Evergreen tree growing to 80 ft (25 m). Has fine compound leaves, clusters of orange-yellow flowers, and brittle gray-brown seed pods (fruit) containing up to 12 round seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
While native to Madagascar, the tamarind is now cultivated in many of the world’s tropical regions, including the Caribbean, India, Southeast Asia, and China.
Fruit, leaves, seeds.
Tamarind contains 16–18% plant acids (including nicotinic acid—vitamin B3), a volatile oil (with geranial, geraniol, and limonene), sugars, pectin, 0.8% potassium, and fats. Vitamin C was formerly believed to be among the constituents of tamarind, but this is now being disputed.
History & Folklore
Sailors ate tamarind fruit as a nourishing complement to their otherwise starchy diet, in the belief that eating the fruit would prevent scurvy. However, it appears that tamarind does not in fact contain vitamin C. Tamarind is a major ingredient in many chutneys and condiments, notably Worcestershire sauce.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Tamarind is a wholesome and cleansing fruit that improves digestion, relieves gas, soothes sore throats, and acts as a mild laxative. However, mixed with cumin and sugar, tamarind is also prescribed as a treatment for dysentery. It is given for loss of appetite and nausea, and as a stomach tonic and mild laxative. It may help with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
In southern India, tamarind soup is taken to treat colds and other ailments that produce excessive phlegm. In Chinese medicine, it is considered a cooling herb, appropriate for treating “summer heat.” The fruit is also given for loss of appetite, for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and for constipation. The seeds’ traditional use as an antivenin in snake bite has been partly confirmed in laboratory research.