Balanites aegyptiaca

Balanites aegyptiaca is a species of tree , classified as a member of the Zygophyllaceae or Balanitaceae. [2] This tree is native to much of Africa and parts of the Middle East . [3]

There are many common names for this plant. [4] In English the fruit has been called desert date, soap berry tree or bush, Thron tree, Egyptian myrobalan, Egyptian balsam or Zachum oil tree; [5] in Arabic it is known as lalob , hidjihi , inteishit , and heglig ( hijlij ). In Hausa it is called aduwa, in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language taboraq , in Swahili mchunju and in Amharic bedena[6]


Balanites aegyptiaca is found in the Sahel-Savannah region across Africa. It can be found in Many kinds of habitat, tolerating a wide variety of soil types from sand to heavy clay , and climatic moisture levels, from arid to subhumid. [7] It is relatively tolerant of flooding, livestock activity, and wildfire . [7]


The balanites aegyptiaca tree reaches 10 m (33 ft) in height with a narrow form. The branches have long, straight green spines arranged in spirals. The dark green compound leaves grow out of the base of the spines [5] and are made up of two leaflets which are variable in size and shape. [8] The fluted trunk has grayish-brown, ragged bark with yellow-green patches where it is shed. [5]

The inflorescence consists of bunches of a few flowers, which are either sessile or are bound on short stalks. The flower buds are ovoid and covered in a short tomentose pubescence. The individual flowers are greenish-yellow in color, hermaphroditic with five petals in radial symmetry and are 8-14 millimeters (0.31-0.55 in) in diameter. The pedicel of the inflorescence is gray in color, less than 10 mm (0.39 in) in length, although 15 mm (0.59 in) has been recorded in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ellipsoid fruit is normally less than 4 cm (1.6 in) long and is green when not ripe; it ripens to a brown or pale brown fruit with a crispy skin a sticky brown or brown-green pulp around a hard stone. [9]

The carpenter ant Camponotus sericeus feeds the nectar exuded by the flowers. The larva of cabbage tree emperor moth Bunaea alkino causes defoliation of the tree. [7]



Fruits of Balanites aegyptiaca from Saqqara. Mastaba of Perneb, 5th dinasty of Egypt. MET.

Balanites aegyptiaca has been cultivated in Egypt for more than 4000 years, and has been placed in the tombs as votive offerings have been found as far back as the Twelfth Dynasty . The tree was figured and described in 1592 by Prosper Alpinus under the name ‘agihalid’. Linnaeus seen as a species of Ximenia , but Adanson proposed the new genus of Agialid . The genus Balanites was founded in 1813 by Delile . [3]

The yellow, single- seeded fruit is edible, but bitter . [7] Many parts of the plant are used as famine foods in Africa; the leaves are eaten raw or cooked, the oily seed is made to be less bitter and eaten mixed with sorghum , and the flowers can be eaten. [4] The tree is considered valuable in arid regions because it produces fruit even in dry times. [7] The fruit can be fermented for alcoholic beverages . [8]

The seed cake is still being used as an animal fodder in Africa. [8] The seeds of the Balanites aegyptiaca have molluscicide effect on Biomphalaria pfeifferi . [10]

Where the species coexist, African elephants consumes the desert date. [11]


Desert date is mixed into porridge and eaten by nursing mothers, and the oil is consumed for headache and to improve lactation . [4]

Bark extracts and the fruit repel [12] or destroy [5] freshwater snails and copepods , organisms that act as intermediates hosts Schistosoma parasites , including Bilharzia , and guinea worm , respectively. Existing worm infections are similarly treated with desert dates, and are associated with spleen disorders. A decoction of the bark is also used as an abortifacient and an antidote for arrow poison in West African traditional medicine. [5]

The seed contains 30-48% fixed (non-volatile) oil , like the leaves, fruit pulp, bark and roots, and contains the sapogenins diosgenin and yamogenin . [5] [12] Saponins likewise occur in the roots, bark wood and fruit. [5]


The tree is managed through agroforestry . It is planted along with irrigation and is used to attract insects for trapping. [7] The pale to brownish yellow wood is used to make furniture, and it is a low-smoke firewood and good charcoal . [7] [8] The smaller trees and branches are used as living or cut fences because they are resilient and thorny. [7] [8] [13] The tree fixed nitrogen . [7] It is grown for its fruit in plantations in several areas. [8] The bark yields fibers , thenatural gums from the branches are used as glue , and the seeds have been used to make jewelry and beads . [8]


Various Sahel tribes use the thorn of the tree to make incisions that result in tattoos . [14]


The generic part of the binomial Balanites derives from the Greek word for an acorn and refers to the fruit, this name was coined by Alire Delile in 1813. [9] in Descr. Egypt, Hist. Nat. 221 1813 . [1] The specific name aegyptiacawas applied by Carl Linnaeus as the species was originally described from specimens collected in Egypt. [15] However, according to ICBN Art 62.4 [16]: “Generic names ending in -anthes, -or -desides or -odes are treated as feminine and those ending in -ites as masculine, irrespective of the gender assigned to the original author.” Accordingly, the orthographic variant name that complies with ICBN Art 62.4 for this species is Balanites aegyptiacus .


  1. ^ Jump up to:b ” Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Delile” . The Plant List . Retrieved 17 December 2016 .
  2. Jump up^ “Zygophyllaceae” . The Plant List . Retrieved 27 November 2016 .
  3. ^ Jump up to:b “Genus: Balanites Delile” . US National Plant Germplasm System . Retrieved 27 November 2016 .
  4. ^ Jump up to:c “BALANITACEAE” . Famine Foods . Robert Freedman . Retrieved 27 November 2016 .
  5. ^ Jump up to:g Iwu, Maurice M. (1993). Handbook of African medicinal plants. Boca Raton ua: CRC Press. p. 129. ISBN  084934266X .
  6. Jump up^ Yves Guinand and Dechassa Lemessa,”Wild-Food Plants in Southern Ethiopia: Reflections on the role of ‘famine-foods’ at a time of drought”UN-OCHA Report, March 2000 (accessed 15 January 2009)
  7. ^ Jump up to:i “Indigenous Multipurpose Trees of Tanzania” (PDF) . FAO . Retrieved 27 November 2016 .
  8. ^ Jump up to:g Daya L. Chothani; HU Vaghasiya (2011). “A review on Balanites aegyptiaca Del (desert date): phytochemical constituents, traditional uses, and pharmacological activity” . Pharmacognosy Review5 (9): 55-62. PMC  3210005  .
  9. ^ Jump up to:b “Balanites aegyptiaca” (PDF) . . Agroforestry Database 4.0 . Retrieved 17 December 2016 .
  10. Jump up^ Hamidou TH, Kabore H., Ouattara O., Ouedraogo S., Guissou IP & Sawadogo L. () “Efficacy ofBalanites aegyptiaca(L.) DEL Balanitaceae as Anthelminthic and Molluscicid Used by Traditional Healers in Burkina Faso”. International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2002. page 37.PDF
  11. Jump up^ Kinloch, Bruce (1972). The Shamba Raiders: Memories of a Game Warden (3rd ed.) Hampshire: Ashford. p. 217. ISBN  1852530359 .
  12. ^ Jump up to:b Eshetu Molla; Mirutse Giday; Berhanu Erko (2013). “Laboratory assessment of the molluscicidal and cercariacidal activities of Balanites aegyptiaca ” . The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine . 3 (8): 657-662. PMC  3703561  .
  13. Jump up^ National Research Council (2008). “1. Balanites aegyptica Desert Date”. Lost Crops of Africa Volume III Fruits . National Acdemies Press. ISBN  0-309-10597-8 .
  14. Jump up^ Tapon, Francis”The History of Tattoos in Africa”. Retrieved December 7, 2016. “”
  15. Jump up^ Umberto Quattrocchi (2016). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology (5 Volume Set) . CRC Press. pp. 519-520. ISBN  1482250640 .
  16. Jump up^ “ICBN (Vienna Code) – Article 62” . . Retrieved 2017-08-04 .