Seagrape

Coccoloba uvifera

Herbs gallery - Seagrape

Common names

  • Baygrape
  • Seagrape
  • Shore-grape

The seagrape (scientific name Coccoloba uvifera) is a flowering plant from the Polygonaceae family, which also includes buckwheat. It can be found on tropical beaches in the Caribbean and the Americas. Its range starts from Florida and extends to Caribbean islands like Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Antilles.

The seagrape doesn't grow higher than 8 meters and can be considered to be a bush or small tree. Seagrape has smooth bark with a yellow color, while the leaves are large, with a glossy dark green look and up to 15 cm in size. They grow in alternate fashion with small petioles and a bean shape, with a red main vein and ragged edges. The small white flowers are located on terminal racemes. They consist of five petals and eight stamens, with a mild fragrance. The red or purple fruits with green dots are about 1.5 cm long. They can be found in clusters on branches, have only one hard seed and resemble small pears in shape.

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Parts used

Fruits, bark, roots, wood.

Uses

Besides their amazing taste, the seagrape fruits have a number of medical uses. They are known to reduce inflammation, cure intestinal issues and even lighten up the skin. A decoction made from the leaves can be used to clean wounds and as a cure for asthma. The wood, bark and roots can be made into a decoction that can treat hemorrhages, venereal diseases and dysentery. When applied externally, the seagrape decoction can treat rashes and other skin issues. The juice of the seagrape has similar properties.

Consuming the seagrape fruit regulates the function of the liver and also facilitates digestion. The fruits are also able to reduce the level of cholesterol and sugar in the blood stream, which is critical for many of today's diseases. Because of their mixture of nutrients, the fruits strengthen the bones and articulations. This is because of the powerful cocktail of calcium, vegetal proteins, DHA, EPA, ALA and other polyunsaturated fatty acids part of the omega3 group. These compounds can offer relief in cases of arthritis and reduce overall inflammation.

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The unsaturated fatty acids such as AA, LA, DHA, EPA and ALA provide many benefits. They have antioxidant effects and improve memory and vision. They are especially important for circulation, preventing strokes, myocardial infarction and atherosclerosis, while reducing blood cholesterol, strengthening the collagen structure of the arteries and allowing them to remain elastic.

Seagrapes can reduce high blood pressure due to the very high content of potassium, calcium and vitamin C. All of these compounds are known to regulate blood pressure, which is also decreased by stimulating excretion. The fruit is also effective against diabetes. It directly reduces the amount of sugar in the blood stream. However, it indirectly fights diabetes by reducing the intracellular buildup of sorbitol and breaking the binding of glucose and protein. The antioxidant effect is also helpful in preventing the side effects of diabetes.

Like most fruits, seagrapes are good for digestion and prevent constipation. Due to the low amount of sugar and calories, the good bacteria in the intestinal tract are able to avoid constipation by processing the food quickly.

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Seagrapes are also a major source of iodine, with a content of around 1.8 mg in a 100g serving. Iodine prevents the disease known as goiter, by ensuring that the thyroid gland works properly. About 30g of seagrapes are enough to supply the daily required amount of iodine.

Consuming this fruit is especially beneficial for the health of the skin and hair. Seagrapes are rich in essential fats, which ensure the skin stays moist by improving its elasticity, lowering the permeability of the cells walls and improving the strength of the membranes. Seagrapes act like natural cosmetics and can restore the health of the skin and hair, while reversing the effects of aging. They provide a great mix of vitamin A, vitamin C, collagen and antioxidants.

Seagrapes are a good choice for a healthy diet due to the low content of sugar. They can be consumed safely by overweight people because of the good mix of nutrients like vegetable protein, vitamin C, polyunsaturated fatty acids, calcium, zinc and iron.

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A special compound found in the composition of seagrapes is fucoidan. This rare natural chemical occurs in most varieties of the plant. It appears to have a strong action against cancer as well as other significant benefits: it increases immune response, can treat meningitis and reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood.

The fruits can be applied on skin problems such as rashes in order to heal them faster. The native medicine of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands uses the root and bark for their astringent effect. Decoction of leaves is believed to treat anemia, skin irritations, menopausal symptoms, diarrhea, asthma and even tumors in the Dominican Republic.

People of Yucatan brew a tea from seagrape bark then mix it with alcohol to create a cure for ulcers. The plant juice is named "Jamaica kino" in the French Guyana, where it is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery due to its astringent properties. Other digestive problems can be relieved with a stem decoction.

Habitat and cultivation

The seagrape plant can't survive frost but is able to resist low temperatures, to a minimum of 2°C. In such situations, the leaves initially turn red before falling off the branches. It can tolerate many other harsh conditions: can resist strong winds and grows in the shade. It is useful to consolidate the edge of beaches because of its ability to grow in salty conditions. Seagrape is also a good ornamental plant in harsh tropical climates.

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Seagrapes are very resilient and can survive in a variety of locations with severe heat, salty soil and air, as well as persistent drought. They tolerate many types of soils and are suited to the special environment found in the tropical coastal zones. The plant can be attacked by a pest named the seagrape borer, an insect that consumed the leaves, causing mostly esthetic damage. When cultivated indoors, it is also vulnerable to mealy bugs, mites and other common houseplant pests. Otherwise, there are no diseases associated with the plant.

It is very easy to propagate by seed. For best results, the seeds should be harvested and planted as soon as the fruits become ripe, which happens at the end of summer. The seeds normally germinate readily, without any pretreatment or scarification required. A good practice is to remove the seeds gently from the fruits and wash them well in order to prevent mildew or rotting, before sowing them in the ground.

Constituents

Chemical tests made on the methanolic extract of seeds have identified compounds like fucoidan, iodine, tannins, flavonoids, saponins and polyphenols. The concentration of tannins is higher in the branches, roots and stem bark. The seagrape fruit is a great source of calcium, zinc, iron, other minerals, proteins and vitamins A and C.

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