Yap Plants Used for Traditional Medicine

General Vegetation Distribution in Yap

The climate in Yap can be classified as “tropical” with yearly temperatures averaging 27°C. Rainfall in Yap is seasonal with the wet season occurring from June through October, giving the islands an average annual rainfall of 120 inches (Gaan and Chieng, 2004). May through November, Yap is subject to frequent heavy rains and is subject to typhoons. The most recent typhoon that hit Yap was that of Typhoon Sudal which hit Yap in early April of 2004. The Yapese government declared a state of emergency on April 12, 2004 as water, crops, homes, businesses, mangroves and coral reefs in Yap were destroyed.

In addition to varying weather Yap is also home to many different types of biome including tropical dry forests, which are under increasing threat thus classifying the area’s conservation status as “critical/endangered”. According to the WWF the main biome types are that of tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests.  In addition to tropical dry forests, Yap is also home to pristine mangroves and rolling hills of green making Yap an eden for all to enjoy. Mangrove forests occur along the coast in low, sheltered areas. Twenty-six percent of the land is used for agroforestry and the dominant species found in these “tree gardens” are that of coconut palm, bread fruit, banana, cassava, taro, papaya, betel nut and a variety of medicinal plants. The Yapese people have held strongly onto their cultural traditions and roots thus making traditional medicine in Yap of high importance. Many of these plants are grown in these tree gardens and using plants native to Yap is still a major part of Yapese culture. In addition, to these pristine terrestrial forests Yap is also home to some of the most amazing coral reefs in the world. The biodiversity found in Yap’s coral reefs is high and is one of the reasons as to why Yap is such a popular diving place in the Federated States of Micronesia. 

The following plants serve a medical purpose in the Yap community. This list below will focus on plants that belong to the big ten tree families:
  • Moraceae 
  • Bombacaceae
  • Fabaceae
  • Areaceae
  • Bignoniaceae
  • Myrtaceae
  • Apocynaceae
  • Rubiaceae
  • Anacardaceae
  • Araucariaceae 
  • Ficustinctoria. Yap: As a stimulant for throes (of childbirth), ten pieces of root about 30 cm. long, with the skin off, are ground together with coconut oil and taken with coconut milk. 

Bombacaceae: None
  • Albizia lebbek Benth. GMOGMOL. Yap: (1) (Ururu Dist.) For myelitis, the roots and bark are crushed together with the bark of Pterocar~us indicus, and the sap is drunk with coconut oil. (2) (Ugiri Dist.) For myelitis, bark of the root is crushed together with the leaves and fruit of Capsicum frutescens, and the sap is drunk with coconut milk. 
  • CanavaIia ensiformis.Yap (Ugiri Dist.): For neuralgia, leaves and stems are crushed together and the sap is applied to the affected part of the body. New ingredients should be gathered and applied daily.
  • Cassia L. GIGIOL. Yap.
  • Derris elliptica.YUBU (Yap): (1) Root decoction mixed with coconut oil is spread onto prurigo-affected skin to relieve itch. (2) For ringworm, the juice of Derris is mixed together with coconut oil and applied to the affected part. (3) To exterminate crab- lice, juice obtained from a crushed root is applied, and the hair is then washed in sea water. (4) Roots are poisonous.
  • Derris trifoliata Lour. GABATI (Yap) Ten new leaves and ten full grown leaves are crushed, kneaded with a small quantity of sea water, applied to the wound and bandaged. (2) Young leaves are crushed together with the young leaves and the juice pressed out is drunk for amoebic dysentery.
    • Arecha catechu. BUH (Yap; n.b. another "buh" is Schizostachvum lima ofPoaceae)Yap: (1) For arthritis, the sprouting buds of this plant and of Cocos nuciferq are wrung together and the juice is drunk. (2) Roots of this plant ("rikekembuh") are crushed together with pitcher-leaves and the sap is warmed together with coconut milk and drunk for gonorrhea. (3) (Whole island) As a condiment, the unripe fruit is wrapped in a leaf, some lime is added, and it is chewed.
    • Cocos nucifera L. NYU (Yap).Yap: (1) (Ugiri Dist.) For a headache cure, the petiole of a leaf is shaved finely and pushed into the nostrils to make them bleed. (2) Bark of coconut is beaten with the "mafalei," upon which "wech" (burned and pulverized limestone) is spread, and the juice which is pressed out is dripped onto a cut. For this treatment, a coconut palm should be selected from those growing near the road. (3) (Whole island) For a deficiency of mother's milk,coconut honey ("achief") is taken from flower-stalk and chewed together with copra, which eventually becomes mucilaginous; it is then taken. (4) (Ugiri Dist.) For diarrhoea, a young coconut ("etibai") is crushed together with the young leaves of Wollastonia biflora and the sap is drunk. (5) For leprosy, myriapods called "agur" are put into coconut oil, left until they are decomposed, and applied to the affected part, which has been stuck by a needle to release pus. (6) (Ugiri Dist.) To relieve over-eating effects, the outer skin (husk) of a coconut is squeezed and the sap is drunk. (7) To treat a husky voice, a leaf-base is squeezed and the sap obtained, to which half the quantity of rain water is added, heated,and taken twice a day. (8) (Whole island) To keep mosquitoes away, the rotten roots are burned. (9) (Whole island) As a toilette, the whole body is rubbed with copra, and then washed with sea water.

    • Dolichandrone spathacea (Lit.) K. Schum. RIRIU. Yap: For framboesia, bark is squeezed together with young stem and flower stalk, then sap is poured into heated coconut oil; when cooled down, it is applied to the affected part of the body.

    • Decasvermum fruticosum Forst. WARRARG, WARARG. Yap (Map Dist.): For treatment of stomach ache, young leaves of this plant are crushed together with the other leaves to press out the juice, which is taken together with coconut milk three times a day. A half coconut shell cup is one dose.
    • Eugenia iavanica Lam. ALPHAS (Yap). Yap (Ugiri Dist.) As an anti-emetiqthe hard leaves are crushed together with old leaves of Abroma aunusta, and the sap is taken with coconut milk from time to time.
    • Psidium guaiava L. GUAVA. Yap: For gonorrhea, a decoction of leaves is drunk. 
    Apocynacaeae: none
    • Cochinchinensis Lour. GASMATZ (Yap). Yap (Ugiri Dist.): For tuberculosis, the bark is crushed together with the skin of betel nut ("kuruebuh) and young sprouts of "buh" and taken with coconut milk. In this case the coconut should be of a green color called "yowra."
    • Guettarda sueciosa L. WARAO. Yap: For monthly troubles, the fruit, young leaves and bark are crushed together, and the sap is drunk by the woman.
    • Ixora casei Hance GACHUW. Yap: (1) Leaves are mixed with crumb (&) of copra and taken with coconut milk, for stomach ache. (2) Decoction of the young leaves is drunk to cure nausea. Image not available.
    • Morinda citrifolia L. MAGARWEK (Yap). Yap: (1)(Ururu Dist.) Leaf of this plant is wrapped around a wound to which bruised leaves of "sowari" (Latin binomial not given) have been applied. (2) (Ugiri Dist.) For neuralgia, young leaves and fruit are crushed together, and the sap is drunk with coconut milk three times a day. Dosage each time is one half a coconut shell cup. (3) Leaves are baked and placed on a chancre. (4) For pains in throat, fruit and young leaves are crushed together with leaves and stems, and taken with coconut milk. (5) (Whole island) Roots are substituted for soap.
    • Mussaenda frondosa L. PETCH (Yap). Yap (Nif Dist.): The young fruit is pressed and taken with water for gonorrhea.
    • Oldenlandia sp.Yap (Giripes Dist.): Leaves and stems are crushed and mixed with coconut oil and spread onto a sarcoma.

    • Rhus Taitensis Guill. Yap (Ururu and Giripes Dists.): New leaves of this plant and of Oxalis corniculata, Alocasia macrorrhiza, and Xvlocarpus granatum are crushed, and the juice is applied to the wound. 

     Araucariaceae: none


    To See the rest of the plants and their medical uses read :

    • USGS Plant Database  
    • Gumbiner,Robert."A Field Guide to the Plants of Yap Island Micronesia."