Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata L) Parts: Nutrition, Applications in Food and Uses in Ethno-medicine – A Review

Review Article

Ann Nutr Disord & Ther. 2014;1(3): 1011.

Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata L) Parts: Nutrition, Applications in Food and Uses in Ethno-medicine – A Review

Zahrau Bamalli, Abdulkarim Sabo Mohammed*, Hasanah Mohd Ghazali and Roselina Karim

Department of Food Science, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Universiti Putra, Malaysia

*Corresponding author: Abdulkarim SM, Department of Food Science, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, Universiti PutraMalaysia, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

Received: August 18, 2014; Accepted: September 29, 2014; Published: September 29, 2014


Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is a multi-purpose tree with tender root, tubers, twigs, fruit, seeds, leaves and flowers which are edible. Owing to the nutritional and medicinal benefits of baobab tree parts, it have been used for various purposes for the past two centuries in Africa, and some parts of Asia. This has in recent times led to some statutory bodies approving its use in certain food products. This paper presents a review on the nutritional benefits of the baobab tree parts vis-à-vis its fruit pulp, seeds and leaves. In addition, the medicinal applications of the tree parts as well as the medicinal compounds contained are discussed. This paper finally concludes with the nutritional benefits of the seed oil for possible use as a premium oil.

Keywords: Adansonia digitata L; Baobab tree; Baobab leaves; Baobab fruit pulp; Baobab seeds


Africa has an abundant novel plant species which are known to be rich in health-promoting compounds, many of which remain undiscovered or unused by the western society [1]. The Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) is widely distributed throughout the sub- Saharan Africa and Western Madagascar areas and has many uses, such as medicine, food, and beverages [2,3]. The name Adansonia digitata was given by Linnaeus, the generic name honouring Michel Adanson who had been to Senegal in the eighteenth century and described Baobab [4]. The history of the African baobab is well documented in Baum [5]. Darwin documented baobab trees on the St Jago in the Cape Verde Islands in 1832 and he commented on their size and longevity [6]. Adansonia digitata L. is the most widely spread of the Adansonia species on the African continent which belongs to the family of Bombacaceae a sub family of the Malvaceae. Adansonia species comprises of 8 different species with large, spectacular, nocturnal flowers [5]. One of these species is the A. digitata L., it occurs throughout the drier parts of Africa. A second species is restricted to North-Western Australia (A. gibbosa), and the remaining six species are endemic to Madagascar [7]. The African baobab is known by a very large number of local names: English (Baobab, Monkey bread tree, Ethiopian sour gourd, Cream of tartar tree, Senegal calabash fruit, Upside-down tree), French (pain de singe, arbre aux calebasses), Portuguese (Cabaçevre), Arabic (Buhibab, hamao-hamaraya, Habhab, Hamar, Tebeldi,), Afrikaans (Kremetart), Hausa (Kuka), sotho (Seboi), tswana (Mowana), Tsonga (Shimuwu), venda (Muvhuyu) (Burkill, 1985).

African baobab is a very long-lived tree with multipurpose uses. It is thought that some trees are over 1000 years old. Since it is not grown agronomical nor properly domesticated [8,9]. It has been introduced to areas outside Africa and grown successfully. The tree provides food, shelter, clothing and medicine as well as material for hunting and fishing [3]. Every part of the baobab tree is reported to be useful [10] cited in [11] and [3]. The baobab has an extensive root system and high water holding capacity. Its mean annual temperature range is 20–30°C, but it can tolerate well high temperatures up to 40–42°C (in West Africa), it’s resistant to fire, and survive low temperature as long as there is no frost. It is drought tolerant and frost sensitive. This adaptation allows it to grow in zones with 100–1000 mm annual rainfall, but trees are often stunted in the lower rainfall areas [12]. The tender root, tubers, twigs, fruit, seeds, leaves and flowers are all edible and they are common ingredients in traditional dishes in rural areas in Africa.

The fruit is said to have high vitamin C content 10 times that of an orange, while leaves are high in mineral content and pro-vitamin A. the oils extracted from the seeds are said to be edible due to the fatty acid composition. Knowledge of all this properties is limited due to the consumers and researchers. This paper will focus on review of seeds, fruit pulp and leaves of Adansonia digitata L.

Applications of Baobab Tree Parts


The leaves are staple food for many populations in Africa most especially the central region of the continent [13,3]. In Malawi they are boiled with potash [14]. In Zimbabwe, they provide fresh vegetables that are substituted for the commercially grown leafy vegetables such as cabbages and lettuce [15]. In the northern part of Nigeria, the Hausas use the leaves for soup e.g. miyan kuka [13]. In Mali, the leaves are called lalo and they are used in making sauce and they usually mix it with seeds of Parkiabig lobosa, onion, okra, pepper, ginger, sometimes meat, but more often fish. The sauce is used with a thick porridge made from millet, sorghum or maize, but also for couscous and rice [16]. A survey in southern Mali regarding the use of baobab leaves in both rural and urban areas was conducted by Nordeide [16]. The result shows that out of over 100 rural households, 26% used baobab leaves in the rainy season, and 56% in the dry season and out of over 150 urban households, 6% used baobab leaves in the rainy season and 13% in the dry season.

The leaves contain 13-15% protein, 60-70% carbohydrate, 4-10% fat and around 11% fibre and 16% ash [17]. Energy value varies from 1180-1900kJ/100g of which 80% is metabolized energy. The leaves are rich in pro-vitamins A and C. In terms of protein content and WHO standards, leaves of baobab can be rated ‘good’ in that they score well for 5 of the 8 essential amino acids as shown in Table 1.

The highest level of pro-vitamin A was detected in young leaves especially when used as dried material [20], expressed in retinol equivalent it was between 9 and 27 mg/kg. Nordeide [16] recorded that the level of pro-vitamin A was about one-third the content in Amaranthus dried leaves. Becker [21] noted the absence of vitamin C but a significant content of vitamin B2. Scheuring [22] published the analysis of dried leaf samples carried out by Hoffman-La Roche, Switzerland, for pro-vitamin A (Table 2).