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  Subject Portals: Phytomedicine
   
Adansonia digitata
Bombacaceae

Common names
muvhuyu (Venda); shimuwu (Tsonga); movana (Tswana); kremetart (Afrikaans) baobab (English)
 
Family
Fabaceae
 
Description
This remarkable tree is a conspicuous feature of the Northern Province of South Africa. It is relatively short (up to about 15 metres in height), but develops a massive, unevenly folded trunk of more than 20 metres in circumfer¬ence. The massive, usually squat cylindrical trunk gives rise to thick tapering branches resembling a root-system, which is why it has often been referred to as the upside-down tree. The smooth bark is grey or yellowish-grey. The leaves are hand-sized and divided into 5-7 finger-like leaflets. Being deciduous, the leaves are dropped during the winter months and appear again in late spring or early summer. Each leaf¬let tapers to a sharp point and is up to 150 mm long. Large, pendulous white flowers are produced in early summer (October to December) (up to 200 mm in diameter), and are sweetly scented. They are followed by very large egg-shapep fruits of up to 150 mm long. The seeds are surrounded by a powdery white pulp ("cream of tartar") and the thin, hard outer shell of the fruit is covered with characteristic velvety, yel¬low hairs.
 
Parts Used
The dried fruit pulp (mixed with water) or the bark are used, rarely the leaves or seeds.
 
Medicinal Uses
It is this white powdery substance which is soaked in water to provide a refreshing drink. This drink is also used to treat fevers and other complaints. Fruit is used in treating New Castle’s Disease in chickens. A refreshing drink, somewhat reminiscent of lemonade, is prepared from the whitish fruit pulp, which has been regarded as "cream of tartar". This drink has been used to treat fevers, diarrhoea and apparently also haemoptysis. In West Africa, the bark and leaves are claimed to have anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic properties and are regarded as a remedy for urinary disorders and mild diarrhoea. The leaves are reported to be used against fever, to reduce perspira¬tion and as an astringent. In the Northern Province, the powdered seeds are given to children as a hiccup remedy. The African baobab's exotic fruit has twice as much calcium as milk, is high in anti-oxidants, iron and potassium, and has 6 times the vitamin C of an orange. Active against HSV1/2, poliovirus, SINV virusses.
 
Preparation and Dosage
The fruit pulp is mixed with water or a decoction made of the bark
 
Active Ingredients
The fruit pulp is rich in cit¬ric acid and tartaric acid. The medicinal value may possibly be ascribed to one of several flavonols, such as quercetin-7-0-B-D-xylopyranoside or perhaps also to 7-baueren-3-acetate, a triterpenoid which has been isolated from the plant.
 
Pharmacological Effects
Tartaric acid is mildly irritating in strong solution
 
Distribution
A. digitata is widely distributed in Africa, but in South Africa it is restricted to frost free areas in the northern part of the country, found in the hot, dry savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. It is restricted to hot, dry woodland on stoney, well drained soils, in frost-free areas that receive low rainfall.
 
Bibliography
1. Medicinal plants of South Africa. Ben-Erik van Wyk, Bosch van Oudshoorn, Nigel Gericke. Pretoria: Briza, 1997.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adansonia_digitata
 

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