[Excerpt from:] BENEVOLENT BROMELIADS

Racine Foster

We are finding that the pineapple can serve man in other ways than food. From this glorious fruit has come, in recent date, an extracted substance appropriately called "Bromelin" effectively used as a diuretic or purgative on intestinal parasites. Conrad F. Asenjo suggests in his paper that fresh juice of the pineapple could effectively be used as an anthelmintic in Brazil and India where the native population is burdened with intestinal parasites. This contribution to medical science from the common pineapple adds prestige as well as more utilitarian possibilities to this family.

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My husband found that in Bolivia and Argentine, Tillandsia maxima, a very large species, and Tillandsia rubella, are used as fresh vegetables eaten cooked or raw as we eat celery. The local name for both is "Horka." The tasty tender heart of these bromeliads is similar to and a rival of, the palm hearts so choice a food in South and Central America.

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Tillandsia usneoides has a dual role in service to mankind, primarily as a fiber (which will be discussed later under that heading), but also as the little known possible use of this amazing plant in surgery.

Here and there in the West Indies we have heard that this tillandsia has been used to make a styptic ointment for the purpose of stopping bleeding. The chief styptics are alum, tannic acid and salts of minerals and undoubtedly tillandsias contain some of these properties in their fuzzy leaves. This native use has been more scientifically applied.

In the Feb. 9, 1944 "Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic" which Dr. C. W. Mayo was kind enough to send us we learned that the absorptive qualities of Spanish Moss for use in surgical dressings had been investigated with interesting results. ". . . . the dried moss will retain its absorptive power better than a substance like cotton, as the liquid taken up is stored chiefly inside the leaves and cells, instead of merely being held between adjoining strands." . . . .Florida moss will take up from six to ten times its dry weight of water."

Although the availability of cotton has not made it necessary to use the Florida Moss as surgical dressing it was in view of possible supply blockades in time of war that this investigation was made.

Among useful bromeliads we find yet another service rendered, that from Aechmea bromeliafolia, at one time called Billbergia tinctoria from which a dye was successfully made, and used by the West Indian natives. This dye was made from the yellow fluid which is extracted when the main stem of the plants is crushed.

[Taken from Journal of the Bromeliad Society - Volume 2, Number 3]


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