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Carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) - health-enriching plant


By Jovita Turan, May 3, 2023


Carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) plant that belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae) and subfamily Caesalpinioideae is an evergreen tree or shrub with health-enriching edible fruits also known as pods.


The plant is distributed in the Mediterranean region, the western parts of Asia, the western shores of the Americas, South Africa, and the southern regions of Australia. The carob is drought-resistant, having a deep root system plant that does not tolerate soaked soils. The plant needs low maintenance and it is easy to propagate.


Iliustration of Carob by Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION


In carob, you can find several bioactive compounds including anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolics, and phenolic acids. Moreover, the plant has nutritional compounds such as sugars, essential oils, carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals.


The pulp of a carob pod contains sugars, cellulose, and hemicellulose. The embryo of the seed is rich in proteins while seed coat contains cellulose, lignins, and tannins.

The carob seedling (propagated by seed). Photograph by J. Turan, 2023

BENEFITS FOR HEALTH


Carob pulp powder helps with glycemic, abdominal obesity controls, and neurogenerative diseases. It is responsible for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antitumoral activities.


Carob pulp extract has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Moreover, it has cytotoxicity and hepatoprotective effects.


Carob pulp helps to enhance lipoprotein metabolism and lowers total and LDL cholesterol. It has a hypoglycemic effect. The pulp is also responsible for anti-diabetic activity, it has anticancer and hepatoprotective properties.


Carob seed peel has anxiolytic, antidepressant, antioxidant, and antihypertensive effects. It helps to control abdominal obesity.


Carob pod is responsible for antibacterial, laxative, and anti-diarrheal activities. It provides anti-ulcer and gastroprotective effects.


Seed endosperm has gastrointestinal effects.


USAGE


These days the carob plant is used for agricultural, industrial, and for soil restoration (regeneration of natural soil cycles) purposes.


The usage of carob dates back to ancient times representing the importance and various utilization of the plant. For instance, in ancient Egypt, people were using carob pods to feed their livestock, and the gum (known as Locust bean gum) derived from the seeds was used as an adhesive in mummy binding. Carob seeds were used as a unit of weight and were called 'qirat' or 'karat'.


The word 'carat' (a unit of mass for gemstones) is indirectly derived from the Greek word 'kerátion' which means fruit of the carob. What is fascinating is that all seeds of this plant are fairly the same weight which is equal to 0,20 grams which is the same weight as one carat.


Seeds of the carob. Photograph by J. Turan, 2023

Today, carob pods in the form of powder are used in drinks, cookies, cakes, and other various snacks. In Turkey, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Sicily carob is used to produce compote, liquors, and jams. While in Libya, people are extracting syrup from the plant to make a traditional dessert called 'Asida'.


From the endosperm of the seed, locust bean gum (LBG) is produced and is widely used as a thickening agent in the food industry.


REFERENCES


Boddupalli, R. S. (2020). Traditional Use of Legume Seeds for Weighing Gold in India. Indian j hist sci, 55(2), 173-182.


Brassesco, M. E., Brandão, T. R., Silva, C. L., & Pintado, M. (2021). Carob bean (Ceratonia siliqua L.): A new perspective for functional food. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 114, 310-322.


Silaev, A. A. (2017). Carob (Ceratonia siliqua): Health, medicine and chemistry. European Chemical Bulletin, 6(10), 456-469.


Main picture: https://pixabay.com/photos/tree-nature-plugged-leaf-food-3280478/

Illustration: ttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Ceratonia_siliqua0.jpg#filelinks




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