John's Bread

Medical Herbs Catalogue


John's Bread

Botanical Name: Ceratonia siliqua (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Leguminosae

Synonyms: Locust Pods. Carob. Algaroba (Spain). Bharout (Arabia). Sugar Pods.
Part Used: Fruit.
Habitat: Southern Europe, Africa and Asia - bordering on the Mediterranean.

Description: There was a tradition that this tree was the food of St. John in the wilderness, and the name is derived from the legend. It is very common in the south of Spain, where it forms a small branching tree about 30 feet high, the wood of which has a pretty pinkish hue. Leaves pinnate in two or three pairs of oval blunt-topped leaflets, leathery texture, and colour shiny dark green. Flowers in small red racemes followed by flat pods 6 to 12 inches long and fully 1 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick, a shiny dark browny purple colour. They do not split open when ripe; they contain a number of seeds in a line along the centre of the pods, each seed in a separate cell of fleshy pulp. This tree is much cultivated in dry parts because its long roots can grow deep enough in the ground to find moisture. The pods contain a large amount of mucilage and saccharine matter of pleasant flavour, and are largely employed for feeding all sorts of animals, and in time of scarcity for human consumption. In 1811 and 1812 they formed the principal food of the British cavalry during the War; they have been imported in considerable quantities for cattle food, though they do not contain much nutritive property, the saccharine matter being carbonaceous, or heat-giving, the seeds alone being nitrogenous. These seeds are so small and hard they often escape mastication.

Constituents: Similar to Cassia pods, it is not known to what constituents its laxative properties are due.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Years ago the seeds were sold at a high price by chemists, as singers imagined they cleared the voice. By fermentation and distillation they give an agreeable spirit, which retains the flavour of the pod. The seeds were once used by jewellers as the original carat weight. Johannisbrod, so greatly esteemed in Germany, is made from the pulp of the Syrian Ceratonia siliqua. The fruit of John's Bread have similar constituents to those of Cassia pods and are also laxative and demulcent, with an odour somewhat like valerian.

Dosage: Same as for Cassia pulp and pods.