Star fruit, multifunctional herb

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Star fruit trees, native to the tropics of Southeast Asia, are grown all over Vietnam, both the sweet and sour varieties.

Star fruits are good for the eyes and for women after pregnancy and cure ailments like cough, sore throat, swollen glands, joint pain, ulcers and edema, says herbalist Dinh Cong Bay, general secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine Association

Its scientific name (Averrhoa carambola L.) derives from Averrhoes (1126-98), a widely known Arab physician, who discovered the medicinal qualities of star fruit.

According to herbalist Dinh Cong Bay, general secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine Association, star fruit mixed with pepper provokes a healthy sweat; crushed star fruit can be applied to the body to relieve exhaustion; warm star fruit crushed reduces itching.

Also, star fruit stimulates eye function; aides women after pregnancy; and treats other ailments such as coughing, sore throat, swollen glands, joint pain, ulcers and edema.

100 grams of star fruit contain 92 grams of water, 0.3 gram of protein, 0.4 gram of lipid, 5.7 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of cellulose, 0.3 gram of ash.

Though star fruit are 92 percent water, they also include micro-nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium; vitamins A, B1, B2, PP and C.

Averrhoa carambola L. contains 1 percent of oxalic acid. It is not very sour.

Vietnamese people consider star fruit usable as either a fruit or vegetable. It goes very well with fish sauce. It's great in seafood soup or stir-fried with beef, clams or mussels.

It diffuses the stench of certain seafood and meats, which is why it is often added to soup with eels, snails, beef, or snake-head fish.

Ripe star fruit is used to make jam. A small star fruit can supply one-third of the vitamin C needed for our body a day. Star fruit also contains fibrous matter which can help prevent constipation.

Herbalist Bay said that the star fruit can help regulate body temperature, remove body waste material, and contribute to the production of sperm. It can treat dehydration, alcohol poisoning, oliguria and bleeding wounds.

It is advisable to eat 40-80g of star fruit a day, either whole or juiced. Star fruit juice has a cooling effect, so it can reduce heat, treat sunstroke, toothache, swollen gums, ulcers in the mouth and reduce blood sugar.

Star fruit flowers taste sweet can treat malaria, respiratory ailments, dysentery and children's epilepsy. Star fruit flowers mixed with ginger or alcohol are dried and cooked to treat coughs with mucous. It is advisable to use 4-12g a day.

The bark, trunk and leaves of the star fruit tree taste sour, acrid and help increase urination and treat swelling. They can help alleviate runny nose, intestinal inflammation, bruises, pimples and other skin ulcers.

Boil 10-20g of bark or trunk; or 20-40g of leaves of star fruit and drink the water.

It is possible to boil its bark, trunk and leaves to drink the water or have a wash with the water to treat lacquer poisoning, itches or nettle-rash.

Its roots can be used to treat rheumatism as a pain reliever. Dry it and boil 12-20g of it to drink the water.

Star fruit remedy recipes:

- To treat ulcers in the feet caused by water: put one or two star fruit in hot ash, apply them to areas of pain once they are warm.

- To treat retention of urine and bladder pain: Use seven sour star fruit (use only the third of the fruit closest to the stem). Boil in 600ml of water until only 300ml left. Drink the water while it is still warm. Crush one star fruit and one garlic clove and apply to the navel.

- To treat flu, body aches: Smoke three sour star fruits, squeeze them to get the juice, mix with 50ml of white alcoholic drink, drink in one time or drink it in several times when the stomach is empty.

- To treat a temperature, headache, little urine, sunstroke: dry 100g of fresh leaves, boil them in 750ml of water till there is only 300ml left. Drink it in two times before a meal.

Or wash 100g of fresh star fruit leaves and 20-40g of fresh lemon, crush them and squeeze them to get the juice to drink in two times before a meal.

- To treat an acute sore throat: Crush 80-100g of fresh star fruit leaves with some salt, squeeze them to get the juice. Divide it into two or three parts to hold in the mouth and swallow slowly.

- To treat dry coughs, loose coughs with mucous: Dry 8-12 grams of star fruit flowers with ginger juice, 12g of liquorices, 8-10 g of majoram. Boil them in 750ml of water till there is only 300ml left. Drink it in two times before a meal.

Apart from the carambola, there is another kind of star fruit called Averrhoa bilimbi L. or cucumber star fruit. It is cylindrical and about 5-10cm long. It looks like a cucumber, sometimes there are ridges but the ridges are not as high as the ridges of the carambola.

Averrhoa bilimbi L. is yellow green and transparent. It is very sour when it is ripe because it contains up to 6 percent of oxalic acid. Therefore, it is usually used to make pickles to eat or make syrup to drink.

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