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Mountain Apple

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Names of the Mountain Apple, past and present

Chinese: hong hua qing tao
Indonesian: jambu bol (lit. 'ball guava')
Malay: jambu merah (lit. 'red guava')
Jamaican: otaheite
French: pommerac / pomme Malac (lit. 'Malaysian apple')
Spanish: pomarrosa
Turkish: ohia 'a 'ai
Filipino (various dialects): makopa / mangkopa / yambu / gubal / tambis (species variant)
English: rose apple / mountain apple / Malay apple / water apple
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Syzygium samarangense / Syzygium malaccense

Background and History

The mountain apple tree is a flowering, fruit-bearing plant that is said to be a native of Malaysia, although it grows profusely in several parts of Asia, the Caribbean, and at least two colonial territories of the United States. While the mountain apple is a distinct species in itself, the name is largely used to refer to nearly all species under the genus Syzygium, as well as other non-related species bearing the aforementioned moniker. With regards to inter-specie relation however, all species under the Syzygium genus feature nearly similarly shaped fruits and foliage, and all are known to be medicinally employable and edible.

The mountain apple (also referred to oftentimes as the 'Malay apple') is a moderately sized fruit-bearing tree notable for its light-green, elongated leaves and slightly fleshy bark. The whole of the tree from the upper trunk on to the overreaching branches are covered by a slightly thick covering of mottled-green to mossy-brown bark which can be easily peeled with the least amount of pressure to reveal a slightly greenish inner-flesh underneath. The mountain apple tree is also noteworthy for its uniquely-shaped flowers. Typically flaunted by the larger body of its immediate species, it takes on the form of a brightly coloured fuzz-ball which is usually blood-red or scarlet in hue. A similar species, Syzygium samarangense, lacks this feature however, and is identifiable due to the lack.

The mountain apple fruit also shows a distinctly red appearance, typically taking on this colouration when it is ripe. In its unripe state however, the mountain apple is pale-green in colour. Some variants of the fruit growing from a single tree may display slight variations in its colouration, with the overall hue ranging from deep plum, pink, and even carnation. Some varietals of mountain apple, and evnen some wild varieties also show a wide array of colour differences, with black, purple, and even pale jade-hued ones being known. While there seems to be a natural consensus for a soft-fleshed, wholly edible fruit with a large, centrally-based, un-edible seed, other species of Syzygium lack this feature, and instead houses a mesh-like bed where one moderately-sized seed lays nestled. [1]

The whole fruit of the mountain apple is entirely edible, and is known for its sweet, cooling, and refreshing taste (although some varieties are sometimes tasteless). The bulk of the fruit is composed of a watery substance, which yields a crisp, yet internally moist fruit that, when ripe, bursts with juices. It is commonly consumed as a snack food in Asia (both in its ripe and unripe forms). Many parts of the tree are also considered medicinally viable, while the wood itself is employed for carpentry and local crafts.

Common / Popular Uses

The most common use of the mountain apple is as a foodstuff. The fruit is highly popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, where a wide array of prepared snack foods, preserves, and sweetmeats are made from mountain apples. In the Philippines, it is typically consumed fresh from the picking, and is a favourite especially of children, who derive intense pleasure in picking the pink-hued fruits from the tree. Because its taste veers from being intensely sweet to being somewhat bitter and grainy, Filipinos usually consume it by dipping the whole fruit in rock salt to counteract the bitterness. Some specially cultured varietals have been made by several countries to cater to the ever-increasing demand for this exotic fruit, which yields a number of larger, sweeter specimens, and even some that feature unique colourations not otherwise found in wild species. In some cultures, the mountain apple's fruit is more than just an edible snack-food, as it has been employed as a culinary condiment from time to time, while its moist nature has even made it a prime choice for the creation of unique types of fruit wine. Iy has also been employed (in sundry cultures) as a base for jams, preserves, and other savoury or sweet dishes. Many other parts of the mountain fruit tree display various levels of edibility - with its fuzz-ball flowers, immature shoots, and young leaves being incorporated (in raw or prepared form) to salads and other dishes in a number of Asian cultures. [2]

While its use as a food-source is commonplace in the Philippines, it is (if ever) rarely employed medicinally. In other parts of Asia however, the mountain apple is both a food-source and a medicinal plant, with each of its constituent parts having different medicinal properties. The leaves of the mountain apple tree is usually employed as an emollient, although its employment is tad queer in that it requires drying and powdering prior to being applied to the affected area. This practice is commonly employed in Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as some indigenous areas of the Philippines, although very rarely with regards to the latter. When pounded while fresh to extract the juice, the ensuing liquid is said to be a powerful antipyretic, emollient, and antiseptic. A decoction of fresh or dried leaves also yields the same therapeutic effects alongside notable anti-diabetic, carminative, and digestif properties. [3]

The bark of the mountain apple is a well-known astringent, as is commonly employed as either a poultice or a decoction for the sterilization of wounds and burns. Fresh mountain apple bark may be pounded with rock salt and employed as a poultice for open wounds, or as a rub to hasten the healing of sores (although this typically results in very painful treatment). A mild decoction of the bark may be drunk as a remedy for thrush, or otherwise employed as a topical rinse or douche in cases of vaginal thrush, Candida, or other types of yeast infections. More potent decoctions typically yield a liquor that can be drunk as a remedy for sore throats, diarrhea and amenorrhea. The roots of the plant can be pounded into a poultice and applied as-is to inflamed areas to help reduce the symptoms, or if otherwise mixed with a base-oil, may be employed as a topical remedy for itchiness of all sorts. [4]

When combined with the bark and decocted, it can be employed as a remedy for dysentery, amenorrhea, and constipation. Stronger decoctions of the root-bark combination have even been employed as an abortifacient or as a drink to help facilitate in placental expulsion after labour.

Esoteric / Magickal Uses

Despite its relative popularity as a medicine by natives from various parts of Asia and a large part of the Caribbean, no present documented magickal uses within the context of Western occult practice has been linked to the mountain apple tree. Various myths regarding the mountain apple however, as it is considered a sacred plant in both Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is said to bear a golden fruit every millennium or so, and whoever was lucky enough to partake of it would know true immortality. The mountain apple is also considered sacred to Buddha, Lakshmi, and Ganapati. In Hawaii, the mountain apple's large, mature bark has been employed by traditional builders as the primary or choice material for the creation of the beams and foundations of their dwellings, as it is believed to bring about good fortune and health. In Hawaiian magick, the fruit is considered sacred, and at one time was employed only as temple offerings. The fruit and tree as a whole is considered sacred to the goddess Pele, who was ruler of volcanoes and the element of fire. [5]

Within this context, the mountain apple may be employed as a sacrificial offering to fire-based entities or deities within the Western esoteric practice, while its wood may be used for the creation of wands or staves with a destructive or masculine energy signature. The sheer innovation of the Western magus is the limit to its esoteric employment, while traditional practice in the Asiatic and Carib context may prove useful for magicians who follow such paths.

Medicinally, mountain apple fruits are absolutely safe for general consumption, although the employment of any of its other selected plant parts for therapeutic purposes needs be undertaken with caution. As a general rule, pregnant and nursing women should avoid imbibing decoctions or infusions made from its leaves, bark, roots, or any combination thereof to prevent accidental miscarriage or sudden hormonal shifts.

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syzygium_malaccense

[2] - [4] http://www.stuartxchange.com/Makopa.html

[5] http://www.canoeplants.com/ohia.html

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. © herbs-info.com 2013

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