The name “tamarind” comes from Arabic “tamar hindi”, meaning “Indian date.” Several early medieval herbalists and physicians wrote about “tamar indi”. Medieval Latin use was “tamarindus”, and Marco Polo wrote of “tamarandi.” On the other hand, in India, tamarind is called "imli" (in Hindi-Urdu) but also "almi" and "chinch", in Malaysia it is known as "asam", in Indonesia it goes under the name of "asam jawa" or "buah asam" (literally "acidulous fruit"), in the Thai language "ma-kahm" and in Vietnamese "me". In Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Italy, Spain and throughout the Lusosphere, tamarind is called “tamarindo.”
Tamarind is most likely indigenous to tropical Africa, but it has been cultivated for so long on the Indian subcontinent that it’s sometimes reported to be indigenous there. Tamarind is widely distributed throughout the tropical belt, from Africa to South Asia, northern Australia, and throughout Oceania, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and China. In the 16th century, tamarind was introduced to Mexico, and to a lesser degree to South America, by Spanish and Portuguese colonists, to the degree that it became a staple ingredient in the region’s cuisine. India is currently the largest producer of tamarind.
Throughout Southeast Asia, tamarind is used as a poultice applied to the foreheads of people who are suffering from a fever. Tamarind is rich in antioxidants and popularly used in folk and traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. Tamarind leaves, bark and pounded seeds have been used in poultices on wounds which promote healing from ancient times. Anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties are also ones that tamarind is said to possess. Studies are being made into the effectiveness of tamarind against bacteria.