Herbal Healer: What is gumbo limbo?

Sounding like an okra-based dish from "the other side," there is no doubt that most of us have had at least one childhood experience with this fascinating tree, as its wood has long been the material of choice for manufacturing carousel horses for America's merry-go-rounds. Gumbo limbo is also jokingly referred to as the tourist tree since its reddish, peeling, medicine-rich bark resembles the skin of sunburnt sightseers!


This copper-colored tree produces a resin that natural healers use to treat gout. The leaves offer hexane, a hydrocarbon possessing anti-inflammatory properties. The capacity of its red-hued bark to neutralize toxins has made gumbo limbo a medicine of choice for the poisonous stings and bites so commonly experienced in the tropics. The bark is also anti-bacterial. Native healers have relied upon gumbo limbo to relieve backache, to increase the flow of urine, to repel insects and as a blood cleanser. A genuine botanical jack-of-all-trades, gumbo limbo has also been pressed into service to mop up the measles, sun stroke and urinary tract infections.


Rising skyward between 75 and 100 feet, gumbo limbo is commonly found from southern Florida through Central America, the Caribbean and the northern portions of South America. Gumbo limbo is so rock-steady in the ground that it is planted along the Florida coastline to serve as a buffer during hurricanes. Mockingbirds and Baltimore orioles are among the tribes of birds that savor the deep-red fruit of the gumbo limbo tree.


Follow the directions that accompany the tinctures, salves and other commercial preparations made from the gumbo limbo tree. Sip a cup of brew made from the bark to calm an unhappy stomach!

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. NOTE: Visit herbalastrology.com to read Ted PanDeva Zagar's other articles and columns that discuss the benefits of herbs and natural foods. DISCLAIMER: The author's comments are not intended to serve as medical advice, and he urges his readers to seek qualified wellness professionals to resolve matters of health.