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«Patricia Shanley Marina Londres A powerful anti-inflammatory medicinal oil extracted from the seeds of andiroba is one of the most widely used ...»

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Andiroba (Carapa guianensis) 29

Bacuri (Platonia insignis) 39

Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) 49

Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa

and Uncaria guianensis) 65

Copaíba (Copaifera spp.) 71

Ipê–roxo (Tabebuia impetiginosa) 81

Jatobá (Hymenaea courbaril) 91

Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) 101

Piquiá (Caryocar villosum) 109 Rubber tree, seringueira (Hevea brasiliensis) 121 Titica (Heteropsis spp.) 129 Uxi (Endopleura uchi) 139 Carapa guianensis Aubl.

Patricia Shanley Marina Londres A powerful anti-inflammatory medicinal oil extracted from the seeds of andiroba is one of the most widely used natural remedies in the Amazon. Andiroba oil can mend badly sprained ankles, repel mosquitoes and is used in veterinary medicine to cure the infected cuts of animals. Indigenous groups in Brazil have traditionally painted their skin with a mixture of andiroba oil and the bright red pigment from the seeds of urucu (Bixa orellana).

Andiroba is also valued for its bark and wood. The bark can be made into a tea to fight fevers, worms, bacteria and tumours. In addition to its lightness and durability, andiroba wood is bitter and oily, deterring attacks by termites and caterpillars. Because the deep, golden-hued wood is of superior quality, andiroba is considered on a par with mahogany.

For this reason, andiroba is increasingly difficult to find in logged areas.

Andiroba trees have straight trunks that can reach 30 m in height, often with buttress roots. Growing throughout the Amazon basin, Central America and Africa, andiroba prefers seasonally flooded forests and the margins of rivers, but it is also found in terra firme forests.

Fruit trees and useful plants in Amazonian life 30


Andiroba’s flowering and fruiting seasons vary by region. In eastern Pará, andiroba flowers from August through October, and its fruits mature from January through April.

In Manaus, andiroba trees produce fruit between March and April.

1 to 8 trees/ha 5 to 38 trees/alqueire Andiroba trees grow in terra firme forests, but they are most commonly found in várzea.

The mysteries of andiroba fruit production are still unfolding. Some years a tree may bear hundreds of fruits, and others none at all, but the factors that drive this phenomenon remain unknown.1 Likewise, we lack the long-term studies necessary to recognize patterns of

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The table below shows some of the ranges in production numbers documented by researchers. Variation in production can be due to numerous biophysical factors such as whether the population occurs in várzea or terra firme. The methods used to determine production estimates in the following studies may differ, particularly the sample size and the number of years the study was conducted. It is important to emphasise that the ranges represent the amplitude (maximums and minimums) of production among individuals within a population. However, averages are the appropriate estimate to be used if managers are to extrapolate production from inventory data.

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André Dias Scientists do not yet know the productivity of many species of tropical trees, even those, like andiroba, that have extensive markets and valuable uses. However, to make good use of forest resources it is important to know which trees are in a particular forest, where they are located and how much they can produce. In the community of Pedreira, Pará, a study was undertaken to estimate the average number of fruit an andiroba tree produces per year. Researchers counted all the andiroba trees in a given area and all the fruit that fell beneath a sample of 100 trees.

To estimate production rapidly, they grouped fruit productivity into categories from low to high. The results showed that 37 trees produced little or nothing; 43 trees produced up to 15 kg, 13 trees produced between 15 and 50 kg and 7 trees produced greater than 50 kg.5 Extrapolating to the larger forest, the community calculated that their forest could produce a little over 1 200 kg of seeds/year.

Thus they were able to estimate the labour required to produce the oil, as well as their potential annual earnings.

Fruit trees and useful plants in Amazonian life 32 Andiroba oil is one of the most widely sold natural remedies in Amazonia. The oil industry has its origins in the city of Cametá, in the state of Pará, and its commercialization generates significant employment and income throughout Amazonia. In Cametá, children eagerly collect and sell andiroba seeds. Street kids relate that 4 kg fetch them US$0.10 – enough to buy a pack of crackers. In Salvaterra, on Marajó Island, which lies in the mouth of the Amazon River, unemployed men, women and children comb the beach for seeds washed down from inland rivers. In 2004, they could sell 1 kg, about 55 seeds, for US$0.07 to companies in São Paulo. In 2009 in the Belém market, 1 litre of andiroba oil cost, on average, US$6. Stores often buy the oil during the harvest when prices are low, hold on to the oil and sell it out of season at a higher price.

The oil is also in demand internationally and is exported to Europe and the United States of America. From 1974 to 1985, between 200 and 350 tonnes of oil were exported annually, mainly from the states of Maranhão, Pará and Amapá. In 2009, in the United States of America, an 8-oz bottle of andiroba oil can be purchased over the Internet for between US$23 and US$40.6 One proof of andiroba’s popularity is the number of soaps, creams, oils and candles made from andiroba on the market in the Amazon region and throughout the world. In the supermarkets of Belém, the soaps can cost from US$1.50 to US$5, while body oil (50 ml) costs US$3. A 150-g bag of andiroba bark costs US$1.

Whereas supermarkets, pharmacies and corner vendors sell andiroba in Belém, in the western Amazonian state of Acre andiroba oil is hard to find in the market: few communities in Acre produce andiroba oil, and those that do generally produce it for local consumption.

The wood from andiroba, called ‘false’ or ‘bastard’ mahogany, is also in high demand for export. In 2004, it could be found in Pará sawmills for US$68/m3 sawn. For export, 1 m3 did not sell for less than US$170. While in the United States of America, 20 board feet (0.05 m3) of andiroba is sold for US$157.7 Oil: Andiroba oil is widely used as a medicine for bruises, sore throats, inflammation, arthritis and worms, as well as to help heal umbilical cords. In the countryside, andiroba is commonly applied on the skin to promote the growth of scar tissue and to repair skin damage. But one must use caution – it can create scar tissue on the surface before the internal wound has properly healed. The oil also works as an insect repellent and is an ingredient in soap production. Rubber tappers take advantage of andiroba oil for lamp fuel. Indians mix smelly andiroba oil with the bright red pigment from the seeds of urucu to paint their skin.

Wood: The wood is of excellent quality, a brilliant honey-brown in colour, and resistant to attacks from insects and caterpillars. Shingles are often made out of andiroba, and builders rely on it for civil construction.

Bark: Thick and bitter, the bark can be removed easily in large pieces. It is used to make tea to prevent fevers and worms, to fight bacteria and to treat tumours.

Ground into powder, it can be used to treat wounds, skin ailments and to promote the growth of scar tissue.

Andiroba 33

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In the community of Pedreira, Pará, one farmer noted, “In the 1940s there weren’t more than eight houses here. We lived by hunting, selling andiroba oil, animal skins and breu resin (Protium spp.). In the 1950s we began to tap rubber, selling the latex of maçaranduba (Manilkara spp.). Now we produce farinha and work less in the forest. Today, the young don’t even know how to extract andiroba oil. The trees are there, but they are going to waste.”5 In other regions, knowledge regarding the uses and ecology of plants and animals is not being passed on simply because the trees and wildlife no longer exist. When flora and fauna vanish from the local landscape, ecological knowledge of those species also fades.

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There are many ways to extract andiroba oil. One process is referred to as making “board oil”. The oil made from this process is called virgin because it’s absolutely pure and of the best quality.

Making “sun oil” is faster and less workintensive. Both processes begin in the following way. Boil the seeds until they are soft. Break a few open and use your fingernails to test if the flesh is thick and oily, seeing if your nail can pass easily through it. Take the seeds out of the water, spread them on the ground, cover them with green leaves and let them sit for 40 days. After 40 days, open all the seeds with a knife and remove the flesh. Knead the pulp and make small balls. In Cametá, women first soften the pulp with their feet, and then later with their hands.

Board oil Place the balls in a trough made of wood or metal, an old canoe, or two pieces of wood joined long-ways in a V shape, with one end of the trough leaning towards the ground. Place a fine strip of cotton from the edge of the pulp to the end of the inclined trough; this way, the oil will run directly from the trough into the container. Knead the pulp every day. After four to six days, the pulp will become hard and dry. To obtain more oil, place it in the sun. You can also use a tipiti (fibre sieve) to extract the remaining oil.

Sun oil Leave the pulp in the sun for two days, turning it over every two hours throughout the day. At the end of the second afternoon, take the pulp inside and shape it into softballsized balls. Place them on inclined boards to allow the oil to drip out. On the third day, heat the pulp in the sun again for three hours, and then place the pulp in a tipiti for two days to extract the rest of the oil. The sun process produces more oil, but many believe that some of the oil’s potency is lost. The dry pulp of the andiroba seeds can be used to make soap or tossed into the fire to repel mosquitoes.

Andiroba 35

André Dias

In Amazonia, production varies greatly depending on the mode of extraction. Production with the use of a press has been estimated at between 8 and 12 litres/40 kg of seeds.8 Sometimes collectors do not have time to boil the seeds the day they are harvested, or they cannot retrieve the pulp before it starts to rain. Communities often extract the oil without a press, or with only a homemade sieve, and therefore produce less than by the industrial method. The table below compares production and summarizes how Dona Maria and Dona Rita from Santarém and Dona Glória from Cametá make the oil.

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The Tapajós National Forest has an abundance of andiroba and other NWFPs that sell briskly at good prices in local markets. Due to the richness of forest resources in their villages, a group of resourceful women from the communities of São Domingo, Nazaré and Pedreira decided to start an andiroba oil business together. To sell the oil legally, they had to surmount numerous legal and logistical obstacles. These included developing a management plan and securing permission from the Brazilian Environmental Protection Agency (IBAMA) to transport the oil. Through perseverance and hard work, the women’s endeavour has met with success and enables them to contribute to their families’ incomes while earning them respect among their peers. One of the secrets of the business’s success is the participation of older women; it is only the elders that still know the best techniques for extracting andiroba oil.

Place 1 litre of andiroba oil in a pan to boil with 4 kg of melted cow tallow. Boil for 30 minutes and add 250 g of silicate or caustic soda if you have it. If you would like scented soap, try adding various fragrant herbs. Boil until thickened. Allow the mixture to cool and place in a mould. Finally, cut the soap into pieces and store. In the countryside, it is customary to add ashes from cacao shells mixed with water to the tallow and andiroba oil. This kind of soap is used to wash clothes, to clean itchy skin, or to treat skin infected with ringworm or fungal infections. To make the cacao ashes, simply burn the dry skins of the fruit. The best ash is white (very strong and acidic) and should be stored in a jar in a dry place.

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Andiroba has great potential for agroforestry because it produces both excellent wood and medicinal oil. Germination begins in the first six days and ends after two or three months with 85–90% of the seeds sprouted. Andiroba grows rapidly, even in degraded areas, both in sun and shade. For this reason, planting andiroba is a good way to enrich secondary forests and other degraded areas. But be careful with the seeds because rodents like to eat them. Although andiroba grows best in flooded forests, it can also be planted in terra firme. Scientists do not yet know if it is better to plant seedlings close together or spread apart, in full sun, in partial shade or in mostly shade. It seems that in the initial phase the trees grow well in the shade, but light is important for rapid development over time. When andiroba trees are in full sun, the trunks increase in diameter rather than gain height8, and when they are close together, they are more susceptible to insect attacks.

Carlos Augusto Ramos and Marina Londres

An extended family of healthy trees demonstrates a wide variety of ages, including many children, a number of parents and a few grandparents. This means that the family will continue to reproduce well into the future. When there is not a sufficient distribution of generations, the species could have difficulty maintaining the population.

One study in the São João do Jaburu community in Gurupá, Pará, illustrated that the andiroba population had many grandchildren, few parents and almost no grandparents.

No trees over 60 cm diameter were found. Why? The locals had been accustomed to selling big trees for timber. Thus, many of reproductive trees were lost to the timber trade.

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