There are at least 8 species of baobab of the genus Adamsonia (Madagascar, Africa, Australia).
The African baobab Adamsonia digitata is the best known because the most widespread, the largest and the most massive (up to 25-30 meters high and several meters in diameter).
It is a tree protected by the villagers of Africa: tutelary tree, "magic" tree but also useful and medicinal tree by its foliage, its fruits, its bark, its spongy wood and its roots.
In Africa, it is present from the Sahel to southern Africa in areas with low rainfall from east to west, especially in the dry savannahs of Senegal and Ivory Coast.
It becomes more rare near the large rainforests.
It is a tree of full sun which, by its capacity to conserve a lot of water in its trunk, can survive a prolonged drought, its root system is spread but shallow.
Baobab originating in Africa has been introduced in many warm egions of the world, particularly in India.
"Adult" trees (40 to 60 years old) have a short, massive trunk that takes a "bottle" shape around 200-300 years old.
The baobab can probably reach 1000 to 2000 years.
The contorted branches have single leaves on young trees and are segmented (fingered) with 5-6 leaflets on adult trees.
The leaves fall to the ground in dry season and leave the tree bare.
Flowers hanging down to the ground are large (10 to 20 cm), white with many stamens.
They usually open at the beginning of the rainy season.
The baobab fruit is woody, pendulous and indehiscent (it does not open naturally), turning from green to brown-yellow when ripe.
The fruit (10 to 30 cm long) contains a whitish edible pulp, and several hundred oilseeds.
Useful or medicinal parts are leaves, fruit pulp, seeds and to a lesser extent wood and baobab bark.
The baobab has many very different names in the languages ??of Africa, for example: ngigne in Senufo, oro in Dogon, sira in Bambara, babbe in Fulani, kouka in Hausa, woo in Wolof.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND MEDICINAL PROPERTIES
AFRICAN BAOBAB FRUIT PULP
The whitish pulp is fragmented into several elements contained by a reddish fibrous network.
This fleshy pulp is edible and interesting in terms of diet, it contains:
- very little water (less than 10% of its weight),
- 70 to 75% of carbohydrates (pectins and sugars),
- about 3% protein,
- minerals (in particular calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc)
- 5% of non-assimilable fibers,
- less than 1% fat (fat).
It is a tangy pulp because it contains organic acids found in many fruits (citric, tartar, malic) and ascorbic acid (or vitamin C).
The amount of vitamin C is very interesting (average 2000mg (or 2g) per kg of pulp) similar to or greater than what is found in many fruits (orange, lemon, mango).
This pulp of baobab fruit dissolves easily in water, and makes it possible to obtain a pleasant, nourishing, dietary and vitaminized beverage.
The pulp contains small amounts of pharmacological anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral substances and which strengthen the immune defense (derivatives of hydroxycinnamic acid, iridoids and phenylethanoids).
AFRICAN BAOBAB SEEDS
The baobab seeds are numerous in the fruit, in the form of a small kidney (reniform), more or less brown in color, sometimes almost black.
They are covered with pulp and have a hard and resistant shell.
They contain an oleaginous kernel, which contains approximately:
- 8% water,
- 33% of proteins,
- 30% of lipids,
- 5% carbohydrates (sometimes a little more),
- 17% of non-assimilable fibers,
- minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, iron, zinc),
The oil extracted from this oleaginous almond contains triglycerides with mainly:
- 28% palmitic acid (saturated),
- 25% oleic acid (unsaturated omega 9),
- 35% linoleic acid (unsaturated omega 6),
- less than 1% of linolenic acid (unsaturated omega 3).
This is the profile of an interesting food oil but unbalanced in its content in omega 6 and omega 3.
The unsaponifiable oil contains phytosterols dominated by beta sistosterol (75%).
African baobab seed oil is nutritious but also usable on the skin (COSMETIC), tests have shown that it does not cause intolerance reaction in the majority of cases.
The seeds are generally eaten a lightly roasted, they are NOURISHING and provide a supplement in amino acids interesting especially for children.
Néanmoins il ne faut pas en manger trop car elles contiennent( en faible quantité) des acides gras considérés comme des facteurs anti-nutritionnels surtout après avoir été chauffés.
LEAVES OF AFRICAN BAOBAB
Baobab leaves are edible especially at the beginning of their development, before their tannin content makes them difficult to digest.
On the other hand grazing animals consume them even "aged" when they fall on the ground.
Average leaf composition (this dry weight composition varies according to the "age" of the leaf and how it was dried (in the shade (better) or in the sun):
- about 15% of proteins (including 5 of the 8 essential amino acids),
- 60 to 70% of carbohydrates (assimilable for the majority),
- 4 to 10% of lipids,
-fibers (10%) and minerals (magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium),
- no or little vitamin C but vitamin or provitamin A especially in the fresh leaves or dried in the shade, interesting contents in vitamins B1 and B2.
- Phenolic compounds: flavonoids and tannins, anti-inflammatoriy, scavengers of free radicals and which are useful to improve a DIABETES type 2 and its side effects on the blood circulation.
The leaves are eaten fresh (like spinach or amaranth) or in the form of leaf powder.
AFRICAN BAOBAB BARK
Baobab bark is thick, fibrous and contains water and substances with anti-inflammatory and ANTIPYRETIC properties (reducing fever).
The pulp of baobab fruit is regularly consumed in Africa:
- raw without preparation,
- diluted in water or milk and sometimes sugared,
- mixed with food (maize or cassava dishes),
- sometimes cooked in the form of sauce.
Its important content of pectin makes it possible to do jellies, jams after prolonged cooking .
It is a NOURISHING AND DIETETIC FOOD, cheap, without pesticides and which can be preserved because it is almost dry.
Pectins from the pulp and other associated carbohydrate compounds are considered as PROBIOTICS (which promote the activity of the colon flora) strengthening the IMMUNE DEFENSE of the body and sometimes allowing the treatment of infantile diarrhea.
However, some people with fragile or irritable bowel may be inconvenienced by gases secondary to the microbial activity of the colon due to the insoluble fibers of this pulp.
The pulp of the baobab fruit is exported to Europe or the USA, as a food or natural dietary supplement.
Almonds can be eaten from fresh baobab seeds, lightly toasted or crushed.
They must nevertheless be extracted by breaking their resistant shells.
They are very nutritious almonds because of their important content in lipids.
BAOBAB SEED OIL is used in FOOD, such as COSMETICS (dry and irritated skin, chronic dry dermatoses), and as MASSAGE OIL (muscles and painful joints)
Baobab oil is exported to Europe for its cosmetic qualities.
Baobab leaves are first and foremost a FORAGE appreciated by breeders, its tannin content may limit its digestibility and feed efficiency especially in cattle.
The young baobab leaves are a green vegetable that provides PROTEINS, mucilage and carbohydrates, vitamins A and B1 / B2.
They can be dried in the shade and reduced to powder. It is a FOOD SUPPLEMENT that can be preserved and is useful for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as young children.
Consuming baobab leaves also makes it possible to attenuate a mild type 2 diabetes mellitus and, above all, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications (arteritis, trophic disorders, pressure ulcers, coronary disorders).
OTHER USES OF BAOBAB
The fibrous bark contains anti-inflammatory phenolic substances, useful to REDUCE FEVER and in cases of acute diarrhea in absence of a specific modern treatment.
The bark is used in aqueous decoction: a handful of bark in one liter of water, 10 minutes of boiling, infuse until cooling, possibility of secondary constipation.
The bark and spongy wood of the baobab are a source of water in case of extreme shortage.
CULTIVATION OF THE AFRICAN BAOBAB
The majority of baobabs in Africa are wild trees that have grown spontaneously and are often protected by villagers.
Unfortunately some baobabs are destroyed because they are suspected of harboring pests to industrial cultivation (especially cotton).
The baobab culture is easy from scarified seeds, or treated with hot water or briefly immersed in a strong acid to facilitate their germination.
It takes a lot of patience because you have to wait many years (sometimes 15-20 years) before getting the first fruit.
The "young" baobabs provide only leaves and their systematic harvesting delays the growth of the tree and therefore a little more the first harvest of fruits.
THE AFRICAN BAOBAB A MASSIVE USEFUL AND MEDICINAL TREE
The African baobab can live for hundreds of years in African savannahs.
It is a revered tree, "the palaver tree", often protected by villagers.
Its leaves are edible and serve as fodder, its fruits contain a nourishing and dietary pulp, and its oilseeds edible almonds.
The oil extracted from them is used in the kitchen, for skin care and as a massage oil.
Consuming regular young baobab leaves helps to reduce type 2 diabetes.
Its bark in aqueous decoction is antipyretic (reduces fever).
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel