Ashoka tree has been mentioned in some of the oldest Indian literature apart from Ayurveda. This tree can be found all over the Indian subcontinent. AcrossIndia, ashoka tree is believed to be sacred and apart from Ramayana, ashoka tree is mentioned in Buddhism and Jainism as well. Charaka Samhita which is believed to have been composed in 1000 BC describes about ashoka tree and its medicinal benefits.
Quick facts about Ashoka or Saraca asoca, Saraca indica
- Common name: Ashoka
- Sanskrit name: Ashoka, Sita-ashoka, Asupala, Anganapriya
- English name: Ashoka
- Scientific name: Saraca asoca, saraca indica
- Rasa: Tikta, Kasaya, Madhura
- Guna: Laghu, Ruska
- Virya: Sita
- Vipaka: Katu
- Karma: Hridaya, Vishaghna, Grahi, Varnya, Sothahara
- Dosha effect: Kapha and Pitta
- Dhatu (tissue): Blood, Muscle, Fat and Reproductive System
- Srotas (channel): circulatory and reproductive system
The tree is believed to have originated in the Western Ghats and Deccan plateau. It can also be found in central and Eastern Himalayas. It is known to grow at an altitude of 750 m above the sea level. The plant grows to a height of about 9 m in length. The plant generally grows in fertile and semi-fertile areas across India. The tree belongs to Caesal pinaceae family. This is a perennial plant which can range from dark green to greyish green in colour. The lenticels are circular and ridged opposing. The seeds generally are reddish brown with fibres.
The stem bark is chiefly used in medicines and it has been reported to contain chemicals such as glycoside, flavanoids, tannins, saponins, alkanes, esters and primary alcohols. The alcoholic extracts present in the bark have showed a significant action against wide range of bacteria.
Various studies on extracts from ashoka bark provide evidence of its several health benefits.
- Anti-bacterial properties: It can fight fever, cold and infections as it possesses anti-bacterial properties.
- Menorrhagia: Ayurveda has been using ashoka for menorrhagia traditionally. A preparation made from ashoka tree known as ashokarishta is given for this disease and also for uterine infections. It helps stop vaginal bleeding.
- Rheumatic arthritis: The methanol extracts from ashoka showed positive results against rheumatic arthirits.
- Haemorrhoids: Ashoka bark has been traditionally used as a remedy for internal haemorrhoids.
- Dysmenorrhoea: It is also recommended against dysmenorrhoea.
According to Ayurveda, ashoka was also used for healing wounds, strengthening uterine muscles. It is also believed to prevent ocular diseases, miscarriages, bleeding dysentery and neurological disorders.
HISTORICAL ASPECTS :
In the Ramayana, one of the books of Hindu mythology, there is mention of Ashoka tree.
Ashoka means “without sorrow”, a reference to this bark’s reputation for keeping women healthy and youthful.
Buddha was said to be born under this tree.
HABITAT: Saraca Indica is grown all over India. It occur upto the altitudes 600 metres. It is cultivated in many gardens because of its decorative orange red flowers and evergreen beautiful foliage.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION: Leaves are narrowly lanceolate 15.25 cms long cork like at the base and with a short petiole.
Stipules are intra-petiolar and completely united.Flowers are fragrant. They are 7.5-10 cms across Calyx is yellow to orange and finally red. Its stamens are 7 to 8. The filaments are filiform.
The bark of saraca indica is distinguished by presence of wartyprotuberances on its outer surface.