Hog plum grows in many tropical areas. The erect tree can reach a height of 20m. The trunk has deep incisions in the bark that often produce a brown resin that can be used as glue. Before the tree starts to flower, it strips itself of most of the leaves and bears small, fragrant, whitish flowers. The small green fruits bear in clusters turning yellow when ripe.
Hog plum is not widely used now as a healing herb in Jamaica, but the bark and leaves used to be given as a tea to relieve swellings and the buds were chewed or made into a tea for colds, coughs, constipation and tapeworm.
In the Eastern Caribbean a decoction of hog plum bud, roots and bark was used to treat gonorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, and as an eyewash. A poultice from the leaves of the hog plum is used to treat sores. In Suriname hog plum is used in similar ways as in the Caribbean.
Hog plum leaves and bark are still widely used in South America for female reproductive problems. The leaves in are valued by traditional midwives in particular for treating bleeding in childbirth and for menstrual bleeding and related conditions. Both the hog plum bark and leaves are used topically to treat a range of skin problems including ulcers, rashes, psoriasis and wounds. The bark is also said to be useful for malaria, coughs and fevers.
In Ghana hog plum is used for a wide variety of health conditions, including coughs, fever, eye problems, for stomach problems and as a diuretic. The bark is also used to treat uterine problems including cancer.
Recent research in Nigeria has suggested a wide range of uses for hog plum. It has antimicrobial effects that are reported to be as broad spectrum as ampicillin and gentomycin. The bark extract has also demonstrated anti-tumour activity.
Hog plum is also reported to have antibacterial, anti-viral, sedative, anti-epileptic and has anti-psychotic and anti-oxidant effects. The bark has also exhibited anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, which might explain its traditional use for menstrual problems.
Research validates many traditional uses of hog plum and suggests that more research needs to be done to better utilise this abundantly available plant.
Hog plum has among its plant chemicals: tannins, gum resin, saponins, quinones, , flavonoids, sterols, salicylic acid derivatives, caryophyllene, chlorogenic acid, crude fibre, phenolic compounds and calcium ion.
Hog plum is eaten especially by children and made into juices and preserves, but care needs to be taken when eating the fruits as they are often infested with fruit worms. The fruit is rich in vitamins B1 and C. The tree can be planted as a living fence, with the added benefit that the roots store potable water which could be used in an emergency. The brown resin that comes from the bark can be used as a glue substitute.