The cashew nut tree is native to Brazil and northern and western South America. European traders and explorers recorded its existence in 1578. The plant was taken from Brazil to India and East Africa, where it soon became naturalized. In 16th-Century Brazil, cashew fruits and their juice were taken by Europeans to treat fever, sweeten breath, and "conserve the stomach."
Cashew nuts are commonly eaten as food around the world. Cashew nuts are a source of protein and fat and are eaten as is, lightly salted, or sugared. In certain areas of the world, other parts of the tree are also consumed, such as the leaf in Malaysia and the fruit in South America.
The cashew nut tree, poison ivy, and poison oak are in the same botanical family, Anacardiaceae, and they share similar chemicals, which cause allergic contact dermatitis.
Cashew has been used by many cultures as a treatment for diarrhea, although at this time, there is a lack of high-quality, controlled human trials to support its use for any indication.
Cashew is used by various tribes throughout the Amazon rainforest for a variety of indications. The Tikuna tribe in the northwest Amazon region uses the juice of the cashew to protect against influenza and as a treatment for diarrhea. The Wayãpi tribe in Guyana uses a bark tea as a colic remedy for infants. In Brazil, a bark tea is used as a douche for vaginal discharge and as an astringent to stop bleeding after a tooth extraction.
The Cuna Indians of Central America used the bark in herb teas for asthma, colds, and congestion.
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