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Nipa Fruticans

The dry leaves of this palm are generally used in the villages of Manila Province

USES.—The dry leaves of this palm are generally used in the villages of Manila Province, Pampanga, Bulacan and other provinces in the construction of roofs and walls of houses, which are therefore called “nipa houses.” The decoction of the fresh leaves is used as a lotion for indolent ulcers, and a popular preserve is made from the fruit.

Like the coco and following the same process the nipa yields a liquid also called tuba and possessing properties identical with those of the former plant. The weak alcohol distilled from it has some repute in the treatment of conjunctivitis, for which purpose a few drops are mixed with a small quantity of water and the eyes are washed with it several times a day. This alcohol, improperly called wine of nipa, has a characteristically unpleasant odor which makes it impracticable for medicinal or industrial use. Several chemists have attempted to remove the characteristic odor from nipa alcohol, but their results had always been negative because the odorous principle was distilled over at the same temperature as the alcohol. Finally a distinguished Filipino chemist, D. Anacleto del Rosario, perfected a process of producing from the nipa tuba an absolute alcohol perfectly free from the characteristic odor; an alcohol, in fact, possessing all the qualities of chemically pure alcohol, and of such a high grade that it was awarded the first prize at the last World’s Fair in Paris.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A palm about 6° high with long, pinnate leaves with leaflets which separate, at maturity, like those of the coco palm. Flowers monoecious, in a spathe. Fruit, many pyramidal drupes joined together, but easily separable. The outer covering of each drupe is hard, the inner part tow-like; seed enveloped in a sort of fleshy white meat.

HABITAT.—Salt water marshes, especially in Pampanga and the Visayan Islands.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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