This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The "Tamar Hindee," Indian date, comes to us only as a sweet, sub-acid, juicy fruit-pulp intermixed with fibrous strings, and containing smooth, glistening, hard, auburn-coloured stones. This pulp fulfils medicinal purposes which entitle it to high esteem as a Simple for use in the sick-room. Large quantities of the luscious date are brought to our shores from the Levant, and Persia, but before importation the shell of the pod is removed. The pulp possesses by nature traces of gold in its composition; but if exhibiting any presence of copper on a clean steel knife-blade held within the conserve for a short time, then an adulteration is signified. The occult influence of the metals upon the human economy, whether when taken infini-tesimally as medicines, or when applied externally to the body, or limbs, is not sufficiently realized as yet, though our forefathers had an inkling of the matter which amounted to more than mere superstition. Old philosophers spent much labour in trying to find the aurum potabile as the elixir of life. Again, a former ceremony conducted annually on Good Friday at Westminster shows the like belief, it being the "blessing of cramp rings," which was carried out by the King himself.
He went into his private Chapel on that day, accompanied only by his grand Almoner, and then crawling on his knees to the Crucifix, he there blessed a bowlful of gold and silver rings. These rings were afterwards distributed to persons afflicted with rheumatism, or epilepsy. The practice had its origin, it is said, in a certain miracle-working ring which was given by a saintly pilgrim to Edward the Confessor, and which was kept in Westminster Abbey. Of course the so-called hypnotic suggestion may have helped materially, together with metallic influences, in working whatever cures resulted from this pious proceeding. Half a century ago it was thought of service to apply metallic plates remedially to the soles of the feet, and to carry metallic balls about the person; gold was to increase the vitality, silver to clear the brain, and sulphur to cure rheumatism. Even now it is authoritatively advised that cramp may be prevented at night by holding a small stick of sulphur in each hand when in bed, since the moisture of the palm will somewhat develop the latent electricity of the sulphur so as to give off sulphuretted hydrogen, which will be absorbed by the skin. Chemically Tamarind pulp contains citric, tartaric, and malic acids, in combination with potash; also gum, pectin, and starch.
Boiled syrup has been poured over it beforehand. The fruit is sharply acid, and may be made by infusion in boiling water (and when allowed to become cool, and strained off) an excellent cooling drink.
The Arabians first taught the remedial uses of Tamarinds, which are anti-putrescent, and exert somewhat of a laxative action, being corrective of biliary torpor; but for these purposes an inconveniently large quantity must be taken, which would be apt to clog by its excess of sweetness. When acids are indicated to counteract septic fever, and to cool the blood, the Tamarind will be found exceptionally helpful; also, as slightly preventive of constipation a dessertspoonful, or more of the agreeable pulp may be had for a compote with lunch, or at dessert; this palatable pulp is put into curries because of its pleasant acid flavour. Gerarde tells that "travellers carry some thereof with them, mixing it with sugar, as a reserve food throughout the desert parts of Africa." The fruit of the Tamarind is undoubtedly of service against sluggishness of the liver, and by the virtue of its potash salts it will tend to heal a sore mouth as arising from fermenting acid humours in the blood. The natural traces of gold, minutely subdivided, in the Tamarind, are well calculated to make this fruit curative of secondary venereal disease.
Tamarind fish, prepared with the same acidulous fruit, is esteemed to he a relish in India. As an instance of empirical medicine, Dr. Pearse recorded the fact (in 1902) that "as long as forty years ago he observed a passionate craving on the part of native Indians for acid fruits, such as the Tamarind, lime, etc.; at which period medical usage in India very much debarred any supply of fruits to the natives; but nevertheless they were so importunate in soliciting these fruits, that their earnest petitions for lime-juice and Tamarinds could not be resisted. The instinct of the native overcame medical prejudice, and acid rations of fruits were ordered as essential in emigrant ships, hospitals, and jails. Similarly, too, the native had a supreme longing for onions, and for garlic in his curry. "Empiricism," adds Dr. Pearse, "the outcome of human experience, precedes, and indeed makes a part of true science. The strongly-expressed longings of a people for a special food should arouse, and enlist our earnest attention." For making Tamarind water as a fever drink: "Take two ounces of juicy Tamarinds, a quarter of a pound of stoned raisins, and three pints of water; put the Tamarinds, raisins, and water into a stewpan, and boil gently, for one hour; then strain, and use when cold".