Synonyms: Tonka Bean. Coumarouna odorata.
Common Name: Tonquin Bean, “cumaru” or “kumaru
Habitat: Dipteryx odorata is native to Central America and northern South America.It is a forest tree.
Dipteryx odorata is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the Orinoco region of northern South America. Its seeds are known as Tonka Beans. They are black and wrinkled and have a smooth brown interior. Their fragrance is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds, cinnamon, and cloves. The tree itself grows up to 25–30 meters, with a trunk of up to one meter in diameter. The tree bark is smooth and gray, whereas the wood is red. The tree has alternate pinnate leaves with three to six leaflets, leathery, glossy and dark green, and pink flowers. Each developed fruit contains one seed. D. odorata is pollinated by insects. The worst pests are the bats because they eat the pulpy flesh of the fruit. A few known fungi may cause problems: Anthostomella abdita, Diatrype ruficarnis, Macrophoma calvuligera and Myiocopron cubense.
-The odour of coumarin, which distinguishes the Tonka Bean, is found in many plants, especially in Melilotus, sweet vernal grass, and related grasses.
One pound of the beans has yielded 108 grains of coumarin, which is the anhydride of coumaric acid. In addition to its use in perfurnery as a fixative, coumarin is used to flavour castor-oil and to disguise the odour of iodoform.
The fatty substance of the beans is sold in Holland as Tonquin butter.
Today, the main producers of tonka beans are Venezuela and Nigeria. The cumaru tree is an emergent plant, and a light-demanding calcifuge tree which grows on poor, well drained soils. The best growth is reached on fertile soils rich in humus. In the native region there is a mean annual temperature of 25°C and about 2000 mm rainfall per year with a dry season from June to November. In general, it has a very low plant density, but depending on the agricultural use, the density and the age of the trees diversify. In seed production systems, the plant density is higher and the trees are older than in timber production systems. The tree flowers from March to May, and the fruits ripen from June to July. So, the fresh fruits are picked up in June and July, and fallen pods are harvested from January to March or sometimes earlier. The hard outer shell is removed and the beans are spread out for 2–3 days to dry, after which they can be sold. The major producer is Venezuela, followed by Brazil and Colombia. The most important importing country is the United States, where it is used especially in the tobacco industry
Part Used: Seeds.
Constituents: The tonka seed contains coumarin, a chemical isolate from this plant, which also gave the name to it. The seeds contain about 1 to 3% of coumarin, rarely it can achieve 10%. Coumarin is responsible for the pleasant odor of the seeds and is used in the perfume industry. Coumarin is bitter to the taste, however, and, in large infused doses, it may cause hemorrhage and liver damage, as well as it can paralyze the heart. It is therefore controlled as a food additive by many governments. Like a number of other plants, the tonka bean plant probably produces coumarin as a defense chemical. Radio-carbon dating of D. odorata stumps left by a large logging operation near Manaus by Niro Higuchi, Jeffrey Chambers, and Joshua Schimel, showed that it was one of around 100 species which definitely live to over 1,000 years. Until their research, it had been assumed unlikely that any Amazonian tree could live to old age due to the conditions of the rain forest.
Aromatic, cardiac, tonic, narcotic. The fluid extract has been used with advantage in whooping cough, but it paralyses the heart if used in large doses.
Herbal and Mythological Properties:
In the Pagan and Occult communities the Tonka Bean is considered to have magical properties and uses. One who practices magical arts believe that by crushing a Tonka Bean and steeping it in an herbal brew or tea it will help cure ailments of depression, disorientation, confusion, and suicidal behavior, as well as boosting the immune system.
It is also believed by some practitioners of various occult traditions that Tonka Beans can grant or help one’ fulfill desires and wishes by using the bean in a variety of methods. Such methods include holding the bean in your hand while whispering your wish or desire then carrying it with you until your wish or desire is fulfilled, then burying the bean afterwards; another common method is by making your wish with the bean in your hand then stomping on it afterwards. Other methods include making your wish then planting it in fertile earth, when and as the plant grows so does your wish so become fulfilled.
Tonka Beans had been used as a vanilla substitute, as a perfume, and in tobacco before being banned in some countries. They are used in some French cuisine (particularly, in desserts and stews) and in perfumes. Today, main producers of the seeds are Venezuela and Nigeria.
Its use in food is banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. Many anticoagulant prescription drugs, such as warfarin, are based on 4-hydroxycoumarin, a chemical derivative of coumarin initially isolated from this bean. Coumarin itself, however, does not have anticoagulant properties.
The beans were formerly also spelled “Tonquin” and “Tonkin”, although it has no connection with Tonkin, now part of Vietnam.
Soap companies, like Lush, are using Tonka as part of a vanilla smelling soap product. Thorntons has produced a variety of milk chocolate made with tonka-infused cocoa butter, winning the Academy of Chocolate’s Silver Award in 2009.
Tonquin is still used today to flavor some pipe tobaccos like Dunhill Royal Yacht and Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake.
Cumaru, also known as Brazilian Teak, is an increasingly popular hardwood used for flooring in the US. It has a very appealing natural color variation and is considered quite durable as it has a 3540 rating on the Janka Hardness Scale.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider