by Deb Powers
Baobab has burst onto the wellness scene, taking center stage as the newest superfruit discovery from Africa. According to some claims, it has more antioxidants than bilberry and green tea, six times as much vitamin C as an orange and is twice as high in calcium as milk. But what is baobab and why is everyone so excited about it? Let’s take a look at what science — both traditional and alternative — know about baobab fruit and its many uses.
What Is Baobab?
One of the first questions you might have about baobab is “how the heck do you pronounce it?” Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two alternate pronunciations — ˈbau̇-ˌbab (sounds like BOW-bab) or bā-ə-ˌbab (sounds like BAY-a-bab) — so you’re probably saying it right. The rest of the dictionary definition for this African tree, which is commonly known as the “tree of life” in its native home, doesn’t make it sound all that appealing: a broad-trunked tropical tree that is native to Africa and has an edible acidic fruit resembling a gourd and bark used in making paper, cloth, and rope. Baobab also grows in Madagascar and Australia.
Traditional Baobab Uses
That definition doesn’t begin to capture the presence, reputation or use of the baobab tree in everyday life, though. Traditionally, baobab trees have provided food, shelter, clothing, and medicine to indigenous populations in central and sub-Saharan Africa. Dried baobab leaves thicken stews and soups, while the fruit — fresh or powdered — makes a refreshing drink that tastes like a cross between citrus and vanilla, tangy and sweet at the same time. Baobab leaves, fruit, roots, and bark are traditional treatments for fever, diarrhea, inflammation, edema, asthma, cough, dysentery, swollen gums — and that’s just a partial list. Mothers even bathe babies in baobab infusions to soften their skin and promote healing.
Baobab Fruit Powder: What’s in It?
Unless you live in baobab’s native zone, you’re most likely to encounter it as a dried powder made from the fruit and/or the seeds of the baobab tree, often sold as a supplement to add to drinks and foods. While the nutritional content can vary depending on where it’s grown, baobab powder is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all important to a healthy diet.
Baobab Benefits: What the Research Says
The early research on the health and wellness benefits of baobab is promising on several fronts. While there is little research — on humans anyway — specific to baobab powder and fruits, there’s a wealth of research to support the benefits of all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it provides:
- Two studies have found that baobab powder may help control blood sugar spikes and improve insulin function
- Baobab powder is a good way to add fiber to your diet. Research shows that dietary fiber may promote gut health, stabilize blood glucose levels, reduce the risk of depression and reduce the risk of Crohn’s disease
- Baobab may help reduce chronic inflammation and support heart health
- Baobab promotes skin health with a high concentration of antioxidants, polyphenols and skin-loving vitamin C
- The potassium in baobab may help control blood pressure
- The calcium in baobab supports strong bones and teeth
- Baobab is rich in antioxidants, which help fight inflammation, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, support brain health, counter the effects of stress and reduce the risk of many cancers
- Baobab powder is a good source of B vitamins, which help fight the effects of stress, improve your cholesterol profile, support healthy brain function and assist with cell repair and renewal
Ways to Use Baobab Superfruit
Unless you live in Madagascar, Australia or Central Africa, you can’t just go out into your front yard and pick a baobab for breakfast — and you’re not likely to find it at your local grocery. Instead, you’ll find powdered baobab and baobab supplements that you can add to drinks, cereal, and other recipes to increase their nutritional content. The tangy tropical flavor makes it a tasty addition, unlike so many other nutritional supplements. Try it in:
- Drink UBU natural energy drinks before a workout
- Sprinkled on or stirred into yogurt
- Stirred into a cup of hot water for a refreshing baobab tea
- Added to your favorite recipes for salad dressing, barbecue sauce, and other condiments
- Stirred into soups and curries to thicken them and add a punch of acidity
- Make your own skin creams and masks? Try adding a tablespoon of baobab powder to reap the healthy, healing power of its antioxidants and vitamin C
- Sip on UBU CBD sparkling water as a workout recovery
The popularity of superfruits tends to come and go with the seasons, but baobab fruit has stood the test of time. Expect to see much more of this African fruit appearing in power bowls and cosmetics over the next few years.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about natural foods and wellness. Part of her work with a local food policy advisory council focuses on truth in labeling and food origin labeling laws.