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Exotic tamarind tree

Scientific name: Tamarindus indica, Boerbean group;

English Name: Tamarind

Local Name: Kawawasha (B, N), Musika (T)

General information

Tamarindus indica is rounded crown occurring in woodland, often on termitaria or associated with deep alluvial soil along rivers. This plant is indigenous to tropical Africa but has become naturalized in North and South America, and is also cultivated in subtropical China, India, Pakistan, Indochina, Philippines, Java and Spain.

Health benefits

The bark is astringent and tonic and its ash may be given internally as a digestive. Incorporated into lotions or bandages, the bark may be used to relive sores, ulcers, boils and rashes. The leaf extracts exhibit anti-oxidant activity in the liver, and are a common ingredient in cardiac and blood sugar reducing medicines. Young leaves may be used in fomentation for rheumatism, applied to sores and wounds, or administered as a poultice for inflammation of joints to reduce swelling and relieve pain. The leaves are used to fight against throat infections, cough, fever, and even intestinal worms. Filtered hot juice of young leaves and a poultice of the flowers are used for conjunctivitis. The pulp may be used as a massage is used to treat rheumatism, as an acid refrigerant, a mild laxative and also to treat scurvy. Powdered seeds may be given to cure dysentery and diarrhoea.

Human benefits

The pulp of the fruit is sometimes mixed with sea-salt and is used to polish metals such as silver, copper and brass. The seed contains pectin that can be used for sizing textiles. Ground, boiled, and mixed with gum, the seeds produce a strong wood cement. The extended crown of the tree offers shade so it is used as a ‘rest and consultation tree’ in villages. Because of its resistance to storms it can also be used as a windbreak and as a firebreak, as no grass will grow under the tree. Both leaves and bark are rich in tannin. The bark tannins can be used in ink or for fixing dyes. Leaves yield a red dye, which is used to give a yellow tint to clothes previously dyed with indigo. Ashes from the wood are used in removing hair from animal hides. Flowers are reportedly a good source for honey production.

Farmer benefits

The foliage has a high forage value and is used to feed livestock.

Planting and tree management:

Growth is generally slow, seedlings height increasing by 60cm annually. The seedlings should be spaced at least 13x13m. Smaller trees are easier to harvest. The tree may remain productive until it reaches old age, yielding up to 150kg/tree or over 2t/ha a year.