The Tamarind pod, though of foreign growth, has been much valued
by our immediate ancestors as a household medicinal Simple; and a
well stocked jar of its useful curative pulp was always found in the
store cupboard of a prudent housewife. But of late years this
serviceable fruit has fallen into the background of remedial
resources, from which it may be now brought forward again with
advantage. The natives of India have
a prejudice against sleeping
under the Tamarind; and the acid damp from the trees is known to
affect the cloth of tents pitched under them for any length of time.
So strong is this prejudice of the natives against the Tamarind tree
that it is difficult to prevent them from destroying it, as they
believe it hurtful to vegetation. The parent tree, Tamar Hindee,
Indian date, is of East, or West Indian growth; but the sweet pulpy
jam containing shining stony seeds, and connected together by tough
stringy fibres, may be readily obtained at the present time from the
leading druggists, or the general provision merchant. It fulfils
medicinal purposes which entitle it to high esteem as a Simple for
use in the sick-room. Large quantities of this luscious date are
brought to our shores from the Levant and Persia, but before
importation the shell of the pod is removed; and the pulp ought not
to exhibit any presence of copper, as shown on a clean steel
knife-blade held within the same, though the fruit by nature possesses
traces of gold in its composition. Chemically, this pulp contains
citric, tartaric,  and malic acids, as compounds of potassium;
with gum, pectin and starch. Boiled syrup has been poured over it as
a preliminary. The fruit is sharply acid, and may be made into an
excellent cooling drink by infusion with boiling water, being
allowed to become cold, and then strained off as an agreeable tea,
which proves highly grateful to a fevered patient.
The Arabians first taught the use of Tamarinds, which contain an
unusual proportion of acids to the sweet constituents. They are
anti-putrescent, and exert a laxative action corrective of bilious
sluggishness. A capital whey may be made by boiling two ounces of
the fruit with two pints of milk, and then straining. Gerard tells that
travellers carry with them the pulp mixed with sugar throughout
the desert places of Africa.
Tamarinds are an efficient laxative if enough (from one to two
ounces) can be taken at a time: but this quantity is inconvenient, and
apt to clog by its excess of sweetness. Therefore a compressed form
of the pulp is now in the market, known as Tamar Indien lozenges,
coated with chocolate. These are combined, however, with a
purgative of greater activity, most probably jalap.
The fruit of the Tamarind is certainly antibilious, and by the virtue
of its potash salts it tends to heal any sore places within the mouth.
In India it is added as an ingredient to punch; but the tree is
superstitiously regarded as the messenger of the God of death.
When acids are indicated, to counteract septic fever, and to cool the
blood, whilst in natural harmony with the digestive functions, the
Tamarind will be found exceptionally helpful; and towards
obviating  constipation a dessertspoonful, or more, of the pulp
may be taken with benefit as a compote at table, together with
boiled rice, or sago. The name Tamarind is derived from tamar,
the date palm; and indus, of Indian origin. Formerly this fruit was
known as Oxyphoenica (sour date). Officinally apothecaries mix the
pulp with senna as an aperient confection. It is further used in
flavouring curries on account of its acid.