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Ashoka
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Ashoka

Ayurvedic Herbs A-Z

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Ashoka means " without sorrow ", a reference to this bark's reputation for keeping a woman healthy and youthful; Buddha was said to be under this tree.

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Latin Names

English Name

Sanskrit Names

Hindi Name

Saraca asoca (Roxb.) De Wilde /
Saraca indica auct. non linn.

Ashoka

Ashoka,
Gandhapushpa

Ashok

 

 

 Habitat  |  Morphology Description (Habit)  |  Principal Constituents

Indications  |   Product Range

 

 

Habitat

It occurs almost throughout India up to an altitude of 750 m, in the central and the eastern Himalayas and in the Khasi, Garo and Lushai hills.

Morphology Description (Habit)

A small evergreen tree. The leaves are paripinnate and the leaflets 6-12, oblong and rigidly sub-coriaceous. The flowers are orange or orange-yellow, eventually turning vermillion, very fragrant, in dense axillary corymbs; the pods, flat, leathery, the seeds, 4-8, ellipsoid-oblong and compressed.

Principal Constituents

A steroidal component and calcium salt.

Indications

The bark, which is the drug, is reported to have a stimulating effect on the endometrium and ovarian tissue and is useful in menorrhagia due to uterine fibroids, in leucorrhea and in internal bleeding. It is useful in all cases of uterine bleeding where ergot is indicated.

Product Range

Part: Bark

Traditional Ayurvedic Uses: Menorrhagia (scant menses), dysmenorrhea (painful menses, menstrual cramps), depression, bleeding hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids, considered a uterine sedative and tonic.

Ashoka means " without sorrow ", a reference to this bark's reputation for keeping a woman healthy and youthful; Buddha was said to be under this tree.

 

Sita Ashok (Saraca indica) as medicinal herb in Chhattisgarh, India : Natural Occurrence, Traditional Medicinal knowledge and Trade

Research Note - Pankaj Oudhia ©
2001,2002,2003 Pankaj Oudhia - All Rights Reserved. For the natives and traditional healers of Chhattisgarh, Sita Ashok is valuable medicinal herb. Since generations, they are aware of unique medicinal properties and uses of Sita Ashok. It is an integral part of every home garden in Chhattisgarh. It is common belief in Chhattisgarh that presence of this herb in home gardens save the family members from all types of diseases and ill spirits. It is planted in north direction in home gardens. It is also
common belief that presence of this herb in home gardens, destroys the bad or harmful effects of other herbs. The rich natives fond of ornamental Cactus species never miss to plant this herb in home gardens
in order to save their family members from the harmful effects (?) of spiny species. You will be surprised to know that the persons suffering from mental disorder are advised to take bath under the shade of Sita
Ashok tree. For mental piece, the natives prepare special Herbal Mala using root pieces of Sita Ashok and give it to the patients. During my ethnobotanical survey in different parts of Chhattisgarh, I have
observed that there is confusion on correct species of Sita Ashok. In the name of Sita Ashok, most of the natives belonging to young generation plant another species Polyalthia longifolia. Botanically there are many basic differences in both species. According to the old natives and traditional healers, Polyathia (also known as Bangali Ashok) is having different medicinal properties and uses and it is not substitute to Sita Ashok in home garden. Many healers informed me that the presence of this species in home garden may result in adverse effects. In the name of Ashok, this species have been planted in public places all over the Chhattisgarh. My surveys revealed that there is a strong need to aware the common natives about true species of Ashok. This is positive sign that most of the natives, both from young and old
generations are aware of medicinal properties and uses of Ashok but in identification they are poor. The natives involve in nursery business are also weak in identification. The same is the case of local herb shop
owners. In name of Ashok bark, they give the bark of Polyathia species. Seeing this problem, with the help of biochemist friend, we are trying to develop special but simple chemical test. We are sure that our test can help the natives to check the adulteration easily. Although this is good answer that our forefathers were aware of unique properties of Sita Ashok and in order to conserve this herb forever, they instructed their young generations to plant it in home gardens after associating some
important information with (that are available as common beliefs amongus today) it but as researcher I am eager to know more explanation on why the presence of this herb, destroys the harmful effects of other herbs ? Whey it is planted in north direction ? and also what is reason behind instructing the patients suffering from mental disorders to take bath under Sita Ashok ? Although at present we are unable to answer these questions but we are sure that all these information are having the scientific base and through detailed research our researcher will try to explain it, as it is must for educated and intellectual coming generations.

 
Common and popular names of Sita Ashok (Saraca asoca) around the world.
Languages/Regions/Countries Names
1) Assam Ashok, Ahok
2) Bengal Ashok, Asok, Asoka
3) Myanmar Thawgabo, Thawka
4) Kanarese Achenge, Akshth, Ashanke, Ashoka
5) Hindi Ashok, Asok
6) English Asoka Tree
7) Gujarati Ashopalava
8) Malyalam Asoka, Hemapushpam
9) Marathi Jasundi, Ashoka
10) Sanskrit Anganapriya, Apashaka, Ashoka, Hemapushpa, Madhupushpa, Pindapushpa, Pindipushpa, Vanjula, Vishoka, Vichitra
11) Sinhalese Diyaratmal, Diyeratembela
12) Tamil Asogam, Asogu, Anagam, Sasubam
13) Telugu Asokamu, Vanjulamu
14) Uriya Osoko

Sita Ashok is natural occurring herb in Chhattisgarh. Before giving the details about its traditional medicinal knowledge, I am describing its botany and reported medicinal uses. The family of Sita Ashok (Saraca indica syn. Saraca asoca, Jonesia asoca) is Caesalpiniaceae. It is small evergreen tree having height upto ten meters, with blackish bark and reddish-brown wood; Leaves paripinnate, stipules intra-petioler, united, scarious; leaflets 4-6 pairs, oblong, lanceolate, glabrous, lateral nerves 8-12 pairs; flowers orange to scarlet, in dense corymbose panicles; Calyx yellowish orange to scarlet, petaloid, cylindric, four lobed; Petals absent; Pods tapering at both ends, seeds 4-8 ellipsoid- oblong. Flowering time December to May and fruiting time June-July (in Chhattisgarh conditions). Sita Ashok holds a reputed position as medicine in reference literatures related to different systems of medicine in India. As medicine, bark, flower and seeds are used. According to Ayurveda, bark is acrid, refrigerant, astringent to bowels, alterative, anthelmintic, demulcent and emollient. It is used in treatment of dyspepsia, thirst, burning sensation, blood disorders, biliousness, tumors, colic, piles, ulcers, menorrhagia etc. The natives and traditional healers of Chhattisgarh use Sita Ashok mainly in treatment of gynecological disorders. I am describing some popular traditional uses. In general it is considered as best female tonic.

It is general recommendation by the healers to boil the bark with cow’s milk and take the milk (after removing the bark). For taste, sugar can be added. The healers suggest every female native to take this milk once in a day, upto three days, in every 3 months, as preventive to gynecological troubles. In case of menorrhagia, the healers boil the bark in water and prepare a decoction. In this decoction many other herbs are added. This decoction is given every morning (empty stomach) to the patients. Many healers boil the bark in milk also. The decoction is also used externally for washing. In case of Safed Pani (Leucorrhoea), the healers boil the bark in mixture of milk and water. When water evaporates, the combination is given to the patients. Sita Ashok based many herbal products are available for sale in open market. Many healers recommend the patients to buy the specific product and use it. As it is hard to get genuine herb, the healers, particularly the healers living in urban areas, prefer this method. In many cases, even Sita Ashok based herbal products fail to give desired effects. The traditional healers blame the adulteration of inferior species for this. The bone setters of Chhattisgarh use this herb, like Arjun (Terminalia arjuna). The patients having bone fracture are advised by the healers to take Sita Ashok bark with water. Sometimes it is given with Arjun bark. According to the healers, the bark contains valuable natural chemicals that helps in quick reunion.

Many healers dip the bark whole night in bark and next morning prepare a paste. This paste is applied externally on injured bones in order to hasten the healing process. I interviewed the patients using this bark. According to them, it is effective as well as good pain killer. In case of respiratory troubles particularly in chronic asthma, the traditional healers use the powdered seeds for treatment.

The patients are advised to put the powdered seeds inside the Pan (Betel vine) and eat it empty stomach. I have tried it successfully. The decoction of bark is considered good in treatment of bleeding piles. It is used both internally and externally. As external use, the patients are advise to wash the affected part with the decoction. The traditional healers of Bastar region informed me that the aqueous paste of Sita Ashok flowers and roots can be used for breast enlargement successfully. The native of this region prepare a special vegetable using the flowers and eat it as tonic. The flowers with water are given to the patients suffering from dysentery. The healers of this region suggest the diabetic patients to dip the flowers (fresh) in a cup of water and next morning drink the leachate empty stomach. My Guru Shri Vishal Bharat once told me that the powdered seeds with water can be used in treatment of Pathari (Renal Calculi). As memory tonic, the natives use the bark with Brahmi herb (Bacopa sp.). According to them, alone Bramhi is enough but addition of Sita Ashok bark improves its effects. In case of stomatitis, the natives use the decoction of bark for gargling. In many parts of Chhattisgarh, natives add the powdered bark to prepare herbal tooth powder along with other herbs mainly Akarkara. The decoction of bark is used to wash the face in order to remove the black spots. The natives adopt special method. The juice of fresh bark is extracted and Sarson (Mustard) seeds are added in juice. Then the juice is boiled and after cooling applied externally on face. Many of these traditional uses have not been reported in reference literatures.

Although the name of Sita Ashok is not in the list of non-wood forest produces of Chhattisgarh but the injured Sita Ashok trees in natural habitat clearly indicate that many traders collect the bark unscientifically. And this debarking result in death of trees in majority of cases. The scientific method of harvesting is not available with them. We are also not much aware of this method. With the help of my surveys, I am trying to learn this method from the traditional healers. Many pharmacies active in Chhattisgarh are preparing Sita Ashok based herbal products but they are purchasing the ingredients from other states and unfortunately, their experts are not aware of adulteration. In my allelopathic experiments, I am trying to evaluate its allelopathic potential on medicinal crops and seeing the encouraging initial results, I am sure this herb will also be useful for the organic growers of Chhattisgarh. Thank you very much for reading the article.

 

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Last Modified : 03/13/08 08:46 PM