Indian Almond

Terminalia catappa

Herbs gallery - Indian Almond

Common names

  • Bengal Almond
  • Country Almond
  • Indian Almond
  • Malabar Almond
  • Sea Almond
  • Tropical Almond
  • Wild Almond

Indian almonds (scientific name Terminalia catappa) are large trees having big, leathery, oval shaped leaves whose color changes to red before they drop on the ground. The shape of this tree is characteristic, as the horizontal branches of the Indian almond grow in extensively spreading circles at different heights on the trunk.

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Indian almond bears separate male and female flowers, which appear on the same tree. The female flowers have a greenish-white hue. The flowers of this species are not remarkable or very ostentatious. These trees are on bloom during the period between February and May. The fruit has a light green color and its shape and size is similar to that of an almond within its shell. On ripening, the fruits borne by a number of Indian almond varieties change to reddish-purple. The nuts inside the fruits are edible and have a flavour similar to that of almonds. The Indian almond is a very ornamental tree, which is widely planted in gardens and along avenues in the tropical regions.

In India, Malaysia and several other countries in Southeast Asia, almond trees are amongst the most common. These trees grow in the wild and are also cultivated for their remarkable features, in addition to their flavourful nuts.

The Indian almond (T. catappa) is an outsized tree belonging to the Leadwood tree family called Combretaceae. This species is found growing widely all over the tropical regions of the globe and usually it grows up to a height of 35 meters (115 feet). The trees grow upright; have a symmetrical crown with several horizontal branches. The fruit of Terminalia catappa is light and corky and are spread far and wide by water. The fruit encloses a nut that is edible when the fruit is completely ripe. The taste of the nut is very similar to that of almond. The crown of Indian almond turns out to be flatter forming a spreading, vase shape, as the tree becomes older. The leaves of the Indian almond tree are really big, each measuring anything between 15 cm and 25 cm (5.9 inches to 9.8 inches) in length and between 10 cm and 14 cm (3.9 inches and 5.5 inches) in width. The leaves are leathery and ovoid shaped, having a glossy deep green color. These trees are deciduous and shed their leaves in the dry season. Prior to falling on the ground, the green leaves turn to yellowish-brown or pinkish-reddish. This is primarily because the leaves contain certain pigments like zeaxanthin, lutein and violaxanthin.

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Even the seeds of completely ripened Indian almond fruits are edible and their taste is also similar to that of almond. As far as the fruit of T. catappa is concerned, it is basically a drupe measuring 5 cm to 7 cm (2 inches to 2.8 inches) in length and 3 cm to 5.5 cm (1.2 inches to 2.2 inches) in width. The fruit's color keeps changing from time to time. Initially, the fruit is green and slowly its color changes to yellow. When the fruit is ripe, it is red in color. Each fruit of this species encloses a solitary seed. Since the shell of the fruit is light and corky, it helps the fruit to float on water, thereby dispersing the seeds far and wide.

Terminalia catappa is a deciduous tree and sometimes sheds its leaves even twice annually. During autumn, the leaves of this species changes from green to various shades, including copper, red and gold. The trees shed their leaves for the first time in their life span when they are three to four years old.

Many people are of the belief that putting dried leaves of the Indian almond in an aquarium, particularly if it has a Betta fish, it promotes the health of these animals, thereby ensuring a longer life for them.

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The nuts of Terminalia catappa fruit are edible and their flavour is very similar to that of almonds. However, removing the flesh of the fruit from the hard stone may really be a cumbersome job. Different from the almonds available commercially, you can eat the Indian almond raw. The oil extracted from the dehydrated nuts is also edible. This oil is also used for cooking, especially in some regions of South America.

Parts used

Bark, leaves, nuts, roots, oil.

Uses

Several parts of the Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) tree have a number of therapeutic applications; while nuts of the fruits and the oil extracted from them have culinary uses. People in India and Pakistan, use the juice obtained from the leaves of this tree to cure various skin complaints ranging from modest problems like itchiness to serious ailments like leprosy. Samoan remedies also utilize the leaves of the Indian almond therapeutically with a view to speed up healing wounds, in addition to dealing with irritations in the eyes.

In Indian herbal medicine, the leaves of Terminalia catappa have been closely associated with curing problems related to the digestive tract. For instance, in many countries in Southeast Asia, the leaves of this tree are used to treat dysentery. In addition, in the Philippines and some regions of South America, the leaves of Indian almond have been used to provide protection against internal parasites. The leaves are also used to prepare a brew which is administered to infants suffering from colic.

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People in the Republic of China have been traditionally collecting the fallen leaves of Indian almond and supplying them to people enduring various health issues that are primarily attributed to liver complications. In many other parts of Asia, including countries like India, Samoa and Pakistan, the leaves of Indian almond are prepared as slush similar to porridge and subsequently placed in the form of a dressing on excruciating rheumatic joints.

Aside from the leaves, the bark, roots, fruit and seeds of Terminalia catappa are generally known to be useful in improving the glucose levels in the blood stream effectively in the pancreas of people enduring diabetes. At the same time, they also help to prolong the ejaculation period, cure sickle cell anemia and put off lung cancer cells from multiplying.

It has been established that the extracts obtained from the leaves as well as the bark of Indian almond possess anti-cancerous, anti-diabetic, anti-HIV and hepato-protective properties. When we talk about hepato-protective properties, it denotes that the substance has liver regenerating effects. Traditionally, people inhabiting the South Pacific region have used the leaves of this plant to treat conditions related to fungal infections. In general, the leaves of Indian almond have the potential to be beneficial for immune support, antioxidant support and detoxification of the liver; they also have anti-carcinogenic potential. Moreover, the leaves of Indian almond also have anti-clastogenic effect, which is basically a process wherein the chromosomes are broken down owing to the antioxidant properties of the leaves.

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Even the kernel of Terminalia catappa possesses certain medicinal properties, as it has exhibited aphrodisiac activity. Perhaps the kernel can be utilized in treating a number of types of sexual shortfalls such as premature ejaculation (PE). In addition, an ethanol extract obtained from the leaves of this herb has demonstrated that they have the potential of curing conditions like sickle cell disorders. Apparently, this ethanol extract serves in the form of an anti-sickling agent for people suffering from sickle cell disorders. At the same time, the extract has been found to be beneficial in microbial balancing in the human body.

This extract of Indian almond leaves also possesses a number of other medicinal properties. For instance, it is helpful in lessening stress and lowering hypertension (high blood pressure). In many cases, it is also used for treating a number of forms of liver problems and in the form of an aid to reduce the consequences of many heart conditions. In Asia, people have known that the leaves of Terminalia catappa enclose a toxic substance, which is basically a secondary metabolite possessing anti-bacterial properties.

In Samoa, the fruits as well as the bark of Indian almond are also used in the form of an herbal remedy for coughs. In Mexico, people use the fruits of this tree to cure leprosy and motion sickness, while people in India often utilize them for curing headaches. In the Philippines, the leaves of Indian almond are used for getting rid of intestinal parasites and curing problems related to eyes, while in Samoa they are used to treat rheumatism and heal wounds. People in Mexico use the leaves of Terminalia catappa to stop hemorrhages while extracting teeth. In addition, in India and Pakistan the juice obtained from the leaves is also utilized for treating scabies, leprosy and other skin diseases. The bark of the Indian almond tree is said to be an excellent remedy for problems related to the mouth and throat. In Samoa, people use the leaves to cure diarrhea and stomach disorders, whereas in Brazil, the leaves are employed for treating dysentery and fever.

These trees are deciduous and just before dropping on the ground, the leaves of this species change color from deep green to red. These red leaves are employed for eliminating worms. The fruits of Indian almond are supposed to posses purgative properties. In some places, these leaves are mixed with oil and rubbed onto the breast of women with a view to alleviate mammary pain. A decoction prepared from the bark of the Indian almond tree has been traditionally utilized for treating the sexually transmitted disease called gonorrhea and also to provide relief from stomach cramps.

The leaves of Indian almond are macerated in oil and utilized for treating tonsillitis. In the folklore of Sri Lanka, the juice obtained from the tender leaves of this species has been used for alleviating various types of pains, counting headaches. People in India have been using the bark of this tree in the form of a cardio-tonic and also a diuretic. They also use these leaves to treat headaches.

Breeders of tropical aquarium fish have also used the dried leaves of Indian or tropical almond with a view to ensure that the animals remained healthy. They place the dried leaves in the aquarium for this purpose. These fishes include catfishes, betas, and black water tetras. In fact, Indian almond possesses anti-bacterial properties and these are responsible for keeping the animals healthy.

Aside from these applications, the Indian almond also has culinary uses. The oil extracted from the nut of this tree is used for cooking, especially in some South American regions.

Habitat and cultivation

The Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) is grown extensively in tropical regions throughout the world. This tree is often grown for its ornamental value. It is grown for the deep shade provided by the trees' large leaves.

T. catappa possesses the aptitude to tolerate strong winds and has the ability to grow well in windy areas. Trees of this species have a preference for plenty of water during droughts. These trees are propagated from their seeds, which are planted about 1 inch deep into porous soils that are well-draining. It is important to keep the soil moist and position the young seedlings in a sunny or partially sunny location. It takes about two weeks for the seeds of this species to germinate.

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