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Cassia tora is a dicot legume known as sickle senna, sickle pod, tora, coffee pod, tovara, chakvad, thakara in Malayalam and foetid cassia. It is mostly found in South-East Asia and the South West Pacific as an important weed. It is considered a wild weed, wild peanut or pistache that has many healing benefits. The plant is an herbaceous annual foetid herb. The plant can grow 30–90 centimetres (12–35 in) tall and consists of alternative pinnate leaves with leaflets mostly with three opposite pairs that are obovate in shape with a rounded tip. The leaves grow up to 3–4.5 centimeters long. The stems have distinct smelling foliage when young. The flowers are in pairs in axils of leaves with five petals and pale yellow in colour. Cassia tora yellow flowers occur in pairs with stamens of unequal length producing pods that are somewhat flattened or four angled, 10–15 cm long and sickle shaped, hence the common name sickle pod. There are 30–50 seeds within a pod. The seeds, roots and leaves from this plant has been shown to be very beneficial to the modern system of herbal medicines.
Cassia tora is most likely of Indo - Malayan origin. It is found mostly in India. Numerous authors have confused C. tora and C. obtusifolia two species for years.
Cassia tora is found in many parts of the world. It grows abundantly in parts of Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. It is also grown and cultivated areas in the Himalayas at the elevation of 1400 meters in Nepal. It is distributed throughout India, Sri Lanka, West China and the tropics.
The whole plant as well as specific parts such as roots, leaves and seeds have been widely used and was suggested to combat different diseases afflicting rural and traditional practitioners of Satpura region of Madhya Pradesh, India. Cassia tora is one of the recognized anthraquinone (organic compound) containing plants and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
Casia tora is very stress tolerant and is an easy plant to grow. In India, it occurs as a wasteland rainy season weed. Its flowering time is favourable after the monsoon rain. C.tora can grow in dry soil throughout tropical parts and high hills of elevation (Himalayas) of up to 1800 meters as well as the plains. It mainly grows during the period of October to February. The seed has vast soil reserves that can remain viable for up to twenty years and can produce up to 1000 emerged plants per square meter following a precise germinating rain. Once the seed has matured, it is gathered and dried in the sun.
In Vanuatu, which is an island in the South Pacific, Cassia tora has been known to suffer limited damage by the leaf-eating larvae of Stegasta variana. Stegasta variana is a species of moth called Gelechild moth.
Cassia tora is considered an annual weed and has a high stress tolerance. The main time that it may die off is the dry season of July–October in South Asia.
C.tora has many uses. The plant and seeds are edible. The edible part of the plant varies from 30 to 40 percent. Young leaves can be cooked as a vegetable while the roasted seeds are a good substitute for coffee. It is used as a natural pesticide in organic farms and its powder is most commonly used in the pet food industry. Alternatively, it is mixed with guar gum for use in mining and other industrial applications. The seeds and leaves are also used to treat skin disease and its seeds can be utilized as a laxative. This weed could also become a reliable cheap source of nutritious feed for Ctenopharyngodon idella, a fast-growing exotic carp. Cassia tora tea is a herbal, pure, natural and non-polluted green health beverage. In the Republic of Korea, it is believed to rejuvenate human vision. Additionally, the tea has created a new term “coffee-tea”, because of its mysterious but very rich taste and its coffee aroma. It is made from 100 percent Cassia tora, with no artificial colouring and no caffeine, and could be a healthier substitute for coffee and sodas. Since Cassia tora has an external germicide and antiparasitic character, it has been used for treating skin diseases such as leprosy, ringworm, itching and psoriasis and also for snakebites. Other medicinal provisions from plant parts include balm for arthritis using leaves of Cassia tora.
Nutritional Information A natural gelling agent that has industrial and food benefits is made from the seed. The primary chemical constituents of the seed include cinnamaldehyde, gum, tannins, mannitol, coumarins and essential oils (aldehydes, eugenol and pinene). The seeds also contain sugars, resins and mucilage, among other elements.
The galactomannans (a form of polysaccharide) from Cassia tora (CT- gum), after proper processing and chemical derivatization (converting chemical into a product of a similar structure), could function as an improved and more economical thickener than locust bean gum for textiles, because of the bean gum’s current high price ($18/kg) and limited availability. Most of the CT-gum processing plants in India are located in Gujarat state because of the availability of Cassia tora beans in the neighbouring states, but the widespread use of these beans as vegetables and seeds as cattle feed has been pushing up the raw material cost for the CT-gum industry. The total fixed capacity in the country is 0.2 million tonnes for splits and 59,000 for powder based on Cassia tora seeds. The capacity utilization in the industry has been around 70 percent for the last three years. Apart from domestic consumption, there are now noteworthy exports of cassia powder of the international standard to various countries. This includes the United States of America, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Japan. The export value of Cassia tora has been progressively increasing over the last five years. Comprehensive export data disclosed that Japan and the UK receive a regular supply, while the United States market fluctuates. However, the export growth rate of Cassia tora plainly shows the difference between quantity and value, which leads to a low price per unit price.
Social, gender and cultural issues
Cassia tora is culturally accepted, as it is a natural growing species. The plant is a more holistic use for many ailments and contributes to the nutrition of sustenance families. It is not a laborious species as it is considered as a weed globally, which means it is a very hardy plant species. It can be used in semi-urban areas and in rural areas. One caution when planting in a rural area is to not plant it in a pasture. The effect of ingesting this crop on a daily basis for foraging animals has not been studied.
Constraints for wider use
An immense reason for why it is not grown more often is because of lack of knowledge people have of the plant. Cassia tora is not well known for many sustenance farmers in the region of where it is optimal to plant. Cassia tora is very affordable. It would be a great benefit to them as said in the economic section that it can be a large production for CT gum. Families of sustenance farmers or urban families can benefit from the medicinal and nutritional uses that it has because they would not have to spend as much money on buying goods such as laxatives, medicinal creams and ointments, coffee, and some vegetables.
Here are directions on how to grow your own Cassia tora plant. Scratch and then pre-soak the seed for 2–3 hours in warm water before sowing it from early spring to early summer in a warm greenhouse or pot in your own home. The seed usually germinates in 1–12 weeks at 23 °C. You can also transplant Cassia tora. Plant them in individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse or your home. Do not plant them outside until the following spring. Using the Food and Agriculture Organization website is a great tool in finding out more about Cassia tora and its uses, more specifically there is an online brochure called “Country Compass” which lists medicinal herbs for countries across the world.
- Country Compass  Food and Agriculture Organization