USES.—This plant is, perhaps, the most useful in the Philippines. Without it and the bamboo plant the people of the Archipelago would not know how to live. It produces vinegar, an alcoholic drink called tuba or coco-wine, an oil, an edible nut, and its leaves are used instead of nipa to roof the huts.
Tuba is an opaline, slightly sweet liquid, with an agreeable taste, which rapidly becomes acid under the influence of the heat. A flowering or fruit-bearing stalk, which has not been incised before, is chosen and encircled with several rings of rope or rattan. The stalk is then cut and a bamboo vessel called a bombón is hung to receive the sap which escapes during the night. This liquid is valuable as a drink for those who are debilitated, suffering from pulmonary catarrh, and even for consumptives, who are accustomed to drink it every morning, sometimes with marvelous results, according to reports. The heat of the day rapidly ferments the tuba, converting it into a mild vinegar, which is widely used for domestic purposes in the Philippines. When fermented and distilled it produces a weak alcohol of disagreeable taste called coco-wine.
The ripe fruit contains a rather soft and savory meat which is generally eaten mixed with the clear, sweet coco-nut milk. Later the meat becomes firmer and is used as a food and an oil much used in the islands is extracted from it. To extract the oil the meat is grated and pressed until all the juice is extracted. This is called the milk and when boiled is converted almost completely into oil. Cocoanut milk has an agreeable taste and may in some cases take the place of cow’s milk. It is apt to produce diarrhoea, however, which action may be bad for some but on the other hand good for others, such as the habitually constipated. Both the meat and the milk are widely used by the natives in making sweets.
In the greater part of the islands it is the only oil used for illumination. As a medicine it is employed internally as a purgative and externally in the treatment of scores of troubles in which the good results obtained are due, not to the oil but to the massage used in rubbing it in. It has the reputation of stimulating the growth of the hair and all the natives and some Europeans use it lavishly as a hair ointment. When fresh its odor is agreeable, but it easily becomes rancid and assumes a most disagreeable odor. In the Visayan Islands they make an oil of a nauseous odor which they call in Manila Caracoa. It is used only for illumination and by the poor.
At a temperature of 20° or more the oil remains liquid; it is colorless when fresh and properly extracted. It solidifies at 18° and two kinds of soap are made of it; one soft and exceedingly cheap called “Quiapo”; the other hard, white, of a high quality, but as a rule containing an excess of lime which in time is deposited in a fluorescent film on its surface.
In India the root is employed in the treatment of dysentery.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A tree most familiar to every one.
HABITAT.—Common in all parts of the Archipelago.
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