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Sunday, April 1, 2012
TOOTHBRUSH OR SANDPAPER TREE: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE TOOTHBRUSH TREE
The toothbrush tree or sandpaper tree is a member of the Moraceae family so is related to the banyan, peepal, mulberry, shahtoot mulberry,
Punjab fig, European fig, the Tropical fig (Ficus septica) and to the Jackfruit trees. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, southern , China , Thailand , the Myanmar , Philippines and Malaysia . Sri Lanka
It is a small tree growing to around 10 metres with dense branches, and has small yellow fruit which look a little like loquats. In the
it is known as Kalios and in Philippines it is the Shakhotaka. Its leaves are like sandpaper, hence one of its English names, and these have been used as toothbrushes (the other English name) and for oral hygiene. India
The bark of the tree can be boiled in water and the resultant liquid is used as a disinfectant for wounds and skin problems. A decoction of the bark is used for fever, diarrhoea and dysentery, while the bark itself is chewed as an antidote to snake bites. In the
a tea is made from the leaves and drunk as a beverage. The powdered root is used for diarrhoea and dysentery and can be made into a poultice for ulcers on the skin. The root is used for epilepsy, inflammation and boils, and the root extract is astringent and antiseptic. The bark exudes a latex when cut which is used in Philippines for chapped hands and feet. It is also used for swollen glands, being put on them externally. The seeds are used for nosebleeds, piles and diarrhoea too. India
An extract of the leaves has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, and one study, undertaken by Subha Rastagi et al. “Streblus asper Lour, (Shakhotaka): A Review of its Chemical, pharmacological and Ethnomedicinal Properties” in Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Vol. 3 (2) pp 217-222, stated that the tree possesses antioxidant, anti-allergic, antimalarial, anti-cancer, cardio-tonic and insecticidal properties. The volatile oil from the leaves showed “significant anti-cancer activity” as does an extract of the root according to a further study Abstract B73: “Chemopreventive effect of Streblus asper, a bonsai plant, on osteosarcoma cells: A Preliminary Study” Azman Seeni et al. Cancer Prevention Research 3 (Meeting Abstract Supplement) B73 January 7th 2010. This study suggests that the antioxidant compounds in the root extract such as caffeic acid may act as carcinogenic inhibitors, although further research is needed to substantiate the findings and to carry the work further.
In Ayurvedic medicine the leaves are used to help promote the milk-flow of breast-feeding mothers, as well as being used as poultices for boils and skin ulcers. The roots are used for diarrhoea and dysentery while a decoction of the bark is also given for these ailments and for fevers. The latex from the tree is sometimes applied to the temples in cases of neuralgia and a paste made from the seeds is applied to leucoderma.
parts of the tree are used for syphilis and other STDs and for cholera, piles, wounds and as a mild pain reliever or analgesic. Bangladesh
Clearly more research is needed to discover the mechanisms which cause this tree to have such beneficial effects on human diseases.