Medicine and the coconut.
There are few plants that can equal the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) as far as usefulness for people is concerned. The trunk of the coconut is an excellent building and
Island peoples use the wood for the construction of boats that are capable of sailing huge
Pacific distances. The leaves (up to 6 m long) are perfect for providing coverings
for airy tropical houses, and younger leaves are very nutritious
When the young inflorescence is cut, it secretes a juice that contains 15% sugar. This juice is used to produce syrup as well as sugar, and if it is fermented it makes coconut wine, which in turn can be distilled and
improved to make arak, a high percentage alcoholic beverage.
The most useful must surely be the so-called coconut, which is a stone fruit of only one seed with a mass, when it is fresh, of up to
15 kg (the average weight is about 8 kg). The huge stone of this fruit is surrounded by a thick layer of
fiberous material, from which ropes, baskets, plaitwork, doormats, slippers and the like can be made. The thick
shell is used for making bowls and other durable containers (as well as bras).
The most valuable in commercial terms is the endosperm, the white substance that layers
the inside of the stone fruit and contains the nutrients for the embryo.
The dry endosperm is called copra, from which coconut oil and fat is derived. When a young coconut is shaken, one can clearly hear a sloshing sound, as the fruits are filled with a liquid that acts as the
nutrient for the creation of the copra. This is the so-called coconut milk which is a white, reviving liquid, unusually high in sugars and containing many vitamins and plant hormones. In experimental botany, coconut milk has been used for a long time as a great, naturally sterile
nutrient for plant tissue cultures 'in vitro'.
To add to this botanical catalogue of uses, the American troops in the Pacific during WWII have added the following. They made a discovery that saved many wounded soldiers
on isolated islands without hospital care. It turns out that the milk from the coconut palm can act as a substitute for plasma and top up
organism liquids in case of large blood losses. It also turns out that sterilized coconut
fiber is perfect for the stitching wounds, and on top of this, such wounds tend to heal faster than those stitched with traditional surgical thread. (At the time such thread was made from either sheep or