Tonka Bean

Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Almendrillo Negro, Coumarouna odorata, Cumaru, Cumarú, Dipteryx odorata, Dutch Tonka, English Tonka, Fève Tonka, Gaïac de Cayenne, Tonka, Tonka Seed, Tonquin Bean, Torquin Bean.


Tonka bean is a tree. The fruit and seed are used to make medicine.

Despite serious safety concerns, people take tonka bean as a tonic; to increase sexual desire (as an aphrodisiac); and to treat cramps, nausea, cough, spasms, tuberculosis, wasting due to chronic disease, swelling caused by a blockage in the lymph system (lymphedema), and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis.

Some people apply tonka bean directly to the affected area for mouth ulcers, earache, and sore throat.

In manufacturing, coumarin, one of the active constituents of tonka bean, is used as a flavoring and fragrance in various products in food, liquor, tobacco, soap, and cosmetics.

In foods, the seeds are used to make a nutty-flavored beverage.

How does it work?

Tonka bean contains ingredients that help improve swelling (inflammation) and water retention.


Vitamin D Deficiency: How Much Vitamin D Is Enough? See Slideshow

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Cough.
  • Cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • Spasms.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Earache, when applied directly.
  • Mouth sores, when applied directly.
  • Sore throat, when applied directly.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of tonka bean for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Tonka bean is UNSAFE. It can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, sleeplessness, and liver problems.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers any food containing tonka bean or tonka bean extract to be impure.

There isn’t enough information to know whether it is safe to apply tonka bean directly to the skin.


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Tonka bean is UNSAFE. Don’t use it if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Liver disease: Coumarin, a chemical in tonka bean, can cause liver damage. This could make existing liver disease worse.


The appropriate dose of tonka bean depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for tonka bean. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors


Agriculture Res Svc. Dr. Duke's phytochemical and ethnobotanical databases. Available at: (Accessed 7 July 1999).

Cox D, O'Kennedy R, Thornes RD. The rarity of toxicity in patients treated with coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone). Hum Toxicol 1989;8:501-6. View abstract.

Duke JA. CRC handbook of medicinal herbs. 1st ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC, 1985.

Fetrow CW, Avila JR. Professional's Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicines. 1st ed. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corp., 1999.

Mann J, Truswell AS, eds. Essentials of Human Nutrition. Oxford: Oxford Univ Press 1998.

Marshall ME, Butler K, Fried A. Phase I evaluation of coumarin (1,2 benzopyrone) and cimetidine in patients with advanced malignancies. Mol Biother 1991;3:170-8. View abstract.

Mohler JL, Gomella LG, Crawford ED, et al. Phase II evaluation of coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone) in metastatic prostatic carcinoma. Prostate 1992;20:123-31. View abstract.

Ritschel WA, Brady ME, Tan HIS, et al. Pharmacokinetics of Coumarin and its 7-hyroxy-metabolites upon intravenous and peroral administration of coumarin in man. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1997;12:457-61. View abstract.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors