Indigenous to Africa, the tamarind tree is found in the wild in dry savannahs; it was introduced a long time ago in India then dispersed by the Arabs and Europeans in the rest of the tropical and subtropical world.
This beautiful tree which can reach 20 m, has a fairly short trunk and branches which tend to bend down to the ground, the foliage is semi-deciduous, the desiccated leaflets cover the ground around the tree preventing weedy vegetation.
The zygomorphic flowers are reddish; the fruit, a somewhat compressed hanging pod.
The immature pod is green-yellow and turns brownish when ripe.
The epidermis of the pod becomes brittle and inside, the yellow-brownish pulp surrounds seeds (5 to 10), red-brown to black, smooth and shiny.
The tamarind tree is very widespread and becomes easily subspontaneous, it supports arid climates and poor soils (thanks to its mycorrhizae) and grows as well on the Polynesian atolls, by the sea, as on the mountainous slopes of the Tropics.
It is widely grown in India, used in many dishes and as a medicinal plant.
In Africa it seems to prefer the surroundings of large termite mounds and sometimes associates with the baobab.
It is frequently planted in gardens and parks.
In Africa it is sometimes used as a landmark to delimit plots of land, it is a tree that can live for centuries.
The tamarind tree does not support the cold but one can sometimes meet it in the south of Europe near the Mediterranean or the south of the USA. It is present in Australia.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
All parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine, but Western pharmacopoeias are mainly interested in the pulp of the fruit and more recently in the seeds.
THE FRUIT PULP surrounds the seeds, it represents 40% of the pod, it is rich in pectin and simple sugars (20 to 40%).
Among the organic acids and salts it contains, tartaric acid and potassium bitartrate are the most important and responsible for its acid taste and its laxative power. But there are also other organic acids: malic, citric.
Some pods are soft and sweet, others are very acidic or acrid depending on the trees and the degree of maturity.
A small amount of essential oil gives it a slight aromatic smell.
THE SEEDS contain 65 to 70% polysaccharides, 15 to 20% protein and 3 to 5% seed oil.
They are edible after cooking, boiled or grilled, you can even grind them and obtain a flour.
Currently it is rather an industrial material, a gum (after grinding and crushing the seeds previously heated) which forms viscous pseudo-plastic solutions with water, which find use in certain food and non-food industries (stationery, textiles) .
Whole seeds are a source of phenolic compounds of interest in medicine for their antioxidant (therefore protective) and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh tamarind pulp, a mild laxative, is eaten:
- in hot or cold herbal tea: 20 g of pulp in a liter of water, boiling followed by sieving, 2 to 3 cups per day
- in jam: example of proportion: 50 g of pulp, 50 g of water and 125 g of sugar, reduce by 1/4 by hot evaporation.
It can also be consumed directly as a sour "candy", this can possibly irritate the gums or the teeth.
Tamarind dry extract is used in the composition of many laxative phytomedicines, generally associated with anthracenosic compounds (eg senna, rhubarb).
Tamarind pulp is also a condiment, especially in English speaking countries, curry, canned meat or vegetables, chutney (with mangoes) and various sauces.
YOUNG LEAVES and FLOWERS can be eaten in salads or soups.
The BARK OF THE BRANCHES rich in tannins, is prescribed in decoction as an astringent, for example: a piece of bark of 15 cm by 2 to 3 cm in a liter of water, 1/2 hour of cooking, 2 hours of maceration .
This very astringent BARK DECOCTION can be used:
- in mouthwashes (gingivitis, canker sores)
- in the event of diarrheal disorders (one glass twice a day)
- as an anti-infective (cleansing of wounds, conjunctivitis, superinfected dermatoses)
- to make an antipruritic bath in children (a liter of decoction in 10 liters of bath)
More anecdotally: the root decoction would be an aphrodisiac (!?): 40 g of root in a liter of water, one cup 2 to 3 times a day. Bark maceration is said to calm bronchial asthma.
LEAF INFUSION and WHOLE SEEDS EXTRACTS (alcoholic or aqueous) would be hypoglycemic and interesting in case of type 2 DIABETES for their antioxidant-anti-inflammatory properties.
Alcoholic (ethanolic) extracts of tamarind seeds and turmeric rhizome are offered as a treatment for painful inflammatory joint disorders associated with osteoarthritis.
OTHER USES OF TAMARIND
The wood is highly valued for making charcoal or as firewood.
The trunk is generally short and hollow-walled, but if you cannot make beautiful planks, the heartwood, very dense and reddish, is used for small carpentry or turned objects.
This large tree needs space and prevents other plants from growing under it and a little around it.
It is easily propagated by seeds.
If you prefer to preserve the fruit qualities of the "mother" tree, you can layer it or take cuttings from small branches.
THE TAMARIND, To avoid constipation
The tamarind is a large tropical tree that bears fruit-pods with sweet pulp which can be made into a refreshing drink or jam.
This pulp has mild laxative properties and is combined with other plants in phytomedicines for laxative purposes.
The edible seeds after cooking contain anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory phenolic compounds
The bark of the tamarind tree is astringent (full of tannin) and helps control diarrhea and inflammation of the mucous membranes.s. .
Copyright 2022 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel