Baobab facts and uses

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Baobab facts and uses

Baobab Quick Facts
Name: Baobab
Scientific Name: Adansonia digitata
Origin West Africa
Colors Brown
Shapes Large egg-shaped variable, globose to ovoid to oblong-cylindrical, 7.5–54 cm long by 7.5–20 wide
Flesh colors Whitish
Taste Tart, sweet taste
Health benefits Promotes Growth and Repair, Delays Aging Process, Promotes Healthy Skin, Improves Sleep Patterns, Promotes Healthy Bones and Teeth, Promotes Healthy Bones and Teeth, Increases Energy Level, Controls Body Weight, Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Anti-Cancer, Prevents Alzheimer and Dementia, Relieves Gastrointestinal Issues, Lowers Blood Pressure,Treats Chronic Diseases, Improves Circulatory Health, Boosts Immunity, Anti-inflammatory Properties, Increases Bone Strength,
Adansonia digitata commonly known as baobab is the most widespread of the Adansonia species on the African continent, found in the hot, dry savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. The plant is native to West Africa and migrated successively throughout the tropical parts of Africa, and beyond, by natural and human-mediated terrestrial and overseas dispersal. Other common names of the plant are African Baobab, Baobab, Bottle Tree, Cream Of Tartar Tree, Dead-Rat Tree, Ethiopian Sour Tree, Judas Fruit, Monkey-Bread Tree, Senegal Calabash, Sour Gourd and Upside Tree. It is a member of the Adansonia family. The vernacular name “baobab” is derived from Arabic بو حِباب (būħibāb), which means “father of many seeds”. The scientific name Adansonia refers to the French explorer and botanist, Michel Adanson (1727–1806), who observed a specimen in 1749 on the island of Sor, Senegal.

Plant Description

Baobab is a long living deciduous, gigantic, exotic tree that grows about 18–25 m tall but the trunk is short but massive, as much as 10–14 m in girth, often deeply fluted and typically cylindrical or bottle-shaped. The plant is found growing in drier, less tropical climates. The plant thrives on a wide range of soils which include stony, non-agricultural soil, rocky and lateritic soils, calcareous soils, clays, sands, alluvial silts and various kinds of loams. Roots are shallow but extensive lateral root system is greater than the height of the tree which accounts for it high water holding capacity. The roots end in tubers. Bark is smooth, reddish-brown or greyish with a purplish tinge or rough and wrinkled.

Leaves

Leaves are simple to digitate, with up to 9 green and glossy leaflets but usually 5. Leaflets are elliptic to obovate-elliptic, 5–15 cm by 2–7 cm, sessile to sub-sessile, with acuminate tip, decurrent base, entire margin stellate pubescent below becoming glabrescent or glabrous. Stipule is early caducous, subulate or narrowly deltoid, 2–5 mm long, glabrous except for the ciliate margin. All baobab trees are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season and remains leafless for nine months of the year. The leaves are an excellent source of protein, minerals and vitamins A and C. It is used as condiments and medicines.

Flower

During the early summer (October to December in southern hemisphere) the tree bears very large, heavy, white flowers. These are 12 cm (4.7 in) across and open during the late afternoon to stay open for one night. The pendulous, showy flowers have a very large number of stamens. They have a sweet scent but later release a carrion smell, particularly when they turn brown and fall after 24 hours.

Fruit

Flower is followed by baobab fruit that has a velvety hard outer shell and globose to ovoid to oblong-cylindrical, 7.5–54 cm long by 7.5–20 wide. It looks like a small coconut or a large mango. The fruit weighs about 1.5 kg. The pulp looks like marshmallows. But these “marshmallows” are not soft and tender; the flesh (marshmallow-looking) around the oil-rich seeds is dry and powdery. This powdery pulp is milled and then packaged and transported worldwide. The powder is used in smoothies, juices, energy bars, and other foods. The taste is sweet, tangy, and has pear-like flavors. Seeds are reniform, dark brown to reddish black 10–13 × 8–10 × 4–5 mm, surrounded in pulp.

The plant has many uses medicinally and non-medicinally and it has been reported that every part of the tree is useful. The fruit pulp is used in multiple ways including an ingredient of drinks and ice products, dried and made into ‘milk,’ and eaten fresh. The leaves are a staple source of food in many rural parts of Africa, and the young leaves especially are used in soups or cooked and eaten like spinach. The seeds are considered a possible source of protein and are sometimes roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The bark is formed into strong fiber that is used for all sorts of textiles, while the wood is used as fuel.

Health Benefits of Baobab

Baobab is a tree that grows in Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. Every part of the tree has traditionally been used as food, as medicine, or as the basis of clothing or household items. Baobab fruit is edible, and baobab seed powder is used in foods because of its nutrients, possible health benefits, and as a natural preservative. Listed below are some of the health benefits of Baobab fruit

1. Relieves Gastrointestinal Issues

Baobab consists of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is why this fruit has been trusted as a gastrointestinal aid for generations. These types of dietary fiber are wonderful for the system; in addition to enhancing the digestive process and decreasing inflammation in the gut, dietary fiber also helps to regulate glucose and insulin levels in the blood, and even lowers negative cholesterol, thus boosting heart health! There are also certain prebiotic properties of baobab fruit that can improve the bacteria levels in your gut and enhance digestion. (1)

2. Lowers Blood Pressure

Potassium is another important mineral constituent of baobab fruit, which is known to be beneficial for heart health. As a vasodilator, potassium helps to ease the strain on the cardiovascular system by widening the blood vessels and arteries, therefore increasing blood flow and keeping the heart from working too hard. Lowering blood pressure can also help fight against atherosclerosis, strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications. (2)

3. Treats Chronic Diseases

Antioxidants have been a recent slogan in natural health, and baobab fruit is loaded with these free radical-neutralizing compounds. Antioxidant levels can be measured based on the number of oxygen radicals a fruit or food is able to absorb, and baobab does very well in an ORAC test (measuring antioxidant strength). This means that baobab help prevent a wide range of chronic diseases, including some forms of cancer that develop when free radicals cause healthy cells to mutate. (3)

4. Improves Circulatory Health

Baobab has been called a super fruit because of its concentration of certain minerals, including iron. This mineral is a key component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygenated blood throughout our body. This can avoid anemia and provide us with a major energy boost, so baobab fruit in any form can be appreciated for a quick pick me up! (4)

5. Boosts Immunity

Immune system-boosting potential of this ancient fruit is definitely a result of the high ascorbic content. Baobab is good for increasing white blood cell count and stimulating the immune system to fight off foreign pathogens, in addition to vitamin C’s antioxidant behavior.(5)

6. Anti-inflammatory Properties

Baobab consists of certain anti-inflammatory compounds that can help aid in a number of conditions, from injuries, aches, and pains to stomach upset and respiratory conditions. By reducing inflammation in the body, your immune system can focus on more important tasks, like eliminating pathogens and foreign bodies.

7. Increases Bone Strength

Dried powder of baobab fruit is mainly concentrated with minerals. Calcium and magnesium found in baobab are important minerals for bone strength. If you are concerned about bone mineral density loss as you age or are already suffering from some of the effects of age-related degradation, adding a baobab supplement to your health schedule is never a bad idea to keep your bones strong and durable into your old age! (6)

8. Promotes Growth and Repair

Vitamin C is also a key component of collagen, which we need for the repair and growth of tissues, cells, blood vessels, cartilage, and bone. High levels of ascorbic acid don’t just safeguard our immune system, but also safeguard normal development and appropriate healing times after injuries, illnesses, and surgeries. (7)

9. Increases Energy Level

High calories and sugar contained in baobab fruit makes it ideal for consuming after workouts. This is why food companies add baobab fruit powder into energy bars and energy drinks. Magnesium in baobab fruit helps reducing muscle fatigue. Baobab fruit has been known since ancient time as a general-wellness-tonic. Native people in Africa consume the fruits regularly.

10. Prevents Alzheimer and Dementia

As mentioned earlier antioxidants help to delay aging process caused by free radicals. Aging process in brain causes Alzheimer and Dementia. It means, consuming baobab fruits regularly can prevent Alzheimer and dementia. Baobab fruit also contains macro minerals and fatty acids needed by our brain, keeping us alert and our neural cells healthy.

11. Anti-Cancer

Inflammation is actually a root cause of all health problems in our body, including cancers. High level of antioxidants is known to kill and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Baobab consist of good amount of antioxidant, thus it is quite beneficial for dealing with cancer.

12. Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Baobab fruit consists of good amount of fructose, a low glycemic index type of sugar. Baobab fruit is a rich source of polyphenols, known to reduce absorption of sugar to the blood. Soluble fiber in baobab fruit also helps reducing absorption of sugar in our intestines. These 2 compounds keep our blood sugar level in normal state.

13. Controls Body Weight

Fibers found in baobab fruits help us feeling full longer and reduce food cravings. The fiber also reduces the absorption of sugar. Excess sugar in our body will be stored in fat tissues. So, baobab fruit is good for controlling body weight. Many health problems are connected to obesity, such as heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hormonal disorders and sleep disorder. Obesity also gives negative effect in our appearance; we will look less healthy, sluggish, along with dull skin.

14. Promotes Healthy Bones and Teeth

Baobab fruit consists of high calcium, 2 times calcium of milk. Baobab fruit also contain phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are required to form density of the bones and prevent osteoporosis. These minerals are also needed to maintain density of dental enamel.

15. Maintains Healthy Cardiovascular Function

LDL dan free radicals cause inflammation in blood vessels’ endothels. Chronic inflammations in blood vessels will cause atherosclerosis and thrombosis. Atherosclerosis will lead to high blood pressure, and if it happens in coronary artery we can get coronary heart disease. Thrombosis in brain will cause stroke.

Luckily, baobab fruit contains high soluble fiber that helps reduce absorption of LDL. The high antioxidants help heal the inflammations in our blood vessels, reducing risk of atherosclerosis. High potassium in baobab fruit also helps reducing blood pressure.

16. Delays Aging Process

Vitamin C in baobab fruits helps to promote production of collagen. Collagen is one of important compounds in connective tissues, including the skin. High production of collagen makes our skin look youthful and tight. Routine consumption of baobab fruit can heal minor inflammations that make our skin wrinkled. Vitamin C also prevents scurvy.

17. Improves Sleep Patterns

Baobab fruit consists of good amount of vitamin B that acts like tryptophan, an amino acid needed to relax the brain and gives better sleep. Calcium helps relaxing and calming muscles and nervous system, while iron is necessary to prevent restless leg syndromes and minerals (Calcium, Iron) help us calming our muscles and nervous system, gives us better sleep. Together, these substances can help us have good quality sleep, so we can feel fit and better in the next day.

18. Promotes Healthy Skin

Aging process can happen very early because of high free radicals in our body and environments. Antioxidants in baobab fruits fight the free radicals, therefore delaying the aging process in our body. High antioxidants also play great role in keeping youthful skin. Inflammations caused by free radicals make our skin wrinkled, and antioxidants prevent this process.

19. Care Nails

Aiding in caring nails is the next benefits of baobab oil. By soaking your hands and feet into this oil, they will be softer and easier to take care of. Additionally, baobab oil is also helpful for mild ingrown toenails because the nail may become soft even easy to pull out. Your nails, as a result, can avoid unwanted breakage effectively.

Traditional uses and benefits of Baobab

  • Bark, roots, leaves, fruits and seeds are widely used by indigenous peoples for human and animal medicines.
  • Fruit pulp and leaves have been reported to be used as antipyretic or febrifuge to overcome fever in African traditional folk medicine.
  • Fruit pulp is also therapeutically used as analgesic, anti-diarrhea, anti-dysentery and for treatment of hemoptysis, small-pox and measles.
  • Powdered seeds are used for dysentery and to promote perspiration (a diaphoretic) and hiccough.
  • Oil extracted from seeds is used for inflamed gums and to ease infected teeth.
  • Leaves are used medicinally as a diaphoretic, an expectorant and as a prophylactic against fever and as an astringent.
  • Leaves in infusion also have hyposensitive and antihistamine properties being used to treat kidneys and bladder diseases, asthma, blood clearing, general fatigue, ophthalmia, otitis, diarrhea, internal pains, dysentery, inflammation, insect bites, guinea worms etc.
  • Bark is used as a substitute for quinine as a prophylactic against fevers especially that caused by malaria.
  • An aqueous extract of baobab bark is drunk in Nigerian traditional medicine as a treatment for sickle cell anaemia.
  • Decoction of the bark is used internally as a refrigerant, antipyretic and antiperiodic in Indian traditional medicine.
  • Powdered leaves are used as to check excessive perspiration.
  • Young leaves are crushed into a poultice for painful swellings.
  • Pulp is used internally with buttermilk in cases of diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Leaves are used to treat kidney and bladder diseases, asthma, general fatigue, diarrhea, insect bites, and guinea worm.
  • Leaf and flower infusions are valued for respiratory problems, digestive disorders and eye inflammation.
  • Seeds are used to cure gastric, kidney and joint diseases.
  • Fruit pulp, seed and bark are reputedly an antidote to Strophanthus poisoning.
  • Pulp is widely used in Africa as a diaphoretic to combat fevers, and to treat dysentery.
  • Gum from the bark is used for cleansing sores.
  • Bark is used in steam baths for calming shivering and high fever.
  • Bark is boiled and taken as a cure for body pains.
  • This infusion is also used to treat colds, fever and influenza.
  • Decoction of the roots is taken as a remedy for lassitude, impotence and kwashiorkor.
  • It helps in counteracting cataract and combats early aging.
  • Decoction prepared from the fruit effectively soothes the skin.
  • Fruit is beneficial for treating fever and brain diseases like Parkinson’s diseases and Alzheimer’s diseases.
  • Oil extracted from baobab seeds treats hair loss problems.
  • Fruit pulp and seeds are used as an antidote for counteracting insect bites.
  • Paste made from leaves is used to treat sores.
  • Baobab root extract is used to treat sleeplessness.
  • It is also used in Cancer treatment.
  • It is a good herbal treatment for smallpox, arthritis, urinary tract infections and respiratory ailments like asthma, cough etc.

Culinary uses

  • Tender root, tubers, twigs, fruit, seeds, leaves and flowers are edible and are common ingredients in traditional dishes in rural areas in Africa.
  • Common food products of A. digitate among the ethnic communities in Benin include dough, gruel, drink (from pulp sauces from leaves, seeds kernel) flavoring agents.
  • Its fruit pulp has very high vitamin C content (10 times that of orange), and can be used in seasoning, as an appetizer and to make juices.
  • Seeds can be eaten fresh or dried, ground into flour and thus added to soups and stews.
  • Leaves are a staple for many populations in Africa, and are eaten fresh or dried.
  • Uncooked fruit pulp is used in preparing refreshing drinks with a pleasant wine-gum flavor in rural areas and also has become a popular ingredient in ice products in urban areas.
  • In some areas baobab ‘milk’ is very popular. It is very nutritious and is made from dried pulp mixed into a solution.
  • Fruit pulp emulsion is mixed with milk as a drink in northern Nigeria.
  • Pulp is used in food preparations and also processed into sweets.
  • Fresh pulp is also eaten.
  • Fruit pulp is added to aid fermentation of sugar cane for beer making in Tanzania.
  • Acid pulp is also used as a substitute for cream of tartar in baking.
  • Powdered fruit husk and peduncle may be smoked as a substitute for tobacco.
  • Seeds are used as thickening agent in soups.
  • Fermented seeds are used in flavoring soups.
  • Seeds are pounded whole into a coarse meal dried and added to soups and other dishes like ‘Burma’ in Sudan.
  • Baobab seeds are ground with peanuts and added to water and sugar to make a sauce eaten with porridge.
  • Roasted seeds is used as a side dish substituting peanut and used as snacks.
  • It is also used as coffee.
  • Seeds are pressed for oil as an oilseed meal for cooking.
  • Shoots and roots of germinating seeds and seedlings are also eaten.
  • Leaves are a staple food source for rural populations in many parts of Africa particularly in the central region of the continent.
  • Hausa ethnic group in Northern Nigeria ground leaves and serves as the main ingredient of a soup called ‘miyar kuka’.
  • Young leaves are chopped and cooked in a sauce or eaten as spinach.
  • In parts of northern Nigeria, especially Borno and Yobe states, where the leave is eaten as soup condiment.
  • Dried green leaves are used throughout the year.
  • Dried leaves are powdered and used for cooking.
  • Leaves powder is called ‘lalo’ in Mali and sold in many local markets.
  • In Mali use of the leaves in sauce is usually in combination with Parkia biglobosa seeds, onion, okra, pepper, ginger sometimes meat but more often fish.
  • Sauce is used with a rich gruel made form millet, sorghum or maize but also from couscous rice.
  • Flowers can be eaten raw or used to flavor drinks.
  • Tender roots are reputed to be cooked and eaten presumably in times of famine in West Africa.
  • Leaves also form an excellent condiment and seasoning.
  • Root decoction is widely used in Sierra Leone as food.

Other Facts

  • Sunland baobab is also the oldest baobab alive, since it was carbon dated as 6000 years old, almost as old as Ancient Egypt.
  • Whole fruit or pulp can be stored for several months under dry conditions.
  • The Temne of Sierra Leone believe that a root decoction taken with food causes stoutness.
  • Trunk of the tree is in fact used to store water during dry periods.
  • Hollow trees provide reservoirs for fresh water particularly in western Sudan.
  • They are used as shelter and for storage and in West Africa and are used as tombs.
  • Wood is spongy and light and is used mainly for fuel.
  • It is also used for making wide light canoes, wooden platters, trays, floats for fishing nets.
  • Green bark furnishes a dye and is used for decoration.
  • Bark yields a strong fiber which is used in making ropes, cordage, harness straps, string for musical instrument, baskets, fiber cloth, mats, fishing nets bags, and hats.
  • In East Africa, soluble red dye is obtained from the roots.
  • Bark is also used for tanning.
  • Root bark is also used as string or rope for making fishing nets, socks, mats, etc.
  • Pollens of flowers are mixed with water to form glue.
  • Husks of the fruit may be used as dishes or fashioned into containers or snuff boxes and fishing floats.
  • They are used as water dippers in Tanzania.
  • They can be used as fuel and provide a potash rich ash suitable for soap making.
  • Fruit and leaves are also nutritious and palatable to animals and constitute an important feed for cattle in the savannah areas especially in the arid zones.
  • It has been reported that bark of A. digitata was used for treatment of diarrhea in poultry and fruits for treatment of Newcastle disease in poultry in ethno veterinary medicine.
  • During the past decade there has been an increased interest by several European companies in baobab pharmaceutical and toiletry products, such as powdered and tableted pulp, dried leaf powders, leaf bath ‘salts’ and foams, seed bath oils, lubrications and anti-aging skin preparations.
  • Bark is boiled for days to extract a substance poisonous to ants.
  • Wood is chewed by humans and animals in cases of extreme water scarcity.
  • Wood can be used as a salt substitute.
  • Decaying wood of a tree that has died of old age or from lightning is spread on fields as a fertilizer.
  • Shell can be used as a dish, water dipper, vessel for liquids, snuffbox, fishing float etc.
  • It also makes an excellent rat trap.
  • Powdered husk or peduncle may be smoked as a tobacco substitute or added to snuff to increase pungency.
  • Pulp extract can be used as a hair wash.
  • Acid pulp is used as a coagulant for rubber.
  • Roots produce a useful red dye.
  • Non-drying, golden yellow oil of agreeable taste can be obtained by distilling the seeds.
  • Fruit pulp burns with an acrid, irritating smoke that can be used as a fumigant to deter insects troublesome to livestock.
  • Fibers can be woven into waterproof hats that may also serve as drinking vessels.
  • Fiber is the best for making the famous ‘kiondo’ baskets of Kenya.
  • Strong, tough and tear-resistant paper is produced from the fiber.
  • Shell and seeds are also used for fuel, which potters use to smooth earthenware necklaces before firing.
  • There are nine species of the baobab tree (genus Adansonia) – six from Madagascar, two from Africa and one from Australia.
  • Baobab’s biggest enemies are drought, water logging, lightning, elephants and black fungus.
  • Baobabs are deciduous and their bat-pollinated flowers bloom at night.
  • Baobabs are utilized by humans for many purposes, including shelter, ceremonies, food, medicine, fiber, juices and beer.
  • Large trunks (the largest circumference on record is 47 meters) have been or are used as jails, post offices and bush pubs, amongst other creative uses.
  • Tree remains leafless for almost nine months at a stretch.
  • Baobab is the national tree of Madagascar

Precautions

  • Avoid use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Baobab oil can be extremely concentrated and should be used with caution and in moderation.
  • Powder supplements from this fruit should only be taken as directed, as the strong concentrations of nutrients, organic compounds, and other substances can be irritating to the body in certain ways.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=21591#null

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/55557/

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=1433

https://www.pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Adansonia+digitata

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ADDI3

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2621135

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia_digitata

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