ASHOKA TREE ( SARACA INDICA) - ASSUAGES GRIEF: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF ASHOKA TREE
The Ashoka tree is revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike, and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It has now spread farther afield and can be found in South-East Asia, including Thailand. It is a slow-growing evergreen tree with deep green leaves, although it is commonly mistaken for the Mast tree, which it doesn’t resemble, actually. It is also sometimes referred to as Jonesia asoka and Saraca asoka Roxb.but its proper botanical name is Saraca indica It is a member of the Fabaceae family or pea family, so is distantly related to the carob tree ( Ceratonia siliqua ), but it is in the sub family Caesalpaeniaceae as is senna. It has fragrant flowers with half white and half crimson stamens which give the flower clusters a hairy appearance, rather like the flowers on Grevillea robusta, although the Ashoka’s flowers are crimson and orange.
Like the peepal tree it is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus, as Hindus believe it is sacred to Kama Devi, the god of love, who used the flower on the tip of one of his five arrows to incite passion and desire. (One of its names means the tree of love.) Buddhists believe that the Buddha was born under the Ashoka tree. This is why you can see the tree in many temple and monastery gardens. The tree is mentioned in the Ramayana the Sanskrit text of Hindu mythology.
Ashoka means without grief or sorrow in Sanskrit, (so a visit to a restaurant called this should be a pleasant experience) and its essential oil is used to help those who have suffered bereavement, or who feel isolated and alone. It is thought that drinking the water in which the flowers from the tree have been washed will protect against grief caused by trauma and suffering. The pulped flowers are also used as a remedy for dysentery.
The tree is mainly used in medicine for female problems, but it may have anti-depressant properties in its leaves according to one research study. It is said to keep women healthy and youthful and is mainly used for gynaecological problems, with the bark employed as well as the flowers and roots in medical preparations. It contains bioflavonoids and tannins as well as amino acids and a variety of other substance and compounds which have not all be isolated.
Research that has been done on the tree’s properties suggests that the stem bark has antifungal and anti-bacterial properties, as well as pain-killing ones. It may also have an impact on the central nervous system, but there has only been one study of this, so it is early days yet.
It is hoped that Ashoka can help with Type II diabetes, but again, it is too early to tell. Not as much research has been done on this tree as has been done on the Kadamb tree.