Tamarind is a leguminous tree (family Fabaceae) bearing edible fruit that is indigenous to tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic, meaning that it contains only this species.
The tamarind tree produces brown, pod-like fruits that contain a sweet, tangy pulp, which is used in cuisines around the world. The pulp is also used in traditional medicine and as a metal polish. The tree's wood can be used for woodworking and tamarind seed oil can be extracted from the seeds. Tamarind's tender young leaves are used in Indian and Filipino cuisine. Because tamarind has multiple uses, it is cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical zones.
Tamarind is a very common large tree with a short massive trunk, ferny pinnate leaves, small yellow flowers and fat reddish brown pods. The tree can get 90 ft tall but is usually less than 50 ft. It has a short, stocky trunk, drooping branches and a domed umbrella shaped crown about as wide as the tree's height. The leaves are about 10 in long with 10-18 pairs of 1 in oblong leaflets. Tamarind drops its leaves in pronounced dry seasons; in climates without a dry season it stays evergreen. The flowers are about 1 in across, pale yellow with purple or red veins. They have five unequal lobes and borne in small drooping clusters. The velvety cinnamon brown pods are 2-6 in long, sausage shaped and constricted between the seeds. The pulp that surrounds the 8-10 seeds is both sweet and extremely sour, and girls in India love it. It is common to have a tamarind tree in the compound of a girls hostel. Tamarind is very much used in cooking in India, particularly in the south. Contrary to popular belief, Tamarind is not native to India. It originated in tropical Africa, including Sudan and parts of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. It was introduced into India so long ago that it has often been reported as indigenous here, and it was apparently from India that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hind" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic name. The species name indica
also gives the misleading impression that it originated in India.
The bark is astringent and tonic and its ash may be given internally as a digestive. Incorporated into lotions or poultices, the bark may be used to relives sores, ulcers, boils and rashes. It may also be administered as a decoction against asthma and amenorrhea and as a febrifuge. Leaf extracts exhibit anti-oxidant activity in the liver, and are a common ingredient in cardiac and blood sugar reducing medicines. Young leaves may be used in fomentation for rheumatism, applied to sores and wounds, or administered as a poultice for inflammation of joints to reduce swelling and relieve pain. A sweetened decoction of the leaves is good against throat infection, cough, fever, and even intestinal worms. A decoction of the flower buds is used as a remedy for children's bedwetting and urinary complaints.