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

click & see the pictures
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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Herbs & Plants

Acacia senegal

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Botanical Name :Acacia senegal
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia
Species: A. senegal
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Commo Names:Swet khadira, khair swet, Catechu tree, Goradiobabul, Rfaudraksha, Gum Acacia, Gum Arabic Tree, or Gum Senegal Tree.  Svetakhadira.

Habitat : It is native to semi-desert regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Oman, Pakistan, and northwestern India. It grows to a height of 5-12m, with a trunk up to 30 ft in diameter.

Bush or small tree, usually 2 -6 m high, occasionally reaching 10 m under optimal conditions, frequently forming thickets. It has a short stem, is usually low branched with many upright twigs, the crown eventually flattened, umbrella-shaped. Bark pale brown to pale grey, smooth in young individuals, brown scaly on the older parts, slash mottled red and white, prickles up to 0.5 cm long, the centre one sharply curved, the other two more or less straight and directed forward. Leaves bipinnate, small, greenish-grey, with 3-6 pairs of pinnulae having 10-20 pairs of leaflets each. Leaflets grey-green, 3-8 x 1-2 mm. Flowers very fragrant, creamy white (red in bud), usually appearing before the leaves in pedunculate spikes 3-10 cm long either solitary or two to three together. Pods 7-10 cm long x 2 cm wide, flat and thin, papery, attenuated at both ends, containing 3-6 flat, round, light-brown to brown-greenish seeds. Both tap roots and lateral roots are very developed ; the latter may spread many metres from the tree, particularly in sandy terrain. The tree is deciduous, drooping its leaves in November in the Sudan.

You may click to see the pictures of Acacia senegal


The senegal gum acacia is a small to average sized thorn tree of the African grassland savanna. It can grow up to 20 meters tall. It has many branches that spread out into a flat and rounded top. These branches have many thorns that come in pairs. The leaves are a grey-green color. The flowers are yellow or cream colored and grow on spikes just above the thorns. These flowers turn into seed pods about 8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. They look like giant dried up pea pods, and are yellowish to brown in color, and flat.


The acacia can live through long periods of drought. They tend to grow in sandy places where there is only between 12 to 15 inches of rain a year. Periods without rain can last from 5 to 11 months a year.

A. senegal is sensitive to frost but is very heat tolerant.

Water:  Occurring between the 100 and 800 mm of MAR, mainly between 200 and 600 mm. It is extremely drought resistant as it occurs close to the very border of the Sahara and West Asian Deserts.

Soil :  A. senegal is sensitive to water logging. In the drier parts of its area of distribution it tends to be restricted to sandy habitats and dry river beds, but to fine textured soils under the higher rainfalls of the South Sahelian and North Sudanian ecozones., it may also occur on shallow soils and duripan lithosols. The tolerance to pH is quite broad : 5-8 .

Propagation :
Propagation is made either from direct seeding of treated seeds (8,000-18,000 per kg) or via nursery-grown seedlings in various kinds of containers ; naturally the former is much cheaper and used to be a part of the traditional management of the Acacia bush-fallow production system of Kordofan (Seif el Din; 1965 ; Seif el Din & Mubarak, 1971).

Food Uses:It is also used as flavoring in certain soda (pop).

Gum arabic
It produces gum arabic, which is used as a food additive, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. The gum is drained from cuts in the bark, and an individual tree will yield 200 to 300 grams. Seventy percent of the world’s gum arabic is produced in Sudan.

Medicinal Uses:

Gum Arabic is used in making medicine. It is used to make a cream for skin inflammations and ailments of the respiratory and urinary tracts. Its also used for coughs, sore throats, eyewash, diarrhea, and dysentery. It is also used as flavoring in certain soda (pop).

The gum is used for soothing mucous membranes of the intestine . It is also reportedly used as for its astringent properties, to treat bleeding, bronchitis, diarrhea, gonorrhea, leprosy, typhoid fever and upper respiratory tract infections.

Other Uses:

Rope :Roots near the surface of the ground are quite useful in making all kinds of very strong ropes and cords. The tree bark is also used to make rope.

Wood : Handles for tools, parts for weaving looms.

The acacia provides shade and shelter for the animals of the savanna. Giraffes, antelopes and elephants eat its leaves, and birds make their nests in its branches and use them as perches to look out over the flat grasslands.

Acacia was considered sacred by the ancient Hebrew. It is said that Moses used acacia wood to build the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred Tabernacle (Exodus, chapters 25-40). Legend also has it that the thorns of the acacia were used for Christ’s crown of thorns.

Click to see Other Botanical variations
Acacia senegal var. leiorhachis Brenan  :
Acacia senegal var. rostrata Brenan   :
Acacia senegal var. senegal :

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.


Herbs & Plants

Helancha(Enhydra fluctuans)

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Botanical Name : Enhydra Fluctuans Lour 
Family: Asteraceae (family description)
Genus: Enhydra
Class: Magnoliopsida
Epithet: fluctuans Lour.
Common Names: Harkuch, Hingcha
Local names: kankong-kalabau (Tag.).

Indian Name: Helencha
Part used: Leaf
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales 
Species: E. fluctuans
Bengali Name:Hingcha  sag

Habitat:Grows in swampy ground in Tropical climate.Native to India, Bangladesh,Burma, Sreelankha and several places in south east Asia.Hingcha or Kankong-kalabau is found in Rizal Province in Luzon, being occasional along the banks of small streams in and about Manila. It was certainly introduced, being found also in tropical Africa and Asia to Malaya.In Bengal it is commonly known as Hingha and grows plenty in ponds & lakes.

Description & Uses :Perennial herb of swampy ground in coastal areas, till recently considered as a single species under the first name, but now recognized to be two: E. fluctuans only in the Niger Delta, but widespread in the tropics, and E. radicans from Senegal to Dahomey and Fernando Po.No usage of either species is recorded for the Region. The leaves of E. fluctuans are somewhat bitter and are eaten as a salad or vegetable in several tropical countries. In Zaïre E. fluctuans has been
reported a favourite food of the hippopotamus.

This plant is a prostate, spreading, annual herb. The stems are somewhat fleshy, 30 centimeters or more in length, branched, rooting at the lower nodes, and somewhat hairy. The leaves are stalkless, linear-oblong, 3 to 5 centimeters in length, pointed or blunt at the tip, usually truncate at the base, and somewhat toothed at the margins. The flowering heads are without stalks, are borne singly in the axils of the leaves, and excluding the bracts, are less than 1 centimeter in diameter. The outer pair of the involucral bracts is ovate and 1 to 1.2 centimeters long; the inner pair is somewhat smaller. The flowers are white or greenish-white. The acheness are enclosed by rigid receptacle-scales. The pappus is absent.Flower colour: beige, white

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Edible uses:
According to Burkill the young parts are used as a salad in several countries, including Malaya. Sometimes they are steamed before they are eaten.
Guerrero reports that in the Philippines the leaves are pressed and applied to the skin as a cure for certain herpetic eruptions.In bengal it is washed,chopped and cooked as Sag fry or boiled with rice and eaten with boiled rice with boiled potato ,salt and mastered oil.
Burkill reports that the young parts and the leaves of the plant are somewhat bitter and are used by the Malays as a laxative. Caius says that the leaves are useful in diseases of the skin and of the nervous system. The fresh juice of the leaves is prescribed in Calcutta as an adjunct to tonic metallic medicines, and is given in neuralgia and other nervous diseases. The leaves are antibilious. The expressed juice of the leaves is used as a demulcent in cases of gonorrhea; it is taken mixed with the milk of either a cow or a goat. As a cooling agent, the leaves are pounded and made into a paste which is applied cold to the head.
Watt quotes Forsyth, who states that the plant is useful in torpidity of the liver. An infusion should be made the previous evening. It is boiled with rice and taken with mustard oil and salt.

Constituents:A concentration of 0.21 % dry weight of essential oil is present .

Medicinal uses: laxatives, etc.; paralysis, epilepsy, convulsions, spasm; skin, mucosae.They are said to be a laxative, antibilious and demulcent . They are used in India in skin and nervous affections , and in the Philippines are applied to certain herpetic eruptions .
*Antioxidant Potential of Crude Extract and Different
Fractions of Enhydra fluctuans Lour (Hingcha)   :

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*Analgesic activity of Enhydra fluctuans :

Disclaimer: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.