|Bilimbi Quick Facts
|southeast Asia but now found growing throughout the tropics
|Green turning to yellowish green or white when ripe
|Ellipsoid-obovoid berry, 4–10 cm long, faintly 5-angular, crowned by a thin, red, star-shaped calyx
|Raw: Too sour and astringent Ripe: Tart, tangy, acidic, and sharp notes
|Vitamin C (17.22%)
Vitamin B2 (2.00%)
Vitamin B3 (1.89%)
|Control Diabetes, Obesity, Antibiotic Effect, Control Hypertension, Treatment of Allergies, Treatment of Mumps, Hemorrhoids, Reduce Fever and Flu, Painful Muscles, Cough Syrup, Treatment of STD, Swollen Joints, Bone Health, Reduce Pimples and Brighten Skin, Insect Bites
Bilimbi is a small, attractive, long-lived, perennial tree that grows about 16 to 33 ft. (5-10 m) in height. The plant is widely cultivated and freely escaping along rivers and in secondary vegetation. It grows on a wide range of soil from sandy to limestone soil but does best on rich, well-drained, sandy-loam or clayey loam with plenty of organic matter. Leaves are alternate, densely crowded at the top of branches, imparipinnate; 30–60 cm long, with 11–37 alternate or sub opposite leaflets, ovate or oblong to lanceolate, with obliquely rounded base and acuminate tip, 2–10 cm long by 1.25–1.5 cm wide, downy; medium-green on the upper surface, pale on the underside.
Flower & fruit
Flower is bisexual, pentamerous and 10–20 mm long. Sepals are ovate-lanceolate, 4 mm and pubescent. Petals are reddish purple, 13–18 × 3 mm. Stamens are all fertile. The fruits are small, with cylindrical-elliptical shape. It is around 4-10 cm long and 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The fruit is green when young turning to yellowish green or white when ripe. The fruit is glossy with a thin skin, juicy and very acid. Seeds are flattened disc shaped, small (6 mm) and brown. The fruits are attached to the tree trunk. It’s common to see a bilimbi tree trunk full of fruits during fruiting season. The fruit is crunchy when it’s unripe. When ripe, the fruit falls to the ground. Once harvested, bilimbi fruit has short shelf life, only 5 days. Its skin is also easily bruised just by handling. Because of these reasons, it is difficult to transport these fruits over long distance.
The fruits can be preserved by sun drying. The dried bilimbi fruits are called “asam sunti”, used in many Asian soups and curries. Most of bilimbi fruits taste sour due to high content of oxalic acid, except the “kamias” variety from Philippines which is sweet-sour and can be eaten raw. Since it is considered too sour to be eaten raw, bilimbi fruit is usually used in cuisines, such as salads, fish soups and curries. The high acidity gives refreshing taste to the cuisines. Meanwhile, bilimbi fruit is used in traditional medicine throughout Asia because of its high acidic properties.
Bilimbi tree is found in tropical countries throughout the world. It is supposed to have originated in Indonesia or Malaysia. Bilimbi trees can be commonly found growing in home gardens throughout Southeast Asia. It is also cultivated in many parts of the Caribbean and central and southern America, where it is known as Mimbro. It is also commercially grown in Australia. Bilimbi fruit have been traditionally used for therapeutic purposes, such as for the treatment of diabetes and hypertension. The oldest record of the plant was found in Egypt in the 14th century. The Bilimbi tree grows best in warm, sunny climates, where temperatures are within the range of 23 to 30 degrees Celsius. It prefers well-drained, sandy soil.
Health benefits of Bilimbi
Bilimbi plant has numerous health benefits, from the fruits, leaves and young stems. Bilimbi fruit consists of antioxidants and has astringent effect due to its high acid. As a result, here are some of the popular health benefits of bilimbi you never know it before.
1. Control Diabetes
Bilimbi fruits are known to reduce blood sugar level. There are 2 ways of controlling blood sugar level: first, making the bilimbi fruits into juice and drink it just like any other fruit juice. The second boil mashed bilimbi fruits with 1 cup of water until half of the water is evaporated. Then take the decoction by draining the stew and drink it 2 times a day.
2. Treatment of Obesity
Bilimbi fruits are used as a traditional medicine to control obesity in India. Native people consider that bilimbi fruit contains anti-hyper-lipidemic agents, so it can prevent weight gain. As we know, obesity can lead into various diseases. And it doesn’t look good either; obesity is frowning upon in many cultures because it displays lack of self-control and lack of self-respect. Obesity also makes our skin and hair look dull and old.
3. Antibiotic Effect
Sap from young stems and the leaves are used in traditional medicine to reduce swelling, rheumatism, itch, and insect bites. Young stems and leaves are mashed with 3-4 cloves of garlic and made into smooth paste. Paste is applied to the affected area of the skin. The astringent effect will reduce the swelling and pain in rheumatism, also reducing the swelling caused by skin eruptions and insect bites.
4. Treatment of Allergies
Allergy is a condition caused by the hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system towards some particular things outside of the body. Particular things can be foods, drugs, air, metals, etc. The symptoms may include red eyes, breathing disturbance, runny nose, itching on the skin, even more serious ones like Steven-Johnson syndrome. Drinking bilimbi fruit juice or bilimbi leaves infusion regularly helps to reduce the allergies.
5. Control Hypertension
Hypertension is a condition related with the rise of blood pressure in the arteries. Bilimbi fruit has been used traditionally to control hypertension. Bilimbi fruits are boiled with 3 cups of water until half of the water has evaporated, and then the decoction can be taken once it’s lukewarm. It is recommended to drink this decoction every morning for better result.
6. Treatment of Mumps
Mumps is a disease caused by mumps virus. This virus usually attacks parotid salivary glands, can be one or both parotid glands. The disease results in painful swelling in parotid glands. Applying the paste of young stems and leaves of bilimbi with garlic can give positive effect in reducing the swelling.
Bilimbi leaf tea is beneficial for people suffering from the painful and embarrassing problem called hemorrhoids, which is also sometimes known as piles. The anti-inflammatory properties of bilimbi leaves can help in reducing swelling down there, resulting in reduced pain and bleeding, too.
8. Reduce Fever and Flu
Bilimbi fruit decoction is used for centuries to treat fever. Flower is made into infusion for treating cold and cough. The high vitamin C in this fruit helps strengthen immune system.
9. Painful Muscles
Leaves of the bilimbi tree are pounded and turned either into a paste or poultice, which may then be applied directly on painful muscles. Unlike conventional painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, bilimbi leaves help ease muscle pain without causing unfavorable side effects.
10. Cough Syrup
Bilimbi fruit extract has been added to cough syrup, due to its positive effects in reducing coughs and runny nose. Sour taste also makes the cough syrup more palatable.
11. Treatment of STD
Sun-dried fruits and leaves are used to treat STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases, a.k.a Venereal Diseases) in Malaysia. Some sun-dried fruits and leaves are boiled with 3 glasses of water until half of the water evaporates, and then the decoction can be taken 2 times a day. Flower infusion is used to treat thrush.
12. Swollen Joints
Paste or poultice prepared from bilimbi leaves is highly effective for dealing with joints that are swollen, stiff and achy. It’s due to the fact that the leaves possess both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. By the way, tea out of bilimbi leaves may also be taken internally for relief from swollen joints from within.
13. Bone Health
Teeth and bones usually become weaker and less dense as we grow old. Calcium supplements might be a good option, but filling up on calcium-rich food is much better. Kamias or bilimbi fruit is the most prominent and can support your entire skeletal structure. Phosphorus complements calcium by increasing the mineral’s effectively by adding density and strength to teeth and bones.
14. Reduce Pimples and Brighten Skin
Oxalic acid and vitamin A found in bilimbi fruits helps reducing pimples, soothing the painful inflamed ones. Vitamin C helps make the skin brighter, reduce black spots and keep the skin tight because it promotes the production of collagen, a substance needed to keep the skin tones.
To remove the pimples, put mashed bilimbi fruits on clean face as a face mask. Let it sit at least 30 minutes or until the mask dry, then wash the face with warm water. Do this every day, for at least 3 days. You can also add bilimbi fruits in your juice or fruits to add nutrients and refreshing taste. With bilimbi face mask and drinking bilimbi juice regularly, our face will look brighter, youthful and black spots will go away.
15. Insect Bites
Paste prepared from bilimbi leaves is an age-old remedy for insect bites. Simply daub the paste on trouble spots to immediately attain relief from the throbbing pain. Paste out of the leaves of the bilimbi tree is also very good at preventing those insect bites from swelling, as well as keeping scarring at bay.
1. Making Furniture
Bilimbi tree can grow rapidly, mainly in tropical area with plenty of rain. Woods are excellent for carpentry, such as making home furniture.
2. Ornamental Plant
Bilimbi tree is ideal to plant in the backyards and gardens because of its medium size and the shade it provides. The purple flowers are beautiful with lime-green fruits hanging on every branches and trunk, making the tree look nice and “prosperous”. In India, the bilimbi trees have gone wild in warmest region of the country. It’s good to have plants at home, as it can increase the flow of oxygen around.
3. Cleaning and Bleaching
High oxalic acid in bilimbi fruits help to clean rusts and bleach clothes without changing the colors. Javanese people of Indonesia and Malaysians use mashed fresh fruits to clean keris (traditional weapon) and it’s sheath. To bleach clothes, simply put mashed fresh fruits on the dirty spot of the clothes, add some detergent and wash it as usual.
Traditional uses and benefits of Bilimbi
- Bilimbi has been widely used in traditional medicine for cough, cold, itches, acne, boils, rheumatism, scurvy, syphilis, diabetes, whooping cough and hypertension in tropical Asia.
- Leaves are used externally to prevent itching in Thailand.
- They can also be used to cure syphilis when taken internally fresh or fermented.
- It is used to cure beriberi, biliousness and coughs.
- Fresh or fermented leaves of bilimbi are used as a treatment for venereal disease in Malaysia.
- Leaf infusion is a remedy for coughs and is taken after childbirth as a tonic.
- Leaf decoction is taken as a medicine to relieve rectal inflammation.
- It seems to be effective against coughs and thrush.
- Bilimbi flowers are mixed with bird’s nest, milk, and steam and taken to mitigate cough in children in Sarawak.
- The Bidayuhs pound the leaves with bird’s nest, fennel seeds, shallot, rock sugar and water and the mixture steam and consumed while still warm to remove wind in children.
- Leaves are applied as a warm paste for pruritus or poultice on itches, swellings of mumps and rheumatism, and on skin eruptions in Philippines.
- Decoction of the leaves is used to treat inflammation of the rectum in Java.
- Javanese also apply a paste of them for mumps, rheumatism, and pimples.
- They are applied on bites from poisonous creatures.
- Flower infusion is used for thrush, cold, and cough.
- Fruits combined with pepper in a preparation called “rujak mircha” are eaten to induce sweating when people are feeling “under the weather” in Java.
- Paste of pickled bilimbi is smeared all over the body to hasten recovery after a fever.
- Fruit conserve is administered as a treatment for coughs, beriberi and biliousness.
- Syrup prepared from the fruit is taken as a cure for fever and inflammation and to stop rectal bleeding and alleviate internal hemorrhoids.
- Fruit is an astringent stomachic and refrigerant and its juice is made into syrup as a cooling drink for reducing fever in India.
- It is antiscorbutic and the syrup is used in some minor cases of hemorrhage from the bowels as well as the stomach and internal hemorrhoids.
- Fruit of the bilimbi was used in folk medicine to control obesity in some villages in the Thiruvananthapuram district of India.
- Leaf paste is applied as a poultice on itches, swellings, mumps and rheumatism and in other types of skin eruption in Philippines.
- Juice from the fruit is used in a concoction for fevers, a paste can be made from the leaves and applied tropically to cure mumps, rheumatism, and pimples, or brewed to treat syphilis, and an infusion of the flowers is used to treat coughs and thrush in some Asian Traditions.
- Leaves, either fresh or after fermentation, are used to treat venereal diseases in Malaysia.
- Infusion of leaves is given for coughs and it is taken as a tonic by women after child birth.
- Infusion of flowers in boiling water is recommended as an effective remedy for coughs and thrush.
- Bilimbi fruit mixed with black pepper is prescribed for ailments caused by weather changes in Java.
- Fruit syrup is used as a cure for fever and inflammation, and to stop bleeding from the rectum and alleviating internal hemorrhoids.
- Leaf paste is used as an antidote for poisonous animals.
- Fruit is also known to control internal bleeding in the stomach.
Ayurvedic Health benefits of Bilimbi
- Venereal Diseases: Leaves are used for treating Venereal Diseases.
- Rectal Inflammation: Take 2 teaspoons leaf decoction of Bilimbi once a day.
- Cough: Prepare leaves decoction. Drink two or three times a day.
- Skin Diseases: Apply the paste of Bilimbi leaves over infected skin.
- Rheumatism: Heat few leaves of Bilimbi in pan. Bandage them over affected areas.
- Oral Thrush: Prepare a decoction using leaves of Bilimbi. Swish with it.
- Beriberi: Extract juice from fruits of Bilimbi. Drink 15 ml of it thrice a day.
- Tapeworms: Grind dried Bilimbi nuts to make powder. Take half tsp of it with lukewarm water.
- Whooping cough: 10 pieces of cucumber tree is washed, crushed and add two tablespoons of salt water. Strain and drink twice a day.
- Pain of cavities: 5 pieces of Cucumber Tree chewed with a little salt, then stuffed in a hollow tooth.
- Rheumatism: One ounce of Cucumber Tree leaves, 15 peppercorns, cloves 10 seeds, finely ground. Add white vinegar to taste until it resembles porridge and dab on a sore spot.
- Acne: Take the fruit and Cucumber Tree taste finely ground. Potions squeezed with salt to taste and used to rub the face with acne.
- Tinea versicolor: 10 pieces of Cucumber Tree washed and then mash until smooth. Add a little whiting, kneaded until smooth. Herb used to rub the affected skin twice daily phlegm.
- Mumps. Ten twigs and leaves Cucumber Tree plus four grains of red onion until finely ground. Then the concoction smeared on a sore spot.
- Cough: Mix a handful of Cucumber Tree flowers and pegaga juice that has been crushed, red onions 2 seeds and 1 stick of cinnamon bark of the little finger. Then boiled and filtered water was boiled. Then drink by mixing a little honey three times a day.
- Lower High blood pressure: For those who suffer from diseases like high blood pressure, pick three Cucumber Tree fruit seeds. Cut into small pieces and boiled. Drinking boiled water after breakfast every day.
- Babies: For babies who attacked jaundice also bathed with Cucumber Tree leaves boiled water to ease it.
- Fruit is extremely sour, high in vitamin C and is eaten raw in salad, ulam, rojak, jeruk, acar, or in cooking especially in curries in place of tamarind or tomato as is done in Malaysia.
- Fruit is commonly used in the popular Malay dishes such Masak Lemak Ikan and Asam Pedas.
- It is also processed into jams, jellies, cooling drinks, wine, pickles and preserves.
- It can replace mango in making chutney.
- Bilimbi dipped in rock salt, is consumed as a snack in Philippines.
- Fruit is also curried or added as flavoring for the common Filipino dish called sinigang.
- Raw fruit is prepared as relish and served with rice and beans in Costa Rica.
- It is preserved by sun-drying; the sun-dried bilimbi is called asam sunti in Acheh, Sumatra.
- Bilimbi and asam sunti are popular in Acehnese culinary.
- Malaysian nyonya dish also uses sundried salted bilimbi fruit in a duck stew or slices of fresh fruit is used in stir fry with pork pieces and dark soy sauce.
- Fruits are processed into dried sliced snacks or processed into jam In Peninsular Malaysia.
- Fruit is used for making pickles in Kerela, and in Goa and Maharashtra it is consumed raw with salt and spice.
- Flowers are also sometimes preserved in sugar and consumed.
- It is used for making pickles and to make fish curry, especially with Sardines in Kerala and Bhatkal India.
- Fruit is commonly eaten raw with salt and spice around Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.
- It is often used as an ingredient to give a tangy flavor to many Seychellois creole dishes, especially fish dishes in Seychelles.
- It is often used in grilled fish and also in a shark-meat dish, called satini reken.
- It can be either curried or added as a souring agent for common Filipino dishes such as sinigang and paksiw.
- Fruit may be used to add a sour taste to sambal, curries and soups.
- Bilimbi fruit pairs well with fish, shrimp and heavy meats such as pork.
- Bilimbi is occasionally used in modern cuisine, pairing well with flavors like cassia bark, star anise, orange and lemon zest and mint.
Bilimbi Recipe Ideas and Uses
- Many locals enjoy eating bilimbi with a pinch of salt.
- With heaps of sugar and some mint, bilimbi make a fine drink akin to lemonade.
- Use bilimbi juice a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings and curries.
- Locals make bilimbi candy and syrup by soaking the fruit in mineral lime overnight, and then boiling in sugar several times over two or three days.
- Use bilimbi as a tomato or tamarind substitute in stews and curries.
- Others create a preserve-based bilimbi dip, made by fermenting bilimbi in vinegar and sugar for five days.
- Make pickled bilimbi by salting cut pieces of the fruit for two to six hours. In a separate pan, sauté garlic, ginger, fenugreek and chili in oil until aromatic. Add mustard seed and fenugreek, and reduce the heat when the seeds pop. Mix the salted bilimbi pieces with the seasoned oil, and transfer the concoction to a jar. Place in the refrigerator and consume within 5 days.
- Some regions cook bilimbi with coconut milk and chili for a savory curry. The fruit pairs well with lemongrass, as its lemony flavor matches bilimbi sharpness.
- Make bilimbi toffee by pressure cooking whole fruits, and then extracting the pulp with a sieve. Blend the pulp into a shallow saucepan. On low heat, add sugar, citric acid and glucose. Once the mix has thickened, add fine cashew nut powder and vegetable oil. Set the mix aside to cool. Roll into balls and leave to set on a piece of wax parchment.
- Bilimbi pulp 1/2 kg
- Sugar as required
- Citric acid 1/4 tbsp
- 100g of Milk powder
- 100g of glucose
- 50 g of ghee
- Make the milk powder into a thick paste with little warm water.
- Extract the pulp of the bilimbi after cooking it in a pressure cooker.
- Puree out through a sieve.
- Keep the puree on a fire and when the water content in it has reduced, add the sugar, citric acid and glucose to it.
- Keep stirring so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the vessel.
- When the above mixture becomes slightly thick, add the paste of milk powder and ghee to it.
- Continue to cook till the mixture leaves the sides of the vessel.
- Remove from the fire and transfer into pre-greased trays and allow to set.
- Cut into desired shapes or roll into balls and wrap into butter paper when cool.
- Yummy Toffee is now ready to serve.
- 1\2 kg of Bilimbi
- Sugar as required
- Citric acid 1 tbsp
- 2 cups of water
- Beat the bilimbi in a liquidizer after adding 1/4 cup water.
- Strain the pulp through a sieve and keep the juice aside.
- In another bowl boil the remaining water and the sugar along with citric acid.
- Remove the matter that floats on the top of the syrup, using a spoon.
- When the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from the fire and add the juice of the Bilimbi to it.
- Store it in clean sun-dried bottles when cool.
- Mix it with 3 parts of water while consuming.
- 1/2 kg bilimbi fruit
- Salt as required
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Fresh curry leaves
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 fresh green chilies, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons roasted ground coriander
- Chilli powder as required
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Slice the bilimbi, put into a bowl and pour over just enough water to cover.
- Stir in salt and leave for 30 minutes or longer, then rinse and squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the bilimbi.
- Heat the oil in a pan and fry the curry leaves and onion until the onion is soft and starts turning golden.
- Add the chilies, turmeric, coriander and chilli powder and fry for 1 minute, then add the bilimbi and fry for 5 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and salt.
- Simmer uncovered until the mixture is thick and oily.
- Will be tasty when served with rice.
- 1/2 kg bilimbi
- 1 kg sugar
- 5 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- Boil bilimbi, sugar and water together in a bowl.
- Remove from flame.
- Allow it to cool down by 30 degrees.
- After it got cooled add the yeast to it.
- Once it’s completely cooled, pour it into a clean, sun-dried bottle.
- Close the bottle with an air-tight fitting cap.
- Seal for 22 days.
- After 22 days, strain out the wine through a fine cloth (folded into 4-5 layers).
- Keep this strained wine in an airtight container for another 22 days before use.
- This wine has an original golden color.
- Bilimbi wine is ready to serve.
- Bilimbi juice has high levels of oxalic acid, and thus may be used to remove iron-rust stains from clothes and to impart shine to brassware, and is used to clean the blade of kris (Malay dagger).
- They also serve as mordant in the preparation of an orange dye for silk fabrics.
- Wood is white, soft but tough, even-grained but is seldom available for carpentry.
- Bilimbi is a popular back yard tree in villages in Southeast Asia.
- Very acidic bilimbi is used to clean the kris blade in Malaysia.
- It is often used in rural places as an alternative stain remover in Philippines.
- Its red flowers are sought as the ingredients of natural red dye for traditional textiles in Indonesia.
- Fruit juice has a high concentration of oxalic acid which is useful for cleaning and bleaching.