Health Benefits and Uses of Indian Water Chestnut (Singhara)
About Indian Water Chestnut
English: Water chestnut or caltrop
Water chestnut or caltrop, is an aquatic plant belonging to the genus Trapa. The edible part is actually a large seed, which is surrounded by an odd-looking fruit.
Water chestnuts come from three aquatic plants:
- Trapa bicornis provides the ling or horn nut.
- Trapa natans provides the trapa or Jesuit nut.
- Trapa bispinosa provides the singhara nut.
Each plant's fruit is called water chestnut, but they are morphologically different from one another.
The Chinese water chestnut is from a different plant, Eleocharis dulcis, which provides an edible corm. A corm is a small underground stem that becomes bulbous. Chinese water chestnuts are not nuts, fruit, or seeds, but aquatic vegetables.
Nutrients in Indian Water Chestnut (Singhara)
Health Benefits of Water Chestnut (Singhara)
Singhara is widely used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine and is used to treat stomach, liver, kidney, and spleen ailments. It is a bitter, astringent, diuretic, and antiseptic plant.
Some of the reported health benefits are:
- It is a cooling food, ideal to counter summer heat.
- The juice relieves nausea and can improve the appetite.
- A paste of the seed helps to treat cracked heels.
- The acrid juice is used to control diarrhea and dysentery.
- Powdered singhara relieves cough.
- The fruit reduces inflammation and may act as an aphrodisiac.
- Applied regularly, singhara seed powder, mixed with lemon juice, will help treat eczema.
- Low in fat
- Low in sodium
- High in potassium
- Rich in minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus
- Contains moderate amounts of fiber
- Good source of energy
Culinary Uses for Singhara
The nuts can be eaten raw, though they are usually boiled. When they are dried, they can be milled into a flour called singhara atta, or chestnut flour, which is used to make Indian roti or flatbread.
This flour is used to prepare foods for religious festivals, including Navratri. It is an allowed food during fasting days because it is not made of grain.
The flour is also added to milk to make milk creamier and it can be used to make batter for deep-frying.
Don't eat singhara if you're constipated. Also, don't consume in excess, as these seeds can cause bloating and abdominal pain.
About the Indian Water Chestnut Plant
Water chestnuts cultivated in India are a specific variety. They have rough, thick skins. They aren't particularly good-looking and have a large white seed.
The plant grows in ponds, marshes, and lakes. The upper leaves float on the surface, while the rest of the plant remains submerged.
The petioles, or leaf stalks, hold air to help keep the upper leaves afloat. The plant has two types of roots: One that fixes the plant to the muddy substrate and a second that is attached to the underside of the leaves and floats free. These roots have photosynthetic activity.
The flowers open above the water surface. After pollination, they submerge themselves so that the fruit can develop. The fruit is always found under the leaves, and when it is mature, it drops off on its own and can be fished out with a net.
Singhara grow in three colors: green, red, and a blend of these two colors. The fruit are oddly shaped. They have between two and four short, thick, blunt projections jutting out from the thick seed coat, which is hard to remove. It can be either be sliced off into two pieces or removed by hand after the seed is boiled. Take care, because the seed coat can color the hands black when the fruit is handled.
The seeds are triangular and thick. They have a mild, sweet taste.
Singhara has been cultivated in India for at least 3,000 years. One can see roadside vendors hawking the raw or boiled fruit when it is in season. It is also cultivated in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Taiwan, and Australia.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or starting a new health regime.
- Adkar, P., Dongare, A., Ambavade, S., & Bhaskar, V. H. (2014, February 10). Trapa bispinosa Roxb.: A Review on Nutritional and Pharmacological Aspects. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/aps/2014/959830/
- Alfasane, Md. Almujaddade, Moniruzzaman Khonder, M. Mahbubar Rahman. Department of Botany, University of Dhaka, Dhaka‐1000, Bangladesh. Biochemical Composition of the Fruits of Water Chestnut (Trapa bispinosa Roxb.). Dhaka Univ. J. Biol. Sci. 20(1): 95‐98, 2011 (January). Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.banglajol.info/index.php/DUJBS/article/view/8879/6590
Other References Used
- Mann, S., Gupta, D., Gupta, V., & Gupta, R. (2011, November 27). Evaluation of Nutritional, Phytochemical, and Antioxidant Potential of Trapa Bispinosa Roxb. Fruit. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.ijppsjournal.com/Vol4Issue1/3050.pdf
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly