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Anacardium occidentale - L.

Common Name Cashew, Caju
Family Anacardiaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards The shell of the nut contains an acrid juice that acts as a powerful vesicant[ 63 ]. The active ingredient is cardole and it is poisonous in the same way as poison ivy (Toxicodendron spp.)[ 63 , 200 ]. Very irritant to the skin, causing severe blistering[ 63 ]. It is destroyed by heat, so roasting the seed whilst in its shell renders it completely safe[ 63 , 200 ].(Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction )
Habitats Arid thickets in stony, sandy soils at elevations around 600 metres[ 200 , 307 ]. Sand dunes near the sea[ 419 ].
Range S. America - Brazil.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Anacardium occidentale Cashew, Caju

Anacardium occidentale Cashew, Caju


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A large evergreen tree, Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) grows up to 10-12 m tall with a short and usually irregularly-shaped trunk. It has spreading branches and a canopy that can spread up to 12 m. The leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern, pale green in color but shiny, with fine veins, and are relatively large but narrows towards its base. It usually takes three years after planting before it starts production, and eight years before economic yield can begin. However there are breeds like the dwarf cashew tree that takes only a year to start production and three years to attain economic harvest. This breed grows up to 6 m tall and is known to have been more profitable, with earlier maturity and higher yields, as compared to the traditional variety. The tree is known for its seed or nut which is widely consumed raw, roasted, as an ingredient, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. The cashew apple, on the other hand, is processed into a fruit drink or distilled into liquor, and used for jams and candies. Cashew nut also produces edible oil but due to the high economic value of the nut itself, the oil is not commonly extracted. The young shoots and leaves are edible as well. As a medicinal plant, the leaves are used as treatment for reducing fever, malaria, toothache, and gum problems. The bark is used to reduce blood sugar levels and to detoxify snake bites. Cashew syrup is used as relief from coughs and colds. Cashew apple juice is believed to be an effective treatment for syphilis, cholera and kidney problems. The sap or bark extract is used as a contraceptive. Further, the gum is used to treat leprosy and fungal conditions. The tree grows well on poor sandy soil conditions. It is a tropical plant that must be grown in a frost-free environment. It is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds due to its fragrant flowers. It can be propagated through stem cuttings or seed sowing.

Physical Characteristics

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Anacardium occidentale is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Flies, Bees, Ants, Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acajuba occidentalis (L.) Gaertn. Anacardium microcarpum Ducke Cassuvium pomiferum Lam.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Gum  Oil

Edible portion: Nut, Leaves, Fruit pulp, Flavouring, Vegetable, Seeds, Oil. Fruit - raw or cooked. Juicy and refreshing, though they are a bit acidic and often have an astringency that can leave your mouth feeling furry[ 63 , 296 ]. They are also somewhat fibrous[ 63 ]. They can also be dried or sliced with other fruits[ 296 ]. The fruit can also be lightly cooked to get rid of their astringency[ 296 ]. A refreshing juice can be extracted from the fruit[ 63 ]. Red fruits are considered to be superior to yellow fruits[ 307 ]. The apple is used to make spirits. The fruit is about 3cm long[ 307 ]. Seed - must be cooked before being removed from its shell[ 63 ]. Slightly sweet with a pleasant, bland flavour[ 63 ]. Eaten on their own, salted and used in a wide range of confections[ 63 ]. They can also be used as the basis of savoury protein-rich meat-alternative dishes[ K ]. Caution should be employed when harvesting the seed - see notes above on toxicity. An edible oil is obtained from the seed but, due to the high value of the seed, the oil is not usually extracted[ 324 ]. Young leaves and shoots - raw in salads or cooked[ 298 , 320 , 404 ]. Eaten in S.E. Asia, but too astringent for most tastes[ 298 ]. They are picked during the rainy season and eaten fresh with hot and spicy dishes. One of our users, Carol, from the tropics of northern Australia, kindly forwarded the following information. Safely processing cashew nuts at home. 1. It is best to fill a lidded oven-safe pot with sand and bury the unopened nuts completely in the sand. Use an old pot as after processing the pot will not be suitable to use for any other purpose due to traces of the caustic latex that may remain behind. I have a lidded casserole dish dedicated solely for this purpose. 2. Preheat the oven to around 250 deg C and roast the nuts in their shell for 10 minutes. Make sure to have windows open and the kitchen well ventilated as the heat causes the shell to crack and the caustic latex to ooze out. While the sand will absorb the oil, it may also emit a caustic choking smoke, avoid inhaling this! Take extreme care opening the oven door. I would recommend taking the lidded pot outdoors before removing the lid. Better still, if you have an outdoor stove, use that from the start. 3. Wear disposable gloves when you open the pot and carefully remove the nuts from the sand as they may have some oil residue. Place the whole roasted nuts in a dish of water and detergent and thoroughly wash them. 4. It should now be safe to open the shell and remove the kernel. Finally, remove the thin brown papery cover from the kernel. 5. Note that if any of the latex has stuck to the roasted kernel during processing then that nut(kernel) is not edible and must be thrown out. 6. If like me you are a hobby gardener or a subsistence farmer, and not growing commercial quantities, the unopened nuts can be stored for a couple of years until enough nuts have been stored to warrant processing. My tree produced one cashew apple and nut in its first year and I certainly was not going to go through that process for one solitary nut!

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Antiscorbutic  Astringent  Astringent  Cholera  Contraceptive  Diuretic  
Febrifuge  Foot care  Hypoglycaemic  Leprosy  Malaria  Purgative  Rubefacient  
Skin  Vesicant  Vesicant

The leaves are febrifuge[ 238 ]. They are used in west Africa in the treatment of malaria[ 254 ]. In India and Africa the leaves are used to treat toothache and gum problems[ 254 ]. The leaves can be harvested at any time and dried for later use[ 238 ]. The bark is astringent, rubefacient and vesicant[ 303 ]. Research has shown that it is also hypoglycaemic, having the ability to reduce blood sugar levels[ 238 ]. The bark is used in Ayurvedic medicine to detoxify snake bites[ 254 ]. The bark is harvested as required and used fresh or dried[ 238 ]. Leaf and bark infusions are used in the treatment of toothache and sore gums, whilst the bark and leaf extracts and fruit juice are taken internally to treat diarrhoea[ 238 ]. The fruit is anti-scorbutic, astringent and diuretic[ 238 , 303 ]. Cashew syrup is a good remedy for coughs and colds. Cashew apple juice is said to be effective for the treatment of syphilis, and is also used in the treatment of cholera and kidney troubles[ 303 ]. The fresh, acrid juice inside the shell is vesicant[ 324 ]. It has been used for removing warts[ 63 , 238 ] as well as for treating ringworm, leprosy and corns[ 238 ], and is applied to the soles of the feet to cure cracks in the skin[ 303 ]. It is toxic to many disease-causing organisms, such as Staphylococcus bacteria[ 238 ]. The sap, or bark extract[ 238 ], is considered to be contraceptive[ 307 ]. The gum is bactericidal, fungicidal and kills worms and protozoa[ 254 ]. It is applied externally in the treatment of leprosy, and for corns and fungal conditions[ 254 ]. An infusion of the root is an excellent purgative[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Charcoal  Fuel  Gum  Hedge  Ink  Insecticide  Oil  Plant support  Preservative  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Varnish  Waterproofing  Wood

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Backyard Tree, Courtyard, Large Planter; xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Because it grows well on poor sandy soils and near the coast, it has sometimes planted for erosion control[ 63 , 200 , 303 ]. It has been intercropped with cowpea, groundnuts and horsegram in India[ 303 ]. In Andra Pradesh and Orissa in India, casuarina and coconut constitute a popular crop combination[ 303 ]. Plants are often used as a support for growing cultivated vanilla[ 200 ]. Other Uses The fruits contain 45 - 47% oil which has high heat resistance[ 46 ]. It is an excellent lubricant and is also used in varnishes, inks, termite proofing wood, insulating coatings etc[ 46 ]. The bark contains an acrid sap of thick brown resin, which becomes black on exposure to air. This is used as indelible ink in marking and printing linens and cottons[ 303 ]. The resin is also used as a varnish, a preservative for fishnets and a flux for solder metals[ 303 ]. The stem yields an amber-coloured gum, which is partly soluble in water, the main portion swelling into a jellylike mass[ 303 ]. This gum is used as an adhesive (for woodwork panels, plywood, bookbinding), partly because it has insecticidal properties[ 303 ]. It is also used in inks, dyes and varnishes[ 46 , 200 ]. The acrid sap of the bark contains 3-5% tannin and is employed in the tanning industry[ 303 ]. One of the components of the bark gum acts as a vesicant and has insect repellent properties[ 303 ]. The toxic, acrid oil in the shell has high polymerizing and friction-reducing properties and is used as a waterproofing agent and preservative[ 324 ]. It can be used for treating fishing nets, woodwork etc in order to repel termites[ 63 , 200 ]. The oil in the shell can also be added to paraffin to make it more effective in controlling mosquito larvae[ 63 ]. It has been used in the manufacture of plastics, and in the manufacture of certain sorts of paints such as are used for ship's keels, cement surfaces and where corrosive influences preclude the use of ordinary paint[ 63 ]. Distilled and polymerized, the oil is also used in insulating varnishes and in the manufacture of typewriter rolls, oil- and acid-proof cements and tiles, friction-modifying material for brake linings, as a component of space-rocket lubricants, inks, etc[ 324 ]. The reddish-brown wood is light in weight, fairly hard, but is subject to termite attack[ 303 , 324 , 404 ]. It is sometimes used for construction and general carpentry[ 324 ]. It is usually of unsuitable dimensions for construction[ 63 ]. Pulp from the wood is used to fabricate corrugated and hardboard boxes[ 303 ]. The wood makes a good charcoal and fuel[ 63 ]. The residue of the shell is often used as fuel in cashew nut shell liquid extraction plants[ 63 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Global Crop  Industrial Crop: Oil  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Homegarden  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

A plant for lowland tropical and subtropical areas, succeeding at elevations up to 1,000 metres[ 324 ]. Grows well in hot, semi-arid, frost-free climates, fruiting well with an annual precipitation of 500 - 900mm[ 200 ]. It occurs in warm and humid climates with an annual rainfall of 1,000 - 3,500 mm[ 303 , 324 ]. Prefers a pronounced dry season of 3 - 4 months[ 324 ]. Plants are not tolerant of frost, preferring a minimum temperature no lower than 18c[ 238 , 303 ]. Plants produce their best crops when grown not too far from the coast[ 63 ]. Cashews can also be grown satisfactorily in semi-arid areas but can show erratic production as a result of relative small variations in rainfall[ 324 ]. An easily grown plant requiring very little attention once established, it succeeds in soils that are too poor to support other crops[ 63 , 200 ]. Prefers a well-drained sandy soil and a position in full sun[ 238 ]. The species can bear heavy, waterlogged clay soils or saline soils but with an extreme poor growth[ 404 ]. Brackish soils near seashores and inundated or swampy soils are not suited[ 404 ]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 - 6.5[ 200 ]. Established plants are drought resistant[ 200 , 324 ]. Tolerant of maritime exposure[ 63 ]. Early growth is usually rapid, with young trees sometimes flowering when only 18 months old[ 63 ]. Although slow-growing, it can commence bearing when only 4 - 5 years old[ 200 , 307 ]. Trees are fast growing[ 324 ]. Trees have a productive life span of 30 - 40 years, normally beginning to bear in their third or fourth year and, under favourable conditions, attaining maximum production in around 7 years[ 324 ]. There are many named forms[ 200 ]. The root system of a mature tree, when grown from seed, consists of a very prominent taproot and a well-developed and extensive network of lateral and sinker roots[ 303 ]. Spacing over 40 ft. (12m).

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and trees.
  • Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US Examples include coconuts, almonds, and bananas.
  • Industrial Crop: Oil  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, biomass, glycerin, soaps, lubricants, paints, biodiesel. Oilseed crop types.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Homegarden  Tropical multistrata agroforestry (multi-story combinations of trees, crops, domestic animals in the homestead).
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - traditionally sown in situ, germination usually taking place in 8 - 10 days[ 63 ]. 100% germination has been reported for seed that has been stored 4 months in open conditions, this drops to 50% after 10 months and zero after 14 months[ 303 ]. Plants produce a long tap root and do not always transplant very well[ 63 ]. Cuttings of ripe wood at the end of the growing season[ 238 ]. Layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Acado, Acajaiba, Acajou, Acaju, Acajuiba, Andi paruppu, Balogo, Balubad, Bibbo, Buadju, Bunga kesasar, Cadju, Cadjudje, Cadjuo, Caju-manso, Caju-manteiga, Caju, Cajueiro, Casoy, Casuy, Cay dieu, Dao lon hot, Gaju, Gajus, Geru bija, Hijli badam, Hijlibadam, Ialaguei, Ialike, Jambu erang, Jambu mede, Jambu mete, Jambu monyet, Janggus, Jidi-mamidi, Kacang mete, Kaju, Kajus, Kajutaka, Kasjoe, Kasoy, Katae-ka, Katcha, Kusso, Mamuang himmaphaan, Mamuang letlor, Mamuang-Maruhao, Maranon, Mbibu, Merehe, Mindiri, Mkanju, Mkorosho, Msololikoko, Muntha-mamidi, Munthiriparuppu, Mutua, Nkoloso, Nkorosho, Parangi mavu, Supardi, Svaay chantii, Thiho.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Amazon, Andamans, Asia, Australia, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central America, China, Colombia, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Dominica, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, French Guiana, Gabon, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guinea, Guine, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Lesser Antilles, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North America, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sahel, Samoa, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South America, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, Tahiti, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Uganda, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Yap, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Semecarpus anacardiumMarking Nut Tree. Oriental CashewTree25.0 10-12 MLMHNDM233

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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