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Acacia

 

china_coptis-natural_line.jpgAcacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian Acacias are not. They are pod-bearing, with sap and leaves typically bearing large amounts of tannins. The generic name derives from greeck (akakia), the name given by early Greek botanist-physician Pedanius Dioscorides to the medicinal tree A. nilotica in his book Materia Medica. This name derives from the Greek word for its characteristic thorns (akis, thorn). The species name nilotica was given by Linnaeus from this tree’s best-known range along the Nile river.

Acacias are also known as thorntrees, whistling thorns or wattles, including the yellow-fever acacia and umbrella acacias

Uses

Food uses

Acacia seed pods, also known as Guajes, served as part of a botana in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Acacia seeds in the Negev, Israel.

Acacia seeds are often used for food and a variety of other products.

In Burma, Laos and Thailand, the feathery shoots of Acacia pennata (common name cha-om, ???? and su pout ywet in Burmese) are used in soups, curries, omelettes, and stir-fries.

Honey made by bees using the acacia flower as forage is considered a delicacy, appreciated for its mild flowery taste, soft running texture and glass-like appearance. Acacia honey is one of the few honeys which does not crystallize.

In Mexico the seeds are known as Guajes. Guajes or huajes are the flat, green pods of an acacia tree. The pods are sometimes light green or deep red in color—both taste the same. Guaje seeds are about the size of a small lima bean and are eaten raw with guacamole, sometimes cooked and made into a sauce. They can also be made into fritters. The ground seeds are used to impart a slightly garlicy flavor to a mole called guaxmole (huaxmole). The dried seeds may be toasted and salted and eaten as a snack referred to as “cacalas”. Purchase whole long pods fresh or dried at Mexican specialty markets.

The first-known predominantly vegetarian spider Bagheera kiplingi, which is found in Central America and Mexico, was first documented and filmed in 2009 feeding from the tips of the acacia plants which are known as Beltian bodies which contain high concentrations of protein. All other 40,000 known species of spider’s diets are mainly believed to be carnivorous.

Acacia is listed as an ingredient in Sun Drop, Fresca, a citrus soft drink, RC Cola, Barq’s root beer, Full Throttle Unleaded Energy Drink, Strawberry-Lemonade Powerade as well as in Läkerol pastille candies, Altoids mints, Langer’s Pineapple coconut Juice, Wrigley’s Eclipse chewing gum and M&Ms Pretzel.

Medicinal uses

Scientific basis since chemical compounds found in the various species have medicinal effects.

In Ayurvedic medicine, Acacia nilotica is considered a remedy that is helpful for treating premature ejaculation. A 19th century Ethiopian medical text describes a potion made from an Ethiopian species of Acacia (known as grar) mixed with the root of the tacha, then boiled, as a cure for rabies.

An astringent medicine high in tannins, called catechu or cutch, is procured from several species, but more especially from Acacia catechu, by boiling down the wood and evaporating the solution so as to get an extract.

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