BUSH BUTTER TREE
The AFRICAN PEAR or bush butter tree is a tree with edible oleaginous fruits which grows naturally in Central Africa in the humid tropico-equatorial zone from sea level to about 1000 meters sometimes higher.
It is present in the natural state from Nigeria to Angola and to Uganda in the east.
It is also a cultivated tree that can be acclimatized in drier parts of Africa and has been introduced in Southeast Asia and Central America.
Its common names, nsafu or safou (the fruit) come from the vernacular name “NSAFOU or NSAFU” in Kikongo (in Zaire).
Dacryodes excelsa is called by many local names in various African languages ??(eg atanga in Gabon, ube and eleme in Nigeria).
This "wild" tree is in the process of domestication: selection of producing varieties or adapted to different soils or climates, research of markets and development of by-products.
It is an interesting tree from a food point of view but also a medicinal plant: resinous exudate (skin care), roots, bark and leaves by their content in medicinal tannin.
The nsafou tree has an evergreen foliage (composed of 5 to 6 leaflets) it can reach around thirty meters in the large forest but 15 m on average in open ground.
The feet are male or female sometimes hermaphroditic, the abundant flowers attract bees.
The fruits hang from the end of a peduncle, they usually evolve towards purple as they ripen but can also be black or red.
They weigh on average (in Cameroon) 40 to 50 g, and measure 5 to 7 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in diameter.
The nsafou contains an often light green pulp and a central lobed seed which weighs on average 15 to 20 g, it is quite fragile.
When the bark is incised, an incense-type resin slowly flows.
Dadryodes is a plant genus also present in Asia and tropical America, some trees produce edible fruits similar to nsafu such as Dacryodes rostrata (South-East Asia), Dacryodes peruviana (South America).
There is also another species close to the nsafou tree in Central Africa, Dacryodes buettneri (mainly in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea).
In the West Indies, Dacryodes excelsa, the white gum tree, is best known for its wood and incense.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
NSAFU AFRICAN PEAR DACRYODES EDULIS FRUIT
The PULP OF NSAFU fruit contains:
- 50 to 70% water,
- 20 to 30% fat or oil (lipids), (or 40 to 60% of dry nsafou)
- approximately 5% proteins and 5% carbohydrates,
- mineral salts and non-digestible fibers, vitamin C (which is largely destroyed during cooking),
- an unsaponifiable fraction (vitamin E, essential oil, phytosterols)
The pulp of the harvested fruit softens in a few days at tropical room temperature (2 to 3) under the influence of a natural enzymatic process sensitive to temperature (cooking or freezing blocks or slows down this phenomenon).
The fatty acid composition of the triglycerides in NSAFOU OIL varies depending on the variety of the tree and the growing conditions (temperature, humidity, type of soil) on average:
- 35 to 45% palmitic acid
- 25 to 30% oleic acid,
- 20 to 30% linoleic acid,
- very little stearic and linolenic acid.
It is therefore a palmito-oleic oil similar to that of palm oil, it is EDIBLE AND NOURISHING, it lacks unsaturated fatty acids for it to be dietetic, it is an interesting oil for SKIN CARE .
THE SEED OF DACRYODES EDULIS
Contains carbohydrate and lipid reserves, tannins.
DACRYODES EDULIS SEED OIL contains essentially palmitic and oleic acid triglycerides; little or no linoleic acid which decreases its value in food.
The tannins and other substances of the seed make the cake (residue after oil extraction) hardly digestible for animals (anti-nutritive effect: tannin, phytic acid, anti-trypsin, oxalate).
DACYODES EDULIS NSAFU LEAVES AND BARK
The leaves and bark (small branches and roots) of nsfou tree contain many compounds that can potentially be used for healing:
- saponins, flavonoids, tannins,
- carotenoids (provitamin A),
However there have not been many studies on their properties.
We know that the aqueous extract (herbal tea) of the leaf is ANTI-DIABETIC (type 2 diabetes), healing, dries up and soothes irritated mucous membranes, has an antiseptic (antibacterial) power.
A study shows that the aqueous extract would limit cell proliferation (anti-cancer potential), the presence of methyl gallate would be the main reason. It is a compound present in other plants and already known for its pharmacological properties.
ESSENTIAL OIL AND RESIN of DACRYODES EDULIS
The resin (incense) flows slowly from the tree when the bark is deeply cut.
It is an aromatic and edible viscous liquid (in case of famine).
It contains many compounds having a medicinal interest include mainly:
- saponins, antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal,
- tannins, antibacterials and astringent promoting healing,
- group B vitamins and a little vitamin C,
- aromatic compounds that can be extracted by distillation (essential oil) : sabinene, phellandrene and limonene, antibacterial and antifungal.
The fruit itself is weakly aromatic (odor of terebentin), it contains about 1% essential oil, the main constituents are myrcene (45%), alpha-pinene (9%), alpha-terpineol (8%) and germacrene-D (4%).
THE NSAFU or AFRICAN PEAR
DACRYODES EDULIS FRUIT or SAFOU IS FIRST OF ALL A FOOD very appreciated in the regions of Africa where it is natural or cultivated.
It is a VERY NOURISHING FRUIT by its high content in fatty substances and which also provides proteins, carbohydrates, mineral salts, vitamin E and fibers facilitating intestinal transit.
It can be eaten raw when it is firm, but it is most often cooked over embers (grilled) or boiled.
The pulp of the safou which softens quite quickly can be used as a vegetable butter, or serve as a base for various culinary preparations.
The fruit can be dried or kept cold to keep it longer, just like the pulp.
DACRYODES EDULIS OIL
Safou oil can be made at home by mixing the crushed or softened pulp with a little water and heating it gently.
The oil dissociates from the pulp and floats, but it does not keep for long because it contains many impurities.
Artisanal production oil is obtained by strongly pressing slices of safou dried in the sun and then crushed. This gives the oil and the cake which can be used as feed for the cattle.
"Industrial" safou oil is obtained by extracting the dehydrated safou powder with a solvent (eg hexane).
Dacryodes edulis oil is an edible oil like palm oil.
It is also used for skin care, it is softening and protective: protection and hydration of dry or damaged skin, hair care.
MEDICINAL USE OF DACRYODES EDULIS
There is no use of nsafu tree in Western medicine, but it is a tree very popular with traditional healers in southern West Africa and Central Africa.
It is the content in tannin, saponins and flavonoids of the INFUSION-DECOCTION OF LEAVES which can help to treat various ailments (a handful of leaves, in 1/2 liter of water, 5 minutes of boiling):
- skin wounds, burns,
- mouthwash for dental pain, or gums, canker sores,
- episode of diarrhea without fever or presence of blood.
- type 2 diabetes: an infusion (tea) of the leaves, a handful in 1/2 liter of very hot water, let it infuse and drink the liquid during the day. Stop or decrease the dose in case of secondary constipation.
This INFUSION is also useful in case of seasonal influenza-like viral infections,
We can also use CRUSHED LEAVES as a poultice on wounds, infected ulcers, infected teeth in the absence of more modern treatment.
DACRYODES EDULIS RESIN (incense) is useful for treating skin infections caused by fungi (fungal infection).
It is pulverized and mixed with a vegetable oil or butter (shea, safou or palm for example).
Direct application on mycoses, repeated several days in a row.
DACRYODES EDULIS CULTIVATION
The propagation of the NSAFU TREE is done mainly by the seeds (which are fragile and have a rather short capacity to germinate), or by the air layering of selected producer trees.
The NSAFU TREE is not self-fertile, it is necessary, in the plantations, to associate some male plants with the female plants.
It is a tree which allows, especially in the first years of the plantation, an intercropping of food plants.
The fruits are harvested preferably by picking them from the tree, and transporting them as quickly as possible to the place of sale.
The tree wood is of good quality.
The flowers , very appreciated by bees, allow an associated production of honey in plantations with numerous trees.
DACRYODES EDULIS or BUSH BUTTER TREE
The fruit of dacryodes edulis or nsafu is an oleaginous fruit originating in Central Africa, it is nourishing and provides the organism with minerals, proteins and some vitamins.
The leaves, bark of roots and young branches, and the resin are traditionally used in Africa to treat skin infections, burns, dental infections and fungal infections.
The leaf tea improves type 2 diabetes.
It is an undemanding tree and adapts to varied soils in regions with a tropical or equatorial climate.
Copyright 2021: Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel