Archive | August 4, 2012

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)


By Hwaa Irfan

Tamarind/tamr-al Hindi is one of those drinks that is meant for hot summer days when the ability to relax  sometimes seems hard to come by, and is a welcome natural drink after a long day of fasting, once the light meal of iftar has been taken. A quick and easy drink to make from dried tamarind pulp, which is used as a paste/sauce in Asia, and plays a role in Ayurvedic medicine. In the globalized food industry Tamarind is commonly used in the production of candies, chutneys, jams, desserts, steak sauces and Worcestershire sauce. However, in Aruba, India, Jamaica, and Mexico for example, to eat tamarind means to eat healthy as tamarind has many medicinal benefits including bone health, blood pressure, thyroid and musko-skeletal disorders just to name a few.

Known as Imli (Hindi), Assam jawa (Indonesia), tamr-al Hindi (Arabic), Yeuut-sitoe/pahuga (Ghana)Tamarindus indica is evergreen, tropical and native to Africa. Still growing wild throughout Sudan, this tree has been domesticated by India. Tamarindus indica can be found today in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, South Asia, South America and the Caribbean. High in energy, fiber, and Vitamin B, Tamarind tends to get sweeter as it ripens, overriding its sour content, a ‘sweet’ cultivar known as makham/wahn is grown in Thailand that differs nutritionally and medicinally. The si thong/chompho, and muen chong varieties are the sweetest. Indian pods are longer and contain 6- 12 seeds, but the varieties of the Caribbean and the Americas are shorter and contain 3 – 6 seeds.

Tamarindus indica is a member of the Fabaceae of the Leguminosae family plant kingdom. It is long-living, and slow growing, and grows as a large tree up to 80 feet high. Dense bright green foliage with pinnate leaves go to sleep (close) at night. The leaves are feathery in appearance, and shed for short periods during very dry hot weather.

Flowering from January – April in its native climate, the fruits do not appear until March, July and December. The buds are pink and transform into 5-petalled flowers, yellow with orange-red streaks

A pod contains a thick outer shell that surrounds a deep brown sticky pulp which in turns surrounds 2 – 10 hard dark colored seeds, but the shell become brittle and easy to break when ready to harvest.

Fruit 3 – 8 inches long are the pods. Every season, irregular-curved pods are produces in abundance along the branches. As the pods mature, they fill out with the pulp which changes from brown to reddish brown. The tree is self fertile.

Chemical Properties

They include:

  • Β Sitosterol
  • P- cyemene
  • Benzyl benzoate (higher content in Cuban variety)
  • Caryophyllene
  • Cinnamic acid
  • Geraniol
  • Hexadecanol (higher content in Cuban variety)
  • Limonene (higher content in Cuban variety)
  • Linalool
  • Longifolene
  • Malic acid
  • Metyl Salicylate
  • Pentadecanol(higher content in Cuban variety)
  • Phytol
  • Pyrazine andalkylthiazoles
  • Safrole
  • Tartaric acid

Rich in dietary fiber (polysaccharides), the sticky pulp from 100g of fruit pulp can provide 13% of one’s dietary fiber that facilitates bowel movements thus preventing constipation. The fiber of tamraindus indica also binds with toxins in the colon, and facilitates carrying them out of the body.

Antioxidant –  Tartaric acid is a powerful antioxidant (Anti-oxidant E-number is E334), which has been found to protect against harmful free radicals.

Antibacterial/viral – The leaves of tamerindus indica are noted for
their potent Antibacterial/viral properties. Accumulative studies have demonstrated strong antibacterial activity against Salmonella paratyphi, Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella typhi, and Staphylococcus aureus. In another study carried out by Dr. Monrul Islam and team, Bangladesh, strong antibacterial activity  was expressed against Shigella, dysenteriae, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, and Salmonella para typhi.

AntimalarialElsevier (Ireland) found 27 wild plants that are used by Ethiopians in the protection against malaria, of which Tamarindus indica was one the most popular.

Cholesterol – The dietary fiber also helps to bind bile salts produced from cholesterol thus reducing likelihood of  re-absorption in the colon. It helps to excrete low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL).

Laxative – Tamaridus indica is noted for this in traditional medicines including Madagascar where children eat the fruit regularly to avoid constipation , amongst the Wolof of Senegal who take it as a sweetmeat, ‘Bengal’ which is made from the unripe fruit, lime juice and honey, and in Burkino Faso where the fruit is crushed, soaked for half a day, and then salted.

Fluoride Poisoning – Studies by A.L. Kandare and team at the Indian Council of Medical Research, India looked at 20 healthy boys, 18 who completed the course. They were given 10g of tamarind daily with lunch for 18 days at the social welfare boys’ hostel, while maintaining a balanced nutritional diet. The result was an increase of the excretion of fluoride from the body via urine. The rate of excretion was (4.8±0.22 mg/day) with tamarind, as opposed to 3.5±0.22 mg/day without.

In a study by Murugun and team, powdered tamarind seed proved to be an affective defluoridating agent.  However, health experts argue how can tamarindus indica chelate fluoride when it contains fluoride!

Indian (mainly South India) well water is rich in fluoride, and is highly concentrated in the well when the water goes down, as it does in N. India. Dr. P Pushpangadan, Director of the National Botanical Research Institute argues on the basis of experience, that “consumption of tamarind or raw mango has been shown to protect us from fluoride poisoning”. It can be equated to artificially adding vitamin D to processed milk leading to a list of health problems.  There are obviously some subtle dynamics at work here, similar to that of homeopathy that is giving birth to new forms of medicine (nanotechnology) that badly misunderstands the principles at play to dangerous levels.

Nutritional Content

High fiber, high energy Tamarindus indicus is also rich in B-vitamins, which helps to bring on that ‘calm’ feeling by regulating stress contains


  • Calcium
  • Carotene
  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Phosphorus
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Pyridoxine
  • Riboflavin
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Thiamin
  • Vitamins A
  • Vitamins C
  • Vitamins E
  • Vitamins K
  • Zinc


Laxative – the pulp acts as a good laxative, stimulating the bowels

Refrigerant – this comes from the acids, and a drink of tamarind will help febrile conditions.

In Mauritius the creole mix salt with the pulp and use it as a liniment for rheumatism.

The wood is very hard and durable, valuable for building purposes and furnishes excellent charcoal for gunpowder; the leaves in infusion give a yellow dye.

In India, the seeds are edible, and may be peeled, roasted or boiled. Nothing is wasted as the leaves, flowers and fruits are considered to make good animal fodder. Even when the fruit is overly ripe, they are used to clean and brighten silver, copper and brass, and Indian silver smiths polish their goods with a strong infusion of roots mixed with sea salt. The flowers provide a yellow dye, and the leaves provide a red dye, powdered seeds provide a tool against dysentery, the pulverized bark for colic and digestive disorders, the fruit pulp is used as a laxative, the bark for sore throats, and the roots for heart pains.

In Ghana, tamarindus indica is used in circumcisions. It is drunk after childbirth, aids bronchitis, is used to treat dysentry, diarrhoea, jaundice, rheumatism, and as a laxative.

In Thai traditional medicine, the fruit is used as a digestive, laxative, expectorant and blood tonic. The seeds are used as an anthelmintic, antidiarrhoeal, and an emetic, and the seed coat is used to treat burns and aid in wound healing as well as against dysentery.



None known…

When buying, fresh tamarind pods are available from late spring to early summer, but processed varieties can be bought as compressed tamarind blocks, ready-to-use slice, paste, and concentrates. When buying avoid dessicated pulp which is a manner of passing on old tamarind. Once bought, it can be kept fresh for several months in a refrigerator.


In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!


Ara, N. et al. “Phytochemical Screening and In VitroAntibacterial Activity of Tamarindus Indica Seeds

Ethanolic Extract”. Pakistan Journal of Pharmacology Vol.26, No.1, January 2009, pp.19-23

Escalona-Arranz1, J.C. et al. “Antimicrobial activity of extracts from Tamarindus indica L. leaves.”;year=2010;volume=6;issue=23;spage=242;epage=247;aulast=Escalona-Arranz

Kandare, A, et al. “Effect of tamarind ingestion on fluoride excretion in humans.”


Mesfin, A et al. Ethnobotanical study of antimalarial plants in Shinile District, Somali Region, Ethiopia, and in vivo evaluation of selected ones against Plasmodium berghei. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jan 6;139(1):221-7. Epub 2011 Nov 11.

Murgun, M. et al. “Studies on defluoridation of water by Tamarind seed, an unconventional biosorbent.”


Allah’s Medicine Chest