Baobab - "The Tree Of Life"

The majestic baobab tree is an icon of the African continent and lies at the heart of many traditional African remedies and folklore. Known as "the tree of life" - Monk Nutrition use Baobab in a number of our products, including our very popular Agave#9 Baobab Energy Gel.

A lone Baobab tree with elephants shading under its branches.

"The Tree Of Life"

The Baobab tree is a prehistoric species which predates both mankind and the splitting of the continents over 200 million years ago. All Baobabs are deciduous trees and can grow to 30 metres high and up to an enormous 50 metres in circumference. Baobab trees can provide shelter, food and water for animals and humans, which is why many Savannah communities have made their homes near Baobab trees. Carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old!

The Baobab tree is often described as strange looking, growing in low-lying areas and widely distributed in belts across Africa. They also grow in Madagascar, India, Ceylon and Australia. They grow in many areas of Zimbabwe. In the Northern Province they are found between the Limpopo and the Zoutpansberg range. Messina is indeed a Baobab town. There is a famous `halfway Baobab' between Louis Trichardt and Messina, a reservoir from which many have drawn.

The Baobab tree flourishes in extremely dry and arid climates, it is a symbol of life and positivity in a landscape where little else can thrive. Over time, the Baobab has adapted to its environment. It is a succulent, which means that during the rainy season it absorbs and stores water in its vast trunk, enabling it to produce a nutrient-dense fruit in the dry season when all around is dry and arid. This is how it became known as "The Tree of Life".

People standing in front of a large Baobab tree.

The Upside Down Tree

Despite being found in such difficult climates, it can grow to enormous sizes and one ancient hollow Baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its trunk! Various Baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn and a bus shelter. The tree is certainly very different from any other. The trunk is smooth and shiny, not at all like the bark of other trees, and it is pinkish grey or sometimes copper coloured.

When bare of leaves, the spreading branches of the Baobab look like roots sticking up into the air, rather as if it had been planted upside-down. Baobabs are very difficult to kill, they can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing. When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres, which makes many people think that they don't die at all, but simply disappear.

An old Baobab tree can create its own ecosystem, as it supports the life of countless creatures, from the largest of mammals to the thousands of tiny creatures scurrying in and out of its crevices. Birds nest in its branches; baboons devour the fruit; bush babies and fruit bats drink the nectar and pollinate the flowers, and elephants have been known to chop down and consume a whole tree. A Baby Baobab tree looks very different from its adult form and this is why the Bushmen believe that it doesn't grow like other trees, but suddenly crashes to the ground with a thump, fully grown, and then one day simply disappears. No wonder they are thought of as magic trees.

The striking silhouette of a baobab tree at sunset is a familiar site to anyone who has spent time in rural Africa - but it is also well known all across the world thanks to its starring roles in Disney’s Lion King (it is Rafiki the monkey’s tree), Avatar (The Tree of Souls), Madagascar and the famous children's novel The Little Prince.

Baobab fruit hanging from a Baobab tree.
Baobab tree without leaves in front of water.

Flowers and Fruit

The Baobab tree has large whitish flowers which open at night. The fruit, which grows up to a foot long, contains tartaric acid and vitamin C and can either be sucked, or soaked in water to make a refreshing drink. They can also be roasted and ground up to make a coffee-like drink. The fruit is not the only part of the Baobab that can be used. The bark is pounded to make rope, mats, baskets, paper and cloth; the leaves can be boiled and eaten, and glue can be made from the pollen.

Uses

Fibre from the bark is used to make rope, baskets, cloth, musical instrument strings, and waterproof hats. While stripping the bark from the lower trunk of most trees usually leads to their death, baobabs not only survive this common practice, but they regenerate new bark. Fresh baobab leaves provide an edible vegetable similar to spinach which is also used medicinally to treat kidney and bladder disease, asthma, insect bites, and several other maladies. The tasty and nutritious fruits and seeds of several species are sought after, while pollen from the African and Australian baobabs is mixed with water to make glue.

Man holding a piece of Baobab fruit which has been cracked open revealing its inner fruit.

BAOBAB FRUIT

While many people know of the baobab tree, not many people know that it has a fruit - and even less know that this fruit is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world.

In fact, every part of the baobab tree is valuable - the bark can be turned into rope and clothing, the seeds can be used to make cosmetic oils, the leaves are edible, the trunks can store water and the fruit is extraordinarily rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Women in Africa have turned to the baobab fruit as a natural source of health and beauty for centuries.

Baobab is the only fruit in the world that dries naturally on its branch. Instead of dropping and spoiling, it stays on the branch and bakes in the sun for 6 months - transforming its green velvety coating into a hard coconut-like shell. The pulp of the fruit dries out completely. This means the fruit simply needs to be harvested, 'de-seeded' and sieved to produce a delicious pure fruit powder.

Unlike many other supplements, baobab powder does not have to be spray-dried, freeze-dried or transformed in any way. It is 100% pure fruit in its natural form. Incredibly, the fruit has a natural shelf life of 3 years so there are no preservatives or additives whatsoever.

Baobab Powder is one of the health and beauty world's best kept secrets. It is an extremely rich source of vitamin C, almost 50% fibre and has the highest antioxidant content of any whole fruit. The benefits of baobab include:

Energy release - reduction of tiredness and fatigue
Immune function - protection against illnesses, infections and diseases
Digestive health - baobab is a natural prebiotic, supporting gut health
Healthy, younger-looking skin - baobab produces collagen leading to a glowing complexion and helps fight the signs of ageing.

Lara banga mosque with a large Baobab tree standing next to it.

SOCIAL IMPACT POTENTIAL

As well as its abundant health and beauty benefits, baobab could also transform millions of lives. How? It's simple.

Baobab trees grow in some of the driest, remotest and poorest parts of rural Africa. There is no such thing as a baobab plantation; every tree is community or family owned and wild-harvested.

An estimated 10 million households can provide baobab from the existing crop, that is so abundant it mainly goes to waste. National Geographic estimate that a global demand for baobab could be worth 1 billion dollars to rural Africa every year.

The only problem is that 95% of people have never heard of it.

Monk Nutrition has been using Baobab in our Agave#9 Baobab energy gels for a number of years and it's one of our most popular organic energy gels. When mixed with organic agave syrup, Agave#9 Baobab offers a sweet unique taste which has hints of honey, it can even be mixed with hot water to create an incredible throat soothing energy drink...forget coffee, this is perfect for those cold mornings when you need a hot energy boost before venturing out!

If you want to experience true exotic fruit, filled with incredible health benefits, then we highly recommend Baobab! It's so good we are planning a whole range of new products containing this incredible fruit, so stay tuned for more info!