate way to take a temperature, you can also use an oral thermometer for an armpit reading:

* Place the thermometer under your arm with your arm down.
* Hold your arms across your chest.
* Wait five minutes or as recommended by your thermometer’s manufacturer. Then remove the thermometer and read the temperature.
* An axillary reading is generally 1 degree F less than an oral reading

Get medical help for a fever in these cases:

* If a baby is younger than 2 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher. Even if your baby doesn’t have other signs or symptoms, call your doctor just to be safe.
* If a baby is older than 2 months of age and has a temperature of 102 F or higher.
* If a newborn has a lower-than-normal temperature — less than 95 F rectally.
* If a child younger than age 2 has a fever for longer than one day, or a child age 2 or older has a fever for longer than three days. If your child has a fever after being left in a very hot car, seek medical care immediately.
* If an adult has a temperature of more than 104 F or has had a fever for more than three days.

Call your doctor immediately if any of these signs or symptoms accompanies a fever:

* A severe headache
* Severe swelling of the throat
* Unusual skin rash
* Unusual eye sensitivity to bright light
* A stiff neck and pain when the head is bent forward
* Mental confusion
* Persistent vomiting
* Difficulty breathing or chest pain
* Extreme listlessness or irritability
* Abdominal pain or pain when urinating
* Any other unexplained symptoms