By Anna Galathea
Growing up in the Philippines, who in their childhood failed to taste those small sweet succulent bright red or green cherry-like fruit popularly known as Aratiles? It is a child’s favorite tree to climb due to its tiered branches and small stature, reaching only up to 5-11 meters in height. Aratiles is more commonly called around the world as Kerson fruit, Calabur tree, Capulin, Jamaica cherry, Panama berry, Singapore cherry, Sabah cherry, Bajelly tree, Saresa and Mansanitas.
Aside from being a favorite of the children, its wood is used for general carpentry since the wood is fine-grained, light, firm, durable, and compact. It is also utilized as firewood because of its capability to ignite quickly, burn with intense heat, and it gives off very little smoke. The bark is used to fabricate ropes since it produces soft and strong fiber. Its small white flowers and leaves, when steeped with hot water, make a fabulous and tasty tea. While the children eat the fruits straight from the tree, the fruit is also used for cooking pies or making jam and preserves.
Aratiles trees can be seen planted in parking lots and parks as it provides wonderful shade and is highly decorative since it blossoms and bears fruit all year long. It is also used for reforestation due to its fast-growing capabilities. It is mainly propagated through birds and fruit bats, and has the ability to thrive on poor soil since it is immensely tolerant to acidic and alkaline soil condition, as well as insufficient irrigation. In this setting, its fruits serve as food for birds and bats, and the tree provides shelter for small creatures.
Known in the scientific field as Muntingia calabura, it is not so long ago that its medicinal value was known. According to studies, M. calabura have antibacterial properties that are comparable to standard antibiotics. It also has a more potent antibacterial compound since it contains meticillin and flavavone constituents that can counter bacteria that are resistant to most penicillin or common antibiotics.
Old folks have long since used the leaves for medicinal use and studies confirmed that it has pain reducing properties and anti- inflammatory properties which can combat pain associated
with gouts and can be used to treat abdominal cramps, and lowering fevers. The leaves also contain antipruritic or anti- itching and is of great use for chicken pox, sunburns, eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, insect bites and stings. Eating the fruit and drinking the tea made from the leaves is excellent in getting rid of headaches.
Since it is infused with antioxidant, with over 24 flavonoid and phenolic compounds, it offers cardiovascular protection and anti-aging effects. It is also packed with vitamin C, a hundred grams of fruit produces 150 mg of Vitamin C, which help battle and prevent cold and flu. It contains nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow resulting to lower blood pressure.
It has shown anti-cancer properties, and at the moment, more intensive research is being done to determine the possibilities of using M. calabura in treating the big C.
Aratiles fruits contain water and fiber that aids digestion. It has good carbohydrates which are a source of energy, protein for the development of strong firm muscles, calcium and phosphorus for strong healthy bones and teeth, and iron to prevent anemia. It also has B-Vitamins that give vitality, good mood, and energy.
Who would have thought that those small and so sweet red childhood cherries that we used to just pop in our mouths while climbing or playing, contains such myriad of vitamin power? As my old street playmate commented “maybe that is why we were so energetic and boisterous during childhood!” and, studies proved that there is truth in that.