Tamarind is a large, handsome, symmetrical spreading tree. It has 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.
Tamarind was an important item of diet of sailors in olden times as its acid and sugar content helped them to offset their starchy diet. Tamarind is a native of Africa but is now grown in most tropical countries. An analysis of tamarind pulp shows it to consist of moisture 0.9 per cent, protein 3.1 per cent, fat 0.1 per cent, minerals 2.? per cent, fibre 5.6 per cent and carbohydrates 67.4 per cent. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron carotene, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value! 283.
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 whole plant has medicinal virtues. Its leaves are cool~ and anti bilious, while the bark is an astringent, a tonic an~ reduces fever. The fruit pulp is digestive, ntiflatulent, cooling laxative and antiseptic. Its seeds are also astringent.
Pulp of the ripe fruit is beneficial in the treatment of bilious vomiting, flatulence and indigestion. It is also useful 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 11 centigram doses for colic and indigestion with beneficial results.
Tamarind pulp, being rich in vitamin C, is valuable In preventing and curing scurvy. It is significant that tamarind doesn't lose its antiscorbutic property on drying as in case of other fruits and vegetables.
Tamarind-pepper rasam, a clear soup-is considered an effective home remedy for colds in South India~. It is prepared by boiling a very dilute tamarind water in a teaspoon of hot ghee and half a teaspoon of black pepper powder for a few minutf5. This steaming hot rasam has a flushing effect. As one takes it the nose and eyes water and the nasal blockage is cleared.
The pulp of tamarind fruit 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 litre of milk with the addition of a few dates, doves, sugar and cardamoms and a little camphor is effective in fevers.
The tamarind milk drink, as suggested for fevers, is also very helpful in treating dysentery. Pulverised 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 a useful 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 burnt 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 beneficial 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 as a gargle for sore throat. An infusion, of the bark is equally useful for this purpose.
Ripe fruit or tamarind pulp is widely-used in culinary preparations, notably samhhar, rasam curries and chutney in South India.