How to Use Acacia Flowers
Acacias are commonly known as wattle. Not only are acacias a known flowering ornamental tree in cultivation, but it is one of the most outstanding herbs that gives us substantial benefits when used in various forms. Acacia flowers bloom into a thick cloud of golden, nectar-rich scentful delights which not only look astonishing, but will also provide a valuable source of culinary and medicinal uses for people as well.
The leaves of the acacia are either pinnate (small leaflets along both sides of the leafstalk) or reduced to a leafstalk with no blades, as in many Australian and Pacific forms. In these forms, the leafstalk and leaf axis are flat vertically. The leaflets are partially or completely absent, and the basal portion of the leafstalk often develops into thorns to protect the plant from grazing herbivores (ex. Giraffes in Africa).
There are a number of varieties of acacia found in subtropical parts of the world. Those documented by the swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, are known to have thorns. It was around 1773 that he made these notes on the acacias found growing in Africa. However, acacias are known to be native to Australia too. However, the Australian varieties do not have thorns. The Australian acacias were often used for medicinal purposes as well as a preservative.
Because of the great use for them in Australia, it is no wonder that the golden wattle, or acacia pycnantha as it is also known, became the country’s national floral emblem. The plant and flowers are so loved that on the 1st of September every year, the country celebrates Wattle Day.
Acacia is classified in the pea family (Leguminosae) and in the mimosa subfamily. There are some 500 species, about 300 of them found in Australia and on the islands of the Pacific. The rest are widely distributed in the tropics and warmer parts of the temperate zones.
Throughout history, the acacia has been used for just about everything including its wood and flowers. All parts of the tree have long been used medicinally for various ailments as well.
Species: Acacia nilotica
The majority of species are found in Australia. There are also species found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and both North and South America.
Acacia as an herb has been known to have numerous benefits dating back to the 19th century. Ethiopian medical texts describe a potion made from an Ethiopian acacia species boiled and mixed with the root of the tatcha that supposedly can cure the infamous and highly infectious disease – rabies.
In Arabian deserts, the finest tree is the Acacia Seyal, which is thought to be the “Shittah Tree” of the Old Testament. The timber of this tree was termed Shittim, translated by some as “incompatible wood”. In Exodus, it is recorded that the Ark of the Lord was made of Shittim wood, overlaid about it. Acacia is obtained as a fragrant and highly-prized gum and is used as incense in religious ceremonies. In accordance with Christian legend, a thorny species of acacia was used for Christ’s crown of thorns.
A member of the plant family Leguminosae, acacia has been used in various medicinal ways in ancient Africa and Australia. In Ayurvedic medicine, acacia leaves, flowers, and pods have long been used to expel worms, 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.
Here are some of the list of Acacia’s common and traditional uses:
Relieves Pain and Irritation – An infusion of the flowers and leaves is taken for gastrointestinal inflammations. The flowers are also sedating. The gum has been shown effective in easing stomach or throat discomfort.
Helps Wound Healing – Acacia is often used in topical treatments to help wounds heal. Doctors, scientists, and researchers believe that this effect may be due to some of its sap chemicals, such as alkaloids, glycosides, and flavonoids. It may also help heal ulcers and can ease eczemas.
Soothes Coughs and Sore Throats – Acacia can also be used in mouthwash for gum disease and oral inflammations.
Decoction for diarrhea – Decoctions made from the powdered leaves, stems, and pods are taken for malaria, dysentery, and diarrhea. The brew is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
Culinary Uses– Acacia has been used in baking ingredients, tools and wood work for centuries. You can spot acacia on grocery store shelves in crushed, ground, or whole form. Most of the time the acacia in food or medicine is Acacia Senegal. This type of acacia is usually in gum form, and it displays acacia gums in the product labels and packaging.
Wherever this plant has grown, the natives of that particular area have come up with a number of uses for it. In Thailand, they add acacia herb ingredients from different plant parts in their soups, curries and even in omelettes. While in Mexico, the seeds are used in guacamole or cooked up for a sauce. Down there, they also create roasted seeds that they consume as a snack. There are even a number of sodas and drinks that include acacia among their list of ingredients. In the western parts of Africa, the acacias yield gum as do those found in India.
Spiritual Uses– A number of parts of acacia including the bark, root, and resin are used as an incense in rituals. People living in India, Nepal, China and the Tibetan region use smoke from acacia bark to keep demons and ghosts away and to put their gods in a good mood.
A Word of Caution
Don’t take acacia for more than 2 or 3 weeks in a row without a break as this herb can be very potent over time. In addition, do not take acacia if you are suffering from any kidney ailments and inflammation as the herb has a strong effect on the organ.
Acacia trees grow rapidly and have relatively short lives for a plant of this type. Like most fast growing trees, they have relatively shallow roots and brittle wood. The branches break easily in high winds. You can minimize the risk by watering it properly as a young tree. Each will require rich fertile, non-alkaline soil with good drainage to grow well.
Acacia trees are able to thrive in many soil types, but they grow best in a well-drained sandy soil. They can be planted from seed, but most people plant them from divisions. It is advisable to plant trees in Fall or Spring and water the soil once every week during the first growing season. As the roots become fixed, the tree will only need watering once every 3-4 weeks during hot weather.
There are numerous ways to use acacia as an herbal medicine. Try an infusion tea with acacia for a taste! The tea is both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial in nature. The tea could also be used as a wash by soaking a cloth with it, and applying to any open wounds or affected areas of one’s skin. A herb garden with acacia not only provides you with fresh food, but it will also brighten your home. A wonderful smell will emerge from your acacia and you will have both culinary and medicinal leaves close at bay. It’s good way to practice naturopathy in the long-term.
Remember, alternative medicine is within your reach.
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The Encyclopedia Americana. A, Grolier, 1998.
“Acacia.” Herbal Encyclopedia, 29 June 2010, www.cloverleaffarmherbs.com/acacia/.
“Acacia.” Medicinal Herb Info, medicinalherbinfo.org/000Herbs2016/1herbs/acacia/.