Tamarind is a large, symmetrical spreading tree with small compound leaves, yellowish flowers with reddish streaks and fleshy, brown fruits. The seeds are dark brown and shiny. The fleshy fibrous pulp of the fruit is acidic. The pulp contains tartaric and other acids, sugars like invert - a broken up starch, and pectin. The pectin present in the pulp is of good quality.
The tamarind has many medicinal virtues. Its leaves are cooling and antibilious, while the bark is an astringent, a tonic and reduces fever. The fruit pulp is digestive, anti-flatulent, cooling laxative and antiseptic. Its seeds are also astringent.
Tamarind pulp consist of moisture 20.9 percent, protein 3.1 percent, fat 0.1 percent, minerals 2.9 percent, fiber 5.6 percent and carbohydrates 67.4 percent. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, iron, phosphorus, carotene, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C.
Botanical Name: Tamarindus indica
Indian Name: Imli
Below are some of the medicinal properties of tamarind:
- Pulp of the tamarind fruit, being rich in vitamin C, is effective in preventing and curing scurvy. It is significant that tamarind does not lose its anti-scorbutic property on drying as in case of other fruits and vegetables.
- Tamarind pulp is useful in treating fevers. It is generally taken in 15 gram doses. A sherbet made by boiling 30 grams of the pulp in half a liter of milk with the addition of a few dates, cloves, sugar and cardamoms and a little camphor is effective in fevers.
- Tamarind pepper rasam, a clear soup - is considered a valuable remedy for cold in south India. It is prepared by boiling very dilute tamarind water in a teaspoon of hot ghee and half a teaspoon of black pepper powder for a few minutes. This steaming hot rasam has a flushing effect. As one takes it, the nose and eyes water and the nasal blockage is cleared.
- Pulp of the ripe fruit is useful in the treatment of bilious vomiting, flatulence and indigestion. It is also beneficial in constipation. An infusion of the pulp prepared by softening it in water is particularly useful for loss of appetite and lack of inclination for food intake. For better results, black pepper cloves, cardamoms and camphor may be added to taste, to this infusion after straining. The ash obtained by heating the bark with salt in an earthen vessel can also be given in 6 to 12 centigram doses for colic and indigestion with beneficial results.
- The tamarind milk drink, as suggested for fevers, is also very helpful in treating dysentery. Pulverized seeds taken in doses of 6.25 decigrams, with an equal quantity of cumin and sugar, twice or thrice a day are also useful.
- The tender leaves of tamarind tree are an effective remedy for treating burns. They are put into a pot, covered and warmed over the fire. The burnt ones are finely powdered and sieved to remove any gritty particles. This is mixed in gingelly (til) oil and applied over the brunt part. The wound gets healed within a few days. Its leaves prevent oedema and help in the growth of healthy, normal skin. The oil keeps the affected part well protected against moisture and entry of harmful germs.
- Crushed with water and made into a poultice, the leaves are applied on inflamed joints and ankles. It reduces swelling and pain.
- Gargle of tamarind water is useful in the treatment of sore throat. The potion should be prepared by boiling tamarind in water. A powder of the dry leaves can also be beneficially used a gargle for sore throat. An infusion of the bark is equally useful for this purpose.
Pulp of the tamarind fruit is widely used in culinary preparations, notable sambhar, rasam curries and chutney in south India.