Kiden (Tournefortia argentea - Boraginaceae)

Description: Kiden is a native tree that grows to heights of 5 m (26 ft) or more. It produces large leaves, 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long in whorls at the branch tips. The many, tiny flowers are arranged on long twisted stalks and the small fruit is green when mature.

Uses: The hard wood is used for firewood, to make handles for knives (machetes), and for poles that connect canoe hulls to outriggers (kie-straight poles; apet-curved poles). Sometimes wood of this plant is used to make the frames for diving goggles. Kiden is one of the most useful medicinal plants of the Marshall Islands. The soft inner part of the bark from "snake-shaped" roots is mixed with coconut meat and used to treat hemorrhoids (wuno in komajmaj). Roots of kiden are also said to be useful in healing damage due to a fall. Leaves of the plant are used to make a medicinal tea, in steam baths, to stop bleeding, and to cover bruises. According to one informant, one week after childbirth mothers bathe in water in which kiden leaves have been boiled. This is done to cleanse the woman internally and to contribute to healthy skin. The treatment continues twice a day for two months. Mourners bathe corpses with saltwater in which kiden leaves have soaked. They also insert a cloth sachet filled with crushed kiden leaves in the vagina and pack leaves around the anus. This treatment preserves the corpse and minimizes odor.

Distribution: This small indigenous tree species can be found along most of the sandy shores of many tropical Pacific Islands. It only grows in these hot, salty, windswept coastal environments and is an early colonizer (pioneer plant) in these habitats, often being shaded out and replaced over time by larger, slower-growing trees.

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