Herbs & Plants

Caesalpinia spinosa

Botanical Name: Caesalpinia spinosa
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Tara
Species: C. spinosa

*Caesalpinia pectinata Cav.
*Tara spinosa
*Caesalpinia tara Ruiz & Pav.
*Caesalpinia tinctoria Dombey ex DC.
*Caesalpinia tinctoria (Kunth) Benth. ex Reiche
*Coulteria tinctoria Kunth
*Poinciana spinosa Feuillée ex Molina
*Tara tinctoria Molina

Common Names: Spiny Holdback, Tara

Habitat: Caesalpinia spinosa is native to S. America – Argentina, northern Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela. It grows in forests and semi desert areas of the Interandine region, along the higher, cooler, inner slopes of both Cordilleras of Ecuador.

Description: Caesalpinia spinosa is an evergreen Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a fast rate. It’s bark is dark gray with scattered prickles and hairy twigs. Leaves are alternate, evergreen, lacking stipules, bipinnate, and lacking petiolar and rachis glands. Leaves consist of three to 10 pairs of primary leaflets under 8 cm in length, and five to seven pairs of subsessile elliptic secondary leaflets, each about 1.5–4 cm long. Inflorescences are 15–20 cm long terminal racemes, many flowered and covered in tiny hairs. Flowers are yellow to orange with 6- to 7-mm petals; the lowest sepal is boat-shaped with many long marginal teeth; stamens are yellow, irregular in length and barely protruding. The fruit is a flat, oblong indehiscent pod, about 6–12 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, containing four to seven round black seeds, which redden when mature.


A plant of higher elevations in the Andean mountains, it has been cultivated from the warm temperate to the very dry and seasonally wet tropics. It can grow in areas where the mean annual temperatures are within the range 14° – 28°c, and the mean annual rainfall is in the range 660 – 1,730mm. Succeeds in full sun and partial sun. Prefers a pH in the range 6.8 – 7.5. A fast-growing plant. Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen.

Edible Uses:
The endosperm of the seed (22% of the total seed weight) yields a gum of commercial value. It is a white to yellowish powder and consists chiefly of galactomannan-type polysaccharides. The gum is used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in the food industry.

Tara gum is a white or beige, nearly odorless powder that is produced by separating and grinding the endosperm of T. spinosa seeds. Tara gum consists of a linear main chain of (1-4)-?-D-mannopyranose units attached by (1-6) linkages with ?-D-galactopyranose units.[14] The major component of the gum is a galactomannan polymer similar to the main components of guar and locust bean gums that are used widely in the food industry. The ratio of mannose to galactose in tara gum is 3:1.[15] Tara gum has been deemed safe for human consumption as a food additive.[16] Tara gum is used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in a number of food applications. A solution of tara gum is less viscous than a guar gum solution of the same concentration, but more viscous than a solution of locust bean gum. Generally, tara gum presents a viscosity around 5,500 cps (1% aqueous solution). Furthermore, tara gum shows an intermediate acid stability between locust bean gum and guar gum. It resists the depolymerisation effect of organic acids down to a pH of 3.5. This gum is also stable to high-temperature treatment, up to 145 °C in a continuous process plant. Blends of tara with modified and unmodified starches can be produced which have enhanced stabilization and emulsification properties, and these are used in the preparation of convenience foods, such as ice cream. One example is the American ice cream brand Breyers.

The European food additive number for tara gum is E417. Tara gum is listed on the Canadian List of Permitted Emulsifying, Gelling, Stabilizing or Thickening Agents (Lists of Permitted Food Additives) as item T.2B.

The Italian company Silvateam is a producer of tara gum for the food and beverage industries. Silvateam’s website uses Caesalpinia spinosa as the Latin name of the plant, and notes that it is also called Peruvian carob. Silvateam encourages the use of tara gum in ice cream to provide “freeze-thaw stability by preventing the formation of ice crystals

Medicinal Uses:
Medicinal uses in Peru include gargling infusions of the pods for inflamed tonsils or washing wounds; it is also used for fevers, colds, and stomach aches. Water from boiled, dried pods is also used to kill fleas and other insects.

The powder contained within the seedpods is used as an eyewash. An infusions of the pods is used in Peru for inflamed tonsils or washing wounds; it is also used for fevers, colds and stomach aches.

Other Uses:
The pods contain around 50% tannin, about twice as much as sumac (Rhus spp). An excellent source of environmentally friendly tannins (tara tannins) most commonly used in the manufacture of automotive and furniture leathers. The high content of hydrolysable tan has made it interesting for the extraction of gallic acid and ink manufacturing. Sticks of the wood are split up finely; urine is poured over the pieces of wood, which are then set out in the sun. Urine is repeatedly poured over them, until they are well soaked. After airing, the sticks are boiled in water, together with red tiri (Stereoxylon resinosum) and woollen or cotton fabrics. The dye produced is a purplish red. The dried fruit is boiled with a bit of soot and woollens soaked in iron sulphate or vitriol without acid. The fabric produced will be dyed a beautiful clove colour. A gum is obtained from the seed. It is used in the food industry. The wood is durable. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Grown as an ornamental plant because of its large colorful flowers and pods.

Known Hazards: The high tannin content of the pods may be lethal if consumed in large quantities by animals.

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.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.