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- This page is about the Cassia tora described by Linnaeus. Later authors usually applied the taxon to Senna obtusifolia.
Numerous, see text
Senna tora (originally described by Linnaeus as Cassia tora) is a dicot legume in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. Its name is derived from its Sinhala name Tora (තෝර). It grows wild in most of the tropics and is considered a weed in many places. Its native range is in Central America. Its most common English name is Sickle Senna. or Sickle Wild sensitive-plant. Other common names include sickle pod, tora, coffee pod, tovara, chakvad, thakara in Malayalam and foetid cassia. It is often confused with Chinese Senna or Sicklepod, Senna obtusifolia.
The Cassia tora 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 occur in pairs in axils of leaves with five petals and pale yellow in colour. The stamens are of unequal length. The pods 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.
Casia tora is considered an annual weed, is very stress tolerant, and is easily grown. In India, it occurs as a wasteland rainy season weed and its usual flowering time is after the monsoon rains, during the period of October to February. Cassia tora grows in dry soil from sea level up to 1800 meters. The seed can remain viable for up to twenty years. Up to 1000 plants can emerge per square meter following rain. Once the seed has matured, it is gathered and dried in the sun. In South Asia, it usually dies off in the dry season of July–October.
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 a species of moth called Stegasta variana, a Gelechild moth.
Cassia tora has many uses. The whole plant as well as specific parts such as roots, leaves and seeds have been widely used in traditional Indian and South Asian medicine. 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. In Sri Lanka, its flowers are added to food. 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 the Grass Carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella. 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. Cassia tora is one of the recognized plants that contain the organic compound anthraquinone and is used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. This herb is used in Ayurveda for treatment of swellings. 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.
Constraints for wider use
A 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. 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.
The taxonomic history of this plant is extremely confused, even by the standards of Senna and Cassia. S. tora and S. obtusifolia were for long and are often still held to be—and may eventually be verified as—a single species. Hence, taxa referring to either species were indiscriminately applied to both.
- Cassia boreensis Miq.
- Cassia borneensis Miq.
- Cassia gallinaria Collad.
- Cassia numilis Collad.
- Apparently a misprint for Cassia humilis, which would have been applied to this species in error as it is properly a synonym of Senna obtusifolia and Chamaecrista kunthiana, depending on the author.
- Cassia tora L.
- As discussed above, the Cassia tora of other authors refers to Senna obtusifolia
- Cassia tora L. var. borneensis (Miq.) Miq.
- Cassia tora L. var. b, var. humilis, and var. obtusifolia all refer to Senna obtusifolia
- Emelista tora Britton & Rose
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, particularly in forest and tribal areas.