Traditional uses and benefits of Balata

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Balata Quick Facts
Name: Balata
Scientific Name: Manilkara bidentata
Origin Puerto Rico, widely distribute throughout the West Indies, and ranges from Mexico through Panama to northern South America, including the Guianas and Venezuela, to Peru, and to northern Brazil
Colors Initially green turning to yellow as they mature
Shapes Yellowish globose berry about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) in diameter
Flesh colors White
Taste Sweet and musky malty flavor
Health benefits Good for diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhage and paralysis of the limbs
The evergreen tree is called Manilkara bidentata by scientists. It is a member of the Sapodilla family, which is also called Sapotaceae Juss. Other plants in this family include the Star Apple (Chrysophylum cainito) and Sapodilla (Achras zapota). Balata is from Puerto Rico, but you can find it all over the West Indies, from Mexico to northern South America, including Venezuela, the Guianas, Peru, and northern Brazil. This plant is also known as Bulletwood, balatá, ausubo, massaranduba, quinilla, cow-tree, bully tree, common balata, Balata tree, bullet, bullet tree, and cherry Mahogany. It is used to make food, drugs, latex, and wood. The latex that this tree makes is very good and is used to make rubber. Even though it grows slowly, balata is sometimes grown for its shade and wood.

Balata Facts

Name Balata
Scientific Name Manilkara bidentata
Native Puerto Rico, widely distribute throughout the West Indies, and ranges from Mexico through Panama to northern South America, including the Guianas and Venezuela, to Peru, and to northern Brazil
Common Names Bulletwood, balatá, ausubo, massaranduba, quinilla, cow-tree, bully tree, common balata, Balata tree, bullet, bullet tree, cherry Mahogany
Name in Other Languages Afrikaans: Balata
Albanian: Balata
Amharic: Balata (ባላታ)
Arabic: Bilata (بلاطة), sbutat thunayiyat altasanun  (سبوتة ثنائية التسنن)
Armenian: Balat’a (բալաթա)
Azerbaijani: Balata
Basque: Balatondo
Bengali: Balata (bəˈlätə)
Brazil: Macaranduba, maparajuba
Bulgarian: Balata (балата)          
Burmese: Balata (bəˈlätə)           
Chinese: Bā lā tǎ, Bā lā tǎ shù (巴拉塔樹)
Croatian: Balata               
Czech: Balata
Danish: Balata  
Dutch: Balata    
English: Balata, Bulletwood, Common balata, Balata tree, bullet, bullet tree, bully tree, cherry Mahogany
Esperanto: Balata            
Estonian: Balata
Filipino: Balata
Finnish: Balata 
French: Balata, Bois de natte á feuilles de Poirier, bwa balata, bwa nwé, bwa négrès, sapotiy mawon, abeille, balata rouge, bois-noir
Georgian: Balat’a (ბალატა)
German: Balata , Balatabaum
Greek: Baláta (Μπαλάτα)
Guadeloupe: Balate, bois noir, sapotillier marron, sapotillier noir
Gujarati: Bālatā (બાલતા)
Hausa: Balata
Hebrew: בלאטה
Hindi: Balata (bəˈlätə)  
Hungarian: Balatára       
Icelandic: Balata              
Indonesian: Balata         
Irish: Balata       
Italian: Balata   
Japanese: Barata (バラタ),  Makaranduba (マカランドゥバ),      Masaranduba (マサランドゥバ)
Javanese: Balata              
Kannada: Bālāṭā (ಬಾಲಾಟಾ)
Kazakh: Balata (балата)
Korean: Balla ta (발라 타)
Kurdish: Balata 
Lao: Ba la ta (ບາລາຕາ)
Latin: Balata      
Latvian: Balata
Lithuanian: Balata
Macedonian: Balata (балата)
Malagasy: Balata
Malay: Balata
Malayalam: Bālata (ബാലത)
Maltese: Balata               
Marathi: Bālāṭā (बालाटा)
Martinique: Balate
Mexico: Chicozapote
Mongolian: Balata (балата)
Nepali: Bālāṭā (बालाटा)
Norwegian: Balata          
Oriya: ବାଲାଟା |
Panama: Nispero
Pashto: بالټا  
Persian: Balata (بالاتا), چوب گلوله   
Peru: Pamashto, quinilla
Polish: Balata    
Portuguese: Balata, Balata-verdadeira, Maçaranduba, Macaranduba
Punjabi: Bālatā  (ਬਾਲਤਾ)
Romanian: Balata
Russian: Balata (балата), Massaranduba (Массарандуба)           
Serbian: Balata (балата)
Sindhi: Balata (بالاتا)
Sinhala: Bālaṭā  (බාලටා)
Slovenian: Balata
Spanish: Balata, Acano, Ausubo, Balata, Balatá, Balata roja, Balato, Barbasco de monte, Caimitillo, Cohinillo, Cuberu, Leche de platano, Masaraduba,  Mazaraduba, Nisperillo, Níspero, Níspero de montaña, Níspero montañero, Palo de chicle, Pamashto, Pendare, Pulvio, Purba, Purbio, Purgüey, Purguo, Purgillo, Purgo blanco, Purtgo morado, Purvio, Quinilla, Quinilla colorada,  Trapichero, Yugo de charapa, zapote cimarrón, zapote mico
Sundanese: Balata
Suriname: Balata, bolletrie, parata
Swedish: Balata
Tajik: Balata (балата)
Tamil: Pālāṭṭā (பாலாட்டா)  
Telugu: Balata-bəˈlädə 
Thai: Balata-bəˈlädə       
Trinidad and Tobago: Gooseberry
Turkish: Balata 
Ukrainian: Balata (балата)
Urdu: بالٹا      
Uzbek: Balata
Venezuela: Acaná, pendare, purguo
Vietnamese: Balata
Welsh: Balata   
Zulu: Balata
Plant Growth Habit Very large evergreen forest tree
Growing Climates Moist coastal and limestone forests to lower mountain forests
Soil Thrives on a variety of soils ranging from clays through sands, including rocky soils, and on several different geologic formations
Plant Size 30-45 m (and exceptionally 50 m) tall and a diameter of 60-120 cm and branchless for up to 18 m
Bark Bark is darkish, thick and evenly fissured; the under bark is pinkish and contains a milky latex – the balata gum of commerce
Leaf Leaves are alternate, elliptical, entire, and 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) long.
Flowering season January to February
Flower Flowers are white, and are produced at the beginning of the rainy season.
Fruit Shape & Size Yellowish globose berry about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) in diameter, which is edible and usually consists of one or occasionally two seeds
Fruit Color Initially green turning to yellow as they mature
Flesh White, soft, and juicy
Seed Single, shiny, black seed
Taste Sweet and musky malty flavor and grainy texture
Propagation By seeds
Season April and May
Culinary Uses
  • The sap from some of the other species within the genus can be used as a substitute for cow’s milk.
  • The latex has the consistency and taste of cream, but overindulgence in it can result in severe constipation.

Plant Description

Balata is a huge evergreen tree with a thick crown of horizontal branches and wide, round buttresses at the base. It can grow to be 30 to 45 meters tall, and sometimes even up to 50 meters tall, with a trunk that is 1.3 to 2 meters in diameter. In some cases, large boles can be up to 18 meters away from any branches. Most of the time, this plant grows in moist coastal, limestone, and lower mountain forests. It can grow well in different types of soil, like clay, sand, and even rocky soil, and it can also grow on different types of rock. Balata bark is thick, dark, and has even cracks. The under bark is pink and has balata gum, which is a milky latex. This plant makes wood that is twice as dense as oak or maple. It is very heavy and very hard.

Leaves, flowers, and fruits 

The leaves of the balata tree are alternate, elliptical, and whole. They are grouped at the ends of the twigs. This leaf has a shiny green top and a light brown bottom. The tree has small, bright white or yellow flowers that grow in clusters along its branches at the start of the rainy season. After these flowers, a yellowish berry about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) in diameter, with one or sometimes two seeds grows. The seeds are shiny and black, and the pulp around them is sweet and sticky.

The leaves of the balata tree are used to treat paralysis in the limbs, and the latex from the stem is used to treat dysentery. This latex is called balata gum. The balata gum can be used for a lot of different things. For example, it can be used as a core for golf balls, as a filler in tooth fillings, and to make “mourning” jewelry.

Because it is so hard, heavy, tough, and strong, the wood from the balata tree is highly valued as a building material and for making furniture. It is very resilient to termites, fungi and dry borers. However, marine borers can damage it. The balata tree grows slowly and can handle strong winds very well.

Traditional uses and benefits of Balata

  • People use the latex from the plant’s stems to treat dysentery.
  • The bark has emetic properties.
  • A decoction made from the bark of this plant, Humiria sp. and Hymenaea sp.,  is used to treat dysentery.
  • Leaves are utilized for treating limb paralysis.
  • Balata leaves are utilized by people to cure diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhages.

Other Facts

  • The latex of this tree is used to make chicle, a product that is used a lot in industry.
  • Balata was often used as the outer layer of high-quality golf balls to increase their spin rate, though they don’t travel as far as those with a Surlyn cover.
  • In some areas, these trees have been known to produce sap for more than 25 years, which can be coagulated by fire or sun-drying and then used to make souvenirs or other items.
  • Gutta-percha is a natural latex made from the sap of the tree.
  • It can be molded into any shape and has been used to make ornate furniture, pistol grips, acid-resistant receptacles, “mourning” jewelry, and other things because of its dark color.
  • Gutta-percha has also been used a lot to make golf balls and as a temporary filling material for teeth and fillings in modern dentistry.
  • The wood of this tree is very hard, heavy, tough, strong, elastic, and durable, even when in contact with soil. This makes it resistant to fungi, dry wood borers, and termites, but not marine borers.
  • This strong, attractive wood, which looks like mahogany, is commercially valuable and widely used in the tropics for railway sleepers, heavy construction, furniture, turnery, flooring, violin bows, billiard cues, and more.
  • Due to its durability, strength and high wear resistance, timber is best for use in textile and pulp mill equipment.
  • The wood’s outstanding steam-bending features make it ideal for boat frames and other curved work.
  • Only 43% of the ausubo fruit is edible. The other 56.8% is made up of the skin (34.8% of the fruit) and the seed (22.2% of the fruit).






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