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Everyone has grown up listening to the Babool toothpaste ad jingle. The traditional tooth brush for Indians, Babul – also known as Kikar or Vachellia Nilotica or Acacia Nilotica – is quite a common tree in these parts of the country.
A thorny tree, Babul shoots up to a height to 12 meters and flaunts small yellow round nectar- less flowers. One can spot this gum Arabic tree by its red brown to blackish rough bark, and fern like leaves. Kikar can be spotted in various parts of Chandigarh – from the Chandigarh industrial area and the high court parking to Sector 7 and the IT Park road. The tree is in abundance in Haryana, too. It is said that the ancient Shiva temple Babulnath in Mumbai is situated at a place that had babul trees in abundance.
Kikar can be grown in any types of soil and has quite a bit of uses, medicinal and otherwise. Its bark and branches are excellent for gums. These are used to strengthen gums and stop gingivitis and whiten teeth.
It also helps to alleviate other ailments like diarrhoea, arresting bleeding and allaying skin irritation. Kikar comes in handy as fire wood, timber, fencing and hedges, thanks to its prickly character, paper production, and also as gum.
The gum Arabic is used in printing, dyeing, paints and is marketed as Amravati gum in India.Acacia Nilotica is quite a hit in the tanning industry, as the byproduct from felling the bark has high levels of tannin.
While the tree can be planted for ornamental purposes, it finds great use in agroforestry, as a ‘shelterbelt’ around fields. Its height and narrow crown produces less shade, yet its thorny presence acts as a solid boundary.