SAPTAPARNA (Alstonia scholaris)
The Sanskrit word saptaparna literally means that which has seven leaves in a whorl. In Ayurvedic scriptures, the plant has various synonyms describing its thick bark skin, like vasala tvak, brhat tvak and baju tvak or its thick and numerous leaves, viz. prthak parna, sthula parni, prthak patra, sthula patra etc. The great sage Caraka has categorized it as kusthaghna – anti- dermatosis, udarda prasamana – anti – urticarial and sirovire-cana-for cleansing nasal therapy. Susruta has mentioned it as recana or adhobhagahara – a purgative.
The fine forest tree is common throughout India, growing up to 1000 meters elevation. The tree attains the height of 13-16 meters, with tall trunk and spreading whorled branches. The bark is dark grey, rough, with many lenticels on the younger branches abounding in bitter milky latex. The leaves in whorls of 5-7, spreading, shortly stalked, obviate – oblong. The flowers are small, greenish white, shortly stalked, in small cluster, in umbellate sanicles. The fruits, brown follicles, pendulous, 30-60 cm long. The seeds, very numerous, with silky pale orange hairs (coma).
The botanical name of saptaparna is Alstonia scholaris and it belongs to family Apocyanaceae. Echitamine hydrochloride, triterpenes amyrin acetate, lupeol acetate, substance A and B isolated from the bark. An indole alkaloid picrine (desacetyl-desformyl-picraline) isolated from leaves. From root bark amyrin, its acetate, lupeol acetate, stigmasterol and sitosterol isolated Picralinal from fresh leaves and akuammigine, tubotaiwine, akuammicine-Nb-oxide, akuammicine isolated from roots. From flowers n-hexacosane, lupeol, amyrin, palmitic acid and ursolic acid isolated. Ilogation and structure elucidation of a new alkaloid – scholaricine. Alstonamine, a new indole alkaloid, isolated from leaves together with rhazimanine. Stricta-mine isolated from flowers, a new alkaloid – (-) scholarine, in addition, (+) lochneridine isolated from leaves.
Saptaparna is bitter and astringent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates all the three doshas, predominantly kapha and vata. It possesses light and oily attributes. It is vermicidal and a blood purifier. It is used in the diseases like worms, tumors, wounds, asthma, skin diseases and blood disorders.
The skin of the bark is extremely bitter and has great medicinal value. It is used for medicinal purpose, externally as well as internally. Externally, the bark skin mashed with milk, is applied in the form of a paste in chronic wounds and ulcers for better healing. The chronic non-healing and foul wounds are especially dressed with the paste of its tender leaves. The twigs are used to brush the teeth, to prevent decay and caries. The flowers are beneficial as nasya-nasal drops, for cleansing nasal therapy (sirovirecana), in sinusitis, headache etc. the paste of its bark skin is also applied in chronic rheumatic conditions with great benefit. The milky exudates, lates, is bitter and is good for ulcers, vitiated conditions of vata and otalgia.
Internally, saptaparna is used in vast range of diseases. In digestive disorders like loss of appetite, dyspepsia, abdominal pain and dysentery, the powder or decoction of bark skin is extremely beneficial. It also stimulates the liver, hence useful in liver disorders. The decoction, when given along with honey, ameliorates vomiting. In respiratory ailments like cough, asthma and hiccup, the decoction is recommended with pippali and honey. Saptaparna is a well known blood purifierand hrdya – beneficial for the heart. In postpartum period, it is benevolent as a general tonic as well as a galactogogue. The bark skin, vaca, gingers and karcura is given in combination in postpartum period to prevent infections. The solic extract along with copacini is salutary in dermatoses, especially, urticaria. Saptaparna is used as an anti-malarial drug, since centuries. The combination of its skin powder and vadanga fruits (Embelia ribes) works well in worm infestations. As a household remedy, the decoction of saptaparna bark skin, triphala and vidanga is used in anorexia, helminthiasis, and malarial fever and as a blood purifier. The decoction of its leaves is rewarding in skin diseases, leprosy and urticaria etc.
Classical Ayurvedic preparations
- Saptacchadadi kvatha
- Saptacchadadi taila
- Saptaparna ghanasara.