Averrhoa bilimbi (commonly known as bilimbi, cucumber tree, or tree sorrel) is a fruit-bearing tree of the genus Averrhoa, family Oxalidaceae. It is a close relative of carambola tree. Medical interest In the Philippines, the leaves serve as a paste on itches, swelling, rheumatism, mumps or skin eruptions. Elsewhere, they are used for bites of poisonous creatures. A leaf infusion is used as an after-birth tonic, while the flower infusion is used for thrush, cold, and cough. Malaysians use fermented or fresh bilimbi leaves to treat venereal diseases. In French Guiana, syrup made from the fruit is used to treat inflammatory conditions.
To date there is no scientific evidence to confirm effectiveness for such uses. In some villages in the Thiruvananthapuram district of India, the fruit of the bilimbi was used in folk medicine to control obesity. This led to further studies on its antihyperlipidemic properties Other uses In Malaysia, very acidic bilimbis is used to clean the kris blade. In the Philippines, it is often used in rural places as an alternative stain remover. Indonesia, its red flowers are sought as the ingredients of natural red dye for traditional textiles. The fruit is used to remove stains from clothing and also for washing the hands.
It is also used as a seasoning and is made into sweets, including jam, and is used in making pickles. Daruty reports that the fruit contain potassium oxalate. Burkill and Haniff records that the leaves are used by the Malays externally as a paste applied hot to itches; and internally, fresh or fermented, for syphilis; or, in the form of infusion, as a protective medicine after childbirth. Heyne states that a decoction of the leaves is given in Java for inflammation of the rectum. The Japanese also apply a paste of them for mumps, rheumatism, and pimples.
They use an infusion of the flowers for coughs and thrust. According to Kirtikar and Basu and Nadkarni, the fruit is an astringent, stomachic, and refrigerant. It is used in piles. The juice of the fruit is made into a syrup for a cooling drink in case of fever. It is anti-scorbutic. This syrup is also used in some slight cases of haemorrhage from the bowels, stomach, and internal haemorrhoids. A conserve of the fruit is used in Java for beriberi, biliousness, and coughs.
The fruit juice has a high concentration of oxalic acid which is useful for cleaning and bleaching. The fruit is generally regarded as too acid for eating raw so are used extensively in soups, sauces, curries etc. There is a sweet variety of bilimbi in the Philippines where the sour bilimbis are calledkamias,while the sweet variety is called balimbing. The fruits are available throughout the year. The tree bears hundreds of fruits per year.
Bilimbi is preserved by sun-drying, the sun-dried bilimbi is called asam sunt Kamias juice can act as a mordant, an essential component of fabric dyes that actually sets the color onto the fabric. Traditionally in Southeast Asia, Kamias juice is used in orange dyes on silk fabrics.