Botanical and Common Names
- Family Leguminosae
- Acacia arabica (Acacia, Babul, Wattle Bark, Indian Gum)
- Acacia catechu (Black Catechu, Cutch)
- Acacia senegal (Senegal, Acacia, Cape Gum, Egyptian Thorn, Gum Acacia, Gum Arabic, Gum Senegal, Tamerisk/Tamarisk, Babul)
- Acacia decurrens (Black Wattle)
- Acacia farnesiana, Mimosa farnesiana (Cassia flower, Cashaw, Sweet Acacia; Spanish: Huizache, Uña del Gato, Guisache, Palo Huisache, Binorama, Acacia, Espino Blanco, Huaxin (Nahuatl), Xkantiriz (Maya)
- Do not take for more than two to three weeks at a time without a break.
- Do not take if suffering from kidney inflammations.
The Acacia tree is indigenous to the Nile area, Ethiopia, East Africa, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. It grows to about seventy feet with hard, woody, rusty-brown coloured bark and feathery leaves. It produces small, bright yellow flower heads and pods up to six inches long. The bark is collected from plants that are at least seven years old and then left to mature for a year. The Australian species, Black Wattle, is commercially available under the same name as Acacia. The two are used interchangeably. The US has several species, but A. angustissim is the only thornless variety.
Black Catechu is indigenous to India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and East Africa, growing to about forty feet in height at altitudes of 5,000 feet. It produces thorny branches, divided feathery leaves and flowers of close spikes. It is grown mainly for its lumber. Black catechu heartwood is harvested, ground, and boiled in water for twelve hours. The residue is then removed, the extract steamed to a syrup consistency, and is cooled in molds. When dried, this shiny, black-brown mass, called “cutch”, becomes a brittle solid which is broken up into irregular pieces and sold.
Senegal is found in the tropical Savannah belt of Africa, in the southern Sahara (Senegal and Gambia), in Arabia, Beluchistan, and Sind. It grows in forest-like conditions in the western and southwestern Sahara region (Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast, northern Dahomey and northern Nigeria). The latex is the result of a wound infection of the tree which has occurred naturally or by inducement. The incised bark is removed in strips approximately an inch wide by two feet in length. The liquid dries to form a hard, glazed substance and is collected on a weekly basis from trees ranging from three to twelve years old. Only the latex from A. senega or other African varieties are officially recognized. Therefore, it seems, the latex from the Asian, Australian, and American species is not officially recognized.
The Mexican species is a shrub that grows wild, having thorny stems and clumps of fragrant yellow flowers. It thrives abundantly in the Sonoran desert and in tropical and subtropical climates throughout Mexico. It is cultivated as an ornamental in gardens in the Americas, as well as in southern Europe, where it is also grown commercially for its flowers, whose aroma is used in perfumes.
The Acacia genus includes more than 1,200 species of flowering trees and shrubs. Many of them are used medicinally for their soothing properties.
In ancient Egypt, the wood of the acacia was used to make dwellings, wheels, and tool handles. All parts of the tree have long been used medicinally.
The gum was applied to loose teeth by ancient Egyptians as its thick mucilaginous qualities helped to support the tooth while the astringent qualities tightened up the surrounding gum tissue. If the damage was not too severe, the tooth would firm up in a short time. The gum was also applied to open wounds as an antiseptic balm.
Since prehistoric times, the plant has been used as a food and a dye by the Aztecs, who also considered the edible seedpods as an aphrodisiac.
- mucilaginous (roots and gum)
- sedative (flowers and leaves)
- tannins ((25-60%)
- mucilage (20-30%)
- Bark, gum, and fruit (Acacia); bark, heartwood, leaves, and shoots (Catechu); latex (Senegal)
- Has proven to be active against Staphylococcus aureus, Psudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella spp., malaria, Shigella dysenteriae, Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
- lotions for bleeding gums
- gargles for sore throats
- wash for eczema and wounds
- eyewash for conjunctivitis
- douche for excessive vaginal discharge
- enemas for hemorrhoids
- decoctions for diarrhea
- mouthwash for gum disease and oral inflammations
(b) Black Catechu
- infusions, tinctures, powders, or ointments to act as a clotting agent externally or internally
- mouthwashes and gargles for oral inflammations or bleeding
- injectables are also available
Both the African and Australian varieties have tannin-rich bark. A decoction can be applied to inflamed tissue and burns to promote rapid healing and the knitting together of the tissues. This high tannin content also helps in the treatment of mouth ulcers and throat inflammations. Its astringency helps check the growth of oral bacteria while soothing the delicate tissues that line the oral cavity.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Acacia leaves, flowers, and pods have long been used to expel worms, to staunch bleeding, heal wounds, and suppress the coughing up of blood. Its strong astringent action is used to contract and toughen mucous membranes throughout the body in much the same way as witch hazel or oak bark.
Black Catechu is used internally for chronic catarrh of the mucous membranes, dysentery, and bleeding. In Chinese medicine it is used for poorly healing ulcers, weeping skin diseases, oral ulcers with bleeding, and traumatic injuries. A small piece of cutch can be dissolved in the mouth to stop bleeding gums or heal canker sores. In Ayurvedic medicine, decoctions of the bark and heartwood are used for sore throats.
Senegal gum is used as a mild stimulant and to impede absorption as well as for the treatment of catarrh and diarrhea. It is the source of the well-known gum arabic, as well as being a constituent of cough drops. It is also used in veterinary medicine for mild diarrhea in small animals, foals, and calves.
Mexicans use the flowers, leaves, and roots to make soothing teas and washes, good for the mucous membranes, and used mainly to treat bladder problems or as a topical antiseptic for skin and oral inflammations. The astringent fruit is used to treat dysentery.
Although herbalists in the US rarely use acacia for parasitic infestations, it is commonly used in other cultures. For example, one species, A. anthelmintica, is specific for worms in Abyssinia; A. nilotica is specific for malaria in Nigeria; and A. polyacantha is specific for malaria in Tanzania.
The acacia in some South American cultures has been considered specific for venomous stings and bites and used in much the same manner in each culture. The juice of the chewed bark is swallowed, while the chewed bark itself is placed on the area of the bite.
Decoctions made from the powdered leaves, stems, and pods are taken for shigella, malaria, dysentery, and diarrhea. The brew is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
An infusion of the flowers and leaves is taken for gastrointestinal inflammations. The flowers are also sedating.
The roots make a mucilaginous tea that is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It helps soothe mucous membranes from the mouth through to the anus, reducing inflammation and attacking microbial infections.
Any part may be powdered and applied to fungal infections, infected wounds, and to stop the bleeding of wounds and prevent subsequent infection.
To prepare gum: combine one part by weight of acacia gum with with parts by volume of distilled water. Place into a tightly-stoppered bottle, shake occasionally, all to dissolve, and keep refrigerated. It becomes a slimy goo in the process. One or two tablespoons of this at a time can be taken as often as needed for gastrointestinal inflammations, oral ulcerations, or dysentery. Mesquite (Prosopis julifera, P. pubescens) is a close relative and can be substituted for acacia, using the same preparation and dosage, with the same results.