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Saturday, January 14, 2012

DHAK OR FLAME OF THE FOREST TREE-HOST TO LAC INSECTS: HISTORY,USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE DHAK TREE


DHAK TREE, FLAME OF THE FOREST, PARROT TREE, BUTEA MONOSPERMA 
The dhak or flame of the forest tree is a member of the Fabaceae or Leguminoseae (beans and peas) family of plants which include kudzu or pueraria, senna, alfalfa, carob, broom, lupins, chickpeas and peanuts to name just a few. Like the red silk cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) it flowers when the tree is bare of its leaves, so it looks like a flame tree with its bright red blossoms. The tree grows to between 12 and 15 metres high and flowers in the winter months between January and March.
 The site’s administrator remembers a time when he was in a village elementary school in Pakistan and a new teacher came. The leader of the group of children decided that they should all come to school the next day with a petal from the flowers of this tree attached to their little fingers. The schoolteacher didn’t know what the things on their one finger were but the kids explained that it was a custom for them to wear their nails long and red on one finger. He said that in future this would not be acceptable for boys, and told them to go home and cut their nails and remove the red. They turned up after a game of cricket, with no petal attached to their fingers. They had attached them with saliva.
  The flame of the forest tree is host to lac insects (Tachardia lacca) which feed on the tree sap and secrete a resinous substance to protect themselves and their offspring. This is formed on the twigs and branches of certain trees such as Acacia nilotica or babul tree, Zizyphus jujube(a jujube {ber}bearing tree) , Zizyphus xylopyrus, Ficus religiosa or peepal and Schliechera oleosa the macassar oil tree or kusum tree. In the past these trees were cultivated to play host to the lac insect as shellac was in demand as a varnish or lacquer (we get this name from these insects). The flame of the forest tree has been cultivated for such a purpose since at least 250 AD when only a red dye from this insect was of value. By 1590 the resin was more important than the dye.
  The tree is used for medicinal purposes wherever it grows, and its natural habitat is the Indian subcontinent and tropical and sub-tropical south-east Asia. It is also known as Palash, Palah and bastard teak. Its wood is durable under water and is sometimes used in wells and for water scoops. The leaves are woven to make plates, rather as the single banana leaf is used in countries such as Thailand. The flowers are used to make a red colouring used in holi.
  In Hindu legends the tree is said to be the physical embodiment of Agnidev, the God of Fire who was punished by the goddess Parvati for daring to disturb the privacy she was enjoying with Shiva. The flowers are used in ceremonies for the goddess Kali with their red being the symbolic sacrifice instead of a human one. The dry twigs and branches make the sacred fire required in such ceremonies.
  Mosquitoes are attracted to the flowers, and lay eggs that will never hatch in them, and the mosquito also dies, trapped in the flowers’ liquid. The gum from the tree is used in some dishes but is astringent as it contains tannin. It has been used to treat leather and used for its astringent qualities in medicine. Wood from the tree is used for fuel and it also produces good charcoal which is why it is becoming a threatened species in Pakistan.
  The mucilage from the tree is used to treat asthma in traditional medicines systems, while the flowers are used for menstrual problems, to reduce swellings, as a diuretic and aphrodisiac, a tonic and to treat recurring gout and even leprosy. The seeds which are single in pods are used to get rid of internal worms, and the leaves are astringent and used as a tonic, diuretic, aphrodisiac, and to get rid of boils and pimples, tumours and piles.
  A decoction of the bark is used for colds and sore throats as a gargle, as well as for coughs, fevers and to promote the menstrual flow. The root of the tree is used in cases of elephantiasis and night blindness while the gum is specifically used for diarrhoea, dysentery and ringworm.  Fresh juice from the tree is used externally on boils and ulcers and internally for sore throats.
  The succulent edible young roots may be eaten raw with salt or roasted or boiled and contain glucose, glycine, glucosides and aromatic compounds while the seeds produce oil. The seeds are pounded with lemon juice and applied to the skin for various problems.
  The seeds may be abortifacient and are may form the basis in coming years of a male contraceptive. The different parts of the tree are still being researched, as the dhak tree may provide us with many health benefits.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for giving the information of Dhak tree.Its uses in many ways.I am collecting flowers then someone asked what use these flowers.I replied ,I have to find o internet,so i could this

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  2. Very informatie and well written piece. Thank you so much. I have been photographing the tree and its flowers for many years. Now, I hope to do a water colour of them.

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  3. Great post, Very informative i would like to share the post link in http://loss-of-weight-allegiance.com

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