Herbs & Plants

Balanites aegyptiaca

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Botanical Name :Balanites aegyptiaca
Family: Zygophyllaceae
Genus: Balanites
Species: B. aegyptiaca
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Zygophyllales
Common Name : Ingudi, Hingot, Zacum oil plant,Desert Date. Desert date, Soapberry tree

Habitat :This tree is native to much of Africa and parts of the Middle East. This is one of the most common trees in Senegal. It can be found in many kinds of habitat, tolerating a wide variety of soil types, from sand to heavy clay, and climatic moisture levels, from arid to subhumid. It is relatively tolerant of flooding, livestock activity, and wildfire.Found in most arid, semiarid to subhumid tropical savannahs, and hot dry areas, along watercourses and in woodlands. It borders seasonally inundated black clay plains and grows well in valleys and on river banks in depressions, and on the slopes of rocky hills. B. aegyptiaca is found in Mikumi, Selous, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Parks and Reserves (Rulangaranga 1989).

This tree reaches 10 m (33 ft) in height with a generally narrow form. The branches are thorny. The tree produces several forms of inflorescence bearing yellow-green bisexual flowers which exude nectar. In Senegal, they are pollinated by halictid bees, including Halictus gibber, and flies, including Rhinia apicalis and Chrysomia chloropiza. The carpenter ant Camponotus sericeus feeds on the nectar. The larva of the cabbage tree emperor moth Bunaea alcinoe causes defoliation of the tree.Leaves are alternate, simple leaves, flowers have 5 yellow or green petals. Flowering period  is February, March, April, May, June, July, August. Fruits are yellow  and  single seeded

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The dark green compound leaves are made up of two leaflets which are variable in size and shape.

Propagation & Cultivation:-
Means of Propagation: Seedlings, cuttings, potted stock and root suckers.

Seed Treatments: Fruit turns from green to yellow when ripe, each containing 1 pit. These can be stored for up to a year if kept air dry and insect free. When ready to plant, soak the fruit overnight in lukewarm water until the pulp can be removed and the pit extracted. Recommended pretreatments include: intestinal scarification; boiling 7 to 10 minutes and cooling; soaking 12 to 18 hours in hot water; soaking for 24 hours in warm water; and soaking overnight in warm water (FAO 1988).

Seedling Management: Does not withstand transplanting well because of the deep tap root. For best results plant in a container with the seed vertical (stem end down) (Teel 1984). Plants should remain in the nursery for 18 to 24 weeks before outplanting at the beginning of the rainy season.

Because of the vigorous tap root, direct sowing at the end of the dry season is recommended. Average rooting success from stem cuttings is about 60 to 70%. Seeds passed through the intestinal tract of ruminants germinate particularly well and can be gathered where livestock are kept overnight.

Planting Types: Traditionally it has been, and still is, actively managed. It is planted in agroforestry along the banks of irrigation canals and as a boundary marker. The tree attracts numerous insect species and could be used in agroforestry as a trap tree (IFS 1989). B. aegyptiaca is worth considering for difficult sites, where water is the main limiting factor.

Growth Factors: Grows slowly and requires protection as a seedling (Teel 1984).

Growth Cycle: Slow growing but very resilient. Fruit and foliage appear at the height of the dry season (Hall 1991). It produces seed in August and September. The first fruit is harvested between years 5 and 8 with the yield increasing until year 25. It can live to more than 100 years.

Limitations to Planting: Attracts numerous insects which may be a limitation.

Management Systems: Requires weeding and protection from browsing up to the initial fruiting period (at least 3 years). Weeding is important due to slow growth, (FAO 1988) as high grass can compete for light. Weeds can also impede regeneration and grass fires can destroy young plants.

It coppices vigorously. Roots spread far, and throw up suckers at a considerable distance from the trunk (Stewart and Brandis 1972).

Edible Uses:

Fruits are edible.
Many parts of the plant are used as famine foods in Africa; the leaves are eaten raw or cooked, the oily seed is boiled to make it less bitter and eaten mixed with sorghum, and the flowers can be eaten.The tree is considered valuable in arid regions because it produces fruit even in dry times. The fruit can be fermented for alcoholic beverages.

The seed contains 30-40% seed oil and contains the sapogenins diosgenin and yamogenin.Diosgenin can be used to produce hormones such as those in combined oral contraceptive pills and corticoids. The oil is used as cooking oil. The seed cake remaining after the oil is extracted is commonly used as animal fodder in Africa. The seeds of the Balanites aegyptiaca have molluscicide effect on Biomphalaria

Medicinal Uses:
Medicinal uses of this plant are many. The fruit is mixed into porridge and eaten by nursing mothers, and the oil is consumed for headache and to improve lactation. Bark extracts and the fruit repel snails and copepods, organisms that host the parasites schistosome and guinea worm, respectively.

The tree is managed through agroforestry. It is planted along irrigation canals and it is used to attract insects for trapping. The pale to brownish yellow wood is used to make furniture and durable items such as tools, and it is a low-smoke firewood and good charcoal. The smaller trees and branches are used as living or cut fences because they are resilient and thorny. The tree fixes nitrogen. It is grown for its fruit in plantations in several areas.The bark yields fibers, the natural gums from the branches are used as glue, and the seeds have been used to make jewelry and beads.

There are many common names for this plant.In English the fruit has been called desert date; in Arabic it is known as lalob, hidjihi, and heglig. In Hausa it is called aduwa, in Swahili mduguyu,  and in Amharic bedena.

The fruits have been used in the treatment of liver and spleen diseases. The fruit is also known to kill the snails which carry schistosomiasis and bilharzia flukes (Tredgold 1986). The roots are used for abdominal pains and as a purgative. Gum from the wood is mixed with maize meal porridge to treat chest complaints.

Other Uses:
The fruit pulp though bitter, is edible. It produces fruit even in dry years which makes it a highly appreciated food source in dry areas. Pounded fruits make a refreshing drink which becomes alcoholic if left to ferment.


B. aegyptiaca has fine-grained dense and heavy heartwood, it is easily worked and takes a good polish. Although valued for furniture it may be twisted and difficult to saw. The wood is durable and resistant to insects making it good for tool handles and domestic items such as spoons.

Root : Root cuttings readily form a live fence. Protein rich leaves and shoots are an excellent source of fodder. The leaves make very good mulch and the tree is nitrogen fixing, it is also valued as firewood since it produces almost no smoke and has a calorific value of 4600 kcal per kg (Webb 1984).

Known Hazards: The plant contains saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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One reply on “Balanites aegyptiaca”

This is good information about the Balanite aegypyiaca. It is growing in my country Sudan, oil extracted from its fruit and used for curing cough and chest diseases for the childern.

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