- Family Anacardiaceae
- Anacardium occidentale
- East Indian Almond, Spanish: Cajueiro, Caju, Acajuiba, Pomme Cajou
- The oil from the shell can cause severe contact dermatitis with blistering and swelling. Even smoke from roasting the nuts can be irritating.
Native to Brazil, it also grows in tropical areas of Central and South America and in the West Indies in tropical forests and grasslands. The evergreen tree grows to about thirty feet, producing low branches with oval leaves and pink-streaked yellow flowers on long spikes. Its greenish-gray fruit or apple is, in fact, a thickened stem. The true fruit is the cashew nut which hangs immediately below the fruit. It is encased in a red or yellow flesh. The gum exuded by the stem wards off ants and other insects.
(See Foods section)
- nutritive (containing 45% fat and 20% protein)
- caustic (the oil between the outer and inner shell only)
- purgative (roots)
- anacardiac acid (in the gum)
Nuts, leaves, bark, root, gum
Anacardic acid is used as an antimicrobial killing bacteria, fungi, worms, and protozoa.
Researchers caution that the tannins in the bark have been found to be toxic to humans, and that internal use of the bark should be discouraged. Although they found that these tannins have an anti-inflammatory action when used internally to treat rheumatism in humans, they proved to have a toxic effect.
Studies in India found that extracts and oil of cashew nut shell were nonmutagenic and generally did not promote tumor growth.
The nuts are a prized food and used extensively throughout the tropics, especially in India and eastern Africa. They are highly nutritious after the toxic lining is removed.
In Ayurvedic and African herbal medicine, the leaves are used for toothaches and gum problems; and, in West Africa, to treat malaria.
The bark is used in Ayurvedic medicine to detoxify snake bite, as well as for fevers, a laxative, to rid intestinal parasites, and to treat diabetes.
The gum is applied to leprosy, corns, and fungal conditions.
The caustic shell oil and fruit are used as skin stimulants and cauterizing agents. The oil is used very sparingly to eliminate warts, corns, ringworm, leprosy, elephantitis, psoriasis, and ulcers. It is used for gastrointestinal ailments in Brazil and Nigeria.
Also in Brazil and Nigeria, the bark is used to make an astringent decoction to treat toothache and inflammations of the gums. Leaf infusions have also been used to treat toothaches and sore throat, as well as a febrifuge.
External use in Haiti includes amenorrhea, and internally for dysentery.
Young leaves are used in the Philippines to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhoids. Older leaves are used as hot poultices for burns and skin disorders.
Homeopathic uses are for severely itching rashes with blistering and facial erysipelas (a skin disease).
In Venezuela, a decoction of the leaf is used to treat diarrhea, and believed to be a treatment for diabetes.
In Colombia, ulverized bark is soaked in water for twenty-four hours and used to treat diabetes.
The juice of the false fruit has been used in Brazil as a diuretic and a remedy for vomiting, diarrhea, and sore throat.
Peruvians use a leaf tea as a treatment for diarrhea, while a tea from the bark is used as a vaginal douche.