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Botanical Name: Thaumatococcus daniellii
Synonyms: Phrynium daniellii
Common names: Miracle fruit (but the unrelated species Synsepalum dulcificum is better known by that name) and miracle berry, Katamfe or Katempfe, Yoruba soft cane, and African serendipity berry.
Habitat: Thaumatococcus daniellii is native to the rainforests of western Africa from Sierra Leone to Zaire. It is also an introduced species in Australia and Singapore.
Thaumatococcus daniellii is a rhizomatous, perennial herb, up to 3-3.5 m high. It has large, papery leaves up to 46 centimeters long and 40 cm wide, arise singly from each node of the rhizome. Inflorescences are single or simply branched spikes’ and emerge from the lowest node. It bears pale purple flowers and a soft fruit containing a few shiny black seeds. In its native range,the fruit is fleshy, trigonal in shape and matures to a dark red/brown colour when fully ripe. At maturity each fruit contains three black, extremely hard seeds. The seeds are enveloped by a sticky thin, pale yellow basal aril, which contains the sweetening protein, thaumatin.
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Thaumatococcus daniellii var. daniellii – western + central Africa from Sierra Leone to Zaire
Thaumatococcus daniellii var. puberulifolius Dhetchuvi & Diafouka – central Africa (Zaire, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Central African Republic)
Fruit: The most popular use of T. daniellii is as sweetener. The aril contains a non-toxic, intensely sweet protein named thaumatin, which is at least 3000 times as sweet as sucrose. In West Africa, the aril is traditionally used for sweetening bread, over-fermented palm-wine and sour food. When the seeds are chewed, for up to an hour afterwards they cause sour materials eaten or drunk to taste very sweet. Since the mid-1990s, thaumatin is used as sweetener and flavour enhancer by the food and confectionary industry. Substituting synthetic sweeteners, it is used as a non-caloric natural sweetener. Thaumatin is not a carbohydrate thus it is an ideal sweetener for diabetics.
The seeds of T. daniellii also produce a jelly that swells to 10 times its own weight and hence provides a substitute for agar.
Thaumatococcus daniellii is also used in traditional medicinal uses in the Ivory Coast and Congo. The fruit is used as a laxative and the seed as an emetic and for pulmonary problems.
In traditional medicinal use the leaf sap is used as antidote against venoms, stings and bites. Leaf and root sap are used as sedative and for treating insanity.
In West Africa, T. daniellii is mostly cultivated for the leaves. The lamina of the leaves is used for wrapping foods. The petiole is used to weave mats and as tools and building materials. The entire leaf is also used for roofing.
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.