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Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. ex Del. (Leguminosae, subfamily Mimosoideae) is one of about 135 thorny African Acacia species. Variation is considerable with nine subspecies presently recognized, three occurring in the Indian subcontinent and six throughout Africa (Brenan 1983.) They are distinguished by the shape and pubescense of pods and the habit of the tree.


Latin Names

English Names

Sanskrit Name

Hindi Name

Acacia nilotica
Delile. (Sub species
indica (Benth.) Brenan
/ A. arabica Willd. var. indica Benth.

Indian Gum Arabic
Tree, Black Babool





History  |   Habitat  |   Morphology Description (Habit)  |   Principal Constituents  |   Pharmacology  |   Indications   |

Toxicology  |   Product Range  |   References




This tree is the "babbula" of Sanskrit writers, who mention the use of young leaves and pods as an astringent. The bark is used as a substitute for oak in government hospitals in India. The gum is used as a substitute for Gum Arabica. It is indigenous to the plains of Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra in India.




It grows throughout the drier parts of India.


Morphology Description (Habit)

It is a moderate-sized, almost evergreen tree with a short trunk, and a spreading crown. The bark is dark brown to almost black, longitudinally fissured or deeply cracked. Leaves are 2-pinnate and the main rachis has glands. Stipular spines are variable. Leaflets are subsessile and glabrous. Flowers golden-yellow, fragrant, crowded in long-stalked globose heads, forming auxiliary clusters of 2-5 heads. Pods are stalked, flat, compressed 7.5-15.0 cm in length and contracted between the circular seeds. Three subspecies are recognized in India.


Principal Constituents

It contains gallic acid, m-digallic acid,(+)-catechin, chlorogenic acid, gallolyated flavan-3,4-diol and robidandiol (7,3',4'5',-tetrahydroxyflavan-3,4-diol)1.



It has spasmogenic, vasoconstrictor2, anti-hypertensive, antispasmodic3, anti-inflammatory4 and anti-platelet aggregatory activity5.



A. nilotica, at 2% and 8% levels, has a low toxicity potential6. In a survey of potentially allergenic plants in Pondicherry, it was reported likely to cause pollen allergy7.



It is astringent, demulcent, aphrodisiac, tonic and antipyretic. It is used in conditions of bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and genitourinary disorders.


Product Range




  1. AHEAD CD, CSIR, New Delhi.

  2. Amos, S. et. al., 1999, Phytother. Res., Vol. 13(8) pp.683-685.

  3. Gilani, A.H. et. al., 1999, Phytother, Res., Vol. 3(8), pp. 665-669.

  4. Dafallah, A.A., et. al., 1996, Am. J. Chin. Med., Vol. 24, pp. 263-269.

  5. Shah, B. H. et. al., 1997, Gen. Pharmacol. V. 29(2), pp. 251-255.

  6. Al-Mustafa Z. H. and Dafallah A.A., 2000, A study on the toxicology of Acacia nilotica, Am. J. Chin. Med. Vo. 28(1): pp. 123-129.

  7. Anonymous, 1998, Wealth Asia CD-ROM, CSIR, New Delhi.

  8. Brenan, J.P.M. 1983. Manual on the taxonomy of Acacia species: Present taxonomy of four species of Acacia (A. albida, A. senegal, , A. tortilis). FAO, Rome, Italy. 47 p.
  9. Fagg, C.W. and A. Greaves.1990. Acacia nilotica 1869-1988. CABI/OFI Annotated bibliography No. F42. CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, UK 77 p.
  10. Le Houerou, H.N. 1980. Chemical composition and nutritional value of browse in tropical West Africa. In H.N. Le Houerou (ed), Browse in Africa, the Current State of Knowledge. ILCA, Ethiopia. p 261-289.
  11. Nongonierma, A. 1976. Contribution a l'etude du genre Acacia Miller en Afrique occidentale. H. Caracteres des inflorescences, et des fleurs. Bulletin de l'IFAN Serie A. 38 (3) 487-657.
  12. Tybirk, K 1989. Flowering, pollination, seed production of Acacia nilotica. Nordic Journal of Botany 9 (4) 375-381.
  13. Sheik, M.I. 1989. Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. ex Del. Its production, Management and Utilization. Pakistan. Regional wood energy development programme in Asia, GCP/RAS/111/NET Field document no. 20, FAO, Bankok 10200, Thailand. 45 p.




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