A Haitian Treasure: Kalbas (Calabash)

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Calabash or Kalbas (in Haitian Creole), Lagenaria siceraria, is a member of the gourd family.  It is a small evergreen tropical tree with simple leaves and a rough bark.  Its fruits are light green, with white flesh and smooth skin. The fruit has a remarkable likeness to the shapes of bottles and bowls, with ranging lengths, widths, and colors depending on its variants.  Kalbas is thought to be one of the first cultivated plants in the world, originating tens of thousands of years ago.  It is also believed to be a "spiritual fruit", since it has incredible significance in a variety of world religions. Kalbas is grown all over the world, including, yes, Haiti.
Kalbas has special significance to the Haitian culture and the Voodoo religion.  In Haiti, the fruit is often called kalbas kouran, which translates to "running calabash".  This kalbas is used to make a "sacred rattle" in the Voodoo religion, called an asson, which summons the lwa. In the book, Haiti, Hisotry, and the Gods, Joseph Dayan presents a scenario where the calabash tree, also known as repossi, is described as a place were the spirits dwell, and as a source of strength, endurance, and protection.  It is also described as a means to transport sugar cane, palma christi oil, and milk.

Fun fact:

Do you know how the Haitian currency got the name gourde? Well, calabash, a gourd, was once the national currency in the 1800's!  It had so much importance that the great King Henry Christophe of Haiti once declared that all gourds must become property of the state.

In Haiti, as in many other countries in the Caribbean, one of the biggest uses of kalbas is in the arts, where it is used to create everything from utensils and water jugs, to maracas and drums, to handbags and canvases, to masks and bongs (yes....bongs). The list of kalbas' uses go on and on. There are plenty of Haitian sites and stores where you can view and purchase Calabash art.

You know I couldn't present this Haitian treasure, without exploring its health benefits and uses in holistic healing and traditional medicine!

Some Benefits:

  • anti-hypertensive and anti-carginoegininc
  • high in dietary fiber
  • contains Vitamin B and C, as well as minerals and trace elements
  • restores liver function
  • prevents excessive loss of sodium
  • quenches thirst
  • prevents fatigue
  • natural antacid

Some Uses:
  • ingredient in soup, stir-fries and curries
  • reduces constipation
  • induces labor
  • treatment for menstrual cramps
  • tea or syrup made from the leaf can treat a variety of illnesses, including diaherra, headaches, asthma and fever
  • used to clean wounds

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The "Haitian Treasures" series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which I call "Haitian Treasures" because they are truly national gems.  Naïka in Balance is the premiere source for information on healing herbs used by Haitians. In this series, I explore the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

Learn about other Haitian Treasures explored on this blog here!

The two most popular Haitian Treasures on this blog are:

Castor oil/l'huile palma christi
Wonder of the world plant/fey lougawou

Naika, the writer of this blog, has a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and a Masters of Science in Acupuncture as of June 2017. Please do not take the information presented on this blog, as medical advice, without consulting your certified health care practitioner. Knowledge is power and your health is your wealth!