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Thursday, December 9, 2010
WHAT IS ALBIZIA LEBBECK? SIRIS TREE OR RATTLE POD OR WOMEN'S TONGUE: MEDICINAL USES OF ALBIZIA LEBBECK
Albizia lebbeck or the Siris tree grows profusely in the Punjab province of Pakistan and I have been particularly impressed with its leaves, flowers, and later the seed pods. Locally it is known as the Sharee trees and is used in traditional medicine in the subcontinent. There are a lot of these trees growing in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and they are very eye-catching when they have their huge ripe pods hanging from the foliage.
The flowers, fruit, bark, leaves and roots are all used in medicine. The seeds contain crude protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, niacin and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and most of the essential amino acids. There are saponins in the seeds, but no harmful effects have been reported when the seeds have been eaten, as long as they are eaten in moderation; too many will induce vomiting.
A paste of the leaves is used to treat skin problems and to improve skin texture, making it smoother. Paste preparations from parts of the plant are applied to insect stings, wounds and bites, and it is also said to be good to promote healthy gums and teeth. It is used to treat inflammation too, and a powder from the different parts of the tree is said to purify the blood and be good for the respiratory system, and to treat allergies. The ethanol extract of the pod is effective against some forms of cancer. Parts of the tree are also used to treat eye problems, impotence and as a diuretic. However it is also thought that the seeds can cause infertility.
Saponins from the tree are used to make soap and the tannin from the bark is used in the tanning process. Bees love the nectar from the flowers, and the tree itself is a host to lac insects which leave a residue on the tree which can be collected and used in the paint and varnish industry. In this it is similar to the banyan tree.
Modern medical trials have shown that Albizia lebbeck has “remarkable anti-inflammatory activity supporting the folkloric usage of this plant to treat various inflammatory diseases” (Babu N.P. et al).
This tree is native to the Indian subcontinent, the Andaman Islands and Myanmar, and various other trees of the Albizia family also grow in other parts of the world, The Albizia chinensis tree grows in these areas and in other countries. In rainforests it can grow to heights of 100 feet, and it usually has seed pods which are 8 to 12 inches long. When the wind blows the seeds rattle in the dry pods, and this has given rise to the name, Rattle pod tree.