Edible Medicinal Trees: The Many Uses of Clove, Coconut, Guava, Moringa, & Papaya

Auntie Karen


Many of the trees that we carry at the nursery have edible and medicinal properties that most people may not be aware of.  They can have phenomenally positive effects upon your health when used correctly.

In this article our own Karen of Auntie Karen’s Medicinal Chest discusses a few of these powerhouse trees and their medicinal uses, including the clove tree, coconut palm, guava tree, moringa tree, and the papaya tree.


Clove Tree

                      Dried Whole Cloves

Cloves have so many uses. A dried flower bud of the clove tree is what we know as a whole clove. When used as a culinary herb, clove helps to facilitate the digestive process.


Clove Essential Oil:

    Clove Flowers

The essential oil made from the flowers, leaves and stems is a safe and effective antiseptic. You can soak a piece of cotton in clove oil and apply it to a tooth to stop a toothache. You can heat a small amount of carrier oil, such as coconut or olive, add a few drops of clove oil to it and stop a tummy ache by rubbing it into your tummy. Clove oil causes the spasms to cease. Clove oil also makes for a very effective insect repellent. Again add a few drops of clove oil to a carrier oil and rub into skin. It will keep mosquitoes at bay for several hours.

One of the most important health benefits of clove is its capacity to “zap” fake estrogens. In our modern world which abounds with numerous chemicals we are exposed to many fake estrogens daily. This exposure has numerous negative consequences for the health of both men and women. Too much estrogen also decreases one of our body’s “master” antioxidants, glutathione. This decrease raises oxidative stress in your cells.

           Mature Clove Tree

Cloves are a natural antidote to the problem excess estrogen can cause. The nutrient in cloves which can zap fake estrogens is called eugenol. Eugenol helps keep our body from absorbing estrogens, including the fake estrogens that seep into your body from our chemically polluted world. The eugenol in cloves helps your stomach convert these fake estrogen into harmless compounds and eliminates them from your body. Clinical studies on how your stomach gets rid of toxins like synthetic drugs and fake estrogen show how eugenol helps. It stimulates an enzyme in your stomach that converts chemicals and foreign substances- especially fake estrogens- to a water-soluble form that your body quickly flushes out. Therefore, one can conclude, it is prudent to add clove as a spice to your daily diet.

Eugenol also serves to protect the physical structure of the brain and the blood flow in the brain, it neutralizes free radicals before they attack brain cells and their DNA. Eugenol also has the effect of encouraging brain-cell renewal, high-level thinking, concentration and powers of recall.

Studies also show that Eugenol increases levels of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Its antioxidant activity is five times more powerful than vitamin E’s powerful antioxidant, alpha-tocopherol.

Other Benefits of Cloves:

Cloves have vitamin K. Vitamin K is an important vitamin that is not found in many foods. Cloves are also filled with fiber and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, Cloves have an ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a measure of how well a food can clean up free radicals) that is extremely high, at over 315,000. For comparison garlic is about 6000 and broccoli is around 3000.

Coconut Palm Tree

Coconut Trees

Coconuts provide us with an excellent source of protein, natural fiber and healthy fats. We can make use of all parts of the coconut through out all of it’s growth stages.

Coconut Water:

Coconut water is at its maximum amount when the coconut is young. The water and jelly of a young coconut is rich in minerals, especially magnesium, but, not vitamins. As the coconut matures it becomes even more laden with good amounts of iron, zinc, copper, selenium and potassium.

Coconuts provide us with a very accessible easily absorbable form of magnesium. Magnesium is key to many bodily functions. You need it to make antioxidants, and it helps to fight anxiety and fatigue. It also helps to tone blood vessels, enhancing circulation in the tiny vessels in your eyes and ears, giving you sharper hearing and vision. You need magnesium for healthy blood sugar and bone building. Magnesium is especially important for your heart. It helps to maintain a healthy electrical balance required for normal heart rhythm. Your heart works because of electricity, a tiny bioelectric current that keeps it beating steadily. Without magnesium, the electrical impulses would stop.

Coconut water works to boost your thyroid function. An efficiently working thyroid  helps to boost one’s metabolism and energy production.

Coconut water contains a lot of potassium which is an electrolyte. A study reveals that after a workout coconut water better rehydrates and is absorbed more easily by the body than is water or carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages, better known as “sports drinks”.

Coconut Oil:

Coconut Meat

Coconut oil is derived from the coconut meat of a more mature coconut and brings many benefits to our body both internally and externally.

Externally it can be used as a base for make up and as a skin and hair conditioner. Coconut oil works to moisturize and soften our skin. The outer layer or barrier of our skin is partly made of fat and referred to as the ”acid mantle”. Keeping this layer water tight and healthy not only keeps your skin firm and smooth, but it’s your best defense against all the environmental toxins and pollutants produced by the modern world. The acid mantle is made up of skin cells and fats called sebum that protect you from environmental dangers like toxins, viruses, bacteria, and other attackers. This barrier works as an antioxidant. It protects skin from water loss, and it maintains the correct hardness of the water-holding protein, keratin, in your skin.

The MCT’s (medium chain fatty acids or medium chain triglycerides) in coconut oil are capric and lauric acid which help to reinforce the protective skin barrier and increase the proteins that hold on to water. These fats are only found in human breast milk, the milk of cows and goats, and coconut and palm kernel oil (which is not the same as palm oil). These MCT’s are key to helping maintain your skin’s pH balance. One’s skin needs to be slightly acidic (which is why the barrier is called an “acid” mantle) to stay water-tight and healthy.

The problem with many so called “mild” soaps and commercial products (especially hand sanitizers) is that they damage your skin barrier by stripping away too much of your fatty sebum. Thus disrupting your skin’s natural  mildly acidic pH. This shift leaves your skin open to infection, and unable to maintain moisture, causing one’s skin to be more prone to developing rashes and outbreaks.

The MCT’s in coconut oil react naturally with your skin, unlike many commercial products, to keep it hydrated and firm. They not only work to increase your acid mantle and keep your skin protein intact, but they also gently dissolve dead skin cells, leaving behind a fresher more even complexion. Coconut oil can penetrate underneath your protective layer, too, going deep down to heal underlying skin damage. By massaging coconut oil into your skin, you can improve the connective tissue deep below the surface. Coconut oil has been proven in clinical studies to mimic the skin’s natural repair mechanisms.

Lauric acid has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties that help to bulletproof your immune system. Unlike longer chain fatty acids, the MCT’s in coconut oil are tiny enough to enter your cell’s mitochondria directly. This means that internally your cells use the fat from coconut oil for instant energy, instead of storing it for later use.

Taken internally, unrefined oil such as virgin coconut oil is best. Three to four tablespoons of coconut oil a day will provide enough lauric acid to build the immune system. For most recipes, you can simply add an equal amount of coconut oil in place of butter, margarine, or shortening. You can use coconut oil in place of butter when you sauté. When one uses coconut oil to cook with it slows down the digestion of food, which helps one to feel fuller after you eat. 

The lauric acid content of dried coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil varies. On average one can obtain about:

  • 2 grams lauric acid from one tablespoon of dried coconut.
  • 3.5 grams lauric acid from 2 ounces coconut milk
  • almost 7 grams  lauric acid from one tablespoon coconut oil

Guava Tree

Ripe Guava Fruit

The fruit is delicious and the seeds add crunch. The seeds also have a lot of nutrients in them. However, refrain from eating the fruit in excess as it causes constipation.

The guava fruit itself is very rich in dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, copper and manganese.  The vitamin C content is 2-5x that of an orange. The fruit helps to strengthen your immune system. It has “prebiotic activity”. Prebiotics are non-digestible ingredients that power up the good bacteria in your gut. When these bacteria are strengthened, it improves your digestion, and you can absorb essential minerals better, improving your immune system.

Mature Guava Tree

Guava leaves are especially useful:

One can add water to crushed leaves to make an infusion which works well in treating rashes and skin diseases. The leaves also have anticancer properties. Studies show that extracts made from guava leaves help to suppress tumor growth. Guava is especially good for men, because it can interrupt the pathways by which prostrate cells become cancerous, and it can induce cell death in prostrate cells that have already become cancerous. Scientists are studying 60 compounds from guava for their possible anticancer effects. The leaves contain a flavonoid (flavonoids are plant compounds that have a lot of health-enhancing and protective properties) called morin which imparts an anticancer action. Research shows that morin can block growth of tumor cells, and kill off colon and breast cancer cells.

Guava leaves also have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects. When the leaves were tested for free radical scavenging and antioxidant activity, they proved to be surprisingly potent.  The time of year in which leaves are harvested has an effect upon how potent the leaves’ free radical scavenging activity is, or how extensive their antioxidant strength is. Leaves harvested from May through August, a bit before the fruit is usually harvested, have higher levels of antioxidant power.

Guava leaves also work to relieve upset stomachs, to cure diarrhea and to cure ulcers. The leaves and it’s extract are also potent enough to block giardia, the parasite that can give you a virulent form of diarrhea.

Upset Stomach Formula:

  1. 1oz of leaves to 1 cup of water. Mash leaves with mortar and pestle.
  2. Add 1 cup water to the mash. Then squeeze the water out of the leaves. Discard leaves.
  3. Add a little honey and salt to water. Consume.

Finally, when it comes to dietary fiber, guava is truly a superstar, containing about 9 grams per cup. There exists more fiber per one cup of guava than in an apple, apricot, banana, and nectarine combined.

Moringa Tree or Horseradish Tree

Mature Moringa Tree

The moringa tree is a super food. The leaves contain a remarkably complete set of nutrients. They have micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and every essential amino acid, which is rare for a plant. The pods, leaves, seeds, and roots are edible. Extracts from moringa leaf are full of antioxidants and have an antibacterial capacity. In particular two powerful antioxidants it contains are quercetin and kaempferol. Plants that contain kaempferol have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The leaf is high in protein content. Extracts from the root and leaf are also known to help relieve arthritis pain as well.

For healing applications the best quality leaf to use is not the youngest or the oldest leaves, but those somewhere in the middle. They have the most nutrients and medicinal value.

Enjoy this powerhouse in the form of a soup, drink, and tea.



Moringa Leaves

Moringa Soup

  1. Boil water and add chopped onion, garlic, chili, galangal (Thai ginger), pepper, coconut oil and salt.
  2. Turn off. Add fresh moringa leaves (use young and old leaves).
  3. Serve. Can also add fermented tempeh or tofu if you want.

For a less spicy version: leave out chili and substitute white or yellow ginger for the galangal ginger.

Moringa Drink (to boost immune system)

  1. Place small handful of fresh leaves in a blender with 3 cups of water.
  2. Add a bit of honey and lemon.
  3. Blend thoroughly and enjoy.

Moringa tea (hot or cold)

  • Hot: Use ½-1 tsp of moringa leaf powder and 8-12oz hot water. Allow to steep covered for about 10 minutes.
  • Cold: Add 1-2 Tbs of moringa leaf powder and a slice of fresh ginger root or some freshly squeezed lemon juice to 16oz of water. Stir thoroughly and allow to brew for 6o minutes.

Papaya Tree

Papaya Tree with ripe and green fruit

Eaten in moderate amounts papaya fruit aids in digestion. Eat a little more and it has a laxative effect.

Papaya Seeds:

The seeds of papaya have the opposite effect. Travelers with diarrhea just have to thoroughly chew and swallow a few papaya seeds and the problem should clear up quickly. Japanese researchers discover that compounds in papaya kill many bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella. Papaya seeds also have an effective anticancer compound. It’s called benzyl glucosinolate (BG). It is in the pulp of the unripended fruit (This fact highlights why a green papaya salad is considered to be so healthful.), and once the papaya fruit ripens, most of the BG is gone. However, the BG stays in the seeds.

Papaya Fruit:

Papaya is a great source for vitamin C and A. Vitamin C protects the protective caps on the ends of your DNA, called telomeres. According to research done by K. Furumoto on telomeres in 1998, the shorter your telomeres, the older your cells act and the more susceptible your body is to diseases like heart disease and cancer. The new exciting discovery about Vitamin C is that it’s very effective at stopping the oxidative stress that can shorten telomeres. When there’s too much oxidation, too many free radical attacks, your body can’t keep up with telomere repair. But, when you lower oxidative stress, your body can get to work repairing your telomeres. Keeping telomeres long helps one to age less quickly.

Ripe Papaya Fruit & Seeds

Papaya is also good for joint health. Your body uses Vitamin C to make collagen, the building block of all your joints and connective tissue. There exists an enzyme in papaya called papain. Papain is a proteolytic enzyme that can help if you suffer from excess inflammation and pain. It helps to increase the body’s own pain threshold, helps you recover more quickly from injury and reduces circulating free radicals that lead to painful inflammation. Papain helps to alleviate non-inflammatory pain as well. It helps to remove the cellular waste products that build up in the joints and cause pain.

It is estimated that almost half of the papaya grown in Hawaii is genetically engineered. So be sure you know where your papaya is coming from. The papaya trees we sell at the nursery undergo testing and are GMO free.

The sap from the papaya tree is also useful. One can use it to help with swelling and pain from bites such as bee stings. It can also work out a stubborn splinter. Just be careful when using it. If one uses too much sap or leaves it on for too long, it can cause an itchy rash.

If mosquitoes love to bite you, it is also recommended you eat papaya. Papaya has the effect of making your blood unappetizing to mosquitoes.

Papaya Seed Dressing

Papaya Seed Dressing:

To make a simple papaya seed dressing, that will help to keep cancer at bay, blend the following together:

  • ½ papaya fruit
  • 2 tbs of papaya seeds
  • ½ cup of nut oil of your choice
  • 1 tbs vinegar


**Auntie Karen creates home-made and hand-crafted herbal remedies and body care. You can learn more at here website Auntie Karens Medicine Chest.

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