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Tamarindus (U. S. P.)—Tamarind.

Botanical name:

"The preserved pulp of the fruit of Tamarindus indica, Linné"—(U. S. P.) (Tamarindus officinalis, Hooker).
Nat. Ord.—Leguminosae.
COMMON NAMES: Tamarind, Tamarind pulp.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 92.

Botanical Source.—This is a large tree with many spreading branches, a stout, straight trunk, and a rough, ash-gray bark, usually attaining the height of 30 or 40 feet. The leaves are alternate and abruptly pinnated; the leaflets in 12 to 15 pairs, opposite, subsessile, small, obtuse, entire, smooth on both sides, tapering a little, of a greenish-yellow color, and about 6 lines long by 2 broad; the inferior pair are larger. The petioles are from 4 to 6 inches long, and channelled; the stipules small and deciduous. In a cold, damp atmosphere, and also after sunset the leaflets close themselves. The flowers are yellow, veined with red, and in terminal and lateral racemes. Bracts obovate, colored, 1-flowered, and deciduous. Corolla somewhat papilionaceous, erect, unilateral, the length of the calyx, and 3-cleft. Segments ovate, acute, concave. Calyx 4-leaved, cruciate, expanding, tubular at base and deciduous; limb bilabiate and reflexed; upper lip tri-partite; lower broad and 2-tootjed. The vexillum, or middle petal, is oblong, and its margins involute and curled; wings oval and margins curled. Keel 2 short, subulate processes under the stamens. Stamens 10, 7 very short and sterile, the others longer, monadelphous, bearing incumbent anthers. Ovary stalked, linear, with the subulate style much incurved; stigma obtuse. The legume is oblong, pendulous, nearly linear, generally curved, somewhat compressed, filled with a firm, acid pulp, covered with a hard, scabrous bark, which never separates into valves; under the bark run 3 fibers, one down the upper concave margin, and the other two at equal distances from the inferior or convex edge. The seeds number from 6 to 12, are somewhat trapeziform, compressed, covered with a smooth, hard, brown shell, and inserted into the convex side of the pericarp (L.—W. I.).

History and Description.—The tamarind tree inhabits both the East and West Indies and Africa. The pods of the West Indian tree are shorter than the other, and fewer seeded. The part used is the fruit, which, when recent, has a pleasant acid taste. They are generally brought to this country as a kind of preserve, made by removing the epicarp, arranging the fruit in layers in a cask, and filling the interstices with syrup at 100° C. (212° F.). As met with in this country, they are reddish-brown, have a sweet and agreeably acid taste, and consist of acid-syrup, seeds, endocarp and fibers; the acidity of the syrup is due to its admixture with the sarcocarp or pulp. This is the method pursued in the West Indies. The Egyptians compress them into cakes and dry them in the sun, while, in India, they are compressed into masses, sugar being added in some instances. The East Indian variety is not so sweet as the official drug from the West Indies, is of a darker color and much tougher. The Egyptian grade occurs in black-brown cakes, circular and flattish, and often are moldy. These two varieties are not in American markets. The seeds should be solid and corneous, not soft and expanded, the fibers should be tough, and the whole appearance of the mass should be fresh and syrupy, not dried up from loss or lack of syrup, and without a moldy odor. Sometimes, from being prepared in copper vessels, they may prove dangerous from containing copper, which should not be present.

As required by the official standard, tamarind should be "a reddish-brown, sweet, subacid, pulpy mass, containing strong, somewhat branching fibers, and polished, brown, flattish-quadrangular seeds, each enclosed in a tough membrane; taste sweet and refreshingly acidulous. A piece of bright iron, left for 30 minutes in contact with the pulp previously somewhat diluted with water, should not exhibit any reddish deposit of copper"—(U. S. P.).

Chemical Composition.—The constituents of tamarind pulp are sugar (about 12.5 per cent), tartaric, citric, and malic acids, and potassium bitartrate, pectin, gum, etc. (Vauquelin). K. Müller (1882), examining nine specimens, found about 1.5 per cent of seeds, and in an exceptional case 38 per cent of seeds present and from 22 to 32 per cent of water; the moist pulp freed from the seeds contained potassium bitartrate (4.66 to 6.01 per cent), tartaric acid (5.29 to 8.68 per cent) and citric acid (0.64 to 3.95 per cent). The presence of formic, acetic, and butyric acids is probably due to slight fermentation.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Tamarind pulp is used to allay thirst and is nutritive and refrigerant; in large quantity, laxative. On this account it forms a useful and agreeable drink in febrile and inflammatory diseases; and with persons recovering from sickness, to keep their bowels regular, it may form a portion of their diet. A convenient cooling laxative is TAMARIND-WHEY, made by boiling 1 ounce of the pulp in 1 pint of milk, and straining the product. Combined with senna, or resinous cathartics, it is said to diminish their cathartic operation (P.). Dose, from 1 drachm to 2 ounces. A decoction of tamarind flowers is reputed almost a specific for hemorrhoids.

Specific Indications and Uses.—(The flowers.) Hemorrhoids, with persistent burning and itching about the anus, and accompanied with constipation.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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