The spirit of Africa

Published : 09/25/2018

The spirit of Africa

Having just come back from Africa myself, I am still overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity of wildlife and nature this country has to offer. Therefore, I want to dedicate this article to a plant that I have walked past numerous times and that is increasingly found in western health food shops.

Africa’s flagship tree, a majestic figure overlooking the seemingly endless Savannah and a century-old natural remedy of the African people – is now being discovered by the western health food market and praised as yet another exotic superfood, gaining its noble status for its exceptional nutritional qualities and legendary healing properties. Also referred to as the “monkey bread tree”, the baobab (Adansonia digitata) is native to the tropical regions of Africa, the Comoro Islands and Madagascar. Worshipped for its healing powers, the baobab is subject of many local myths and fairytales. Now, science is beginning to uncover what generations have passed on for centuries. Within the ongoing tireless search for superfoods, the baobab is gaining increasing scientific attention and public recognition. The fruits are high in calcium, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and antioxidant polyphenols and new studies confirm its prebiotic qualities and high fiber content.

In traditional African medicine the baobab is used for various ailments since every part of the tree from root to flower has its own healing purpose. Fruits, pulp, seeds and leaves are believed to be effective against infectious diseases such as malaria, smallpox, asthma and fever. The seeds are also a preferred medicinal treatment for inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Flowers, bark and roots on the other hand are used in case of bone and joint treatments. Traditional belief combined with generations of knowledge have manifested the baobab deep into African culture – science is now digging deep to unfold what is wisdom to those living amongst the majestic giants of the African landscape.

Antioxidants have become some sort of a buzzword in natural health and baobab fruit is packed with these free-radical neutralizing compounds that are able to counteract harmful oxidative stress. This means baobab is able to inhibit free radicals causing cell damage – the basis for many chronic diseases including cancer. Baobab outnumbers the antioxidant capacity of other cherished superfoods such as acai and goji berries by twofold.

Furthermore, baobab pulp and leaves are particularly rich in the immune boosting vitamin C: with about 40 g covering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). This corresponds to about six times the vitamin C of oranges. The dried baobab powder also provides valuable amounts of magnesium – an important mineral for bone strength. Fiber is another asset of the baobab accounting for its wondrous abilities to help with gastrointestinal issues. Fiber not only optimizes the digestive process and reduces inflammation in the gut, but also helps to keep blood insulin levels constant and thus boosts heart health. Enabling the body to release carbohydrates only slowly, baobab will give you a comforting and long-lasting feeling of repletion.

The tree with this most beautiful of all names that looks like it is growing upside down into the air, has a fascinating wealth of health benefits to offer…

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