Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gumbo Limbo to the Rescue

So you've accidentally rubbed up against a chechem, aka black poisonwood, tree. Now what? Antihistamines give limited relief, at least in our experience. Well, you can look around for a gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba) tree. It's easily recognizable by its papery red bark and is nearly always found growing alongside the chechem (an aside: Gumbo limbo is also known as the Tourist Tree -- red and peeling). Nice of Nature to arrange things so conveniently.

That's the case in this photo above, taken on our hill here in Gallon Jug Estate. The gumbo limbo is surrounded by small chechem trees (the light barked trees). So you take your machete -- in Belize you must always have your trusty machete when in the bush -- and skin off a slice of the gumbo limbo bark. In desperate cases, you can apply the woody side of the bark to the chechem rash and get immediate relief. Or you can take it home, chop it up and brew a sort of tea with it to sponge on the chechem rashes. It really works ... and you'll never buy Benedryl again.

At least not for chechem.


  1. You have lots of chechem--wonder why its called black poisonwood when the bark is light. Other names for gumbolimbo I've heard are "naked Indian" and "sunburned tourist":)

    1. I believe it's call black poisonwood because the sap is/turns black. Often you can see it ooozing on poisonwood trees.

  2. Hi Nancy - It has a very distinctive black tarry sap and the bark is darker and checkered in mature trees. We have quite a grove of young chechem on our hill near the big dead chicle. I imagine we can thank the birds for dispersing the seeds when perched in the chicle. There are also 3 species of white poisonwood.