The name ‘“locust bean”’ is synonymous with the ancient African aromatic seasoning that is highly cherished by West African women for the preparation of different native delicacies. Beyond this, however, different studies have confirmed that the locust bean tree possesses antihypertensive, anti-diabetic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as phytochemicals, for the benefit of the human system.
In a study conducted by researchers from the Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Yola, Nigeria, titled: “In vitro antibacterial activity of Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) root bark extract against some microorganisms associated with urinary tract infections”, it was found that the root bark of the plant contains a lot of glycosides and tannins, appreciable amounts of saponins and traces of alkaloids. The presence of such bioactive compounds has been linked to antibacterial activities, while offering some protection to the plant against microbial infections.
The researchers – El-Mahmood, A. M. and Ameh , J. M. also found that the seeds of the locust bean were rich in proteins and amino acids and some simple sugars, lactose and maltose, justifying the use of in the treatment of snake bites, diabetes, fever and infections caused by some susceptible pathogens.
An expert in medicinal plants and CEO, Nigerian Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC), Pharm. (Hajia) Zainab Sharrif, has also acknowledged the potency of the phyto-nutrients embedded in the locust bean plant.\
The herbal practitioner, who has done extensive work on various plants, said the locust bean tree is so useful to man that, all the parts – leaves, bark, fruit, pulp, and seeds-are essential for human consumption and treatment of different ailments.
Botanically known as Parkia Biglobosa, the locust bean tree is a perennial deciduous tree mainly found in Africa, which grows between 7-20 metres high or more, with thick dark greyish-brown bark. Found in the Atlantic coast in Senegal, Southern Sudan and Uganda, it is also found in natural communities where cultivation is semi-permanent. Shariff noted that the tree contributes significantly to trade at local and regional levels in West Africa.
The tree has pods containing what is known as locust bean. Shariff said that Nigeria is estimated to produce about 200,000 tons of these per year. Each pod contains about 30 seeds.
According to the study cited earlier, the nutritional and protective potential of P. biglobosa seeds was assessed through the comparative evaluation of the proximate, functional, minerals, and antinutrient composition of the fermented, defatted, and protein isolate of the seeds as part of exploration into its antidiabetic mechanisms. It has been established that proximate composition is an important criterion to determine the nutritional values and quality of food. “
The findings of the study show that the protein isolate contains higher protein content than the fermented and defatted samples. This is in agreement with similar reports from other studies. The high protein content of the protein isolate sample could be attributed to its production processes which increase the composition and availability of protein in the finished product (protein isolate) by inactivating antinutritional factors.
The researchers further maintained that dietary proteins play important role in natural synthesis and maintenance of body tissues, enzymes, and hormones as well as other substances required for healthy functioning. The protein isolate also contain higher ash content when compared to the fermented and defatted counterparts. Generally, high ash content is an indication that the protein isolate contains abundant mineral content
The NMPDC boss asserted that the plant contains Alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, saponins, tannins. While the seeds contain proteins, lipids, vitamin B2, lysine, calcium, sodium, and potassium. The pulp contains high energy, 29 per cent protein, 60 per cent saccharine, vitamin C and phosphorus.
Other health benefits include:
- Healthy seasoning: Seeds are used in making the popular seasonings.
- Anti-malaria: It is used in the combination with other herbs in treating malaria.
- Burns treatment: Decoction of the bark is used in treating wounds and for burns.
- Antidiarrhoeal: Leaves and pods are used as an antidiarrheal agent
- Healthy heart: Decoction of the barks is used in treating high blood pressure
- Intestinal disorder treatment: Ever green leaves are used in managing intestinal disorders, obesity, antitumor as an astringent and carminative.
- Beverage: The seed is used as a substitute for coffee
- Healthy food: Used as energy food source during famine or draught.
- Maceration of stem bark is taken for ulcers, asthma, and sterility.
- Aphrodisiac: Roasted seeds (Sudan coffee) as aphrodisiac.
- Anti-inflammation: Mouthwash made from bark is used for toothache, jaundice treatment.
For domestic uses, Pharm. Shariff made the following recommendations:
- •One tablespoonful of pulp + one tablespoonful of baobab in a glass of water serve as a refreshing drink and tonic.
- •Two tablespoonfuls of pulp in a glass of water serve as a carminative and laxative.
- •Two tablespoonfuls of powdered bark plus half glass of lemon juice plus one to two tablespoonfuls of boiled water or dilute spirit or vinegar.
- •Chew the bark for virility and for aphrodisiac effect
- •Roasted seeds, one to two tablespoonfuls of crushed seeds to one teacup of boiled water as an infusion to replace coffee with much nutritive benefit. Suitable for hypertensive and diabetic effects.
- •One tablespoonful of powdered pulp in a cup of pap is useful for convalescence period given to step up the recovery period after an illness.
- •Also suitable for malnourished children.
El-Mahmood, A. M. and Ameh , J. M.: In vitro antibacterial activity of Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) root bark extract against some microorganisms associated with urinary tract infections. Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Yola, Nigeria. African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 6 (11), pp. 1272-1275.
The Nigerian Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC)