The velvet tamarind is a tree part of the Leguminosae family that grows to great heights in tropical forests. Velvet tamarind is known for the small edible fruits, usually the size of grapes. The brown shells are very hard and must be discarded.
This tall tree is found in various tropical climates. The velvet tamarind fruit has a flavour similar to a regular tamarind, which explains the common name of the species in English. The velvet tamarind fruit is actually sweeter than a tamarind but sour at the same time. It has a resilient shell and the flesh is dry, almost like a powder. Drying the fruit fully turns the content of the hard shell into an orange powder with a strong flavour. Inside every fruit there is a single round and flat seed, about 7-8 mm in diameter and 3 mm thick. These brown seeds closely resemble the ones of a watermelon, also due to their starch coating and glossy surface.
The species has numerous medical uses, which have been known for a long time. Gastric ulcers can be treated with a leaf decoction. The leaves have many other useful properties; they are a strong diuretic that increases urine production and also relive high blood pressure by stimulating the heart to pump harder.
The main uses of the velvet tamarind are in the treatment of hypertension and ulcers but there are many other benefits as well. The reason why leaves can cure gastric ulcer is that gastric mucus secretion is boosted by the extract. Leaves are an old treatment for high blood pressure and a weak heart, as well as being a powerful diuretic that increases urine output.
Vitamin C is also a very strong natural antioxidant agent, so including velvet tamarinds in your diet is a great idea. It improves the immune reaction and makes the body stronger against external threats. Consuming velvet tamarind fruits can provide long term benefits to health, due to the better protection against bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens.
Due to the compounds in its composition, consuming the fruit increases the overall antioxidant capability of the body. Scientists believe that cancer and many other serious diseases are caused by free radicals, which are molecules with unpaired electrons that have a very high reactivity. Leaves provide many antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and protect the body from harm.
The species is also useful in the treatment of diabetes and jaundice. Leaves can be used to prepare a decoction that acts as a medicine that cures jaundice and at the same time controls diabetes by reducing the level of blood sugar and boosting insulin sensitivity.
Velvet tamarinds are good for digestion in general, they prevent diarrhea and relieve menstrual cramps. An extract from the stem bark was found to be useful against menstrual pain due to the analgesic effect. A strong natural remedy can be prepared by combining the extract of velvet tamarind with papaya leaves and some salt and water.
Velvet tamarind is known as a counter for malaria, a serious disease that is encountered in tropical regions. Decoctions can cure it because it was discovered that leave extracts stop the growth of plasmodium falciparum, which causes the disease.
Velvet tamarind reduces tooth pain and can improve oral hygiene in general. Natives used the stem as a primitive type of tooth brush by chewing the stems. This habit cleans the teeth, eliminates cavities and plaque while disinfecting the mouth due to the content of saponin. For the same reason, tooth pain can be relieved with a stem bark decoction.
Several parts of the plant have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits. The pulp is a major source of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and resistance against infection. The stem bark is helpful in case of bronchitis, decreasing the inflammation of bronchial tubes. It also helps against piles, also known as hemorrhoids, which are inflamed blood vessels in the anus. These swell due to high pressure in the pelvic and rectal areas and can be very painful, even if the condition is not actually severe. Studies have revealed that the best part of the velvet tamarind for the treatment of piles is the ethanolic leaves extract.
Because of the high content of vitamin C in the pulp, the velvet tamarind fruit is a very effective natural cure for scurvy, a disease started by a deficiency of ascorbic acid. Another traditional use of the velvet tamarind is in the treatment of wounds. The velvet tamarind leaves can be squeezed and applied directly on the wounded areas in order to kill germs and boost skin regrowth.
Velvet tamarind fruits are popular snacks in Thailand, usually sold as a candy with chili flavour, after being dried and coated with sugar. In dried form, the fruits have a very strong taste, an orange color and a texture resembling powder.
The velvet tamarind is a tropical species well adapted to hot and wet climates. It needs soils with excellent drainage and grows easily in tropical conditions, especially where rain is abundant. The velvet tamarind trees can tolerate a wide range of soils, including the ones with poor fertility, while the best locations are in partial shade. Velvet tamarinds don't have a long life span, the longest reported one was of 40 years but the normal one at farms is between 15 and 17 years. The tree is able to grow in poor soils due to a symbiotic relation with some strains of bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen and increase the production of nodules. Other plants in the area can greatly benefit from the additional nitrogen, since the velvet tamarind doesn't consume all of it.
The velvet tamarind provides several essential vitamins. One serving of fruit pulp supplies 36% of the daily recommended amount of thiamine, as well as high doses of vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, tartaric acid and saponins.