Latin Name: Pongamia pinnata Family : FABACEA Names in other languages Hindi : Dithouri English : Indian Beech Malayalam : Ungu
There are few other trees, except perhaps neem, that Ayurveda depends on in its fight against diseases than Indian beech tree (Pongamia pinnata). A tree which is often planted on the road sidewalks for shade, Indian beech is medicine from root to leaf. It is an essential ingredient in several formulations to treat a variety of diseases such as psoriasis, gastro diseases, rheumatism and related diseases and blood disorders. They are even used as toothbrush. The medicinal tree finds mention in both Charaka Samhita and Susrutha samhita, the Ayurveda classics. While the former classifies it as antipruritic, the latter describes it as an effective drug used against worms, skin diseases, diabetes and problems related to the head. No wonder the use and reference of Indian beech dates back to the Vedic period: Rig Veda and Adharva Veda mention about this valuable tree.
This medium-sized tree—which grows to a height of 18 metres and 1.5 metres in girth—grows easily in any tropical climate and is generally seen near hilly areas, mainly near water resources. It sheds leaves once or twice a year, after which new golden yellow leaves cover the tree like a crown. Fragrant, lilac or white-tinged with pink or violet flowers appear in the axils of the leaves in May-June. Fruits are pod-disc shaped with a single seed inside.
The seed contains 27 per cent bitter-tasting volatile oil which contains chemical constituents such as karanmjin, pongamin and glabrin. These principles are useful in the formulations to treat skin diseases. Pongapin, isolongocarpin and ovalitnone are some of the other constituents. The bark of Indian beech has bitter alkaloids and chemicals which act against skin diseases.
From its root to its bark, leaves, seed and oil, every part of Indian beech has a therapeutic quality. Based on its pharmacological properties, Indian beech guards the body against many diseases such as skin diseases—eczema, scabies, leprosy— and for ulcers, tumours, piles, enlargement of spleen, vaginal and urinary discharges. The tree is rich in flavonoids and related compounds. These include simple flavones, furanoflavonoids, chromenoflavones, chromenochalcones, coumarones, flavone glucosides, sterols, triterpenes and a modified phenylalanine dipeptide.
Formulation: Used in a paste form or as juices, decoction and oil.
Skin diseases: Applying a paste its seed is very effective in treating skin ulcers. In case of chronic skin ulcers, paste of the leaves is used. It is a main ingredient of medicated oils mainly used for chronic ulcers. Is very effective for allergic skin diseases like urticaria. Juice of its roots are also used to treat infected wounds. The seed oil is used in cutaneous affections, herpes and scabies. Another formulation for skin diseases is a decoction obtained by mixing the leaf of Indian beech, root of chithraka and saindhava with buttermilk. It can be given internally.
Orthopedic conditions:Medicated oils with Indian beech seeds are used to treat orthopedic conditions known as Marmābhighāta. Medicated coconut oil with its bark is used to heal external injuries like sprain and fractures. Arthritis: Apply seed oil. Take a bath in water boiled with Indian beech leaf. Digestive disorders: Take Indian beech leaves in the form of juice, salad or chutney. Blood purification: Decoctions and alcoholic preparations called arishtas and asavas containing Indian beech help purify blood. Fistula: Juice of the root is used for closing fistulous sores and cleaning foul ulcers. Diabetes: Its flowers are used in many formulations for treatmenst of diabetic Cough: The powder of the seeds is used in medicines for whooping and irritating coughs of children.
Modern studies have proved that the leaves of Pongamia pinnata possess marked antinociceptive as well as antipyretic activities and thus scientifically validated its use in the treatment of pain and pyretic disorders. In earlier times, Indian beech sticks were used as toothbrush as it satisfies the three tastes that are ideal for cleaning teeth pungent, bitter and astringent.
Indian beech is a non-fussy tree and grows in any tropical climate/ region. It requires no particular care, only sufficient sunlight. Seeds and twigs are used for reproduction. An Indian beech in your backyard will give you relief from diseases apart from shade that protects you from scorching sunlight.
The plant kingdom has provided man with his therapeutic needs over many millennia. Indeed the plants have been the therapeutic arsenal of all the documented traditional systems of medicine, which made possible the modern disciplines of ethno medicine. India has several unique features in the medical and aromatic plants sector, the first and most important being a wider use of native plants in the Indian systems of indigenous medicine which still cater to a larger section of the people. Out of the 3000 medicinal plants seen in India, about 200 species are used in bulk quantities as articles of commerce. Because of safe and effective constituents of plant products and active principles of medicinal plants in particular, interest in medicinal plants has been shown all over the world. Arrowroot is one such plant, which finds a place as a food supplement and also in herbal preparations. Arrowroot is the common name for a variety of nutritious, easy-to-digest starch extracted from the tubers of certain plants growing in tropical countries, or the plants from which such starch is obtained. It is open to speculation whether the name ‘arrowroot’ comes from the pointed shape of the root or the belief that it cured arrow injuries.
Queens Land Arrowroot
The true arrowroot or the West Indian arrowroot plant (Maranta arundinacea) is native to tropical America, especially Florida, and is extensively cultivated in the West Indies. The plant grows wild in some parts of India and it is sporadically cultivated in U.P, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, Assam and Kerala. Two types of plants are grown, blue and yellow, according to the colour of the rhizomes; the blue type gives a higher yield of starch than the yellow one.
The East Indian arrowroot or Curcuma is cultivated for its tubers containing starch which is used to substitute for the true arrowroot powder. The plant is seen in the wild in shaded areas of moist deciduous forests, along river banks, waste places etc. The species is also rather common in the homesteads.
Arrowroot plants are herbaceous with underground tubers and large leaves without any aerial stem.
PREPARATION OF ARROWROOT STRACH
The arrowroot tubers are ready for harvesting in 10 to 11 months after planting. Their maturity is indicated by the wilting and dying of leaves of the plant. At this stage, the tubers are dug up and separated from other plant parts. For the extraction of starch, the tops of tubers, which are poor in starch, are cut off and the rest of the material washed, peeled and pulped by beating them in mortars or subjecting them to the action of the wheel-rasp. The pulp is then mixed with water and the milky liquid is passed through a coarse cloth or hair sieve and the pure low-protein mucilaginous starch is allowed to settle at the bottom as an insoluble powder. This powder, dried in the sun is marketed in air-tight cans, packages or cases.
Arrowroot is valued as a food, especially for infants, invalids and convalesecents. It is employed in the preparation of biscuts, cakes, puddings and jellies. It is also used as a base for face powders and the prepartion of special glues. It is also used to thicken milk.
CHIEF CONSTITUENTS OF ARROWROOT
15 – 16.5
Arrowroot starch is useful in dysentry, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, bronchitis and cough. The plant is an ingradient of ayurvedic drugs which are efficacious in treating amoebic dysentry. Ethnobotanical surveys in Bastar, Madhya Pradesh, have revealed that the tribals use arrowroot powder prepared in milk along with tamarind, as a cure for jaundice. The Oraon and Korwa tribes of Madhya Pradesh use the tuber mixed with milk to treat debility and rheumatism. The tubers also possess antiseptic properties and are used in skin diseases. In Nagaland, the juice obtained by crushing the tuber is rubbed on swellings of the body.
Arrowroot is nutritive, and is used as an agreeable, non-irritating diet in certain chronic diseases, during convalescence from fevers, in irritations of the alimentary canal, pulmonary organs, or of the urinary apparatus and is well suited for infants as a substittue for breast milk. Arrowroot can be given to feeding mothers to promote lactation. It may be given in the form of jelly, variously seasoned with sugar, lemon juice, essences or aromatics.