Asoka (Saraca indica)
Asoka is one of the cardinal herbs recommended in scriptures of Ayurveda for umpteen gynaecological problems in women. This plant is known to us since ages, as mention of this plant has been made in Ramayana, where Sita after abduction was confined in Asoka vatika. We also have references of Lord Buddha’s birth under Asoka tree. The herb is aptly said to be a companion of women as it rejuvenates the female reproductive system and is salutary in treating various gynaecological problems. (Nighantu Katnakara)
Asoka tree grows all over India; it is found growing suitably at an altitude of 750 metres in the Himalayas, Khasi, Garo and Lushai hills. It is an evergreen tree, reaching a maximum height of 9 metres. It is not found to be cultivated on commercial scale, but in gardens, because of its decorative flowers and beautiful foliage. The branches of the tree are glabrous and drooping. The leaves are 30-60 cm in length, in 2-3 pairs of lanceolate leaflets. The flowers are orang-yellow, fragrant, in dense corymbs. They are 8-10 cms across, calys yellow to orange and finally red. Its stamens are 7 to 8 and filaments are filiform. The bark is dark brown to grey in colour and it is collected from the plant by making longitudinal and transverse incisions. Asoka blooms in the summer and bears fruits in October.
The botanical name of Asoka is Saraka indica and it belongs to family Caesalpiniaceae. Asoka has been often confused with Polyalthis longifolia, which is called as false Asoka, Sitosterol, quercetin, kaempferol, glucoside isolated from flowers. Isolation of leucopelargonidin-3-o-d- glucoside, leucopelargonidun and leucocyanidin along with sitosterol from stem bark isolated.
Asoka is bitter and astringent in taste, pungent in post digestive effect and has a cold potency. It alleviates vata and kapha dosas. It possesses laghu (light) and ruksa (dry ) attributes. (Bhavaprakasa)
It is beneficial in the treatment of excessive uterine bleeding, dysmenorrheal – painful menstruation, bleeding piles, leucorrhea and many other diseases.
The skin of the bark, seeds, flowers and the fruits of Asoka are used for medicinal purpose. This herb is seldom used externally. When used externally, the paste of its bark – skin is beneficial in combating pain associated with oedema or swelling.
Internally, it is effectively used in women to treat various gynaecological disorders. The decoction of skin of the bark is given in dosage 10 – 15 ml, two or three times daily, to arrest excessive menstrual bleeding. It imparts excellent results in dysmenorrheal, where menstruation is associated with colicky abdominal pain. Asoka reinforces the uterine musculature, hence is benevolent in prolapse or inflammatory conditions of the uterus. It also has a remarkable healing effect of the endometrium or the mucous membrane of uterus and a stimulant action on the ovary. As a whole, it renders the puissant rejuvenative actions on the uterus, hence aptly called as garbhasaya rasayana, menaing – the uterine tonic. The decoction of skin of Asoka by itself, or mixed with equal quantity of milk, effectively mitigates menorrhagia, leucorrhea, the medicated wine of Asoka, Asokarista, is an excellent remedy for irregularities of menstrual cycle. Women who have tendency towards abortions and miscarriages should be treated, with great benefit, with Asokaghrta – the medicated ghee of Asoka from the fourth month of pregnancy onwards (second trimester).
Due to its astringent taste and cold potency, Asoka is salutary in arresting the bleeding or haemorrhages in dysentery, colitis, piles, and raktapitta. (Bhavaprakasa). It combines well with asvagandha as uterine tonic. Asoka seeds are diuretic – increase the quantity of urine, hence used in strangury and urinary stones. The flowers are considered to be a uterine tonic and are used in vitiated conditions of pitta, syphilis, cervical adenitis, and hyperdispepsia – excessive thirst, burning sensation, piles and dysentery.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Asoka ghrta
- Asoka vati
- Asokadi kvatha etc.