PALASA (Butea frondosa)
The Sanskrit word palasa literally means that which looks like a flesh or blood. It has various synonyms in Ayurvedic texts. Like kimsuka – the flowers resemble to the parrot’s beak, triparna – 3 – foliate leaves, bija sneha – the seeds are oily and many other, describing its usefulness for yajna i.e. rituals and worships performed infront of fire viz. yajniya, samidvara, brahmapadapa, samiduttama etc. Maharsi Susruta has categorized it as visaghna (anti-toxin), sukrasodhana (purifies seminal fluids) and stambhana – astringent and anti-diarrhoeal. Two varieties of palasa – white flowered and red flowered, are mentioned in Samhita.
The plant grows all over India, chiefly in the mixed or dry deciduous forests of central and Western India, up to 1200 meters elevation. The tree grows up to 12-15 meters, is irregularly branched, with a rough, grey bark. The leaves, trifoliate, leaflets silky tomentous. The flowers bright orange red in racemes. Its orange and scarlet flowers come in such profusion, from February to March that the tree is aptly named the Flame of the Forest. The fruit is a flat pod with a single seed.
The botanical name of palasa is Butea frondosa and it belongs to family Fabaceae. The skin of the bark and resin contains tannic and gallic acids. The plant gives a resin gum, called as Kino oil, proteolytic and lipolytic enzymes, palasonin, sitosterol, amyrin, monospermin, lectins and lactone. The alkaloid palasonin – from the seeds, is effective as an anthelmintic, especially in round worm infestations. (Ascaris lumbricoides). Synthesis of a coumaranone glucoside palasitrin from the plant and palasonin from the seeds Glycerides of palmitic. Lignoceric, oleic and linoleic acids from seeds oil isolated. A new alkaloid – monospermin – isolated of butrin and isobutrin from flower.
Palasa is pungent, bitter and astringent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata dosas. But aggravates the pitta dosha; the gum is astringent, antidiarrhoeal, the seeds purgative, vermicidal and the flowers are astringent, diuretic. It is used in the diseases like worms, wounds colitis, piles, edema and anal diseases.
The gum, seeds, flowers, barks and leaves have great medicinal value. Externally, the local bath with the decoction of its bark in useful in bleeding piles and flowers (made hot) below the naval facilitate the micturation. On scorpion sting, the seeds mashed in the water and the paste is applied, with great benefit. The paste of seeds is also applied in skin diseases, edema and diseases of the eye. The seed powder, in the form of nasal drops, helps to regain the consciousness in epilepsy. The paste of seeds, matted in lemon juice, is an effective panacea for skin diseases like eczema, tinea and ringworm.
Internally, palasa is useful in vast range of diseases. In diarrhea, dysentery and colitis, first the decoction of its fruits by itself or with hot milk is given to cleanse the bowels (mala sodhana). Followed by the gum powder with hot water, for prompt astringent or anti-diarrhoeal action. Palasa helps for healing the intestinal ulcers. The flowers are useful in fever, thirst and diarrhea. In worm infestations, the powder of seeds is given along with honey (except in pitta constitution). The combination palasa, vidanga, kampillaka and ajavayana in the dosage 1-2 gm daily, prevents the recurrent worm infestations. In the day to day practice, the seeds matted with milk (20-30 ml) is given for three consecutive days, on empty stomach, followed by a laxative like castor oil on fourth day. The ksara of palasa is beneficial in ascites, tumours and abdominal pain. In piles, associated with constipation, the seed powder is given by itself, to facilitate the motions smoothly. The gum and flowers are benevolent in raktapitta. The decoction of the bark skin, cooled and mixed with sugar is recommended in raktapitta. The decoction of the flowers is extremely beneficial in strangury and dysuria. The bark skin, gum and flowers, because of their astringent rasa, promote the callus formation in the fractures of the bones. In sexual debility, the gum and seeds are valuable. The flowers are useful to alleviate leucorrhea, whereas, the palasa ksara mitigates the tumours and oligomenorrhea. The gum along with sugar, works well as a general tonic and along with amalaki (Phyllanthus emblika) as an aphrodisiac. The decoction of bark skin is useful in obesity associated with sexual debility, as it stimulates the medogni. The decoction of the roots, given along with honey and rock candy is salubrious in sexual debility. The powder of dried flowers given along with the milk and sugar works well as a potent diuretic and alleviates edema.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
Palasa bijadi curna
Palasa ksara ghrta
Palasa puspasava etc.