Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) is a perennially growing small tree or shrub belonging to the Chrysobalanaceae family. This species has its origin in the Caribbean, Latin America and the south-eastern regions of the United States. This is an evergreen plant that can endure various different types of environmental conditions. Cocoplum is mainly cultivated for its colourful foliage and fruit. This plant grows very slowly, but can enhance the ornamental aspect of any landscape or your garden.
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Generally, cocoplum is found growing close to sea beaches as well as inland all over places having tropical climatic conditions in the Americas, Africa, the Caribbean as well as the southern regions of Florida, in addition to the Bahamas. Moreover, this species is also found as an alien plant on various other tropical islands, where cocoplum has eventually turned out to be a problematical invasive plant. Despite the fact that taxonomists differ on whether cocoplum has various subspecies and varieties, generally it has been recognized that cocoplum has two ecotypes - one variety being a coastal type called C. icaco var. icaco and the second one is an inland variety called C. icaco var. pellocarpus, which is less tolerant to salt. However, the ripened fruits and the seed contained inside their ribbed shell are fairly edible.
This species is basically a shrub growing up to a height of 2 meter to 3 meters or a bushy tree that reaches a height of anything between 2 meters and 6 meters, on rare occasions even up to 10 meters. This evergreen plant produces broad-oval to almost round-shaped leaves that are leathery to some extent and measure between 3 cm to 10 cm in length and 2.5 cm to 7 cm in width. The color of these leaves vary from green to pale red. Even the color of the cocoplum bark of the shrub/ small tree varies from greyish to reddish brown, having white flecks.
Cocoplum bears small, white flowers that appear in clusters towards the end of spring. The fruits of this plant also appear in clusters during the latter part of summer. The fruits borne by the coastal variety of this species are round and measure up to 5 cm across. Some fruits of this variety may also come in light yellow hue having rose blush or even dark purple. On the other hand, the fruits of the inland variety are oval shaped, have a deep purple hue and measure about 2.5 cm in length.
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It is worth mentioning here that trees described as the coastal form of cocoplum possess the aptitude to tolerate high concentrations of salt. As a result, they are often planted with a view to stabilize the edges of the beaches and thwart soil erosion. In addition, this shrub is also grown as an ornamental plant. However, this form of cocoplum trees cannot endure hard frost and die when the frosting is extreme. The fruits of this species are edible, have a sweet flavour and are used for making jam.
Cocoplums offer a wide variety of health benefits. They are excellent for the health of your eyes. In fact, they enclose a reasonable quantity of beta carotene as well as vitamin A, which are crucial for our eyes to function healthily. In addition vitamin A and beta carotene also help to put off macular degeneration, thereby protecting the corneas from the harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays.
Aside from being good for our eyes, cocoplums are also excellent for the health of the heart. It is said that consumption of dried cocoplums helps to enhance fluidity of the blood, thereby lessening the risks of developing heart attacks. Eating cocoplums can also help to avoid as well as treat atherosclerosis and, at the same time, reduce the risks of strokes and heart attacks.
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The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels present in cocoplums are very healthy. This healthy cholesterol level in cocoplums is useful in preventing the development of hyperlipidermia and hypercholesterolemia. In addition, presence of good cholesterol in the body also helps to build as well as sustain healthy cell membranes. They also improve the cell signalling supporting the B-cell, T-cell as well as various other immune functions. It is worth mentioning here that cholesterol is one of the basic molecules that are used in making vitamin D by the body. In fact, it has been often found that people with elevated levels of cholesterol have a propensity to live a very long life.
Aside from having high levels of cholesterols, cocoplums also enclose elevated amounts of vitamin C, which is highly beneficial for our immune system. This vitamin also boosts up the resistance of our body against various types of irritations and contaminations. Scientific studies undertaken with cocoplums have shown that the species grown in the orient possess immune-stimulatory constituents, which invigorate nitric oxide generation in the body. Therefore, consumption of cocoplums may hinder the tumour cell metastasis.
Cocoplum is also a wonderful fruit for preventing cancer. Findings of several studies have established that this natural produce is highly beneficial for cancer. Studies have demonstrated that cocoplums as well as other plums contain a compound called epicatechin, which is helpful is slowing down malignant cancer cell growth and, at the same time, they induce apoptosis in case of liver cancer. As cocoplums contain rich amounts of antioxidants and phyto-nutrients, neo-chlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid, they are excellent for combating cancer cells, but do not cause any harm to the body's healthy cells.
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The health benefits offered by cocoplums are many and varied. They are wonderful for the health of the cells in our body. Cocoplums enclose essential minerals like iron and copper that are useful for maintaining a healthy blood circulation as well as purifying the blood. The copper present in these cocoplums works in the form of an antioxidant. Copper is also essential for the health of the nerves and helps in collagen formation. Eating cocoplums, which are rich in copper content, assists the body to take up iron from ingested food. In addition, iron and copper are also useful in putting off the onset of various ailments, such as anemia. They also prevent degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis.
Cocoplums are also wonderful for the health of our skin. Since these fruits contain elevated amounts of vitamin C as well as many other antioxidants, they are similar to other plums and very beneficial for the skin. Consuming cocoplums regularly can make your skin smooth and radiant, combating dark spots on the skin and curing acne naturally.
Cocoplums are very beneficial for pregnant women. They are useful during pregnancy, because they contain elevated levels of different vitamins and minerals. Moreover, cocoplums contain rich amounts of fiber, which is useful in promoting digestion and alleviating constipation.
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In addition to the health benefits of cocoplums discussed above, they are also useful for sustaining the perfect electrolyte balance in our body. They enclose elevated levels of potassium and, hence, are helpful for ensuring that the tissues as well as the cells in our body function effectively. Potassium is effective in controlling the balance between acid and base in our body. In addition, this essential mineral also helps the muscles in our body to contract.
Cocoplums are useful in promoting the health of bones. They enclose vitamin K, which is necessary for the health of bones, in addition to correcting the feeble bones in our body. In fact, when there is a deficiency of vitamin K in our body, it generally leads to excessive loss of blood.
In addition to the above mentioned health benefits of cocoplums, they are also an excellent remedy for anxiety. It is recommended that everyone should eat cocoplums daily, as consuming these fruits has an anxiolytic action. Moreover, cocoplums contain chlorogenic acids, which possess antioxidant properties and can be useful in curing anxiety problems.
Findings of several scientific studies have hinted that the effects of consuming dried cocoplum are very positive in boosting weight loss.
Cocoplum is basically a shrub that flourishes when grown in well-drained soil having a pH level of anything between 6.6 and 8.4. When you include a 2-inch stratum of compost into the original soil in your garden, it will help in making the drainage even better. If you are growing new cocoplum plants, you should preferably use moist soil. However, once the plants are well established, they can endure brief periods of drought. It is worth mentioning here that low temperatures, such as 32°F can cause much harm to the shrub's foliage. Hence, it is advisable that you cover the foliage with fabric, so that the damage is minimized. Similarly, growing these cocoplum shrubs in containers and shifting them indoors during the colder months can also help to protect the plants from damage.