Bhallataka (Semecarpus anacardium)
Bhallataka is one of the best, versatile, most commonly used herbs as a household remedy. It has been freely used all over India since centuries. It was held in high esteem by the ancient sages of Ayurveda. Maharsi Caraka has categorized bhallataka as dipaniya an appetizer, bhedaniya – accumulation breaking herb, mutra sangrahaniya – antidiuretic and kusthaghna – anti dermatosis. It has been mentioned as vajikara – an aphrodisiac, especially beneficial in the failure of penile erection and sexual debility. (Sarngadhara Samhita) The great sage Susruta mentions it as stanyasodhana – lactodepurant. Bhallataka is acclaimed as a drug of choice in the treatment of piles of vata and kapha types. It is recommended as a rejuvenative (rasayana) to kapha dosa and asthivaha srotasa.
The word bhallataka describes the sharp attribute of the herb, in comparison to that of a javelin. It has various synonyms, ascribing the different properties, like anala – a fire, sopha krta one which causes oedema, krmighna vermicide, vatari enemy of vata etc.
Bhallataka grows throughout India in hot weather and in Himalaya’s upto 1000 metres height. The plant is found in abundance in Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. It is a medium sixed tree growing upto 10-15 metres in height. The bark is grey in colour and exudes an irritant secretion on incising. The leaves are 30-60 cm long and 12-30 cm broad. They are glabrous above and pubescent beneath. The flowers are greenishwhite, in panicles. Fruits are 2-3 cm broad. The flowering occurs in june and then onwards the plant bears fruits.
The botanical name of bhallataka is Semecarpus anacardium and it belongs to family Anacardiaceae. An alkaloid, Bhilawanol, has been isolated from oil and seeds. Bhilwanol from fruits was shown to be a mixture of cis and Trans isomers of ursuhenol (Naure 1960, 186, 389). Other components isolated are anacardic acid, cardol, catechol, fixed oil, anacardol and semecarpol. From the defatted nuts, three biflavonoids A, B and C have been isolated. A new biflabonoid jeediflavone and galluflavone isolated from nut shells
Bhallataka is sweet and astringent in taste, sweet in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata dosas and possesses light, unctuous sharp (tiksna) and hot (usna) attributes. It is extremely heat generating, appetizer, digestant, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac herb and alleviates the skin and rheumatic disorders. (Bhavaprakasa Nighantu)
Bhallataka is used both, internally as well as externally. The fruits, their oil and the seeds have great medicinal value, and are used to treat the wide range of diseases. Externally, the oil, mixed with coconut or sesame oil, is applied on wounds and sores to prevent the pus formation. It soothens and heals the cracked feet, when mixed with fala (Shorea robusta). For better healing of wounds, it works well, when medicated with garlic, onion and ajavayana in sesame oil. The topical application of its oil and swollen joints and traumatic wounds effectively controls the pain. In glandular swellings and filariasis, the application of its oil facilitates to drain out the discharges of pus and fluids and eases the conditions.
Since bhallataka is extremely hot and sharp in its attributes, it should be used with caution. Individuals showing allergic reactions to it, should stop and avoid the usage of bhallataka. It should not be used in small children, very old persons, pregnant women and individuals of predominant pitta constitution. The use of the same should be restricted in summer season. For its allergic reactions like rash, itching and swelling, the antidotes used externally are coconut oil, rala ointment, ghee, coriander leaves pulp or butter mixed with musta (Cyperus rotundus).
Internally, bhallataka is widely used in a vast range of diseases because of its multifarious properties. As it augments the agni, it is extremely beneficial in the diseases like piles, colitis, diarrhea, dyspepsia, ascites, tumours and worms which are caused mainly due to weakened agni. For this, one fruit of bhallataka is hold with tong over a flame and heated slightly. On gentle pressing, the oil starts dripping gradually. This oil is collected on the beatle leaf with small amount of sugar on its surface or in a cup of milk. Approximately 10 drops in children and 15-20 drops in adults are sufficient. It augements the appetite, cleanses the bowels, dispels the trapped gases and eliminates the worms. This is how the bhallataka is used as a household remedy.
Bhallataka is highly praised to treat the piles (haemorrhoids) of vata and kapha types, meaning in non – bleeding conditions. It is an effective adjuvant in the treatment of ascites and tumours. In bronchial asthma and cough, it is one of the best medicament for which, its preparation bhallatakasava is commonly used. It reduces the bronchospasms and their frequency too. Cardiac debility, associated with odema can be treated with great benefit. The milk medicated with bhallataka or bhallataka modaka mitigates the skin diseases like scabies, eczema, ringworm infestations. As a nervine tonic, it is beneficial in the diseases due to vata, like sciatica, paralysis, facial palsy, epilepsy, rheumatic conditions and also asa brain tonic. The combination, bhallataka, haritaki, tila (sesame seeds) powders with jaggery, awards excellent results in chronic rheumatic disorders. Bhallataka is said to augment the memory, as it boosts the sadhaka pitta and nourishes the nervine tissue. It also works well as aphrodisiac by its stimulant action and enhances the seminal fluids. In dysmenorrheal (painful menstruation) and oligomenorrhea (scanty menstruation), the medicated milk or its oil is salubrious. It reduces the urinary output, hence beneficial in diabetes of kapha type,
Bhallataka is the best rejuvenative (rasayana) for skin ailments, vata disorders and as a preventive measure to increase the body resistance. It augments the appetile, improves digestion, eliminates ama and clears up srotasas – the micro channels of all the systems, hence facilitates the nourishment of all the tissues (dhatus). It does not work as an anabokic rejuvenative like bala (Sida cordifolia), satavari (Asparagus racemosus), milk or ghee. Winter is the best season for its usage. One should adopt a bland and cooling diet consisting of rice, milk, butter, ghee. The salt and spices should be strictly restricted and during bhallataka treatment, it is recommended to avoid exposure to sun, heat and excessive sex. The toxic symptoms of its internal use are skin rashes, burning, itching, and excessive thirst and sweating, reductin in urine output with sloky coloured urine, sometimes blood in the urine (heamaturia) may appear. The fresh juice of the leaves of amlika (Tamarindus indica) internally, is one of the antidotes for such symptoms.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Bhallataka taila
- Bhallataka ksirapaka and ksara
- Tiladi modaka
- Bhallataka modaka
- Sanjivani guti etc.