Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jumbie Beads

Had to get away from the computer yesterday, seems since I opened my Etsy online shop I've done little else than wrestle with my PC. I can't and won't profess to be even remotely computer in point...tried to do a page on "facebook", there was supposed to be a way to get my etsy widget on the main page instead of in my profile. Tried for days to get that to happen. Went over the directions, step-by-step countless times...well maybe not countless, but definitely more times than I'd care to count. Never did get it the way it was in the instructions. Finally, in frustration, I ended up deleting my facebook account.

The break from staring at my monitor was refreshing and sorely needed. Walked about in the yard and took a few photos. Found this vine growing rampant in the lot next door. This tangled mass of a vine grows wild in tropical climates such as southern Florida. When we lived in the West Indies, Trinidad to be specific, the vine's bright red seeds with a deep black dot were called "Crab Eyes" or "Jumbie Beads" and islanders used them much like beads in making necklaces and bracelets.
Brilliant red and jet black, like a tiny lady bug, a signal of nature, a warning, as lovely as they are these seeds also contain one of the most virulent poisons of the plant kingdom. Though the shell of the seed is extremely hard and almost impossible to crush with the teeth, many countries have banned any item that contain Jumbie Beads. Since the seed casing is exceptionally durable, island crafters have to boil Jumbie Beads in order to soften them enough so they can be pierced for stringing, this act destroys the potent protein toxin, abrin.


  1. Thanks for this info, it has been very informative. I live in Tobago and have been struck by the beauty of these seeds for years and only recently found out about their poisonous quality. Do you have any more info about the process of removing the poison?
    Thanks again,
    Malika Best- Tobago

  2. BestM - Trinidad is a lovely, lovely island with wonderful, warm, friendly people. :)
    The Jumbie seed is a very pretty and hard seed and is used in the making of jewelry. The locals boiled the seeds enough to soften them so they could be easily pierced yet not to boil them so much as to ruin their bright red coloration. The heat of boiling also destroys the very toxic poison that these pretty little seeds contain. I would have sent you this information via your e-mail or on your blog, since this post is so old, but was not able to find either one on your profile page.
    I do wish to thank you for having visited my blog - I love having people drop by. :)

  3. Hi there,
    My parents are trinidadian and I was born and raised in Canada. My grandmother gave me some mal-yeux beads when I was a baby, but my Mom has no idea where they would have gone (31 years later, I don't blame her). I am expecting my first baby in about a month and I really want some beads for my baby boy. Do you by any chance know where I can get some? Other than my parents, I'm not really connected to the Trini community here.

  4. Anonymous - There are various sites online that sell jewelry made from these beads and, hopefully, they've been processed in the proper way to render the toxic poison within them non-viral. As for acquiring the seeds themselves I couldn't say - perhaps there is an online source. The plant is a tropical and grows only in warm, humid climates such as Trinidad, south Florida and India.

    I have read that jewelry made of these seeds is worn to ward off evil and as a protective amulet against evil. So I certainly understand why you might wish to have something made from them to protect your child. By the way congratulations on your pregnancy. I wish you good health and may you be blessed with the most adorable and healthy little boy any mother could ever wish to have. :)


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