The Benefits and Uses of Date Palms
Date Palm, the Tree of Life
You may be familiar with date fruits that are nutritious and healthy, but do you know that date palm, the tree that produces date fruits, is the oldest fruit bearing tree on earth?
And do you know that date palm is also the source of medicine and building materials for the Bedouin Arabs, that lives in the desert?
This tree of life was even mentioned in several Jewish, Christian and Islamic writings and was an important part of many religious ceremonies. It was even considered sacred by the early civilizations of the Babylonians and Phoenicians.
Let us explore and find out more on the wonders of this tree of life.
1. Medicinal Uses of Date Palms
The Bedouins, who live in the desert, depends on the date palm tree for many of its daily needs including for medicine.
The Middle Eastern traditional medicine hence, came from the Bedouins, who use various parts of date palm tree to treat a variety of ailments.
This traditional herbal remedy is claimed to work wonders and some of them are as follows:
1.1 Unripe Dates as Fertility Foods
In the open-air market in some parts of Saudi Arabia, you might find young unripe green dates (and the dried version) being sold as fertility foods. I was told by these 'street vendors' that the Bedouin will boil the young unripe green dates or the dried version, and drink the water to help them conceived. It tastes bitter and may not be easy to consume, but if your desire is to conceive, it is worth giving it a try.
Date Flower for fertility
In another market, instead of the green unripe dates, the 'street vendors' were selling date flower, which they claimed is more effective.
I have read that certain fruits including dates as foods that can improve the chances of conceiving. There is also an article that claimed date tree pollen can yield estrogenic principle that will stimulate the function of the female ovaries and for male, the testes.
These could be the reasons why the seller at the second market claimed date flower is more effective.
I have not read any articles on the effectiveness of young unripe green dates, but if ripe dates can improve chances of conceiving, then I guess the unripe fruits may have the same ingredients to help you get pregnant.
You can try both just to be certain. There is no harm in trying as it is a plant based food and not a drug.
Fertility-boosting ingredients are usually proteins that come from plant sources. It must also be rich in antioxidants, folate, iron and calcium. These are all present in dates and may be even more potent in the unripe dates.
Eating Dates for Fertility
Dates is rich in manganese, which help your body to manufacture sex hormones. If you want to get pregnant, eating dates may help in the conception.
1.2 Dates During and After Pregnancy
Taking date fruits on a daily basis during and after pregnancy will help strengthen the uterine muscles. It will assist in the delivery and avert the post-delivery bleeding.
Dates are rich in potassium, glycine and threonine that will activate prolactin, the milk hormone. Hence, it will promote the flow of milk and helps woman who breastfed.
Ancient Egyptian Uses of Dates
Do you know that in ancient Egypt, the remedy for hair growth is to boil date kernels, dog's bone and donkey's hoof with oil or fat? It is then used as an ointment and spread on the head!
1.3 Dates to Restore Health
Dates are rich in Vitamin A and C, fiber, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, copper, magnesium and manganese. It is high in sugar, but due to its great source of nutrient content, it is used to restore health to the anemic and frail.
Muslims believed that Mary was asked by an angel to eat dates to give her strength and lessen the pain of childbirth when she gave birth to baby Jesus.
Top Date Fruit Producing Country
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1.4 Other Medicinal Uses
Dates have been the staple food of the Bedouins for centuries and medical records showed low occurrences of many fatal diseases including cancer and heart disease among them.
The Bedouins and others from the Middle Eastern and Northern African countries also used date palms as their natural sources of medicine for the following:
Date fruits to provide relieve from:
- Sore throat
- Throat and chest infections by mixing equal amount of dates, fig, hibiscus and raisin and boiled in water. Use as expectorant.
- Bronchial asthma by mixing dates with fenugreek
- Use as astringent for intestinal problem
- Counteracting alcohol intoxication
- Use as aphrodisiac by mixing dates with milk and cinnamon
- Poisonous effect by applying date paste onto the poisonous bite area
Gum from the date trunk used to:
- Treat diarrhea
- Genitourinary ailments
The date tree roots used to:
- Treat toothache
Date Seeds are grounded into paste to treat:
- Ague (having both chills and fevers such as in malaria)
- Skin allergy
Powdered Date Seed
- Drinking coffee made from powdered date seed will help relieve gout pains (based on Egyptian Institute of Medicinal researches)
These are quite an impressive list of ailments, but as a precaution do refer to your doctor for further advice before you try on any of these traditional remedies.
2. Date Palm as a Source of Food
Date palm as a food source was the reason that the tree was planted in the first place. It is the staple food and diet of the Bedouin and is usually eaten with cardamom-flavored coffee.
To a desert traveler, the sight of a date palm not only mean food, but also provide valuable shelter, shade and water, as date trees will grow where there is water in the desert.
2.1 Fresh and Dried Dates Fruit
Date tree on average can produce between 50 to 300 lbs. (25 kg - 136 kg) of dates fruit annually. There are several varieties of dates fruit available and recently Egypt named one of its finest and expensive varieties after the US president, Obama. This marketing ploy seems to work as it is also the most sought after dates in Egypt.
So whether you eat Obama dates or otherwise, date can be eaten out of hand and no special preparation or cooking is required. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and hence a complete nutritious meal on its own. It freezes well and therefore can be stored and enjoyed all year round.
You can sprinkle chopped dates on your cereals and ice cream. Dates are also used in cooking bread, cakes and other desserts.
Dates are also processed into paste, syrup, jam, jelly, date cubes, date sugar powder, date vinegar and even date alcohol.
Dates are now marketed as chocolate covered dates which sometimes are sprinkled with chopped pistachios, walnuts and raisins.
Most farmers will do selective culling while fruit is developing for more productive harvest. These culled date fruits will be dehydrated, grounded and mixed with other grains and used as feed stock.
Overstock dried dates are given as food to camels and horses.
In some African countries, dates and peppers are added to their native beer to make it less potent and intoxicating.
2.2 Date Seeds
If you want a different flavored coffee, then try roasting date seeds. Desert travelers used this as the cheap alternative to their favorite beverage. Add cardamom and you will get a mild version of 'Arabic coffee'!
Otherwise you can grind the date seeds and turn it into nutritional animal-feeds for goats, camels, sheep, cows and chickens.
2.3 Date Leaves
The terminal bud and young date leaves, which are rich in phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen and ash, can be turned into salad or cooked as a vegetable dish.
3. Date Palm for Commercial & Industrial Uses
Date palm tree is primarily planted for its fruits. However, it has other uses as well in the commercial and industrial sectors. In fact, some of these by-products equaled or are more important than date fruits itself.
3.1 Uses from Date Palm Tree
The common and most straightforward commercial use of date palm tree is in landscaping. The sight of streets lined with date palm trees will immediately make you think of desert country. It evoked an exotic and classy aura to the area. Hence, the extensive use of these majestic date trees in resorts and upmarket housing area.
Date palm tree requires lots of sunshine so if you intend to use them in your landscaping, choose an open area. It can withstand high temperature and the low temperature must not drop below 20 degrees F (- 6 degrees C).
3.2 Uses from Date Seed
Dates seed oils, which are rich in several fatty acids, are used in soaps and cosmetics. The chemical structure of date seed oil make it suitable as an ingredient for oxalic acid.
Despite its small size, date seed can be burnt and used as an effective charcoal.
3.3 Uses from Date Palm Trunk and Leaves
The date leaf stalk or spine may look long and slender, but is strong and can stand the weight of several men. They are used for roof rafters, grids, and fences, flooring for small huts, fishing rod, simple furniture, crates, and burned for fuel or converted into charcoal.
The fibrous part is turned into rope and the base, which is wider, is beaten and made into a hand broom.
The leaves as a whole are used as fencing, as partitioning in enclosures, as roofing material in mud-house construction and weaved into baskets and mats.
Empty fruit bunches are dried and used as brooms.
The date trunk may not be strong as compared to temperate or tropical trees but has a high tensile strength. It is used in the construction of small canal bridges, houses and also burned for fuel.
Elastic fibers that surround the date trunk are weaved into horse and camel saddles.
Date Tree Pollination
Do you know that only female date tree will bear fruits. However, one male tree will yield sufficient pollen to pollinate up to 50 female date trees
Date Palm Tree and Religion
As mentioned earlier, the date palm has religious significance and mentioned in several of Jewish, Christian and Islamic writings.
Date fruit is one of the seven holy fruits mentioned in the Torah. It is also one of the staple foods for the people of Israel during ancient time. During Sukkot holiday or the Feast of Tabernacles, date palm is one of the Four Species used in the daily prayers.
In the Bible, there are 42 references made to the date palm tree. Palm Sunday is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus Christ glorious entry into Jerusalem, where Christians greeted Jesus by waving date palm branches and covering the pathway with date leaves.
In Islam, dates and date palm trees are mentioned in several places in the Quran. The following refers to Mary (Mariam) when she was about to give birth to Baby Jesus (Isa)
“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree; she cried (in her anguish) "Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I have been a thing forgotten and out of sight." But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): Grieve not! For thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye.”
The Extraordinary and Useful Date Palm Tree
Not many trees can claim to be as resource rich as date palm tree except for coconut tree, which has several uses as well.
Benefits of date palms were mentioned in many religions and used in some of its religious ceremonies. The Bedouins had exploited and used every part of the tree for centuries and it had served them well.
Hence if you come across a date palm tree, say thank you for providing many benefits and uses since ancient time.