Thursday, 4 March 2010

The battle of the fruit

Did you know that mango sap contains the same chemical irritant (urushiol) and has the same end result as poison ivy? Three weeks ago I didn't know this and now I do. It is the kind of knowledge born out of pain and itching.

As a friend of mine says "No good deed goes unpunished." On a visit to the lovely historic Ormiston House, my mother-in-law saw the huge old mango trees laden with mangos. Having a yen to make green mango chutney and a tall daughter-in-law along, she convinced me to brave the swarms of mosquitoes under the trees to pick the mangos. I was amazed at the clear sap that spurted out of the mangos as I picked them.

Having a history of skin reactions and allergies I immediately washed the sap off my arms. I didn't realise the extent of the shower of sap though. It was a hot day and I was wearing a sleeveless top, shorts and sandals. My arms were sprayed and sap ran down my wrist at one point.

Almost immediately wherever the sap touched started to flake. No itching though. You could see where the sap had run down my arm. Almost three weeks later though, my arms erupted in blisters: itchy-red-claw-your-arms-off-type-blisters. Day five now and I can almost tolerate my own arms again. Prognosis is for up to five weeks before it will clear entirely although no-one really knows. Meanwhile I am avoiding short-sleeved shirts lest I excessively frighten the natives. I was going to include a photo but I decided that you didn't read this blog to be disgusted by such things.

And this is the interesting fruity fact. Cortisone creams and antihistamines aside, the one thing that really helps the itching is pawpaw ointment: Queensland's very own natural remedy. I like to imagine some sort of fruit salad battle going on under my dermis. And the thing is, I love to eat both these fruits though my current loyalty has to be to the pawpaw (carica papaya).

Who knew the true dangers of sub-tropical living? Shall I give the Jaeckels some kind of dermitological introduction to these?

1 comment:

Vivi said...

Fascinating. There's a whole early theory, which I can't remember the name of, about there being antidotes to every poison in the same eco-system. And I suppose enough evidence of the mango-sap/papaya mush variety (I think there's a north American equivalent -- forget-me-not sap counters nettles? IIRC) to have fueled the theory for many years. It might be highly correlated due to eco-system balance, but not in an Intelligent Design way that the theory's originators thought of.

Apropos nothing. I'm reading Steven Johnson's "The Invention of Air" and just finished "The Ghost Map" (same author) and am full of second hand Age of Enlightenment and Victorian scientific theories, read at bedtime so only half-remembered.