Lignum Vitae, also called Guaiac wood, French wood or Gajac, originates from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The trees rarely reach diameters of more than 50 cm, so they remain rather small. The colour is yellowish green-brown when freshly cut, it takes on a deep green colour when exposed to air, the sapwood remains yellowish. The wood is very hard and heavy (approx. 1,300 kg/m3), can be turned easily, but is difficult to plane. It is extremely resistant to wear, very resinous and dries slowly. Technically, lignum vitae is mainly used for parts that are subject to high mechanical stress, such as planer soles, bowling and bossel balls, gear wheels, ship shaft bearings; these are self-lubricating due to the high oil and resin content of the wood. The ingredients also make Lignum Vitae a valued supplier of essences in medicine, as well as liqueur factories process large quantities of Lignum Vitae shavings. The German name Pockholz (smallpox wood) is a reminder of its medicinal use: in the 17th century it was believed that its essences could be used to cure smallpox!