Traditional uses and benefits of Blinding Tree

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Blinding Tree Quick Facts
Name: Blinding Tree
Scientific Name: Excoecaria agallocha
Origin Along the coasts of southern India and Sri Lanka, to southern China, Taiwan, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern Japan, south throughout Southeast Asia
Colors Initially green turning to black as they ripen
Shapes Small smooth capsular fruits that are almost round, 3-lobed, 4.5–5 mm long and 8–9 mm wide
Health benefits Support for epilepsy, obstinate ulcers, leprosy, rheumatism, paralysis, pneumonia, asthma, constipation, arthritis, diabetes, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and hematuria
Excoecaria agallocha, commonly known as Blinding Tree, Blind-Your-Eyes or Milky Mangrove is a mangrove species, belongs to the genus Excoecaria of the family Euphorbiaceae Juss. (Spurge family). The plant is native along the coasts of southern India and Sri Lanka, to southern China, Taiwan, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern Japan, south throughout Southeast Asia, to Papua New Guinea, Northern Australia and Pacific Islands. Within Australia, it thrives from northern New South Wales along the northern coastline around to Western Australia. The species has many common names, including blind-your-eye mangrove, blinding tree, buta buta tree, milky mangrove, poison fish tree, and river poison tree, Blind-Your-Eyes, Buta-Buta, Bebuta, Kayu Buta-buta, Kampetti, Thilla, Tilai, Geva, Gewa, Komatti, scrub poison tree, blind-your-eyes-tree, cametty eagle wood and salt swamp tiger’s milk

Most of the names refer to its toxic properties or its propensity to cause blindness when its latex comes into contact with the eyes. The plant is well-protected by chemical defenses; these include diterpenoids, triterpenoids and flavonoids. The milky latex of Excoecaria agallocha is very poisonous and powerfully irritant, which is not unusual in milky species of plant in the family Euphorbiaceae. Contact with skin causes irritation and rapid blistering; slight contact with eyes can cause temporary blindness, hence the common names that refer to blindness. Even the generic name is from the Latin for “blinder”.

Blinding Tree Facts

Name Blinding Tree
Scientific Name Excoecaria agallocha 
Native Along the coasts of southern India and Sri Lanka, to southern China, Taiwan, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, southern Japan, south throughout Southeast Asia, to Papua New Guinea, Northern Australia and Pacific Islands
Common Names Blind-your-eye mangrove, blinding tree, buta buta tree, milky mangrove, poison fish tree, and river poison tree, Blind-Your-Eyes, Buta-Buta, Bebuta, Kayu Buta-buta, Kampetti, Thilla, Tilai, Geva, Gewa, Komatti, scrub poison tree, blind-your-eyes-tree, cametty eagle wood, salt swamp tiger’s milk
Name in Other Languages Bengali: Gewa,  geoya (গেওয়া)
Burma: Kayaw taway
Chinese: Hai qi (海漆), Tǔ chénxiāng (土沉香)
English: Blind-your-eye, Blind-your-eye mangrove, Blind-your-eyes-tree, Blindingtree, Milky mangrove, River poisontree, Scrub poison tree, buta-buta, geor, gewa, cametty eagle wood, milky mangrove, river poison tree, salt swamp tiger’s milk
French: Arbre aveuglant               , géor
German: Geor-Baum, Gewa-Baum
Gujarati: Geva (ગેવા), hura (હુરા)
Hindi: Gangiva, Tejbala, Thillai
Indonesia: Kayu buta-buta, Kayu betah, Menengan
Italian: Geor
Japanese: Shimashiraki (シマシラキ), Okinawajinkou (オキナワジンコウ)
Javanese: Buta-buta
Kannada: Harogida (ಹಾರೋಗಿಡ), tilla (ತಿಲ್ಲ)
Konkani: Kharo uro (खारो उरो), uro (उरो)
Malay: Bebuta, Buta-buta, Pokok Bebuta
Malayalam: Komati, Mammetti, Kannampotti, katappala (കടപ്പാല), Kammetti, Kannampotti, , kēāmaṭṭi (കോമട്ടി) koomatti
Malaysia: Buta-buta, Bebuta
Marathi: Geva (गेवा), phungali (फुंगळी), surund (सुरुंड)
Myanmar: Kayaw taway
Oriya: Guna (ଗୁଣା)
Papua New Guinea: Sismet, Te’eria, Su
Philippines: Buta-buta, lipata
Russian: Agallokhovoye derevo (Агаллоховое дерево)
Sanskrit: Agaru, Gangwa, Gaoura
Sinhalese: Thelakeeriya (තෙලකීරිය), Telkeeriya (තෙල්කීරිය ), Talakeeriya (තලකීරිය)
Sundanese: Warejit
Tamil: Tillai (தில்லை), akati (அகதி), akkolli (ஆக்கொல்லி), ampala-virutcam (அம்பலவிருட்சம்), ampalatti (அம்பலத்தி), atiya-kuttan (ஆடியகூத்தன்), kokkumeni (கொக்குமேனி), paruvi (பருவி), tillai (தில்லை), vari-vanam (வரிவனம்)
Telugu: Tilla (తిల్ల)
Thailand: Buu-to, Tatum thale (ตาตุ่มทะเล), tatum (ตาตุ่ม)
Tulu: Neerakanapatte (ನೀರಕಣಪಟ್ಟೆ)
Vietnam: Gi[as], Tr[af]m[ur], Trà mủ
Plant Growth Habit Much-branched tree
Growing Climates Mangrove, tidal forest, cleared forest, brackish areas, rice fields; on mud and sand. It grows in muddy and sandy habitats, often in areas with a high input of fresh water, or landward margins of mangrove forests. It occurs locally in all mangrove forests and in the vicinity of Kranji Reservoir
Plant Size Grow up to 15 m high
Root Shallow, surface-running roots are often knotted and covered with lenticels
Bark Bark is greyish-brown, warty, with vertical fissures and lenticels
Leaf Leaves are alternate, shiny, pointed at the top, somewhat rounded at the base, elliptic-ovate, oblong-ovate or ovate, and 6 to 12 centimeters long and 1.5 to 6 cm wide
Flowering season Between October and February
Flower Trees are either male or female (dioecious). Male flowers form drooping tassels, while female flowers appear as shorter spikes.
Fruit Shape & Size Small smooth capsular fruits that are almost round, 3-lobed, 4.5–5 mm long and 8–9 mm wide
Fruit Color Initially green turning to black as they ripen
Propagation By seed
Plant Parts Used Latex, leaves, roots, bark
Season Between January and July

Plant Description

Blinding Tree is much-branched small tree that normally grows up to 15 m high. The plant has shallow, surface-running roots that are often knotted and are covered with lenticels. Its bark is greyish-brown, warty, with vertical fissures and lenticels. The plant exudes white latex from any broken part. It is also deciduous, and usually sheds its leaves just before the onset of flowering. The plant is found growing in mangrove, tidal forest, cleared forest, brackish areas, and rice fields and on mud and sand. It grows in muddy and sandy habitats, often in areas with a high input of fresh water, or landward margins of mangrove forests. It occurs locally in all mangrove forests and in the vicinity of Kranji Reservoir.

Leaves

Leaves are alternate, shiny, pointed at the top, somewhat rounded at the base, elliptic-ovate, oblong-ovate or ovate, and 6 to 12 centimeters long and 1.5 to 6 cm wide, and with 2–4 glands on each side of the base where the leaf blade joins the petiole (leaf stalk). It is spirally arranged, stalked, and have papery and slightly fleshy leaf blades with shallowly toothed-margins, green above, light green below. Young leaves are pink, old leaves turn yellow then red before dropping off. Leaves usually drop off after dry weather.

Flowers               

The Tree is dioecious, producing only male or female flowers on different individuals. The minute (less than 1mm) yellow flowers are borne on catkins at the axillary. Male flowers start as upright narrow cones when young and as they develop, elongate into longer spikes about 5-10 cm that eventually form drooping yellow tassels. Male flowers are said to be “very scented”. Female flowers appear in shorter spikes. They are much smaller, stalked, and arranged on catkins that are 0.5–3 cm long. According to Tomlinson the flowers are pollinated by insects as the pollen is sticky. Bees are common visitors and may be the chief pollinators. Flowering normally takes place in between October and February.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by small smooth capsular fruits that are almost round, 3-lobed, 4.5–5 mm long and 8–9 mm wide. The fruit is initially green turning to black as they ripen into dry capsules. Each capsule is made up of three portions, containing tiny dark to black seeds.

Traditional uses and benefits of Blinding Tree

  • Plants have various medicinal and pharmacological benefits, including the treatment for epilepsy, ulcers, leprosy, rheumatism, and paralysis.
  • The Burmese use the leaves to treat epilepsy.
  • Oil distilled from the wood is applied to itch and skin infections in Malay folk medicine.
  • Latex is mixed with coconut juice to treat pneumonia and asthma, and is also boiled to obtain an oily liquid that is used to treat skin diseases.
  • The smoke from the burning wood is used to treat leprosy.
  • It is used as poison on darts and arrows, and for the medicinal treatment of ulcers.
  • In the Philippines, the latex is used as a caustic for obstinate ulcers.
  • Oil extracted by distillation of the wood or latex is applied to cutaneous diseases.
  • Chewing a little piece of bark will cause instant vomiting and purging, but is in general considered too drastic a cure for constipation.
  • Roots pounded with ginger may serve as an embrocation to reduce swellings on hands and feet.
  • In Milne Bay, New Guinea, the root is applied as an abortifacient.
  • In the Central Province, very small amounts of the juice are taken orally with coconut juice to treat pneumonia or asthma.
  • It may also be taken as a purgative or vomitory, thus acting as a poison antidote.
  • Decoction of the leaves is given in epilepsy and externally applied to ulcers.
  • In Thailand, the resin is used as an anthelmintic, for its purgative effect.
  • The sap is indigenously used in the treatment of rheumatism.
  • In New Guinea and Australia, juice is used to cure ulcers and leprosy.
  • Leaf juice is used to reduce blood glucose.
  • Seed poultice is used for crippling arthritis in India.
  • In Bangladesh, it is used for diabetes.
  • In the Solomon Islands the latex is taken with coconut milk as a powerful purgative and an emetic.
  • It is traditionally used in the treatment of ulcers, sores, and stings from poisonous marine creatures.
  • It is also used traditionally in the treatment of conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and hematuria.
  • In Thailand, the wood and bark is used as a cure for flatulence.
  • The Malays treat itching and skin infection by the oil distilled from the woods.
  • Roots of the plant are used to treat toothache and swellings as well as used as an ingredient of embrocation.
  • It is an antidote for fish poison.

Other Facts

  • Even dried and powdered leaves retain the poison and can kill fish very quickly or are used on a poison dart.
  • It is the preferred local food plant for the caterpillars of the moths, Achaea janatas, Iscadia pulchra, Selepa celtis, and of the genus Archips, Phyllocnistis, and Sauris.
  • The wood is used as firewood, charcoal, and to make small furniture.
  • The wood is not durable and produces unpleasant smoke when burnt.
  • The wood is used to make matchsticks in the Philippines, also sold as aromatic wood, and is considered useful for carving.
  • Overseas it is used for incense and in canoe construction.

Precautions

  • Use latex carefully, it may cause temporary blindness or skin irritation.
  • The milky latex is poisonous, and is said to cause blindness, pain and blood in urination, and intestinal inflammation.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=507312#null

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/EXAAG

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excoecaria_agallocha

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-83292

https://www.nparks.gov.sg/florafaunaweb/flora/2/8/2893

https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/229772

https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Excoecaria_agallocha_(PROSEA)#Synonyms

http://www.worldfloraonline.org/taxon/wfo-0000965883

http://www.stuartxchange.com/Buta-buta.html

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=EXAG

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