You may have heard the great benefits of Baobab oil including; it’s an antioxidant, a great skin moisturiser, it promotes the healing of wounds and that it has anti-inflammatory benefits. But what can you say about the source?
Baobab also known as the upside-down tree due to its branches that sit up in the air like roots, is native to Africa and particularly, Madagascar. Research states that this tree of life also portrayed in the animated movie The Lion King, can live up to more than 5000 years. But what’s more interesting aside from the belief that if you pick a flower from a baobab tree you will be eaten by a lion (Mufasa probably), is that this tree grows to become so large, it can house up to 40 people. Apparently, due to this fact Baobab trees have been used as prisons, shops, as a bus shelter, a barn and strangely as a house.
Surprisingly, the fascinating facts about Baobab tree do not end there. Natives pound the bark of baobab trees to make mats, paper, cloth, instrument strings, ropes and baskets. The leaves on the other hand, if boiled can make edible vegetables known to treat insect bites, kidney disease, asthma, gall bladder disease and several other ailments.
Many of us grew up eating mabuyu which is coloured baobab seeds but we do not know the benefits that it has.
Now let’s look at the general health benefits of baobab
- High source of vitamin C
Did you know that the level of Vitamin C in Baobab is said to be 10 times that in oranges?
Baobab trees produce large fruits which can grow up to a foot tall. The fruit which is the only one that can dry while still on the branches, yields Baobab powder which contains several benefits. The powder as extracted from a dried Baobab fruit is rich in vitamin C and is great for boosting the immune function, energy release and radiant skin. Studies show that 2-3 tablespoons of Baobab powder contain 33% of vitamin C which is sufficient considering the body can only absorb 18% of orally ingested Vitamin C. Apart from Vitamin C, the pulp is also high in antioxidants and several key minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
- A food source
Baobab is used as a source of food in various parts of the world. The tree produces leaves which are used similarly as spinach, eaten as a salad or cooked into a soup and served with rice. The leaves can also be dried and pounded to make Baobab leaf powder. Baobab leaf powder is a source food and often its added to stews, soups and in gravy as a thickening agent.
On the other hand, Baobab fruit pulp is rich in tartaric acid. Due to this the fruit can be sucked or soaked in water to make a fruit juice. It is also used as a flavour in various dishes.
The fruits can also make a coffee-like drink once they are roasted and ground up.
- Source of Vitamin A and other minerals
Aside from being a high source of Vitamin C, studies show that Baobab contains Vitamin A which can be obtained only if Baobab leaves are processed and dried properly. Hence, natives have often dried the leaves under the shade to preserve the Vitamin A contained in the leaves.
Other nutrients and minerals found in baobab include; calcium, phosphorus, potassium, fibre (10 times that of apple), carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.
- An antioxidant & anti-inflammatory agent
Baobab is often used for its high antioxidant profile. Additionally, it is rich in polyphenols, a plant compound that exhibits anti-inflammatory benefits. Chronic inflammation in the body is often the cause of various health conditions including cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and heart disease. Nonetheless, due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Baobab fruit pulp, it is used to protect body cells from oxidative damage, and to reduce the inflammation which has dire consequences to the human body.
- Treats ailments
Traditional healers used baobab seeds, leaves and bark to treat several ailments. This included insect bites, allergies, fever, asthma, malaria, smallpox, bladder disease, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, toothache, dysentery, anaemia and microbial infections.
Dried or ground baobab is cooked daily to treat illnesses or reduce fatigue.
- Facilitates iron absorption
Due to its high source of Vitamin C, Baobab is a good alternative to iron supplements. Vitamin C boosts the uptake of iron from natural foods, preventing the occurrence of iron deficiency diseases such as anaemia.
- Good skin
Baobab is rich in vitamin C, and antioxidants, that are essential for radiant skin. Vitamin C promotes wound healing, supports collagen synthesis and curbs wrinkle formation which eventually leads to ageing. Its antioxidant properties protect the skin cells against sun damage promoting the appearance of youthful and glowing skin. These everyday foods will improve your skin’s health
- Improves muscle recovery
Baobab is rich in vitamin C which supports energy release and lessens fatigue. But aside from this benefit, trainers and personal fitness enthusiast use Baobab powder to promote muscle tissue recovery. Taking Baobab powder before and after a workout lessens muscle soreness, increases recovery and thus boosting performance. Fitness: Great Foods To Eat Before A Workout
- Foetal development and growth
Collagen is an important component for baby’s normal growth and development during pregnancy. This is why a daily intake of at least 85mg of vitamin C is often recommended to pregnant mothers. Baobab powder is a rich source of Vitamin C which is essential in the production of collagen.
Vitamin C also fights bacterial infections, boosts the immune system, increases iron absorption, which are important elements in the health and well being of the foetus and the mother.
Fatigue is also an issue for pregnant mothers. But given that baobab helps reduce fatigue and in turn, supports energy release, Baobab could be the most essential ingredient yet to be discovered by pregnant mothers. Parenting: Nine Tips For A Healthy Pregnancy
Baobab is one of the highest alkaline foods available so eating it helps to balance the body’s PH levels. This, of course, is good news, especially for women. The Journal of Environmental Health (2012) found that alkaline foods can also help defend our bodies from chronic diseases and ailments (such as hypertension, arthritis and deficiency in vitamin D).
Other benefits of baobab include slowing down the release of sugars into the bloodstream, the soluble fibres of baobab fruit pulp are prebiotics which stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial microflora (Journal of Food Research, 2016), it seems it also helps with sleep. It also helps with weight loss because it promotes a feeling of fullness.