|Scientific names||Common names|
|Jonesia asoca sensu auct.||Asoka (Tag., Engl.)|
|Jonesia minor Zoll. & Moritzi||Asoka tree (Engl.)|
|Saraca arborescens Burm.f.||Ashok tree (Engl.)|
|Saraca asoca sensu auct.||Sorrowless tree (Engl.)|
|Saraca bijuga Prain|
|Saraca harmandiana Pierre|
|Saraca indica L.|
|Saraca minor (Zoll. & Moritzi) Miq.|
|Saraca pierreana Craib|
|Saraca zollingeriana “sensu Prain, non Miq.”|
|Saraca indica L. is an accepted name.|
|Other vernacular names|
|ASSAMESE: Ahok, Ashoka.|
|BENGALI: Ashok, Ashoke, Asok, Asoka.|
|BURMESE: Thawgabo, Thawka.|
|CHINESE: Wu you hua.|
|HINDI: Ashok, Asok, Sita ashok.|
|KANNADA: Achenge, Ashoka, Ashokadamara.|
|MALAYALAM: Asokam, Hemapushpam.|
|MARATHI: Ashoka, Jasundi.|
|NEPALESE: Ashau, Ashok.|
|ORIYA: Osoko, Ashoka.|
|SANSKRIT: Anganapriya, Apashaka, Ashoka, Gandapushpa, Hemapushpa, Madhupushpa, Pindapushpa, Pindipushpa, Vanjula, Vichitra, Vishoka.|
|SINHALESE: Diyeratembela, Diyaratmal.|
|TAMIL: Anagam, Asogam, Asogu, Sasubam.|
|TELUGU: Asokamu, Vanjulamu.|
Asoka tree is considered sacred throughout India, frequently found in royal gardens and planted close to temples. It is a recurrent element in Indian art and mythology, with a Yakshi holding the branch of a flowering Ashok tree. It is also considered a sacred tree in Hinduism, worshiped in Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar.
Ashoka means “without sorrow,” referring to the bark’s reputation for keeping one healthy and youthful. Buddha was believed to have been born under this tree. (27)
Asoka is usually a small tree growing up to 10 meters high, slow-growing when young. Bark is dark brown, grey or black. Leaves are alternate, and even-pinnate, 15 to 25 centimeters long with with 3 to 6 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are oblong or oblong-lanceolate, often blunt , up to 22 centimeters long. Flowers are fragrant at night, orange red or red, depending on age. Corymbs are 18 centimeters across. Pod is up to 25 centimeters long.
– Native to Southeast Asia.
– Cultivated in India to the Malay Peninsula.
– Study isolated two flavonoids, two tannins (ellagic acid, catechin, quercetin and quercitrin) and 3,4-dihydroxy-benzaldehyde and 3,7,11,15-tetramethyl hexadecen-1-ol compounds.
– Bark contains an estrogenic compound, ergosterol.
– Phytochemical analysis yielded ß-sitosterol, flavonoids, flavone glycosides, anthocyanins, fixed oil in flower; bark yielded different catechols, sterols, tannins flavonoids, glycosides, leucopelargonidin and leucocyanidin. Seed and pod yielded oleic, linoleic, palmitic, and stearic acid, catechol,, epicatechol, and leucocyanidine. Leaves and stem yield quercetin, quercetin-3-O-α-L-rhmanoside, kaempferol 3-O-L-rhamnoside, amyrin, ceryl alcohol and ß-sitosterol. (see study below) (10)
Medicinal properties of ashoka tree
– Considered feminine-specific.
– Considered astringent, uterine sedative.
– Bark is considered bitter, astringent, refrigerant, anthelmintic, demulcent, styptic, stomachic, constipating, febrifuge, and demulcent.
– Studies have shown antibacterial, larvicidal, antifungal, oxytoxic, analgesic, anthelmintic, hypoglycemic, CNS depressant, cardioprotective, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-arthritic, anti-platelet aggregation, anti-diarrheal, anti-cataract, anticancer, anxiolytic properties.
Bark, seeds, flowers.
Folkloric traditional medicinal uses
– Bark used in menorrhagia due to fibroids, leucorrhea and internally bleeding.
– Used for dysmenorrhea.
– Leaf juice, mixed with cumin seeds,, used for stomachaches.
– Bark, seeds, and flowers used in Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine. Early Indian Materia Medica, 1500 AD, mentions the plant as a uterine tonic used for menstrual disorders.
– Flowers used for cervical adenitis, biliousness, syphilis, hyperdipsia, hemorrhagic dysentery, hemorrhoids, and scabies.
– In India, bark used as uterine sedative.
– In Pakistan, used for excessive uterine bleeding.
– Also used for depression.
– Used for internal bleeding, hemorrhoids, hemorrhagic dysentery.
– Bark extract used for menorrhagia.
– Juice of flowers used as coolant against biliousness.
– Bark used as astringent and uterine sedative.
– Used as tonic; also used for rheumatism, skin diseases, and urinary disorders.
– In India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, Ashoka bark is used by women for the treatment of menorrhagia, and other menstrual and uterine disorders. In Ayurveda, used in the treatment of wounds, poisoning, tumors, diarrhea, worm infestation, abdominal swelling. In Unani medicine, used for anorexia, dermatitis, indigestion, animal bites, and as hair tonic. (26)
Scinetific studies on Ashoka benefits and uses
• Lead Decontamination:
Study explored the effectiveness of S. indica leaf powder a surplus low value agricultural waste in removing Pb (lead) ions from aqueous solution. Results showed that Saraca indica leaf powder can easily be envisaged as a new, vibrant low cost biosorbent for metal clean up operations. (2)
Petroleum ether extract of leaves and chloroform extract of bark were effective against the larvae of C. quinquefasciatus. (3)
In-vitro study evaluated the ethanolic and methanolic extracts for antibacterial activity against E coli and S aureus. Although the extracts were inferior to the chloramphenicol control, they exhibited antibacterial activity even at low concentrations. (2) Various extracts of leaves of S. indica were used to evaluated for antibacterial activity against E. coli and B. subtilis. A methanolic extract showed the strongest activity against both bacteria. (24)
• Antimicrobial / Stem Bark:
Various extracts of stem bark were tested for antibacterial and antifungal activities. A methanolic extract showed strongest activity against both bacteria and fungi. (6)
• Estrogen Stimulatory Effect:
Study has shown stimulatory effect on ovarian tissue and may produce an estrogen-like effect that enhances the repair of endometrium and stops bleeding.
• Oxytoxic Effect:
Study showed an oxytoxic effect in rat and human isolated uterine preparations.estrogen-like effect that enhances the repair of endometrium and stops bleeding.
• Hypoglycemic Effect:
Study of methanolic bark extracts of Saraca indica showed reduction of glucose levels in STZ-induced diabetic rats. (7)
Ethanolic and methanolic extracts of S. indica exhibited dose-dependent anthelmintic property. Both extracts were more potent than the control. The presence of alkaloids, glycosides, terpenoids, tannins and flavonoids may be the responsible phytochemicals for the anthelmintic activity.
Extracts exhibited a dose-dependent analgesic activity. Significant activity was noted in the tail immersion method, with highest activity after 90 minutes like that of the standard drug. (9)
• CNS Depressant Activity / Leaves:
Study evaluated different extracts of Saraca indica leaves for central nervous system depressant activity using pentobarbitone induced sleeping time and locomotor activity using actophotometer. The methanol extract produced the most significant dose dependent CNS depressant activity. (10)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Analgesic / Bark:
Study evaluated S. asoca using Carrageenan-induced hind paw edema test for anti-inflammatory effect in rats and hot plate test for analgesic effect in Swiss albino mice. Results showed evidence of anti-inflammatory and possibly analgesic properties of bark. (11)
• Cardioprotective / Cyclophosphamide-Induced Cardiotoxicity:
Study evaluated an alcoholic extract of bark against cyclophosphamide induced cardiotoxicity. Biochemical, ECG, and histopathology reports suggest a cardioprotective effect attributed to antioxidant activity. (12)
• Antihyperglycemic / Antioxidant / Leaves:
Study investigated various extracts of leaves for antihyperglycemic and antioxidant properties in mice. Results showed significant reduction of blood glucose in diabetic mice, with the methanol extract showing the best results. All the extracts showed significant antioxidant activity. (13) Study evaluated the anti-diabetic and antioxidant activities of S. indica leaves on PTP1-B assay and DPPH assay. Results demonstrated antidiabetic and antioxidant potential. The potent activity was attributed to flavanoids and glycosides present in the extract. (29)
• Analgesic / Leaves:
Study evaluated the analgesic activity of various leaf extracts of Saraca indica by tail immersion method and formalin induced pain method in albino mice. Results showed analgesic activity with the extracts exhibiting significant activity in tail immersion method. (14)
• Anthelmintic / Leaves:
Study evaluated various extracts of leaves for anthelmintic activity against adult earth worms Pheretima posthuma. A methanol extract showed better anthelmintic activity when compared to standard drug albendazole. (15)
• Catechins / Antimicrobial Activity:
Study evaluated the antimicrobial activity of S. asoca and its correlation with catechins. Catechin and (+)-epicatechin and biosynthesis related compound were up-regulated in regenerated bark and leaves extracts. Results showed a correlation of antimicrobial activity with catechins present in S. asoca samples. (16)
• Anti-Arthritic / Anti-Inflammatory / Seeds:
Study evaluated an acetone extract of seeds of S. asoka for anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis in Freund’s adjuvant-induced arthritis in Wistar albino rats. Results confirmed significant nontoxic, antiarthritic, and anti-inflammatory pharmacological effect of S. asoca extract, attributed to the presence of flavonoidic compounds and lowering of prostaglandin levels in the blood. (17)
• Cytotoxicity / Human Cervical Cancer HeLA Cell Line / Bark:
Study evaluated the invitro cytotoxicity of crude methanolic extracts of bark on HeLa cell lines using MTT assay. Results showed significant antitumor and cytotoxic effect against human cervical cancer HeLa cell line. (18)
• Anti-Platelet Aggregation:
Study evaluated various extracts off Saraca indica for their ability to inhibit CaCl induced platelet aggregation in vitro. Scanning electron microscope images showed various leaf extracts were effective against platelet aggregation, and suggests a potential template for development of new herbal antiplatelet aggregation agent. (19)
• Anticonvulsant / Skeletal Muscle Relaxant / Anxiolytic:
Methanol solvent extracts of leaves were evaluated for pharmacologic properties. The anticonvulsant effect, skeletal muscle relaxant activity, anxiolytic effects suggest S. indica induces a depressant activity on the CNS. (20)
• Anti-Diarrheal / Stem Bark:
Study of dried stem bark extracts of S. asoca showed significant antidiarrheal property in castor oil-induced diarrhea in albino rats. Loperamide was used as standard drug. (21)
• New Labdane Diterpene / Antifungal / Anticancer / Leaves:
Study of hydroalcoholic extract of leaves yielded new labdane diterpene, along with 10 known sterols and flavonoids. The new compound, 6,9-epoxy marrubiinic acid, showed significant antifungal activity against Geotrichum candidum. It also showed potential cytotoxicity against human cancer cell lines. (22)
• Cataract Prevention in STZ-Induced Diabetic Rats:
Study evaluated the effect of S indica flowers extract and fractions on in vitro aldose reductase, high glucose induced cataracts in goat lens and in vivo STZ induced cataract in rats. Results showed significant amount of aldose reductase inhibitory activity. The ethyl acetate produced maximum effect attributed to high phenolic and flavonoid content with the potential to inhibit rat lens AR and also in vitro antioxidant activity —activities which may prevent cataractogeneisis in glucose containing lens organ cultures and in invivo STZ-induced diabetic rats. (23)
• Antioxidant / Antibreast Cancer / Bark:
Study of bark extract of Saraca indica showed antioxidant and antibreast cancer activity. Toxicological study suggests the extract is safe to use and a potential for use as complementary and alternative medicine for breast cancer therapy. (28)
– Numerous commercially sold Ashoka-based herbal/drug formulations.
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