Monkey Bread Tree, Tree of Life, Bottle Tree, Chemist Tree and Upside-down Tree
The majestic baobab tree is native to the African continent, where it is popularly known as the “Tree of Life”. For 1000’s of years it has provided shelter, nutrition and water for humans and animals, which is why many savannah communities made their homes near to baobab trees.
Lying at the heart of many traditional African remedies, the fruit pulp of the baobab tree is used to treat fever, dysentery, measles and as a painkiller. For the treatment of infant diarrhoea, a mixture is made from the floury pulp mixed with millet flour and water and given to the child until the symptoms have abated.
Trusted as a digestive aid for generations, baobab contains both soluble and insoluble fibre. In fact this super-fruit is around 50% fibre, of which 75% is soluble fibre – it is this fibre that dissolves in water to form a viscous gel-like substance. This is why it’s so vital to drink plenty of water if you’re eating a lot of fibre-rich foods. In the digestive tract, soluble fibre has the effect of slowing down the absorption of certain food components particularly sugars and fats.
Around 25% insoluble fibre, this type of fibre is impossible to digest – however as it passes through the system it absorbs water and helps to bulk up stools, speeding up the time of transition of food through the digestive tract, thus contributing to the healthy elimination of wastes.
On top of this, the fibre in baobab is prebiotic – supporting the growth of the probiotic (good bacteria) in the gut. We now know that having enough probiotic bacteria in the gut is paramount to overall optimum health, with these trillions of bacteria keeping the growth of harmful bacteria at bay. They are necessary to synthesise vitamin K, produce certain hormones and promote digestion, nutrient absorption and efficient elimination.
In addition to optimising the digestive process and reducing inflammation in the gut, dietary fibre also helps to regulate glucose and insulin levels in the blood.
The baobab fruit is high in potassium – the third most abundant mineral in the body – which is vital to the function of all living cells. Potassium has vasodilating properties that work to relieve the tension of blood vessels which is one of the main causes of high blood pressure. It is helpful in reversing the role of sodium in unbalancing normal blood pressure thus acting as a vital component that maintains the normality of blood pressure in the human body. High blood pressure forces the heart to work harder, which can make it grow weaker. A persistent rise in blood pressure (hypertension), can lead to congestive heart failure and other catastrophic disorders of this vital organ.
Baobab is also high in the heart healthy mineral magnesium. Low magnesium levels raise the risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias – abnormal conduction of the electrical impulses that govern heartbeat and heart rate. Without sufficient magnesium there is also an increased risk of high blood pressure.
In addition to high amounts of the super antioxidant vitamin C, baobab has an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of 140,000 (μ mol TE/100g) making it one of the richest antioxidant fruits compared with many other fruits and superfuits.
Everyday stress, pollution and processed foods can lead to the formation of free radicals. These are rogue atoms or atomic groups which have lost at least one electron and are forced to steal electrons from neighbouring molecules in the hope of stabilising themselves, which can cause havoc in the body. The antioxidants found in baobab can literally mop up these free radicals, protecting the body from the damage they ultimately wreak.
Baobab fruit pulp powder can be easily dissolved in water, or other liquids such as fruit juice or plant milk. It is delicious to taste and blends well to make a fortified drink for children and adults. Traditionally in Africa it is used by pregnant women and babies for nourishment.
Baobab can be made into a delicious drink and also used in food preparation. It has a high pectin content, making it a great thickener in recipes. It is a natural flavour enhancer, adding depth to any dish, sweet or savoury.
Traditionally Baobab has been used in Africa for multiple purposes, with both the leaves and fibrous bark harvested to make baskets and fishing nets. However, the harvesting of the fruit pulp is being encouraged by non profit organisation PhytoTrade Africa, to bring an additional source of trade to farming communities and to protect the sustainability of the Baobab trees.
PhytoTrade Africa has signed an agreement with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to develop Baobab processing capacity and supply chains in Malawi and Mozambique. PhytoTrade helps Southern Africa’s natural products industry to achieve rapid growth while ensuring its long-term sustainability and social equity, through product and market development and supply chain development.
Minerals: Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc,
Carbohydrates: glucose, fructose, saccarose, maltose, soluble polysaccharides,
starch, soluble and insoluble fibres.