“Whenever anyone grows tired of the secondhand sort of existence that depends on purchased products, and wants to resume the intimate relationship with nature that man once enjoyed, the kukui-nut stands ready to furnish him with food, flavor, tannin, oil, paint, varnish, medicine, and magic.” – Euell Gibbons – proponent of natural diet
Such has been the usefulness of Candlenut or Kukui nut to Hawaiian people. This plant belongs to family of biofuel crop Jatropha. It is also known by names – Aleurites molucana, Varnish Tree, Indian Walnut tree, Belgium walnut tree, Kemiri or Candleberry.
Kukui in Hawaiian means light. It has been traditionally referred by that name as it was then burned for light. Each nut when burnt lasts for about 10-15 minutes. This plant is native to Indian Subcontinent and parts of South East Asia. It was successfully introduced to Carribbean islands and US. In Indonesia and Malaysia, candlenut is used as spice. In Hawaii it is used for various purpose. The husk of the nut is used as black dye in tattooing or other decorative works. Kukui tree was adopted as part of emblem of Hawaii in 1959 and is their state tree. Crushed, powdered roasted seeds along with Hawaiian sea salt (pa’akai), chilli pepper and seaweed is used a condiment – inamona in Hawaii. Leaves, bark and raw fruit of the plant is toxic in nature. However ripe fruit is used in food and medicinal purposes. Candlenut bears high amount of oil which is extracted and used as kukui nut oil. This sap from the green fruit (waikea) and juice of the green nut (kohu kukui) are used for various medicine purpose in Hawaii.
Nutritional value of Kukui nut
Major portion of Kukui nut is fatty acids which forms nearly 60% of its weight. One fifth of candlenut is protein. It contains fibers, Thiamine, minerals like calcium, potassium and iron. Minerals like zinc, copper and selenium is present in trace quantities. Candlenut contains various phytochemcials including saponins, flavonoids and polyphenols. Kukui nut oil contains good mix of polyunsaturated fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid. This include mainly palmitic acid and linoleic acid. Omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio is around 1.7 which is optimal. It also contains fat soluble gamma-tocopherol. Amino acids like glutamic acid and aspartic acid are present in candle nut which offers to enhance sense of flavor.
Health benefits of Kukui nut
Kukui nut or candle nut finds its use as medicine traditionally. Various parts of the tree have been used for medicinal purpose. Some of the health benefits of candlenut are discussed below:
Candlenut has anti-microbial action
Various parts of Candlenut tree have been used as natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Kukui nut oil is used as natural anti-microbial. Some research has infact found its effectiveness against HIV-1 virus. Various phytochemicals are responsible for such properties of Candlenut. In Fiji, sap of the tree is used to treat conjunctivitis.
Anti-inflammatory properties of Candlenut
In studies, methanolic extract of candlenut tree leaves have been investigated to posses anti-inflammatory action. Effect of such leaf extract decreased edema in rat and was comparable to dosages of anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Such action can be attributed to presence of alkaloids, sterols and flavonoids in candlenut leaves.
Kukui nut oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which offer anti-inflammatory properties to body. It can be used to treat various inflammatory skin diseases topically. It has been used as folk medicine to cure skin sores, ulcers and asthama. In Hawaii, young leave of the trees are used to mend broken bones, bruises and wounds. In Malaysia they are used to relieve symptoms of sciatica. Kukui nut oil is found useful in treating inflammatory diseases like asthma, tuberculosis, rheumatism and piles.
Kukui relieves pain and heals wounds
Flavonoids in leaves of candlenut tree offers pain killing and anti-pyretic properties. It is used as folk medicine over fever and toothache. A study conducted to understand such property of this plant found effectiveness of candlenut leaf dried extract over pain and wound healing. Another animal study successfully investigated antinociceptive effect of Aleurites moluccana dried extract over inflammation and neuropathic pain and suggests its potential on treating persistent pain in humans. Another study found its benefits in regenerating eye tissue and healing corneal wound in rabbits. Thus there exists potential for use of kukui seed and its tree parts to relieve pain. In Hawaii, Candlenut leaves are used to treat joint pain in arthritis, fevers, and headaches. Kukui nut oil is applied topically for stomach aches or cramps.
Benefits of Kukui nut for Skin
Today in market you would find various skin care and cosmetic products contain candlenut seed extract and candlenut seed oil. Oil from seed offers body with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential for health of the skin. It offers essential nutrients required for skin growth. As an anti-inflammatory agent it reduces skin inflammation and can be used in treatment of psoriasis, eczema and sun burns. It offers essential fatty acids and vitamin E to skin and protects it from impact of free radical. This non greasy oil works as good moisturizing oil and with other aromatic oil it can work wonders. Oil is also used for massage and spa. In Hawaii oil is applied topically to remove marks of burn or stretch. Sap of this tree is used to treat fungal skin disorders while leaves and bark are used to treat septic wounds. Hawaiians used ground Candlenut seeds to heal wound and ulcers. Kukui nut oil is useful to remove stretch marks on pregnant woman’s abdomen. Oil is used to treat cancer patients with burns from radiation treatment in Hawaii.
Benefits of Kukui nut to hair
Kukui nut oil has been considered good for scalp health and hair growth in Hawaii and Fiji. It provides vital nutrients required for growth of hair and protects them from damage. Its anti-fungal action protects scalp from diseases and dandruff.
Oral care and Candlenut
Infusion made from candlenut tree sap, flowers and bark is used to treat oral thrush, sore throat, tonsillitis, toothache, bad breath and mouth sores in Hawaii. However, not much scientific evidences are available on this subject. It is understood that phytochemcials in candlenut tree offers anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which are useful in oral care. Flower of candlenut tree is used to treat oral thrush.
In Polynesia, infusion made from bark of candlenut is used as gargle, while in Tonga leaves are used in treating pediatric mouth infections.
Candlenut and treatment of diabetes
Study suggests that candlenut helps in reducing blood fats and blood glucose. Methanol extract of Aleurites moluccana was found to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar in rats. Research suggests its interference with sugar and fat metabolism in body. Further research on candlenut and its use in treatment of cancer is active.
Candlenut oil aids brain function
Candlenut oil offers rich quantity and right proportion of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which are building blocks of brain tissue. They are required for proper functioning and growth of brain. Thus PUFA rich candlenut oil can aid brain functions and prevent disorders associated with brain functioning or brain cell damage. It protects brain from oxidative stress and prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Candlenut on gastro-intestinal disorders
As folk medicines it is used to treat various stomach related ailments in South East Asia and Hawaii. Candlenut oil is mild laxative and aids in bowel movements. Decoction made from candlenut bark or leaves is used for treating dysentery, diarrhea and stomach upsets. In Papua New Guinea, leaves of candlenut are used to relieve food poisoning.
Benefits to reproductive system
Chinese have considered Candlenut as aphrodisiac. In Hawaii, they have put kukui tree to use for various reproductive system disorders. Sap of tree is used in groin swelling or swelling of uterus. Smoke of candlenut leaves and bark is used as douche to cleanse vagina. Malay people applied boiled leaves topically over gonorrhea. Tribes from Papua New Guinea applied paste of kukui seed topically on penis as contraceptive. In Fiji, candlenut is used to relieve post partum weakness. In Tongo, a decoction of bark is used for infertility in women. All the above medicinal benefits are yet to be supported by scientific evidence yet.
Other uses of candlenut
Dried sap from trunk is used as varnish and copper colored dye. Kukui nut oil is natural wood preservative. Hawaiian fishermen use it to protect their boat and fishing nets. Oil is also used in soap making. It is used as waterproofing agent for paper, boats and surfboards. Oil can be used as biofuel.
Other Names of Candlenut
- Hindi: Jangli akhrot (wild walnut), Akhrot
- Marathi: Ramakrot, Ramakharot,
- Tamil: Nattuakrottu
- Malayalam: Akrottu, Akshotam, Karankolam, Vadam
- Telugu: Uduga, Natuakrotu
- Kannada: Akroda, Natakrodu, Arkod, Naaduaakrotu
- Oriya: Akshota
- Sanskrit: Akharota, Akhota, Asphotaka, Gudashaya
- Italian: Albero della vernice, Noce di bankul
- French: Aleurite, Aleurite delle Molucche, Arbre à vernis, Balucanat, Bancoule, Bancoulier, Bancoulier des Moluques, Bankul (French-speaking Asia)
- German – Bancoulnuss, Bankulnussbaum, Candlenuss
- Dutch – Bankoelnoot, Kemirinoot
- Danish – Bankultræ
- Malay – Buah keras, Kamari, Kemiri
- Spanish – Calumbá, Camirio
- Turkish – Cila ag
- Persian – Girda-gâne-hindi
- Chinese- He shi li
- Arabic – Jouze-barri
- Japanese – Kukui nattsu
- Vietnamese – Lai
- Fijian – Lauci
- Sudanese – Moentjang, Moluccan oil tree, Munchang