Saraca asoca is a tree plant belonging to legume family, found in rain forests of western coastal zones of India. Being a wild tree, it is not grown in plains. It produces heavy and lush bunches of flowers which are bright orange or yellow in color. The flowers turn into red before witting.
A few varieties of the tree are found to exist. While some are columnar, some others are large and hugely spreading. The tress are also cultivated in foot hills of Maharashtra. The tree is now cultivated all over India, particularly in gardens for the ornamental value of the attractive color of the flowers.
Saraca asoca tree is considered a sacred tree in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka associated with Hindu religion. The tree is also known as sita asoka according to myths. It is mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana that Sitadevi was kept in the Asokavana by Raavan uder an asoca tree. The tree is also called sorrow less tree.
Saraca asoca tree should not be mistaken as similar to another species of tree called false ashoka tree which grows very tall with dark green leaves but with apple green flowers. These false ashoka trees do not provide the significant health benefits derived from saraca asoca.
Health benefits of Saraca asoca
The parts used in the preparation of herbal medicines are flowers, seeds, leaves and stem bark of the tree and are known to have common properties. They are astringent and bitter. Soft and dry which produce cooling effect on the body. They are used in siddha, Ayurveda and unani system of medicine.
- Barks are rich in flavonoids, steroids (glycosides) and tannins and the preparations made from the bark are used to enhance the complexion.
- Issues related to menstruation: Bark of the tree is used in medicines prepared for uterine problems particularly to address excess bleeding during menstrual cycles. The decoction of the bark is used to derive these benefits.
- Anti-estrogenic: Much of the health problems experienced by women are due to high level of estrogen in their body. Saraca asoca being anti-estrogenic is therefore highly beneficial to address the problems.
- Improves fertility in women: Even though the parts are used to prepare medicines for various ailments, it is mostly sought after for treating gynecological problems.
- Leaves provide carbohydrates, tannins and certain acids.
- Deworm: The leaves and bark are used in extractions prepared to cure ringworms in the stomach.
- Seeds contain fatty acids and the flowers are rich source of proteins, saracasin, saracadin and steroids.
- Regulates blood sugar: Dried flowers are used in the treatment of The dried powder of the leaves is mixed with milk or water and consumed twice a day to cure diabetes. So also, the decoction prepared from the bark is consumed twice to treat diabetes.
- Cures dysentery: The powder of the flower is mixed with water and a small quantity is consumed to cure dysentery.
It is the dry red bark of the tree which is said to contain high quality of medicinal properties.
Medicines prepared from the parts of the tree are found to provide cure for various ailments which include
- Management of reproductive problems in women. It is considered as women’s friend for it has the ability to cure much of the problems in women relating to menstruation, menstrual cycle and excessive bleeding.
- Both menorrhagia (excessive uterine bleeding during menses) and dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps and painful menses) are cured by saraca asoca.
- Stimulates tissues of the ovary.
- The parts of the tree are used in medicines prepared to treat leucorrhea (white discharge from vagina which mainly consists of mucus) and various painful conditions of the body in both males and females.
- Asoca is a blood purifier and also improves blood circulation. It is used in the treatment of most of the skin diseases, ammenorhea, dysmenorrhea menopause, menorrhagia, painful menstruation, cancer, diarrhea, dysentery, edema, heart related diseases, hepatitis, herpes, jaundice, pain in the joints including arthritis, kidney and gall bladder stones, paralysis, blocks in the urinary tract.
- Extracts prepared from the parts of the tree are used to treat hypertension, circulatory problems and congestive heart failure.
Treatment of cardiovascular diseases:
In Raj Nighantu, an Ayurvedic text book of 14th century, Saraca asoca has been cited as a heart tonic and useful in the treatment of tumors and abdominal pain.
Cardiovascular diseases and chronic arthritis are caused by cytokines which are inflammatory. Extracts prepared from the bark, leaf and root of saraca asoca in ethanol and methanol media are known to possess anti-inflammatory potential. Such extracts not only protect the cardiac tissues from the invasion of inflammatory cells but are also capable of reducing rheumatoid arthritis. However these are yet to be precisely proved in humans and the experiments have not reached such an advanced stage.
Raw parts of the tree are best bought during the months of January to April of the year. Medicinal preparations of the parts of the tree are readily available in the market in the form of syrups, powder and capsules.