Madhuca..The Honey Tree

Mahua or Mohwa (Madhuca Latifolia/मोह, मोहवा) is large, handsome, deciduous or semi-evergreen tree native to India. It has thick leathery leaves and small, fleshy, dull white musk-scented flowers which appear beautifully in clusters near the end of branches.

Mahua is one of the most important tree in the tribal belt of Central India and that’s too because of its delicious & nutritive flowers. The tree has got cultural and economic importance. Though it starts flowering after 10 years of age, once established the flower production increases with age. The flowers are edible and rich source of sugar, protein, vitamin & minerals. Mahua is a significant source of food for tribal people in Central & Western India. Its sweet flowers are eaten unprocessed or cooked.

Though almost all of flowers collected in tribal region is utilised for liquor production, there is huge potential and technologies available for product diversification of Mahua. Mahua concentrate is extracted from fresh Mahua flowers and can be used for making non-alcoholic Mahua products like jams, jellies and squash. Dried flowers can be used in making Mahua pickle, Mahua kismis and other food items like bakery and confectionery goods. Mahua oil is mostly used in the soap manufacturing.

Mahua is also one of important Agroforestry species. Its leaves, flowers and fruits are lopped for goats and sheep. Seed cake is also fed to cattle. Mahua oil is used to treat seeds against pest infestation. Mahua has a large spreading superficial root system that holds soil together, thereby help in erosion control. Still it can be raised with agricultural crops. Mahua can grow on and be used for reclamation of wasteland with hard lateritic soils. Furthermore the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal associations and root colonization have been observed in Mahua. The seed cake has been used as cheap organic manure and possess insecticide property. The wide spreading crown provides shade for animals. Mahua is occasionally planted as an avenue tree or along the boundaries of fields.

From the seed kernels (fruits), a yellow oily substance is extracted, further processed and refined which is called Mahua Butter. Possibly, it gives the tree its name Butter tree. It is largely used by the jungle tribes for cooking or else sold for making soap & candles. The residue makes a good manure and is widely used on lawns as a worm eradicator. It is also widely used in skin ointments as it melts immediately upon contact with the skin. It prevents drying of the skin and may hinder the wrinkle development, it reduces degeneration of skin cells & restores skin flexibility. The tree is also a potential source for Biodiesel.

The fruits too, both ripe and unripe, are valuable, all parts being used. The outer coat is eaten as a vegetable and the inner one dried and ground into meal. Animals, particularly deer and bears, love the fallen flowers. Birds, too, enjoy them and peafowl can often be seen around the trees at sunset and dawn. Cut flowers, stems and branchlets exude a thick, milky sap which is extremely sticky and astringent. It is used for curing rheumatism. Many plants with a milky secretion are poisonous, but that is certainly not the case with the Mahua. Medicinally, it has immense usefulness ranging from common, everyday illness to chronic ones like bronchitis, rheumatism, diabetes, pile or bleeding gums.

The Mahua tree truly justifies its botanical name madhuca which means sweet in Sanskrit. It is sweet to everyone, everything and everywhere..isn't it?! :-)

The Rejuvenating Tree

Amla or Indian Gooseberry (Phyllanthus Emblica/आवळा, आमलक) is a gift of Nature to mankind. It is a moderate sized deciduous tree. Amla is considered as the best herb in Ayurveda having extreme regards in the minds of herbalists world-wide. That is why it has been used to treat various diseases through Ayurvedic medicine therapy dating back to many centuries.

Of all the Rasayanas, Ayurvedic formulations revered for their positive impact on the overall physiology, Amalakah is considered one of the most potent and nourishing. The Charaka Samhita says, "Amalakah is the best among rejuvenating herbs."

Amla is supposed to rejuvenate all the organ systems of the body, provide strength and wellness. According to ayurvedic experts regular usage of Amla will make our live more than 100 years like a youth. In fact, this tiny berry is reported to contain nearly 20 times as much vitamin C as orange juice. The edible Amla berry tissue has 3 times the Protein concentration and 160 times the Ascorbic acid concentration of an Apple. The fruit also contains considerably higher concentration of most minerals and amino acids than Apples. Amla berry ash contains traces of Chromium, Zinc and Copper. The berry is considered an adaptogenic that improves immunity. It is also blessed with very important bioflavonoids, flavones and polyphenols along with certain carotenoids.

It is important to know that vitamin C when taken in the form of supplements, is not always easily absorbed. But when you eat an Amla berry, the vitamin C present is easily assimilated by body. So the next time you think of reaching for a supplement, think again and reach for an Amla berry instead!

All parts of the plant are used in various Ayurvedic herbal preparations, including the fruit, seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. It is considered as a single herb treatment for almost every disease present on the face of the Earth. It helps in maintaining the balance in all the three Doshas that is vital for proper functioning of the body. In Ayurvedic polyherbal formulations, Amla is a common constituent, and most notably is the primary ingredient in an ancient herbal rasayana called Chyawanprash. The ancient & famous Ayurvedic formula, Triphala consists of equal parts of the dried Amla fruits with those of Baheda Nut (Terminalia Bellirica/बेहडा, बिभितकी) and Haritaki Nut (Terminalia Chebula/हिरडा, हरितकी). Triphala is traditionally used in the treatment of heart disease and as a blood purifier.

Here are some of the benefits of Amla :

1. With its anti-oxidant and detoxification properties, Amla is well known for treating skin disorders. It prevents premature aging.
2. It acts as natural hair conditioner and provides good nourishment and also helps in normalizing blood supply.
3. It stimulates hair follicles thus promoting hair growth and also improves texture of the hair.
4. It prevents premature greying of hairs and dandruff.
5. It acts as an effective natural cure for indigestion, acidity, constipation, gastric troubles and flatulence.
6. It is helpful in improving liver function and strengthening lungs.
7. It helps in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar level.
8. It has very good results in chronic cough, child hood and allergic asthma and tuberculosis.
9. It provides nourishment to the nerves and is helpful in paralytic conditions.
10. It also works as brain tonic and helps to alertness and memory.
11. It also acts as anti-inflammatory agent thereby suppresses pain and swelling. Also acts as a coolant.
12. Amla finds great application in improving eyesight.
13. It also improves general health weakness and makes our body’s immune system strong therefore help to fight diseases.

And so on... Instead of having such number of benefits, Amla is popularly used in inks, shampoos and hair oils. The high tannin content of Amla berry serves as a mordant for fixing dyes in fabrics. Also it is widely used in jams, relishes, and candied confections.

In Hinduism, Amla is regarded as a sacred tree attributed to Goddess Lakshmi. It is worshiped as the Mother Earth and is believed to nurture humankind because the fruits are very nourishing. It stimulates spiritual purity. The tree attracts notable attention from wildlife. It is a source of food for number of birds and wild animals like languor, herbivores in dry deciduous forests.

Amla can grow in light as well as the heavy soils. It is grown under the tropical conditions. Amla is generally propagated through seeds. Though it starts bearing fruits in seven years from the day of planting, nowadays grafted varieties are available which starts fruiting at five years of age. It appears very beautiful due to the unique leaves which are simple, nearly stalkless and closely set along slender branchlets. The small leaves easily breakdown to impregnate soil. Hence it is one of the ideal tree for urban plantations.

The King Of Fruits

Being the oldest cultivated fruit tree in the world, Mango (Mangifera Indica/आंबा) is one of the best known fruits of India and is being cultivated since more than 4,000 years. It's greatness can be revealed by the fact that the tree is not only the State Tree of Maharashtra, but also is the National Fruit of India.

Mango are long-lived evergreen trees. The fruit being the most used part, it has many other uses also. The Mango plays an important part in the diet and cuisine of many diverse cultures. There are over 1000 named mango varieties throughout the world, which is a testament to their value to humankind. It is a handsome & impressive tree. Mango have long been recognized as more than just edible ripe fruit. The fruit is eaten even green or unripe, can be processed into pickles, pulps, jams, and chutneys.

The kidney-shaped fruit is very tasty & delicious. But it is best known for its nutritious values, its medicinal values and for its pleasant flavor. When ripe, this delicious dessert fruit is particularly high in vitamin A and fibres. It also contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, Beta carotene, vitamin B1, B2 and vitamin C. The mango and its flavor are added to many products such as fruit juices, ice creams, wines, teas, breakfast cereals, bars and biscuits.

Mango tree is used as shelter & shade trees in villages and home gardens in urban societies. The fruit is also an important source of sustenance for birds, bats, insects, and mammals. So it attract a range of wildlife (birds & other fruit-eating creatures). Bees visit the flowers, but most pollination is done by flies.

The tree is well known tree in ancient medicines. It gives a gum which is used in medicine. It has astringent, homeostatic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, antiseptic, antiviral, cardiotonic, emetic, expectorant, hypotensive and laxative properties. Various parts of the tree are used to stop bleeding and also prescribed in cases of snake-bite and scorpion-sting. The ripe fruit is claimed to be good for the liver. Other uses include an excellent charcoal species and a source of yellowish-brown dye used for silk.

Mango can grow in poor soils and does not need a lot of maintenance or water. It is a drought tolerant tree with a long taproot. They are tolerant of a range of soils from alkaline, calcareous soils to heavy clay soils. Mango is relatively wind resistant and is sometimes used in windbreaks. Mango is easily propagated by seed and various vegetative methods.

Mango is a important tree which is a valued component of the traditional home garden agroforestry system. Its leaves are occasionally fed to cattle, but in small quantities. Seed kernels which are a byproduct of processing; can be used as feed for cattle & poultry. It is also an important honey plant, secreting large quantities of nectar. The tree is known to improve soil fertility when leaves used as mulch for crops.

The Favourite Tree Of God

Common Bur Flower or Kadam (Neolamarckia Cadamba/कदंब) is a large, evergreen tree with beautiful & unique flowers. It is a fast growing tree with a broad crown and is even planted sacredly near temples.

The flower of the tree is red to orange in colour, occurring in dense, globe-like head. It nicely assumes the shape of a ball. When the tree is in bloom, one can see the tree loaded with numerous beautiful flowers. The flowering usually begins when the tree is 4–5 years old.

In Hindu mythology, the Kadam tree is the favourite tree of the Lord Krishna, who is usually depicted playing his flute under it. He also used to play with his friends under the Kadam tree in Vrindavan using the unique globular flower of the tree. Hence the tree is also known as Haripriya, God's favourite. Also the Mother Goddess Durga resides in a Kadam forest (Kadamba Vana Vāsinī). But this seems to be a mistaken identity, as the Kaim tree (Mitragyna Parvifolia/कैम, कळंब, कळम) which is a native and dominant species in hot & dry environment of that region, is also known as Kadam in Vrindavan. Besides the Common Bur Flower tree is highly regarded religiously and culturally in India, Java and Malaysia. Kadam trees and flowers are also a universal favourite among the Gods.

Kadam tree is suitable for reforestation programs. It can even bee used in Agroforestry practices. The fresh leaves can act as fodder for cattle. The ornamental tree is also used for soil reclamation. It sheds large amounts of leaf and non-leaf litter which on decomposition improves some physical & chemical properties of soil under its canopy. This reflects an increase in the level of soil organic carbon, cation exchange capacity, available plant nutrients and exchangeable bases. The fragrant orange flowers attract pollinators like bees, butterflies & birds. Furthermore, this tree can grow best in alluvial sites like river-banks and in the transitional zone between swampy, permanently flooded and periodically flooded areas. 

This beautiful tree is also known for its medicinal virtues. The tree has astringent & antipyretic properties. It is believed to have cure for ulcers, digestive ailments, diarrhoea, expectorant, fever, vomiting etc.

A yellow dye is obtained from the root bark. Kadam flowers are an important raw material in the production of attar, Indian perfume with Sandalwood (Santalum Album) base in which one of the essences is absorbed through hydro-distillation. The tree is grown along avenues, roadsides and villages for shade. The fresh leaves are sometimes used as serviettes or plates.

It is common belief among the natives of many villages in the state Chhattisgarh that plantation of Kadam tree near to lakes and ponds, brings happiness and prosperity in their life. Well, the presence of this tree may bless them or it may not. But it's absence will not be better than a curse, for sure..!