Tamarind Benefits

Tamarind is a tropical fruit that many of us have never heard of or tasted.  This fruit comes in a pod looking like a smooth, pale brown bean and has a sweetly acidic flavor and a sticky paste-like consistency inside when mature.  The fruit is also known as Tamarindus indica L and as the “date of India.”

The trees are native to Africa but were transported to India thousands of year ago, possibly as early as 400 B.C. to Egypt.  It is noted as one of the most important multipurpose tropical fruit tree species.  The tree now grows extensively in Mexico since brought to the Americas in the 16th century.

Those in Uganda have used it for as long as can be remembered.  They have used it as a snack when ripe and immature green pods are eaten fresh and boiled with porridge, rice, fish and meats to give a sour flavor. The leaves are like fern and are cooked and eaten like a vegetable.  The pulp of the tamarind is sometimes made into wine or used with other tropical fruits such as guava, papaya or banana.

You will also find the tamarind to be used in flavoring and thickening sauces, soups, preserves, jams and jellies.  The pods or husks are removed and fruit soaked in cold water to make a refreshing beverage when ripe.  Tamarind is roasted on coals and eaten with wood ashes in the Bahamas, and is a prominent ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and barbecue sauce.

Tamarind is used for food and medicine and has the ability to improve many health conditions in your body, including:aiding respiratory health, promoting heart health by reducing blood pressure, regulating blood glucose levels to help control diabetes, potential weight loss via inhibited fat-storing enzyme, pain relief that includes headaches, fights infection by strengthening the immune system, reducing fever, protecting against intestinal parasites, reducing hemorrhoid pain and inflammation, stimulating the release of gastric juices to help regulate digestion through fiber, improving blood circulation due to high iron content, protecting your skin against premature aging, enhancing nerve function due to the high thiamine content and alleviating skin disorders.

Through studies it is recognized as having an extensive vitamin and mineral content that includes a high level of protein with many essential amino acids.  This helps to build strong and efficient muscles, good amounts of calcium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as iron, sodium, copper, zinc and nickel.

There is a fair amount of vitamin C and B carotene as well as a high mineral content that includes phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium.  The pulp and seeds have shown to be rich in potent antioxidants and other phytonutrients.  Because of the number of powerful polyphenolics tamarind has had dramatic effects on disease for thousands of years.  Tamarind has active ingredients as tartaric acid, acetic acid, succinct acid, alkaloid, flavonoids, sesquiterpenes and glycosides as listed in the Research Journal of Microbiology.

More studies are needed for multiple diseases and disorders because of tamarind having compounds useful in treating diseases.  The University of Adelaide in Australia observed traditional medicinal uses for tamarind as a treatment for cold, fever, jaundice, stomach disorders, diarrhea and as a skin cleanser.

This fruit was also reported in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology to reduce blood pressure, most likely due to the potassium content and a compound called lupeol that exerts anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.  A study of the University of Wisconsin also believes it can reduce eye irritations such as conjunctivitis and addresses pain from gout, rheumatism and arthritis.

Tamarind does have a tendency to act as a blood thinner, so be aware if you take aspirin or other blood thinners.  The fruit’s ability to boost the immune system, fight microbial and fungal infections and act as a powerful antioxidant makes tamarind a highly nutritious plant-based food.

Dr Fredda Branyon