The Baobab

Sunrise at Baines campsite 2 in Botswana

What is Baobab?

 The Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is one of Africa’s best-known and most iconic tree species. Widely distributed across the continent, and celebrated in folklore and legend for its mythical healing properties, the tree has special significance to people throughout Africa. Famed for its ability to survive in the harshest of conditions, and notable for its extraordinary size and fantastical shape, the baobab has recently acquired notoriety for the incredible nutritional values of its fruit, and the potent skincare properties of its oil.

In many African cultures, the baobab is called “the Upside Down” tree, deriving from the myth that the trees were thrown down to earth by the gods and landed in the ground upside down with their roots in the air. It is, truly, a remarkable tree.

 

Baobab fruit powder

The baobab fruit has a hard, woody outer shell. Contained within are a large number of seeds, each one coated in a rich, white powder that is the “pulp” of the fruit. Because the tree grows in very dry conditions and want to lose as less water as possible, this pulp is naturally dry.

Traditionally, the powder-coated seeds are soaked in milk or water until the powder separates from the seed and dissolves into the liquid, creating a thick, creamy and very refreshing beverage. In some African countries, the powder is separated from the seed using a traditional pestle and mortar, and is then added to porridge, or mixed into soups and other foods.  Today, the powder is separated from the seed using modern industrial technology, before being milled and sieved to produce the fine, white powder that is marketed throughout the world as “Baobab Fruit Powder”.

The powder is fabled throughout Africa for its exceptional nutritional properties, and is a favourite food during the winter months when the fruit are harvested. In addition to being an important food, the powder is often mixed into a medicinal beverage, said to strengthen immune systems, prevent colds and fever, settle troubled digestive systems and restore vigour and energy to the patient. The powder is also used by endurance athletes to give them strength and vitality.

The Fruitpowder contains  a relativly high volume on Vitamine, which protects body cells from oxidative stress and can help against fatigue. Also other Antioxidants, like Polyphenols were found to be present in the Baobab fruit pulp, increasing the nutritional value of this fruit. Furthermore the soluble and also unsoluble fibres in the  frut pulp nourish the microbiome and thereby bring or keep the gut flora in balance. That is also why it is also often used to cure diarrhea.

Baobab fibre

Inside the outer shells of the fruit, the mixture of seeds and powdery pulp are held together by thin, red tendrils of fibre. This fibre, which plays a similar role to the pith in an orange, is known as the funicle. Because these funicles carry nutrients direct to the seeds, they retain a high concentration of many of the polyphenols and antioxidants that are also found in the powder.  The funicles are often milled into a powder and incorporated into teas, where they exhibit exceptionally high antioxidant properties.

 

Baobab seed oil

The baobab seeds contain an oil that, when expressed using cold-pressing techniques, is used in a variety of skin and hair care applications. Traditionally used for moisturising sun-dried skin, scientists have discovered a number of key benefits associated with regular use of baobab oil in skincare. Foremost amongst these is its ability to reduce Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), preventing the skin from drying it and keeping it hydrated and moisturised. Baobab oil also exhibits significant activity as an occlusivity agent, preventing evaporation of the skin’s internal water, and preventing topical ingredients from penetrating the skin’s barrier.