Guaiac (Guaiacum officinale) also called Holy Wood or Wood of Life, is a tree of the family Zygophyllaceae, cultivated in the tropical countries, in particular in Venezuela, but it comes to us from the Antilles. Be careful not to confuse it with another tree of the same family but of another kind, the Palo Santo (Bulnesia sarmientoi) called Sacred Wood and grown in South America to be used as incense. You will not plant guaiac in the latitudes of metropolitan France, however you can use it for its medicinal benefits.
Guaiac, protected tropical tree
Guaiacum officinale is a large, beautiful, slow-growing tree with a twisted trunk that can reach 20 meters in its original environment. Its evergreen leaves are composed of 4 to 6 oval leaflets. Its pretty blue flowers then give way to spherical and pointed fruits.
It is its self-lubricating wood, particularly hard and dense, which is coveted to make axles, pulleys, wheels and all kinds of specific bearings.
This wood and its bark contains a resin, terpenes, vanillin and lignans including nordihydroguaiaretic acid which is an excellent antioxidant which must be wary because by promoting the formation of kidney stones, it becomes toxic to the liver.
This wood resin also provides the guaiac dye used as a reagent to detect oxidase enzymes and peroxidases sought in bacteriology.
He has been overexploited for his exceptional wood and because of its therapeutic properties. It is now protected by the ministerial decree of December 26, 1988 and inscribed in the World Red Book of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The medicinal virtues of guaiac
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish conquerors brought back guaiac in Europe, which gained an unparalleled renown for its alleged syphilis treatment powers. In fact, it was mainly used to "sweat his pox" because of its sudorific properties. Also diuretic and laxative, it promotes the elimination of toxins from the body.
However, registered in the French pharmacopoeia since 1884, guaiac is especially known for its anti-inflammatory properties to relieve rheumatism and arthritis. It is also said to be aphrodisiac which has led to it being the object of a lucrative trade!
The essential oil of guaiac wood is used to relieve heavy legs, varicose veins and hemorrhoids because of its decongestant virtues.
Guaiac is available and is used only in essential oil that can be bought in pharmacy, herbalism or natural stores that you use as directed by the pharmacist. In general, the essential oil sold under the name of guaiac (Guaiacum officinale) is actually extracted from Palo Santo (Bulnesia sarmientoi).
Guaiac in perfumery
Guaiac is used in perfumery as fixative, in the form of essential oil with a warm, woody, slightly smoky, balsamic scent, giving off vanilla and sandalwood notes, which is perfect for those who prefer exotic sensual scents.
The use of plants to heal must be done by asking a doctor, pharmacist or herbalist. Pregnant women, people with chronic and serious illnesses or taking medication should consult a doctor before self-medication can lead to adverse effects, including drug interactions.