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Guava

Guava is a common tree in the tropics, which grows up to 10m m high. It is native to the Americas, but has now spread to other tropical regions. It has a distinctive bark that is light coloured and peels to show the layer beneath, similar to another member of that genus, pimento. Guava has rough, light-green leaves and the tree bears small white flowers. The fruit of the guava varies according to growing conditions and variety, but can be as big as an orange, with numerous small seeds.

Traditional Uses

Guava Fruit & Leaves

Scientific Name:

(Psidium guajava - Myrtaceae)
Other Names:
Guayabo, Gouyave, Jambu, Bayabas
Parts Used:
Fruit, Leaves, Buds, Bark 

In Jamaica guava is used traditionally for diarrhoea and for bathing wounds. Similar use is made of guava in the rest of the Caribbean, where the leaves and buds are used for diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach aches. In Ghana, guava is also used for stomach problems and diarrhoea and the leaves are chewed for toothache.

In the Canary Islands guava is used for vomiting and nausea as well as for diarrhoea. In South America, the leaves and bark of the guava tree are used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea. It is also used for vaginal discharges and menstrual pain and as a gargle for sore throats.  It can be applied externally for skin ulcers and vaginal irritation. Guava is also beneficial for colds and coughs.

Similar uses are made of guava in the Phillipines, it is also used to reduce uterine haemorrhaging. The leaves are rolled up and placed into the nostrils to stop nosebleeds.

Modern Research & Uses

Modern research has proven that guava's effectiveness in treating dysentery and diarrhoea is due mainly to high levels of quercetins. A standardised extract is now available and a clinical trial in humans has shown that both the guava leaf extract and the juice are effective in treating rotaviral enteritis in infants.

Guava is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-amoebic, anti-spasmodic and antimalarial. Lab tests have shown that extracts of guava leaves and bark are toxic to a number of bacteria. Animal trials have indicated that leaf extracts might be useful in treating irregular heart beat. Other research has suggested that guava could also be effective in reducing cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

One study identified high anti-oxidant activity in a guava leaf extract using three different methods. This activity was attributed to the presence of high levels of polyphenols in the leaf extract.

Ongoing research indicates that other chemical compounds in the guava have anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory and hepato-protective properties.

Plant Chemicals

The plant chemicals in guava include: tannins, terpenes, quercetin, polyphenols, alpha-linoleic acid, ascorbic acid, benzaldehyde, carotenoids, flavonoids, leucocyanidins, oxalic acid, guavacoumaric acid, guaijavarin, nerolidol, ursolic acid, pectin, isoquercetin and lysine.

Other Uses

Guava is rich in vitamin C & A. The fruits are used both domestically and commercially to make preserves, jams and a local Caribbean delicacy called 'guava cheese'. Guava is also made into drinks usually in combination with other fruits. The leaves can be used as a tenderizer for meat.

In Indonesia and other parts of South-East Asia, the leaves and twigs are boiled and used to dye silk and cotton fabric. The bark can be used in leather tanning.

References

  • Ayensu, ES – Medicinal Plants of the West Indies – (1981) – Reference Publications Inc.
  • Guttierez, RM et al- Guajava: A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 117(1) 1-27 (2008) April 17
  • Jaen, J - Canary Folk Medicine - (1999) - Centro de la Cultura Popular Canaria
  • Jimenez-Escrig, A et al - Guava Fruit (Psidium gouajava) as a New Source of Anti-oxidant Dietary Fibre. Journal of Agric Food Chem (2001): 49(11) 5489-5493
  • Mitchell & Ahmad - A Review of Medicinal Plant Research at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica 1948-2001 - WI Med J (2006);55(4):243
  • Taylor, L - The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs - (2005) - Square One Publishers
  • www.hort.purdue.edu
  • www.agripinoy.net/medicinal-plants.bayabas