Orchid tree – proven medicinal benefits and uses


The scientific name of the orchid tree is Bauhinia variegata Linn.

Scientific names Common names
Bauhinia chinensis (DC.) Vogel Butterfly tree (Engl.)
Bauhinia decora Uribe Mountain ebony (Engl.)
Bauhinia variegata Linn. Red flowered bauhinia (Engl.)
Bauhinia variegata var. variegata Orchid tree (Engl.)
Phanera variegata (L.) Benth. Poor man’s orchid (Engl.)
Orchid tree is an English common names shared by several Bauhinia species: (1) B. variegata (2) B. purpurea and (3) B. monandra.
Butterfly tree, derived from the “butterfly” shape of the leaves common to many Bauhinia species, is a common name shared by many Bauhinia species, among them: B. purpurea, B. monandra, B. variegata.
Bauhinia variegata L. is an accepted name
Other vernacular names
ASSAMESE: Kotora, Kurol.
BENGALI: Raktakanchan.
CHINESE: Yang ti jia.
HINDI: Kachnar.
KANNADA: Arisinantige, Ayata, Bilikanjivala, Irkubalitu.
MANIPURI: Chingtrao.
NEPALI: Koiralo.
SANSKRIT: Ashmantaka, Asphota, Chamarika, Chamari.

The orchid tree is a genus of more than 200 species. The genus was named after the Bauhin brothers, Swiss-French botanists. The leaves share the double-leaf configuration of a heart, or more popularly, that of a butterfly.

The Hongkong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana is named after one of the British Governors of Hongkong, Sir Henry Blake, 1898-1903) and is now the floral emblem of Hongkong. The flower looks like an orchid, and thus has earned the name “Orchid Tree.” It is usually sterile, and debated as of hybrid origin between Bauhinia variegata and Bauhinia purpurea.


Bauhinia variegata is a moderate sized deciduous tree growing to a height of 10 meters or more. Leaves are alternate and lobed to one-third of their length, heart-shaped at the base with a deep cleft that divides the apex. Flowers are in short racemes, faintly fragrant, petals broad and overlapping, lavender to purple or white. Pods are long, narrow, flattened,10 to 15 centimeters by 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters, containing 5 to 10 seeds.



orchid-treeParts used

Bark, leaves, flowers, roots.


– Yields flavonoids:quercetin, rutin, apigenin and apigenin 7-O-glucoside.

– Phytoscreening reported flavonoids, lectin and albumin.

– Stem yields sitosterol, lupeol, kaempferol-3-glucoside and 5,7-dihydroxy and 5,7-dimethoxy flavanone-4-O–L-rhamnopyranosyl–Dglucopyranosides.

– Flowers contain cyanidine-3-glucoside, malvidin-3-glucoside, malvidin-3-diglucoside, and peonidin
3-diglucoside, kaempferol-3-galactoside and kaempferol-3- rhamnoglucoside.

– Root bark yielded a new flavanone: (2S)–5,7-dimethoxy-3′- 4′ -methylene dioxyf lavanone and a new dihydrobenzoxepin 5,6-dihydro-1,7dihydroxy-3,4- 2,3 dimethoxy-2-methyldibenz (b,f) oxepin.

orchid-treeMedicinal properties of orchid tree

Antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, anthelmintic.

Bark is alterative, astringent and tonic.


In India, flower buds used as a vegetable dish.

Folkloric traditional medicine remedies, uses and benefits of orchid tree

– The bark is used for the treatment of skin diseases, scrofula and ulcers.

– Bark used to treat obesity and diarrhea.

– The dried buds are used in the treatment of piles, dysentery, diarrhea and worms.

– Root is used as an antidote to snake poison.

– Decoction of the root used for dyspepsia.

– In India, powdered bark used as tonic, for strains, ulcers, skin disease. Also, extracts of bark used for treatment of cancer. Roots used for dyspepsia and as antidote for snake bites.

– In Ayurveda, plant pacifies vitiated kapha, diarrhea, skin diseases, rectal prolapse, diabetes, inflammation, worms, tumors, piles, menorrhagia, hemoptysis, and cervical lymphadenopathy.

– Roots used as antidote to snake poison.

Scientific proven health benefits and uses of orchid tree

Analgesic / Antiinflammatory / relieves pain, swelling and inflammation:

A study showed that the aqueous extract of Bauhinia purpurea leaves possesses potential pharmacologic activities that confirms the folkloric use of the plant for use in pain and inflammation.


Evaluation of antibacterial activity and phytochemical analysis of Bauhinia variegata L. bark: Defatted acetone and methanol extracts showed the most antibacterial activity.


The aqueous and methanol extracts of 12 plants from different families was studied for antibacterial activity against B cereus, S epidermis, E aerogenes, P vulgari and S typhimurium. Among the plant screened, B variegata bark showed the best antibacterial activity.


Study isolated six flavonoids and one triterpene caffeate. The seven compound significantly and dose-dependently inhibited function involved in the inflammatory proceses. Results support the folkloric use of BV in its use for inflammatory conditions.

Antiinflammatory / Flavonol Glycoside:

Study yielded a novel flavonol glycoside 5,7,3′,4′-tetrahydroxy-3-methoxy-7-O-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl(1–>3)-)-beta-galactopyranoside from the root which showed anti-inflammatory activity.

Hepatoprotective/ protects liver:

Hepatoprotective Properties of Bauhinia variegata Bark Extract: In carbon tetrachloride intoxicated rats, extract of stem bark of Bv showed significant hepatoprotective actisvity and a promising agent for that purpose.

Chemopreventive / Cytotoxic:

Chemoprevention and cytotoxic effect of Bauhinia variegata against N-nitrosodiethylamine (DEN) induced liver tumors and human cancer cell lines: Results showed chemopreventive and cytotoxic effect of ethanol extract of BV against induced DEN liver tumor and human cancer lines.

Antitumor / Cytotoxic:

Ethanol extract of B variegata evaluated against Dalton’s ascitic lymphoma in Swiss albino mice showed significant enhancement of survival time and reverse hematologic parameters consequent to tumor inoculation.

Antioxidant / Antihyperlipidemic:

Study of alcoholic and aqueou extract of Bv effectively decreased plasma cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, VLDL and increase HDL levels and also showed significant antioxidant activity. EBV was found to be a potent cytotoxic toward EAC tumor cell.

Pharmacognosy / Phytochemicals:

Study yielded steroid, saponin, flavonoids, alkaloids and tannins.


Study on the ethanolic extract of the stem bark of Bv showed significant increase in the primary and secondary humoral antibody response and show promise as an immunomodulatory agent, probably through stimulation of both the specific and nonspecific arms of immunity.


Study evaluating the immunomodulatory activity of stem bark extracts showed predominantly significant activity on in vitro human neutrophils in all parameters. Results suggested a possible immunostimulating effect.


Study showed the presence of insulin-like properties in the leave of Bv. The activity of this insulin-like protein on serum glucoe levels in diabetic mice was similar to that of commercial swine insulin used a control.


Study showed significant anthelmintic activity by methanolic extract of B variegata against both mature male and female Haemonchu contortus.


Study of extracts of bark of Bauhinia variegata showed significant reduction in total cholesterol and LDL in Triton-induced hyperlipidemia in rats. The HDL increase was not significant.

Anti-Obesity Effect:

Study of root extract showed an anti-obesity activity attributed to its hypophagic, hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effect.

Nephroprotective / protects kidney/ Antioxidant:

Study of ethanol and aqueous roots extracts in gentamicin-induced nephrotoxicity in rats showed significant nephroprotective activity. Antioxidant activity was shown on a DPPH assay model.


Study of B. variegata bark in mice showed a chemopreventive potential against DMBA-induced skin carcinogenesis.


Study of bark extract B. variegata showed a preventive potential against cyclophosphamide-induced micronucleus formation in Swiss mouse bone marrow cells.

Antipyretic / help relives fever :

Study of ethanolic extract showed antipyretic activity probably through inhibitionof prostaglandin synthesis in the hypothalamus.


Study of aqueous and ethanl extracts of BV against milk-induced leucocytosis and eosinophic in mice showed a significant dose-dependent reduction in total leucocyte and eosinophil counts suggesting an antieosinophilic activity.

Anti-Ulcer / Analgesic:

Study of root extracts showed significant dose-dependent analgesic and significant anti-ulcer activity. The activities were attributed to the presence of flavonoids.

Chemopreventive / Cytotoxic:

Study of ethanol extract of BV showed significant chemopreventive and cytotoxic effect against DEN (N-nitrosodiethylamine)-induced liver tumor and human cancer cell lines.


Study showed the extract of leaves of G. pentaphylla and Bauhinia variegata inhibited free radical scavenging activity. The effect was attributed to flavonoids, phenolics and other phytochemical constituents.

Antipyretic / relives fever :

Study of ethanolic extracts of B. variegata and Glcosmis pentaphylla exhibited significant antipyretic activities in Brewer’s yeast induced pyrexia in rats. Activity was attributed to inhhibition of prostaglandin synthesis in the hypothalamus.

Chemopreventive / DBMA-induced Skin Carcinogenesis:

Study investigated the anticarcinogenic activity of B. variegata bark extract in a skin papilloma model in Swiss albino mice. Results showed a chemopreventive role for bark extracts against DBMA-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice with decrease in rate of tumor incidence, number of papillomas, tumor yield and tumor burden.


Study investigated the anti-inflammatory potential of leaves, barks, and roots using three in vivo animal models: carrageenan induced rat paw edema, cotton pellets induced granuloma formation, and adjuvant induced arthritis in rat. An ethanol extract and petroleum ether extract demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in the three bioassays.

Analgesic / Antifungal / Cytotoxic:

Study investigating an ethanolic extract of the plant showed analgesci activity by eddy’s hot plate method, in vitro cytotoxicity against DLA cells lines by Typan blue assay method, and good antifungal activity against Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans.

Radical Scavenging / Natural Antioxidant:

Study of leaf, stem bark, floral buds extracts showed remarkable concentration dependent free radical scavenging and reducing power. Results suggest a potential source of natural antioxidant.

Antimicrobial / Anticancer Activities:

Study evaluated extracts of B. variegata generated through in vivo and in vitro processes for antibacterial and anticancer activities. Activity was greater against gram positive bacteria compared to gram negative bacterial. In vitro cytotoxicity screening showed inhibition of EAC mouse cell lines.

Antibacterial / Anticancer / Antioxidant / Leaves:

Study evaluated the phytochemical, antimicrobial, and anticancer activities of B. variegata leaf extracts. Petroleum ether and chloroform fractions showed considerable inhibition against Klebsiella pneumonia. An ethanol extract showed the lowest MBC (3.5 mg/mL) against Pseudomonas spp. Dose dependent response was observed in reducing power of the extracts. Many extracts showed significant antioxidant response in beta carotene bleaching assay. Aqueous fraction showed pronounced cytotoxic effect against against DU-145, HOP-62, IGR-OV-1, MCF-7, and THP-1 human cancer cell lines with 90–99% cell growth inhibitory activity.

Nephroprotective / Leaves:

Study of methanolic extract of leaves showed nephroprotective activity in gentamicin induced nephrotoxicity. The extract showed a very good protective effect (p<0.001) in the control of creatinine, urea, and uric acid.

Cytotoxic Activity / HeLa Cell Line:

Study investigated the in vitro anticancer activity of a flavonoid rich fraction of an ethanolic bark extract on HeLa cell lines. Results confirm the induction of apoptosis by in malignant HeLa cell lines at a dose level of 191.5 µg/ml and also arrested the replication of cells at G0/G1 phase.

Acute and Repeated Dose Toxicity / Leaves:

Study investigated the safety of a methanolic extract of leaves after acute and repeated dose administration in rodents. NOAEL (no-observed adverse effect level) of the ME was found to be 2000 mg/kg. In repeated dose toxicity study, no mortality was seen during a 28-day period. Histopathology of important organs showed normal structure. Results showed the leaves to be safe in acute and repeated dose toxicity studies in mice and rats.

Anti-Inflammatory / Leaves:

Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory activity of a leaf extract using three in vivo animal models: carrageenan induced rat paw edema, cotton pellets induced granuloma formation, and adjuvant induced arthritis in rats. Both ethanol extract and PE fraction demonstrated activity in all three bioassays. The activity compared favorable with diclofenac.


Ornamental cultivation.

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