The Baobab Tree

The Baobab (BOUGH-bob) tree has been called defining icon of Africa.  There are eight types of Baobab trees in the world, of which six are in Madagascar, one in Australia and one on mainland Africa. The species found in Tanzania is Adansonia digitata, the largest of all eight. This trees can live for up to 3000 years and are some of the largest in the world. The tree survives prolonged droughts by storing up to 30,000 gallons of water in its massive, fibrous, sponge-like trunk, which can be up to 30 to 60 feet in diameter! To access this water, the Kalahari bushmen use hollow pieces of grass (much like a straw) to suck the water out. Hollowed out baobab trunks in the vicinity of villages are used for water storage. Thus the Baobab tree is also known as known as the “Tree of Life”.

The Baobab tree has also been called “the upside-down tree”, because its weirdly shaped branches resemble roots. The fruit of the African baobab tree is particularly appealing to baboons, hence its other nickname, “monkey-bread tree”.

The Baobab tree is called KALPVRIKSHA in Hindi ( a tree fulfilling ones wishes).  In Hindu mythology it is well described as one of the most precious tree on the planet by describing that this is one of the 14 ratnas ( precious things ) produced from samudra manthan . Kalpavriksha(कल्पवृक्ष) “The tree of Life” is a mythological, wish fulfilling divine tree. Along with the kamadhenu, or ‘wish-giving cow’, the kalpavrikshaoriginated during the Samudra Manthan or “churning of the Ocean of Milk”.

The baobab tree is known for its size and spiritual significance in many African cultures. It produces a tasty and nutritious fruit, the dried pulp of which has recently been approved as a novel food import by the European Union. Indigenous to many parts of  Africa as well as Tanzania baobab fruit is a traditional snack for children on their way home from school, a dietary supplement for pregnant women, and a refreshing beverage similar to lemonade . It can also be used medicinally, as it has been for centuries, to alleviate stomachaches, fevers, and malaria. One UN study showed that an aqueous baobab solution proved more effective in rehydrating children with severe cases of diarrhea than standard World Health Organization remedies. Whispers of this new superfruit are spreading through the European and American food niches, but it is hardly new for indigenous peoples. 

The Baobab fruit has six times as much vitamin C as an orange, 50% more calcium than spinach and is a plentiful source of antioxidants. Its antioxidant activity is four times that of a kiwi or apple pulp. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and phosphorus, and the seeds are packed with protein ,Vitamins A and B1, B2, B3, B6 and dietary fibers are also present.

Baobab oil is a clear, golden yellow oil that with a slight nutty odor. The oil is obtained by cold pressing or Co2 extraction of the dried baobab seeds. Baobab oil contains fatty acids (Omega 3-6-9), sterols, proteins, potassium, magnesium calcium, iron, zinc, and amino acids.  Topical application of this nourishing, antioxidant oil can help alleviate chronic dry skin and chronic bruising by improving skin elasticity and boosting epidermal softening.

Recent studies in Europe have revealed a multitude of skin benefits of Baobab. Leaf and bark extracts tighten and tone skin, while oil from the seeds moisturizes and encourages skin cell regeneration with vitamins A, D and E.  The studies were carried out in the laboratory showed that doses between 400 and 800 mg/kg determine a marked anti-inflammatory effect and are able to reduce inflammation induced in the animal limb with formalin. This activity may be attributed to the presence of sterols, saponins and triterpenes in the aqueous extract.

Clincally, skin care companies have found that Baobab fruit and oil combats skin aging, helps improve skin firmness and strength by boosting the elastic quality of the skin, diminishes the look of facial lines, evens out skin tone, and refreshes and hydrates the skin.

WHAT IS THE MEDICINAL VALUE OF BAOBAB?

People in Europe and North America are beginning to realize that Baobab Fruit Pulp is among the most nutrient-dense foods in all of creation.A few realize that the leaves are also a very rich vegetable. Many parts of the plant are also used in traditional medicine.

In traditional African Medicine, Baobab Fruit Pulp, leaves, bark, roots, seeds and oil are commonly used to treat a wide variety of ailments.

Antioxidant 

Baobab Fruit Pulp isveryrich in Vitamin C. Lab tests on It indicate that it contains 460 mg per 100 g. Studies cited in the document indicate that Baobab’s Integral Antioxidant Capacity is 37X that of oranges! Antioxidants can help to eliminate free radicals that can contribute to cancer, aging, inflammation and cardio-vascular disease.

Hepatoprotective

A study shows that the extract of Baobab Fruit Pulp had both a protective and a restorative effect for liver damage in rats. They do not cite any studies on humans.

Analgesic

Again, aqueous extract of Baobab Fruit Pulp is shown to have an analgesic (pain releiving) effect comparable to asprin, likely due to the presence of sterols, saponins and triterpenes in the pulp.

Antipyretic (Anti-Fever)

Fever in Africa is most often associated with malaria, but, of course can arise from other conditions as well. In Tanzania, where Baobabs are plentiful Baobab Fruit Pulp, seeds and bark are used for people with malaria to help reduce fever. It is used as a substitute for quinine as a prophylactic and to reduce malaria-related fever in parts of Africa.

Anti-microbial

The addition of Baobab Fruit Pulp to the fermented soy product, Tempeh, inhibited the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Baccilus and Streptococcus in the food product. It aided the growth of Lactic Acid bacteria, which are beneficial, and serve to preserve many fermented foods. They also indicated that the Fruit Pulp showed anti-microbial activity against E. coli.

Anti-viral

Baobab leaves, fruit pulp and seeds have been shown to act against influenza, herpes simplex and respiratory syncytial viruses. This is likely due to several bioactive compounds found occuring naturally in the plant.

 

Anti trypanosoma

Sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in animals are caused by trypanosoma protozoa. Infection is caused by the bite of tsetse flies. An extract of Baobab roots seriously reduces or eliminate the microbes’ motility within one hour, according to the research.

Anti-diarrhoea

Perhaps the most common medicinal use of Baobab Fruit Pulp in traditional African medicine is to treat diarrhoea. The fruit pulp is about 50% fiber, with nearly equal proportions of insoluble (cellulose) and soluble (mucilage) fiber.It also contains astringent tannins and citric acid, all of which may contribute to its efficacy against diarrhoea. When compared to the World Health Organization’s recommended oral rehydration solution for its effects, Baobab solution performed statistically as well. Baobab has the added advantages of a significant nutrient content, easy access and affordability in Africa.

Prebiotic

The soluble fiber in Baobab Fruit Pulp stimulates the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. This can foster a SYN-BIOTIC digestive effect.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.It has been linked to lowering blood pressure, bolstering immunity, and less incidence of cataracts and coronary disease. A single serving of Baobab Fruit Pulp provides as much as 80% of daily value of this essential nutrient.

Antidote to poison

It appears that Baobab bark, fruit pulp and seeds are used to neutralize the effects of Strophanthus-derived poisons commonly used on arrows in Africa.

Skin Care

In addition to its nutritional value, baobab has been shown to be beneficial for skin care. Studies suggest that baobab preparations can promote skin cell regeneration and tone, tighten, and moisturize the skin.These effects may be due, in part, to baobab’s vitamin A, D, and E content. The fruit pulp provides a complex of vitamins that exerts a variety of positive, synergistic actions, including the following: emollient effects (vitamin A), the control of sebaceous gland excretion (vitamin B6), the induction of melanin synthesis (vitamin B1/B2 complex), antioxidant defense and collagen synthesis stimulation (vitamin C), improvement of cutaneous circulation (vitamin B4), action against lipid peroxidation (vitamin E), and defense from tissue matrix degradation (triterpenic compounds).20

Fiber contained in the pulp also promotes anti-aging and antioxidant effects on the skin. Leaf extracts have antioxidant, emollient, and soothing properties, keeping skin soft and elastic while also exerting antibacterial activity. The fatty oil from the seeds improves the firmness, hydration, and lightness of the skin. It also has soothing and anti-inflammatory effects due to essential oils, hydrocarbons, and sterols, making it an ideal treatment for dry skin and the prevention of wrinkles. Baobab seed oil can heal abrasions, sunburns, and hematomas, and promote tissue regeneration.

 A decoction of Baobab roots is often used to bathe children in Africa to promote smooth skin.