Many natural plants have health benefits, and Tamarind is one of them. It has long been prized in many cultures around the world for its flavor, medicinal benefits, and wellness benefits. It is used as a spice in many dishes and is also drank as a juice. In some places, they even grind it into a pulp and apply it topically to treat wounds and other topical ailments.
All the different parts of a Tamarind plant are used in varying applications. The fruit, the seeds, and the leaves are all used to benefit the body and to add flavor to dishes. This plant is not well-known in the West, but it is becoming increasingly more popular as people realize the different health benefits that Tamarind provides.
This amazing plant is increasingly available in both fresh and preserved forms throughout the West. Now is the perfect time to add Tamarind to your dishes in order to reap the health benefits that this ancient plant provides.
What Is Tamarind?
Tamarind is in the legume family and grows as a large evergreen tree in Africa and South Asia. It is also sometimes found in other tropical regions throughout the world, as it was brought by travelers during migrations throughout the past few hundred years.
Tamarind is considered a sacred plant by many cultures due to its health benefits, and it continues to be an important part of those societies. This plant has been found to be mentioned in Indian texts dating as far back as 1200 BCE, and it was known to be an agricultural product that was purposefully cultivated in Egypt as far back as 400 BCE.
A tamarind tree produces pods. These pods have a fruity and mushy pulp. The pods also contain many seeds. As the fruit ripens, it transforms from a sour flavor to a sweeter flavor, but the fruit is harvested at every stage for use in different types of dishes. The fruit has an intense flavor that has notes of lemon, apricots, and dates.
As we mentioned before, every part of this plant is used for its medicinal benefits. Here is how the different parts of this plant are used:
This is the most commonly used part of the tamarind. The pulp is used as a digestive aid to help with diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and other digestive issues. It is also used in many different dishes such as curry and chutney.
The seeds of the tamarind tree are often discarded in traditional methods, but studies have shown that the complex sugars the seeds contain make them a good candidate to deliver medicine more efficiently to the body.
The ground seeds have also been used to stabilize texture and consistency of processed foods, and the seeds are also pressed for their oil to use for cooking as well as for natural dying processes.
Leaves and Flowers
The leaves and flowers of the tamarind tree are traditionally used both in food and medicine. In food, they add a spicy and herbal flavor that is complex and delicious. They are often used in curries, salads, and stews.
In medicine, the leaves and flowers are often mashed into a paste in order to treat wounds or for use as beauty applications akin to what we call face masks. Many people also use the leaves and flowers of the tamarind tree to fight infections
Wood, Roots, and Bark
The bark of the tamarind tree is used in a similar fashion as the leaves and flowers in topical applications to treat wounds. It is also ingested to help with stomach issues and to rid the body of internal parasites. The roots are also used to help with stomach pain. The wood of the tamarind tree is used to make beautiful furniture and other wooden items, such as bowls.
Medicinal Uses of Tamarind
All of the medicinal uses of the Tamarind tree in all of its forms make up the following list of common applications:
- Stomach pain
- Bacterial infections
- Parasitic infestations
- Treatment of wounds
Nutritional Benefits of Tamarind
While the medicinal uses of the tamarind tree draw ire from plenty of skeptics, there is no denying that this plant has plenty of nutritional benefits that are great for maintaining your health. These nutritional benefits include:
- Helps to keep your red blood cells healthy
- Aids in cell signaling and protein synthesis
- Aids in muscle control and fluid regulation
- Keeps bones strong and aids in cell signaling
- Keeps bones and teeth healthy
- Keeps connective tissue healthy and aids in neurotransmission
- Helps to keep your immune system strong
- B Vitamins
- Keeps your muscles including your heart and brain strong and healthy
Brain Health Benefits
B Vitamins are essential for keeping your brain healthy and alert. They are essential for all of your brain’s functions, including DNA and RNA repair, regulation of genes, and synthesis of molecules. Thankfully, the fruit of the tamarind tree comes packed with plenty of different B Vitamins. Tamarind fruit contains the following B Vitamins:
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6
Immune System Benefits
Tamarind also contains antioxidant vitamins that help to reduce the risk of common chronic diseases. Antioxidants are very important to include in your diet, as they help to protect your body from free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of our metabolism and are also contained in polluted air. While we cannot rid ourselves of being exposed to free radicals, ingesting antioxidants regularly helps to limit their effect on our health.
Some antioxidants are also helpful in decreasing oxidative stress, which helps to lower your risk for developing certain conditions. Tamarind contains these antioxidants, as well. Some of these conditions include, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Tamarind contains the following antioxidant vitamins:
- Vitamin C
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin E
In addition to these antioxidants, tamarind also has antimicrobial properties. These antimicrobial properties can also help your immune system by warding off infectious diseases caused by bacteria.
Digestive System Benefits
The fruit of the tamarind tree is high in fiber, which is great for your digestive health. There is so much fiber in tamarind pulp, in fact, that it is used as a laxative in many countries.
Your body cannot absorb or digest the fiber found in plant materials. It passes through your body and is excreted to your stool. However, this helps to add bulk to stool and absorbs water, which aids in digesting things without pain or complication. Softening your stool by eating plenty of fiber will help you avoid conditions such as diverticulitis, constipation, hemorrhoids, IBS, and other painful digestive tract disorders.
Getting enough fiber regularly can also help you avoid developing colorectal cancer in the future, which is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. In fact, research suggest that adding 7 grams of fiber to your daily diet can help you reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer by as much as 8%.
The bad kinds of cholesterol, like LDL, will clog up your arteries, causing heart attacks and other arterial issues. The pulp of the tamarind fruit can help lower your cholesterol by inducing changes in the proteins in your blood that metabolize fat. This helps to keep your heart protected.
Additionally, the fiber in tamarind can also aid in keeping your heart healthy, not just in digestion. Getting enough fiber in your diet will reduce the amount of bad cholesterol that you absorb, keeping the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream to a minimum.
Diabetes Management Benefits
Unlike many other types of tropical fruit, tamarind keeps a low glucose level that remains constant over time, meaning that it does not have a negative effect on blood glucose levels. This is big news for those who suffer from diabetes, as many types of tropical fruit have too high of a glucose level to be safe to eat.
Because of the high-fiber pulp of the tamarind fruit, it is also absorbed and digested more slowly than a fruit that contains less fiber, which is one of the reasons the glucose level remains low as the fruit is being digested.
In order to receive the full benefits of the Tamarind for diabetes management, it is important to eat the whole fruit and not to drink the juice – as juice does not contain the fiber that makes the tamarind fruit so healthy.
While it may be hard to find as fresh fruit in the West, tamarind is a wonderful addition to your diet for its many potential health benefits and very little side effects. While some of the claims have yet to be proven by scientists, when a type of food has such little negative side effects, it is worth attempting to incorporate into your diet regularly.
You can often find fresh or frozen tamarind in multi-cultural grocery stores if you are unable to find it at your regular grocery.