ORIENTAL CASHEW NUT TREE- BALADUR IN URDU: MEDICINAL BENEFITS AND USES OF ORIENTAL CASHEW NUT TREE
ORIENTAL CASHEW NUT TREE, BHALLATAKA, BALADUR, SEMECARPUS ANACARDIUM
In Hindi this Oriental Cashew Nut Tree is called Bhallataka while in Urdu it is known as Baladur, Bhilavan or Billar. Interestingly, “baladur” in Urdu means “evil go away.” On the Indian subcontinent it has been a staple household remedy for centuries, said to cure cancer, leprosy and other diseases as well as used to dye the hair black and to promote hair growth. It has also been used to increase male sexual potency and to cure erectile dysfunction which is why it has a reputation of being an aphrodisiac.
It is a relative of the Australian cashew nut tree and has the same properties, although perhaps it is not as potent in causing skin rashes. The juice from the fruit (which is yellow as opposed to the orange of the Australian variety) is highly valued and the fruit is heated over a flame and the oil which comes out of it is collected and stored for use. The tree doesn’t look like its Australian relative having broader leaves. It has greeny-white flowers which are closely followed by the fruit; its leaves are broad, and the oil and seeds contain bioflavonoidsand an alkaloid called Bhilawanol has been identified in them. The nut shell has a black resinous substance in it which can blister the skin but which is used to dye cotton cloth, the tree is also called the Indian Marking Tree because of this substance.
The nuts or seeds are not eaten like cashew nuts are but only useful for their medicinal properties and in comparison to the Australian variety quite a lot of research has been done to ascertain how the tree can help us. The oil from the fruit and seeds is used together with sesame or coconut oil and applied to wounds or sores to heal them. This mixture is also applied to feet with cracked skin. It may also be mixed with onion and garlic paste with ajwain and sesame oil for wound healing in the Indian subcontinent. The oil from the fruit and seeds of the Oriental Cashew Nut Tree is also rubbed into swollen joints to relieve pain. Some people are allergic to the oil and this may show in a rash or itching or swelling, in which case the antidotes are ghee, coconut oil and pulped coriander leaves.
Internally the oil is used for piles, colitis, diarrhoea, indigestion, flatulence and to get rid of intestinal worms. The fruit oil can be collected on a betel leaf and 10 drops with a little sugar is the dosage given to children for any of these complaints. For an adult the dosage is 15-20 drops of oil. The drops may also be given in hot milk. This is believed to improve the appetite as well as for use against worms and flatulence etc. The milk mixture can be applied onto the skin to treat any skin problems and can also help as a tonic for the nerves in cases of palsy, facial paralysis etc. It is also used for menstrual problems including cramps, and for urinary tract problems. It is an immune system booster and taken in winter to prevent the usual maladies of coughs, colds and flu.
It contains bioflavonoids, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and phenolic compounds and is used for its anti-artherogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti microbial and contraceptive properties. It stimulates the central nervous system and reduces blood sugar levels. It has also been found to have anti-cancer properties it has been described as “readily accessible, promising and novel cancer chemo-preventive agent” although more research is needed into it.
It can reduce the male sperm count and that is why it is used in the Indian subcontinent for its contraceptive properties. The roots of the tree are cooked in sour rice water to cure female sterility and the roots taken internally are used to treat eczema in some parts of India. It has been a stalwart of traditional medicine in the Indian subcontinent for many centuries and hopefully many of the traditional uses of this plant can be vindicated by further medical research.