|The Banyan Tree: The National Tree of India|
Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), the national Tree of India, grows in hot tropical climates prevalent in most parts of India. The name originates from the word ‘Baniya’ or ‘Indian traders’ who sat below the tree shades for meetings and other useful gatherings. The tree is also known by other names such as the Nyagrodhah, Bargad, Peral, Vata, Vatagach, Sriksha, Bahupada and Skandaja.
There are many sacred beliefs and mythological references about this tree. In Hindu culture, the tree is often called 'kalpavriksha', which means 'a divine tree that fulfills wishes'. The leaves of the tree are considered to be the resting place of Lord Krishna. Buddha is believed to have enlightened meditating under banyan tree at Bodhgaya. In the Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is sometimes depicted sitting in silence, under the banyan tree, with the saints sitting at His feet.
|The Banyan Tree: Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses|
The Banyan tree has roots growing on the outside which turn thicker into woods and spread out wider in the region over the years. The tree can grow for a few hundred years and in the process spread its roots over acres of land. One of the widest tree in the world, the Great Banyan is located in Kolkata (India). The tree is said to be about 250 years old. Another such tree, Doda Alada Mara, located in Bangalore, has a spread of over 2 acres.
In Ayurveda, the bark, latex, leaf buds as well as the fruits of the tree are used as ingredients in medicine. Some of the active chemical constituents found in the plant include phytosterolin, ketones, flavonoids, flavonols, sterols, oentacylic triterpenes, triterpenoids, furocoumarin, tiglic acid ester and other esters. Owing to its active chemical composition, there are various medicinal uses of the banyan tree.
In Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha medicine, the milky latex from the stems and leaves of the tree is applied to bruises and to parts of the body that are causing pain. Extract of the roots and the leaves are useful for curing various skin related problems. For healthy hair, crushed prop roots paste is applied to hair. The same formulation is also used as a skin conditioner. Skin ulcers are treated with a paste made from mixing water with ground plant material from the aerial roots of the tree. The milk juice obtained from tree bark is also used as a natural remedy to get rid of skin moles.
|Roots of the Banyan Tree|
The latex of the plant is applied to the gums to treat toothache and bleeding gums. The bark and seeds are used as a tonic to maintain body temperature. Diabetic patients are also treated by the tonic made from banyan tree. Banyan fruit and its juice are used in rheumatism and lumbago. The bark of banyan is useful in controlling cholesterol. It decreases LDL or bad cholesterol while HDL or good cholesterol levels are maintained.
Taking banyan bark and juice on a regular basis improves the immune function of the body and helps fight against disease causing microorganisms. Treatment for piles is yet another one of the medicinal uses of the banyan tree wherein a few drops of the latex of the banyan tree is given with milk as part of a natural treatment for bleeding piles. Dried roots powder of banyan with milk is also beneficial in the treatment of female sterility and leucorrhea.
In addition to the medicinal uses of the banyan tree, it is also known to have a variety of other uses. The sap produced by banyan tree is used to produce shellac, a strong adhesive. It can also be used to make surface-finisher and for polishing brass and copper. The wood of the tree is used for door panels, well curbs, furniture and boxes. Using the bark of the tree, paper can be created. In India, the broad leaves of the banyan tree are dried and used as plates. The rubber, produced from the sticky milk of banyan tree, is used for gardening. People make use of the roots of the tree to make ropes, in order to secure wood bundles.