Locust Beans: 10Health Benefits of Iru – Nutritional and Uses
Do you know that locust beans are a food species whose value is acknowledged both locally and globally? It is not a common dietary item in various African communities, but rather a medicinal food and a source of revenue.
The west African locust bean’s fruits, seeds, leaves, nuts, pods, and essential oils are all very important. The seeds, which are surrounded by a yellow pulp, are the most essential and commonly utilized portion of this plant.
Locust bean, also known as iru by Yorubas, ‘ogiri’ by Igbos, and Afiti by Benin Republic people, is a native spice or condiment used in soups and stews. It is known as West African locust bean and has the scientific name Parkia biglobosa. It is a famous soup component all around the world.
African locust bean is a medium-sized locust tree that grows to a high of 20-30 m. It has a thick, widely spreading umbrella-shaped crown and a cylindrical trunk that may grow to be 130 cm in diameter and branch low. The bark is fissured longitudinally, thick, ash-grey to greyish-brown in hue, and scaly between the fissures. When sliced, it releases amber gum.
The leaves are 30-40 cm long, alternating and bipinnately compound, and have up to 17 pairs of pinnae. Its benefits are many (13-60/pinna), subopposite, 8-30 mm long x 1.5-10 mm broad, rounded or obtuse at apex, glabrous but somewhat ciliate near the apex. The inflorescence is supported by a long, drooping peduncle (10-35 cm). It is large, flashy, red in colour, and resembles an electric bulb. The flowerhead is 4.5-7 cm long and 3.5-6 cm wide, with a strong pungent scent.
The blooms blossom at dark, close and fade at daylight, and endure just one night. At maturity, the fruit is a linear, glabrous, smooth, indehiscent pod that becomes brown. It is 12-30 (-35) cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm broad, with up to 23 seeds buried in a yellowish mealy pulp. The seeds are globose-ovoid, 5-15 mm in size, smooth, glossy, and dark in colour. There are around 2800-6700 seeds per kilogram. The seeds have a strong coating and may live for up to 8 years.
10 Best Health Benefits of Locust Beans (Iru)
1-Gastrointestinal Disorders Treatment
Iru is also high in tannins, therefore the seeds, roots, stems, barks, fruits, flowers, and leaves may all be used to treat gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea and ulcers.
2-Encourages healthy eyesight
Locust bean is high in Vitamin A, which helps in eye health, bone development, and immune system function.
Vitamin A, which is found in locust beans, is one of the essential components your eyes need.
Simply increasing your intake of locust beans may lower your risk of developing eye disorders such as night vision, cataracts, and xerophthalmia.
Locust beans contain vitamin A, which helps to lower the risk/effects of eye infections, myopia, minus eyes, glaucoma, and other eye problems.
3. Wound Healing Capabilities
The bark of African locust beans may be crushed, powdered, soaked, and boiled to make an herbal tea that can be used to cure and mend wounds.
4. Dermatological Characteristics
Individuals suffering from skin illnesses may infuse, soak, and bathe in the root, bark, and leaves of African locust beans.
It may also be used to treat burns on the skin.
5. Respiratory Infection Treatment
It may be infused or soaked in fluids to treat respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, the common cold, cough, and fever.
The combination must be consumed and gargled by the patient.
6. Hypertension treatment and immune system booster
According to Yorubas, the fruits are often used to treat hypertension and to stimulate the immune system, particularly in immunocompromised patients.
7. Excellent for pregnant women.
African locust bean has a lot of protein, calcium, iron, and other minerals that are high for a baby’s regular growth and development.
Dawadawa (iru) consumption during pregnancy may aid in the prevention of gestational diabetes and anemia.
It is highly recommended for vegans and vegetarians as a high-protein and calcium source.
8. Helps in cholesterol control
Regular consumption of locust beans is thought to be one of the most natural methods to lower cholesterol levels. This is owing to the natural condiment’s antioxidant and hypolipidaemic properties, which interfere with the body’s capacity to maintain a healthy balance of cholesterol. The gum found in locust beans aids in the reduction of cholesterol levels.
9. Improves gum health
Mouth bacteria abound. Some are harmless, while others might cause tooth and gum diseases.
However, eating locust beans is one of the greatest ways to prevent/treat gum infections.
These natural condiments help heal oral ulcers, relieve receding gums, and inhibit the development of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Locust bean bark is steeped, soaked, and boiled to prepare a toothache mouthwash.
10. Has a high antioxidant content
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your body from free radicals, which are responsible for diabetes, heart disease, and other disorders.
Dawadawa is abundant in antioxidants such as phenols (catechins) and flavonoids (Iru).
These compounds are responsible for their anti-oxidant characteristics, which aid in the prevention of metabolic diseases.
Nutritional value of locust beans (Dawadawa, Iru, Ogiri Okpei)
It also indicated that locust beans have a high concentration of ascorbic acid, saponins, and phenols. The nutritional value of locust beans is high, suggesting that they are a rich source of macro and micronutrients.
The locust bean seeds are also utilized as livestock and poultry feed.
Locust beans are abundant in lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and calcium.
It is also high in essential nutrients like ascorbic acid, potassium, tannin, phytate, and phosphorus. Tannins may also interfere with iron absorption in the blood, which can lead to some health problems.
Locust beans and fertility
On the internet, many people have asked whether there is a relationship between locust beans and fertility. There isn’t a lot of scientific data to suggest that locust beans may aid with fertility. Foods high in protein (particularly plant-based protein), such as locust beans, may help with fertility.
How to Prepare Iru – How to Make Locust Beans
The Yoruba people of Nigeria consume Iru, a wet variant of fermented locust bean that is prepared in the same way as other varieties of ogiri. There is, however, a little variation in the phases involved in the production of iru.
The locus bean seed should be washed and boiled until tender.
After cooking, drain the water from the locust bean.
Wrap the cooked locust bean (Iru) with a green leaf, such as plantain or banana leaf.
Allow it to ferment for about 4-5 days.
When the ogiri is finished, sprinkle it with salt and cover it.
It is simply used loosely in the sense that it does not need to be dried, smoked, or moulded.
How to Store Locust Beans
It may be sundry or kept in a sealed jar in the fridge for 3 – 6 months. Locals wrap themselves in banana or plantain leaves and keep them close to the fire.