Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale) medicinal herb is commonly known as Guayacan, Palo Santo, Wood of life, Guaiac, Lignum vine, Guaiacum officinale as well as Holy tree and is the source of guiacum resin. It is native to Central America as well as Jamaica. In Central America it is also referred to as guaiac meaning, "woods of life."
In Florida as well as California the tree is utilized as ornament. The main parts used as herbal medicine are the leaves, flowers and the inner bark. It proudly stands as the national flower of Jamaica making it one of the most important tree in the Island.
constituents are volatile oil, resins, lignans and triterpene
saponins. The medicinal properties are expectorant, antiseptic,
anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antioxidant, laxative, diaphoretic and
The officinale as well as the sanctum are the two main species that are targeted and utilized. However, the sanctum is the bastard tree and this is native to Florida. The two trees however have the same herbal remedies which can be quite beneficial to the human body.
It is deemed as the hardest wood amongst the woods of the forest and was utilized as the wood to build ships and other wood constructions which require strength, durability and hardness. It may be used as well to manufacture exquisite furniture and other pieces of wood art.
The wood also contains an high oil content and the powdered wood can even be put into a cavity a few days before extraction of the tooth making it pain free with just a little bleeding. I think dentists could do well with this herbal and natural approach than with the use of cocaine.
Used as an herbal medicine, the leaves are excellent alternative medicine for high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy as well as rheumatism. The tea is also used to wash the eyes as well as to strengthen the eyes.
An herbal poultice made with the crushed leaves mixed with coconut oil is good to treat abscesses, blisters, sores, boils, gout and also swollen glands. The bark as well as the leaves are mild laxative and one of its medicinal properties is diuretic.
Not to be left out are the flowers, which also contain health benefits in the form of herbal remedies. The flowers are used to treat asthma, colds, flu, coughs, tuberculosis and other respiratory conditions inclusive of mucous congestion.
The inner bark of the tree may be made into a liniment for ailments like sprains and pains in regards to rheumatism and arthritis.
Many individuals use the branches to ward off flies by hanging them in the kitchen or placing lignum vitae in kitchen cupboards.
Updated March 20, 2020