The tree that launched a thousand ships… literally.
The endemic Philippine Teak tree (Tectona philipinensis) a.k.a Bunglas was harvested for building galleons during the turbulent Spanish era because its natural oils keep the wood resistant to weathering and termites of the sea (Teredo worms or shipworms)that bore hole into wood immersed in water. Its high tensile strength and high density also kept it from being smashed by cannonballs in ship battles. It also has the compound Quinone which prevents fungal growth. This makes it the hardwood for sea-worthy vessels, construction, outdoor furniture and heavy-duty pillars.
It is with a sad note that the Philippine Teak is currently in critical danger of extinction without having been explored for its abundant capabilities.
There are only 3 species under Tectona genus. The more common and commercially produce Teak is Tectona grandis. The wood that graced the infamous Titanic’s deck. For this species, countless studies have been made on its chemical properties. One 2013 research even found—among 53 other compounds and essential oils— that chloroform can be extracted from its leaves and can suppress the growth of the most common bacteria found in our skin, Staphylococcus aureus. Its seed has been found to contain oil up to 34%. This trees ability to produce and contain oil over time plus its silica content, are part of why this timber stays strong throughout the years. Teak bark has been scientifically tested to lower insulin levels in lab rats. The good news is that this 40 meter high hardwood can be massively propagated in plantations. Quite lucrative after a wait of about 20 years.
Although, the more beneficial and incredible feat would be to resurrect the dying breed of Bunglas, since a return of the endemic tree is more environmentally sound for the continuing existence of the species.
Varma, S. B. and Jaybhaye, D. L., “Antihyperglycemic activity of Tectona grandis Linn. bark extract on alloxan induced diabetes in rats” Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jul-Sep; 1(3): 163–166.