Bilimbi fruit (Averrhoa bilimbi) also known as cucumber tree or tree sorrel, is a tropical fruit native to Malaysia and Indonesia. It is the closed relative of star fruit (Carambola sp). Now bilimbi is cultivated throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Central and South America. The fruits are small, with cylindrical-elliptical shape. It is around 4-10 cm long and 1,5-3 cm in diameter, with lime-green color. The fruits are attached to the tree trunk. It’s common to see a bilimbi tree trunk full of fruits during fruiting season. The fruit is crunchy when it’s unripe. When ripe, the fruit falls to the ground. Once harvested, bilimbi fruit has short shelf life, only 5 days. Its skin is also easily bruised just by handling. Because of these reasons, it is difficult to transport these fruits over long distance.
The fruits can be preserved by sun drying. The dried bilimbi fruits is called “asam sunti”, used in many Asian soups and curries. Most of bilimbi fruits taste sour due to high content of oxalic acid, except the “kamias” variety from Philippines which is sweet-sour and can be eaten raw. Since it is considered too sour to be eaten raw, bilimbi fruit is usually used in cuisines, such as salads, fish soups and curries. The high acidity gives refreshing taste to the cuisines. Meanwhile, bilimbi fruit is used in traditional medicine throughout Asia because of its high acidic properties.
Bilimbi fruit contains most of major nutrients required by our body. Here is the nutritional value of 100 grams of fresh fruits:
|Component||Amount / 100 g||% Daily Value|
|Protein||0,61 g||1,22 %|
|Fiber||0.6 g||2,4 %|
|Phosphorus||11.1 mg||1,11 %|
|Calcium||3.4 mg||3,4 %|
|Iron||1.01 mg||5,61 %|
|Thiamine (Vit B1)||0.010 mg||0,66 %|
|Riboflavin (Vit B2)||0.026 mg||1,529 %|
|Carotene (Vit A)||0.035 mg||1,16 %|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vit C)||15.5 mg||25,83 %|
|Niacin (Vit B3)||0.302 mg||1,51 %|
Daily Value is based on 2000 Calories diet. Your may need more or less calories according to your age, gender, health status, and your daily activities.
Bilimbi plant has many health benefits, from the fruits, leaves and young stems. Bilimbi fruit contains antioxidants and has astringent effect due to its high acid. As a result, here are the health benefits of bilimbi you never know it before.
1. Control Hypertension
Hypertension is a condition assiociated with the rise of blood pressure in the arteries. A person is said to have hypertension when his/her blood pressure is consistently above 140/90 mmHg. Bilimbi fruit has been used traditionally to control hypertension. Bilimbi fruits are boiled with 3 cups of water until half of the water has evaporated, then the decoction can be taken once it’s lukewarm. It is advised to drink this decoction every morning.
2. Control Diabetes
Bilimbi fruits are known to reduce blood sugar level. there are 2 ways of taking the benefits for controlling blood sugar level: first, making the bilimbi fruits into juice and drink it just like any other fruit juice. The second, boil mashed bilimbi fruits with 1 cup of water until half of the water is evaporated. Then take the
decoction by straining the stew and drink it 2 times a day.
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3. Reduce Fever and Flu
Bilimbi fruit decoction is already used for centuries to treat fever. The flower is made into infusion for treating cold and cough. The high vitamin C in this fruit helps strengthen immune system.
4. Cough Syrup
Bilimbi fruit extract has been added to cough syrup, due to its positive effects in reducing coughs and runny nose. the sour taste also make the cough syrup more palatable.
5. Topical Analgesic – Antibiotic Effect
The sap from young stems and the leaves are used in traditional medicine to reduce swelling, rheumatism, itch, and insect bites. The young stems and leaves are mashed with 3-4 cloves of garlic and made into smooth paste. The paste is applied to the affected area of the skin. The astringent effect will reduce the swelling and pain in rheumatism, also reducing the swelling caused by skin eruptions and insect bites.
6. Treatment of Mumps
Mumps (epidemic parotitis) is a disease caused by mumps virus. This virus attacks parotid salivary glands, can be one or both parotid glands. The disease results in painful swelling in parotid glands. Putting the paste of young stems and leaves of bilimbi with garlic (see point 5) can give positive effect in reducing the swelling.
7. Treatment of Allergies
Allergy is a condition caused by the hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system towards some particular things outside of the body. The particular things can be foods, drugs, air (causing allergic rhinitis and asthma), metals (causing dermatitis), etc. The symptoms may include red eyes, breathing disturbance, runny nose, itching on the skin, even more serious ones like Steven-Johnson syndrome. Drinking bilimbi fruit juice or bilimbi leaves infusion regularly can reduce the allergies.
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8. Treatment of Inflamed Hemorrhoids
Bilimbi fruit syrup can be used to treat any inflammations, including hemorrhoids. The astringent effect helps reduce rectal bleeding.
Bilimbi fruit for Reproductive Organs
9. Treatment of STD
In Malaysia, the sun-dried fruits and leaves are used to treat STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases, a.k.a Venereal Diseases). Some sun-dried fruits and leaves are boiled with 3 glasses of water until half of the water evaporates, then the decoction can be taken 2 times a day. The flower infusion is used to treat thrush (candidiasis).
10. Tonic after Childbirth
The bilimbi leaf infusion is used as tonic after childbirth in Asia and Latin America.
Bilimbi Fruit for Beauty Treatment
11. Reduce Pimples and Brighten Skin
The oxalic acid and vitamin A in bilimbi fruits helps reducing pimples, soothing the painful inflamed ones. Vitamin C helps make the skin brighter, reduce black spots and keep the skin tight because it promotes the production of collagen, a substance needed to keep the skin tones.
To remove the pimples, put mashed bilimbi fruits on clean face as a face mask. Let it sit atleast 30 minutes or until the mask dry, then wash the face with warm water.
Do this everyday, for at least 3 days. You can also add bilimbi fruits in your juice or fruits to add nutrients and refreshing taste. With bilimbi face mask and drinking bilimbi juice regularly, our face will look brighter, youthful and black spots will go away.
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12. Treatment of Obesity
In India, bilimbi fruits are used in traditional medicine to control obesity. native people believe that bilimbi fruit contains anti-hyperlipidemic agents, so it can
prevent weight gain. As we already know, obesity can lead into various diseases. And it doesn’t look good either; obesity is frown upon in many cultures because it
shows lack of self-control and lack of self-respect. Obesity also make our skin and hair look dull and old.
13. Making Furniture
Bilimbi tree can grow rapidly, especially in tropical area with plenty of rain. The woods are excellent for carpentry, such as making home furnitures.
14. Ornamental Plant
Bilimbi tree is ideal to plant in the backyards and gardens because of it’s medium size and the shade it provides. The purple flowers are beautiful with lime-green fruits hanging on every branches and trunk, making the tree look nice and “prosperous”. In India, the bilimbi trees have gone wild in warmest region of the country. It’s good to have plants at home, as it can increase the flow of oxygen around. It contributes to make our environment healthier, as oxygen can keep us feel refreshed, and high oxygen in our blood (as long as still in normal level) can increase our brain cells performance.
15. Cleaning and Bleaching
High oxalic acid in bilimbi fruits can clean rusts and bleach clothes without changing the colors. Javanese people of Indonesia and Malaysians use mashed fresh fruits
to clean keris (traditional weapon) and it’s sheath. To bleach clothes, simply put mashed fresh fruits on the dirty spot of the clothes, add some detergent and wash it
Cautions Of Bilimbi Fruit
Bilimbi fruit juice contains high oxalic acid. The oxalic acid can form oxalate in our body. Oxalates has been known to cause tubular necrosis which leads to acute kidney failure. Therefore, we should not consume this fruit excessively. Just consume it moderately and the fruit will give you a healthy body.
Overall, bilimbi fruit has many health benefits and it has been used as traditional medicine for centuries. If you live in tropical area, it will be very easy to find this plant. It’s also very easy to grow, so you can have both ornamental and health benefits by growing this plant. If you live in subtropical area, you can find bilimbi fruits in Asian markets. Add it to your salads, juice, soups or curry to keep you healthy. And please remember to consume bilimbi fruits moderately.