KUSUM, CEYLON OAK, OR MACASSAR OIL TREE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF SCHLEICHERA OLEOSA
This tree can grow up to 45 feet although some are even taller and they grow around the foothills of the Himalayas and are native to Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Thailand and its islands and Sri-Lanka and has naturalized on the Indonesian islands particularly on Bali and Java. It is a member of the Sapindaceae family so is a relative of the soapnut tree (reetha), lychee and rambutan trees, the hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa), and many others. Like the dhak tree, or Flame of the
Forest tree, it plays host to the lac insect which secretes resin on its bark to protect itself and its offspring, and which is used in varnishes and also has other industrial uses.
It is generally found in the Indian subcontinent in mixed deciduous forests and in Java it is found in natural teak forests. It is now being considered as a source of biofuel, and has long been used as fodder for cattle. They are fed its leaves and the seed cake which remains after the seeds have had their oil extracted from them. This oil is known as Macassar oil and another name for this tree is the Macassar oil tree. This oil is used in hairdressing and to promote hair growth. The oil can also be used for cooking and lighting, and is used medicinally in traditional medicine systems for skin problems such as acne, itching, and burns. It is used as massage oil to relieve the pain of rheumatism.
The oil is also added to bath water and perfumes, and on Java it is used in the batik industry. The powdered seeds are used on the wounds and ulcers of cattle to get rid of maggots in them.
The oil contains oleic, stearic, gadoleic and arachidic acid and the cyanogenic compounds have to be removed for human consumption.
The bark of the tree has astringent properties and is used in decoctions and infusions for inflamed skin and ulcers, and to protect against malaria. The bark also yields dye and tannin used in the leather industry. It also contains an analgesic compound, lupeol and betulin and betulic acid, both of which are believed to have anti-cancer properties.
The heartwood of the tree is used for agricultural implements, cartwheels and spokes, in heavy construction work, for boat building, oil presses, ploughs and has a variety of other uses. It is said that the shellac obtained from the lac insects on this tree is superior to other yields on other trees.
The stem bark is used for menstrual problems and taken in an infusion. The extracts from the tree bark have antioxidant properties and may help in our fight against certain cancers, although research is still ongoing. The triterpenoids which have been extracted from the bark have been shown in one study undertaken by P. Ghosh et al, 2011, Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Vol.73 (2) pp. 231-33, “Triterpenoids from Schleichera oleosa of Darjeeling foothills and their microbial activity” showed antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial activities.
There have only been a few studies done on this tree, but it seems that it may have many benefits for us including use as biofuel.