Complementary medicine has become a mainstay in today’s health care system and many people are continuously relying on herbal plants and fruits to accomplish their elementary health care needs.

Canarium schweinfurthii Engl., which is popularly known as African elemi, canarium, ube osa, mpafu, kenari or mbani is such a tropical tree that is highly beneficial to human beings. African elemi is a small bluish-purple drupe characterized by its hard edible shell with a solid seed.

Canarium schweinfurthii (ube osa) is originally from Africa especially places like Nigeria, Angola, Mali, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Zambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Both the leaves and the fruits of the Canarium schweinfurthii have similar features with Dacryodes edulis however Canarium schweinfurthii is more harder and requires intense process to get softened.

When ripe African elemis are picked and soaked in warm water then left for two to three days to soften before consumption however Dacryodes edulis can be collected and soften immediately by putting it in the mouth or by roasting, frying or soaking in hot water for few minutes.

The seeds of the African elemi fruit can be separated from the outer fruit flesh, which can be used for ornamental purposes or can be stored for many other purposes. The fruit measures approximately 35mm long and the tree is characterised by big crown that is capable of touching the upper canopy of the forest.

The seeds of the African elemi contain many fatty acids such as stearic, oleic, palmitic and linoleic acid. African elemi tree is medicinally, pharmaceutical and economically beneficial to human beings and discussed below are some of its benefits.

ube osa

Benefits of Canarium schweinfurthii Engl. 

Consumption Purposes
African elemi is an edible fruit that can be consumed raw but preferably softened in warm water to boost the taste. It can be used as an ingredient for preparing dishes. African elemi can be cooked and processed into a fruity-butter that can serve as a shea-butter substitute.

Treatment of Intestinal Worms
The resins collected from the elemi tree can be used for preparing herbal medicines that treat and fight against intestinal worms such as roundworm.

Combustion Purposes
The bark emits a sticky oleoresin that solidifies to a white resin, which burns as an incense that emits a lavender-like smell.

The resin can be collected by cutting the tree bark so that the colourless resin can drizzle to the ground where it crystallizes into a thick yellowish sulphur resin.

The trees can serve as firewood that easily ignite to generate high heat. Furthermore, the resins serve as local candles that burn very well.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal diseases
Elemi bark is purgative in nature and it can be decocted and used for treating gastrointestinal diseases such as food poisoning, constipation, stomach upset, ulcer and dysentery.

Ink Production
African elemi contains oleoresin (elemi) which is an important resin used for fumigating and for making body paints. The residue from the combustion of the resins is gathered as carbon black that can be used for producing inks.

Ornamental Purposes
The seeds can be used for ornamental purposes such as making necklaces, bangles and costumes. The seeds can also be used for making local instruments.

Dermatological Care
The resins serve as emollient, which is effective for treating skin infections such as eczema, skin rashes, prickly heat.

Treatment of Cough
The leaves can be squeezed and used alone or combined with other herbs for treating coughs and cold.

Wound Dressing
Elemi resin serves as an alternative for mastic used for dressing wounds.

Treatment of Leprosy
African elemi bark can be crushed and used for treating and preventing leprosy attack.

Protection against Adenites
Elemi root offers protection against adenites, which is a disease condition caused as a result of the inflammation of a gland.

Treatment of Wounds
Ube osa seeds can be roasted and crushed into powder form, which is mixed with ointments for treating wounds.

Erosion Control
The giant elemi tree offers protection to the soil against erosion and also acts as a windbreak.

Construction Purposes
The wood can be used for constructing boats, mortars, flooring and furniture.

Insect Repellent
The resins can be used to repel mosquitoes.

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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