Andiroba (Carapa guianensis, Meliaceae), a tropical tree, grows in the north of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In Brazil, the trees are found primarily in lowlands and flooded areas, often along rivers, throughout the Amazon region.1 The trees can reach a height of 115-180 feet, have gray-brown bark, and are deciduous to semi-deciduous.2 Once the tree sheds its leaves, small white flowers appear. Small, woody, four-cornered pods or nuts, similar in appearance to a chestnut, contain the seeds.2,3 The pods are gathered by wild pigs and rodents as food sources for the winter. Pods not gathered or eaten can begin the life cycle of the trees. A single tree can produce 200 kilos of pods per year, the seeds being about 63% oil, which can generate around 7 liters of oil.4
Amazonian tribes have employed the seed oil in numerous unique ways.3 The oil has been used to mummify heads taken as war trophies, in tanning hides of animals, to remove ticks and other skin parasites, as a solvent to extract plant pigments to paint the skin, and as a natural lamp fuel, which also provides some protection from stinging insects.
In traditional medicine, andiroba seed oil has been administered to treat fever, arthritis, rheumatism, upper respiratory tract infections, dermatitis, skin lesions, secondary skin lesions, ulcers, and abrasions.1 Therapeutic actions include antiallergic, analgesic, chemotherapeutic, and anti-inflammatory effects, The oil has also been used as an insect repellent, annatto dye, and sun protection.1,4 Infusions made from the bark and flowers are utilized to heal wounds and expel worms. In combination with hot water and human milk, an oil concoction is applied inside the ears to treat ear infections.3 Water, soaked in the tree’s bark for a day, is taken before meals to aid digestion.
In the beauty industry, the oil has been included in soaps, shampoos, creams, and ointments.4 It is being marketed as a collagen booster, to reduce acne and fine lines due to aging, to promote hair growth and to darken gray hair, and to treat eczema, psoriasis, and cellulite. Andiroba seed oil is rich in fatty acids such as palmitic, stearic, oleic, and linoleic acids.3 Limonoids are another chemical constituent of seeds, leaves, and the bark, including a unique limonoid named andirobin.
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1Araujo-Lima CF, Fernandes AS, Gomes EM, et al. Antioxidant activity and genotoxic assessment of crabwood (andiroba, Carapa guianensis Aublet) seed oils. Oxid Med Cell Longev. May 2018;2018:3246719. doi: 10.1155/2018/3246719.
2Andiroba. Anywhere website. Accessed July 22, 2021. https://www.anywhere.com/flora-fauna/tree/andiroba.
3Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers; 2005.
4Andiroba – a miracle rainforest tree. Queen of the Forest Naturals website. February 17, 2017. Accessed July 22, 2021. https://queenoftheforest.org/forever-the-forest/andiroba-a-miracle-rainforest-tree/.