Medical

The Manchineel (Manzanella) Tree.

A beautiful tree found in tropical, subtropical, and arid climates. It brings to mind the plant life one must have encountered in the pre-serpent, Garden of Eden. The beauty disguises the danger.

This species is found throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, Curacao, and Bonaire. Curacao places signs on them, the French Antilles paints red bands around them; however, most are unmarked and require a heightened suspicion to find.

In talking to various Curacao locals, these trees were known to the primitive, tribal Caribbean’s, and the fruit (small shiny green apples) was used to poison arrowheads. The leaves were used to contaminate entire water supplies of enemies. Many were thought to have died due to this plant’s toxicity. In actuality, locals report no deaths at this time other than those from allergic reactions.

This tree has waxy green leaves with a tannish brown trunk and bushy branches much like North American apple trees. The fruit is green, sweet, if you dare, and about 2cm in diameter. All parts of this tree secrete a white latex type sap (a big warning with any plant), so it is imperative that no part be touched. A surprising danger, is that standing underneath this tree, with or without the presence of rainfall, can cause burning symptoms. A local official stated that no part of this tree makes good kindling or firewood and inhaling the smoke or getting it in the eyes, as seen with poison ivy, can give rise to the same symptoms as direct contact.

Symptoms are severe burning of the skin and internal organs, conjunctivitis (eye irritation and redness), blindness, and internal bleeding. If ingested, there is burning of the mouth and throat, gastrointestinal bleeding, dysarthria and dysphagia (difficulty talking and swallowing), as well as difficulty breathing. There are isolated cases where the heart rate and respirations are slowed. This may be a histamine response (allergy).

The treatment is straight forward. Immediately wash the affected areas with soap and water and allow up to 8-12 hours for the symptoms to resolve.

Following washing, antihistamines like Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) given in a pill form and/or as a lotion applied to the skin can help. Flush the eyes with sterile water if they seem to be affected. With any signs of worsening, a progressive allergic reaction, visual difficulty, bleeding, or instability in heart rate or breathing, medical attention should be sought. See “My World page for case study at https://internationaltraveladvisor.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/eve-burns-on-isle-la-blanquilla/

 

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