Medicinal plants are continuously revolutionising the face of the earth through all the distinctive benefits they render. Most of these plants contain powerful active compounds that inhibit and cure several ailments. This has led to the increasing global demand for these nature’s gifts. Even though most of these plants are very close to us yet, it is so appalling that most of us fail to recognise and exploit them.
The rich biological diversity of these nature’s gifts places them as the powerhouse for generating most of the distinctive compounds used for herbal medicines and those used for inventing revolutionary drugs with a novel mode of action. Extracts from these medicinal plants contain several phytochemicals that can work alone or synergistically with others against various ailments.
Both the roots, stems, bark, shoots, leaves and fruits of these medicinal plants play an integral part in tackling diseases. Interestingly, the edible fruits from some of these plants are both nutritionally, medicinally and pharmaceutically valuable to humanity. One of such important but yet underutilised medicinal plants is the tropical almond, which is botanically known as Terminalia catappa.
As the suggests, tropical almond is a tropical plant that belongs to the leadwood tree family of Combretaceae. It is known by other names such as; false kamani, kottamba, country almond, Indian almond, sea-almond, almendra, Bangla badam, Malabar almond, bengal almond, jangli badam, ketapang, sea almond and in Tamil, it is known as nattuvadumai.
This plant is originally from Africa, Asia and Australia before spreading to other parts of the world. The upright Terminalia catappa tree grows up to 35 metres tall with horizontal branches that are mostly arranged in tiers. The tree is monoecious in nature with both the male and female flowers borne on the same tree.
The tropical almond fruit is a drupe that measures between 5 to 7 centimetres long and 3 to 5.5 centimetres broad. Unripe fruits are greenish in colour before finally changing to yellow then reddish on ripening. The fruit is distinctive by its tasty nut and it contains an edible seed that has similar taste with almond.
The fibrous shell aids the fruit to float during seed dispersion by water. The leaves are broad and measures between 15 to 25 centimetres long and 10 to 14 centimetres broad. The broad leaves are dark green, leathery and glossy in appearance. The leaves contain phytosterols, saponins, flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol as well as tannins such as tercatin, punicalin and punicalagin. The leaves can be used for treating and preventing diarrhoea, dysentery, cancer and liver diseases.
Nutritional Values of the Tropical Almond
Ezeokonkwo and Dodson (2004) investigated the nutritional values of Terminalia catappa seed. The study shows that the seed is a rich source of protein (25.81%) and amino acids such as leucine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, histidine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine, lysine and tyrosine.
Praveena (2014) reported that tropical almond contains phytochemicals such as steroids, triterpenes, carbohydrates, triterpenoid saponins, alkaloids, polyphenols, flavonoids, tannins and glycosides.
Composition of the Tropical Almond Essential Oil
Owolabi et al., (2013) hydrolysed and analysed the essential oil obtained from the leaves of Terminalia catappa L. using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The results show that the leaf oil contains (Z)-phytol (41.2%), alkane hydrocarbons (25.5%), palmitic acid (11.0%) and (E)-nerolidol (4.7%).
17 Awesome Benefits of the Tropical Almond
Tropical almond can be eaten as a fresh fruit. The fruit shell can be cracked for the edible seed to be consumed raw. The seed can be eaten alone or used for preparing fruit salad, smoothie or for garnishing dishes. Oil can also be extracted from the dried nuts, which can be used for cooking.
Manzur et al., (2011) evaluated the methanol, acetone and N, N-dimethylformamide extracts of Terminalia catappa L. leaf to ascertain its antibacterial and antifungal activity. Gentamicin and piperacillin were used as standards for antibacterial assay, while nystatin and flucanazole were used as standards for antifungal assay. For the trial, 91 clinically important strains were used, which were both clinical isolates as well as identified strains.
The antimicrobial activity of the entire extracts was determined using the agar disc diffusion method. The results show that the antibacterial activity was more pronounced against bacteria than the fungal strains. Moreover, the Gram-positive bacteria appeared more susceptible than the Gram-negative bacteria. The methanol extract showed more antibacterial activity. Tropical almond leaf extracts showed significant antibacterial activity, unlike the commercially used antibiotics.
Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) is a break in the lining of the stomach, progressing first from the small intestine then to the lower oesophagus. Bharath et al., (2014) examined the anti-ulcer activity of ethanolic extract of T. catappa (250 and 500mg/kg b.w) on pyrolic ligated induced ulcer model in rats. Omeprazole was used as the standard. The anti-ulcer activity of this plant was examined using ulcer index and histopathological examination.
They also carried out a preliminary phytochemical screening and acute toxicity studies of the plant. The extract showed a significant (p <0.001) reduction in the pH, free acidity, gastric volume, ulcer index and total acidity in a dose dependent manner, unlike the control. Interestingly, the extract did not yield any toxic effects even when applied at high doses. The anti-ulcer activity was attributed to the flavonoids found in this plant.
Ratnasooriya and Dharmasiri (2000) investigated the aphrodisiac ability of tropical almond seeds using a suspension of its kernel (SS) in 1% methyl cellulose in rats. Male rats were treated orally with 1500 mg/kg or 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle and their sexual behaviours were monitored 3 hours later using a receptive female. Afterwards, another group of rats was treated orally with either 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle for a consecutive 7 days.
The researchers evaluated the test animals sexual behaviour and fertility on days 1, 4 and 7 of treatment and on the 7th day of post-treatment by pairing them with pro-oestrous female overnight. The 1500 mg/kg dose demonstrated a marked aphrodisiac action in terms of prolongation of ejaculation latency. The study supports that the kernel of tropical almond seeds possess aphrodisiac properties and thus could be essential for treating certain types of sexual disorders such as premature ejaculation.
Nagappa et al., (2003) investigated the antidiabetic ability of methanol, petroleum ether and aqueous extracts of tropical almond fruit on (FBS) fasting blood sugar levels and serum biochemical analysis in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. The three extracts of this fruit generated a significant antidiabetic activity at dosage levels of 1/5 of their lethal doses. The study supports the anti-diabetic potentials of the tropical almond fruit. Here are other plants for treating diabetes.
Lin et al., (1999) evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of punicalagin and punicalin carrageenan-induced hind paw edema in rats. The punicalin and punicalagin were isolated from the leaves of tropical almond. Upon examining the anti-inflammatory effects, the edema rates increased due to the carrageenan administration however, it reduced due to the drug treatment.
After 4 hour of administering carrageenan, the punicalagin (10 mg/kg) treated group turned out to be the best effect group with an inhibition rate of 58.15%. The second was the punicalagin (5 mg/kg) treated group and this group showed a low inhibition rate of 39.15%. The results showed that both punicalin and punicalagin possess anti-inflammatory properties, however, it is worthy to note that treatment with larger dosages of punicalin can possibly lead to some cell damages.
Free radicals in the body induce cells damage, which among other things, lead to premature skin-aging, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and spots. Factors such as old age, pollution, exposure to short wavelength UV light (UVB), exposure to the sun (photoaging) and loss of subcutaneous support could contribute to skin ageing. Gelse et al., (2003) report that the most surplus structural protein found in the skin connective tissue is the type I collagen. This type I collagen is synthesised mainly by fibroblasts and is essential for maintaining strength and flexibility on the skin. However, these attributes depreciate on ageing.
Wen et al., (2011) investigated if tropical almond hydrophilic extract can prevent photoaging in human dermal fibroblasts after being exposed to UVB radiation. The extract exhibited the free radical scavenging diphenylpicrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and protected the erythrocytes from a (peroxyl radical initiator) AAPH-induced hemolysis. These findings suggest that tropical almond increases the production of type I procollagen thus has the ability to inhibit skin ageing and photodamage.
Chanda et al., (2011) evaluated the in-vitro antimicrobial activity of methanol, acetone and N, N-dimethylformamide extracts from the leaf of tropical almonds. An in vitro antimicrobial activity of all the extracts was performed using agar disc diffusion assay. 91 clinically essential strains were used and these were both clinical isolates and identified strains. Piperacillin and gentamicin were used as standards for antibacterial assay, however, flucanazole and nystatin were used as standards for antifungal assay.
The antimicrobial activity was ascertained by measuring the inhibition zone around each paper disc. The results show that the antibacterial activity was more pronounced against bacteria, unlike the fungal strains. The Gram-positive bacteria were more susceptible than the Gram-negative bacteria. The methanol extract showed best antibacterial activity and the leaf extracts proved to contain stronger antibacterial activity, unlike the commercially used antibiotics. Therefore T. catappa is proved effective for treating diseases caused by microorganisms.
Antinociceptive is the process of blocking the detection of an injurious or painful stimulus by the sensory neurones. Arjariya et al., (2013) studied the antinociceptive activity of the aqueous extract of tropical almond leaves using the tail flick method, glacial acetic acid induced writhing and the hot plate test in albino rats.
The aqueous extract produced a significant (p<0.01) dose-dependent inhibition of abdominal writhing in rat. The result shows that the aqueous extract of tropical almond leaves contains analgesic properties, which could be mediated through the central and peripheral mechanism.
Chukwuma (2015) evaluated the antioxidative properties of the tropical almond leaf using 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), total phenolic content and reducing power assays. The results showed that 80% methanolic leaf extracts exhibited the highest percentage 73.42% inhibition of free radical.
This is followed by water and then ethanol extract at the rate of 95%. The three different solvent extracts from the tropical almond leaf exhibited its antioxidative action by scavenging DPPH radical as well as with a reasonable amount of phenols and its concomitant reducing activity. The study supports that the tropical almond leaf could be used as a natural source of managing and dealing with an oxidative stress-related health condition.
Gandhi et al., (2015) evaluated the antifungal properties of the aqueous, hexane and ethyl acetate extracts of the tropical almond bark and wood against certain fungal species. The antifungal activity was evaluated using agar disc diffusion method. Out of the three extracts, the hexane extract showed potent antifungal activity against all the selected fungal species.
The antifungal activity was compared using a standard antibiotic Clotrimazole and the extracts demonstrated the growth inhibitory activity in a dose-dependent manner. The results, therefore, suggest that hexane extracts of tropical almond bark and wood possess more antifungal activity than the aqueous and ethyl acetate extracts. This is attributed to the ability of hexane to extract the antifungal principles found in tropical almond wood and bark.
Studies reveal that the tropical almond has therapeutic effects on liver diseases such as hepatitis. Lin et al., (1997) studied the free radical scavenging and antihepatotoxic activity of this plant. Treatment with tropical almond water extracts demonstrated significant antihepatotoxic activity against CCl4-induced toxicity in the rat liver that was tested. The results show that this plant possesses strong antihepatotoxic effects including superoxide radical scavenger activity. Here are other plants for treating hepatitis.
Praveena (2014) reported that this plant can be used for preparing cardiac stimulant, especially in India.
The leaves are used in folk medicine for treating skin diseases such as dermatitis. Dermatitis is a medical condition in which the skin gets reddish, sore and swollen with small blisters due to direct irritation of the skin by an external agent or as a result of allergic reaction.
There is an increasing demand for hardwood for building and construction purposes due to the increasing population. In an attempt to ascertain if tropical almond wood can serve as hardwood, Oriowo et al., (2015) carried out an investigation. The study was carried out to evaluate the mechanical properties of the tropical almond trees, which were sourced from 5 South-western states in Nigeria. 5 stumps of the tree were randomly picked and cut from Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Oyo and Osun.
The mechanical properties such as density, compression, modulus of rupture, impact bending strength and modulus of elasticity were evaluated in accordance with the British Standard (D 373). The results proved that Terminalia catappa tree is a strong wood that is suitable for building and construction purposes. The reddish wood has high water resistance thus mostly used in Polynesia for constructing canoes.
Adewuyi et al., (2011) produced biodiesel from the seed oil of tropical almond using a two-step reaction system. The first step involved the pretreatment process and this step involved using 2% sulphuric acid in methanol. The second step involved the transesterification reaction whereby KOH is used as the catalyst.
The results showed a conversion that gave an ester content of above 97% with phosphorus content below 1 ppm in the biodiesel. The biodiesel generated from the oil of the tropical almond showed properties that are aligned with the recommended American standards (ASTM D 6751-07b) and European standards (EN 14214). Therefore these researchers support the use of crude T. catappa as raw feedstock for producing biodiesel.
Tropical almond is mostly grown for ornamental purposes and as a shade due to its colourful appearance and broad leaves.
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DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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