A tropical tree found in the Southeast Asia, Africa, India, Australia, and in the islands of the South Pacific, the Terminalia Catappa achieves a majestic height between 82 and 130 feet and a span of more than 35 feet in width. Due to its widespread range, it has a multiplicity of names by which it is known, including Ebelebo, Telie, Talise, Alite, Umbrella Tree, and Talisay Tree. It is also referred to by a number of names derived from the edible nut that it produces, including Indian Almond, Tropical Almond, Kamani Haole, Bengal Almond, False Kamani, Malabar Almond, Singapore Almond, Country Almond, Sea Almond, and Beach Almond.
The Terminalia Catappa is a member of the Combretaceae or Indian Almond family. It grows quickly at a pace of approximately 6 feet during the first years of its existence. It offers a pagoda-like shape that adds to its majestic appearance. The tree can be cultivated, but it grows freely with great abandon. It can become invasive, taking over large areas of ground with its growth. This variety produces green foliage at the ends of its branches, featuring leaves that are approximately a foot in length and half a foot wide. The leaves turn to rich colors of purple, gold, and red prior to falling off during the winter months. However, the leaves quickly grow back, bringing fresh color and life to this impressive tree.
The Terminalia Catappa is valued for both its timber and crop. However, the harvesting of its timber is not widespread, particularly in areas where other options for timber exist. The tree produces an edible nut, featuring an almond-like flavor, with an annual crop of approximately 11 pounds per year. The drupes feature a fibrous husk on the outside and are approximately 2 and a half inches in length. They are green at first, changing color to red or yellow as they ripen during the summer months. The inner portions of the drupes contain an edible kernel that resembles the almond in both appearance and flavor. This edible kernel contains high levels of tannic acid. The nuts can be eaten or they can be squeezed to extract oil that can be used for cooking purposes.
The Terminalia Catappa has a long life span, partly due to its tolerance of drought, moderate need for water, and adaptability regarding coarsely textured soils. Flourishing in sub-tropical and tropical maritime climates, the Terminalia Catappa enjoys elevations that fall below 1300 feet but above 1000 feet. It is commonly found amidst coastal vegetative areas as well as swamps, beach forests, sand dunes, and rocky areas.
Traditional medicine has made use of the bark, leaves, and nuts of this tree for a variety of purposes. The leaves have been used to concoct a tea-like drink that is intended to help treat diabetes and minimize the severity of the symptoms associated with this disease. The leaves have also been used to make poultices designed to alleviate joint pain as well as other types of pain, eliminate parasites, alleviate the symptoms of liver disease, and minimize episodes of colic in young infants. The nuts of this tropical tree have been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including travel nausea, headaches, leprosy, asthma, cough, and dysentery. The bark has been used in treatments for rheumatism, respiratory illness, diarrhea, fever, and high blood pressure.
A mixture containing crushed nuts, ground up bark, and leaves has been found useful in the treatment of various skin issues ranging from mild skin rashes to scabies. Scientific studies have obtained results that back up each of these uses, finding that the components of the Terminalia Catappa tree offer beneficial healing capabilities for the skin and body.
The nuts are used to create an oil extract that is utilized in skin care formulations designed to deliver anti-aging benefits, as well as moisturizing and toning capabilities. This oil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, trace minerals, oleic acid, and linoleic acid, making it an extremely useful emollient for skin care purposes. The extract derived from the bark and leaves of the Terminalia Catappa tree contains a complex blend of flavonoids, phytosterols, tannins, saponins, and phenolic compounds. As a result, the extract delivers antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory capabilities.