Palaash ( Butea monosperma)
This plant is commonly known as dhaak and tesu in Hindi and flame of the forest and bastard teak in English. It belongs to the family Leguminosae, subfamily papilionatae and nyagrodhadi gana in Ayurveda. In Kerala, this is called as plasu and chamata which is a Sanskrit word for samidha, small pieces of wood that are used for agnihotra or fire ritual. Leaves of this tree are used to make leaf-plates or leaf bowls for serving meals and used widely in India for that purpose, a practice which is environmentally friendly as compared to use of paper plates.

Plant description: It is a medium sized tree, growing from 20-40 feet high. The leaves are pinnate, with an 8-16 cm petiole and three leaflets, each leaflet 10-20 cm long. The flowers are 2.5 cm long, bright orange-red, and produced in racemes up to 15 cm long. The leaves fall in winter and flowers bloom in February-March in small but dense clusters generally on leafless branches, and so the tree appears to be aflame. The fruit is a pod 15-20 cm long and 4-5 cm broad. It contains a 2.5 to 4 cm single seed.

Ayurvedic pharmacology: Guna-Laghu, Ruksha; Rasa-Katu, Tikta, Kashaya; Vipaaka-Katu; Virya-Usna
Chemical composition: The bark and red-coloured gum is rich in gallic and tannic acids. The seed contains active ingredient palasonin which has action on round worms. Fresh seeds contain proteolytic and lipolytic enzymes. The flowers contain glucosides, butrin, butin, neteroside and a yellow dye.

Therapeutically useful parts: Bark, gum, flowers and seeds.

Therapeutic uses: Flowers are applied externally on lower abdomen in urine retention and internally in bleeding disorders. Leaves are used externally on swellings and pain. Decoction of bark is used to wash wounds and internally in digestive disorders. Gum is used in aphrodisiac medicines. Powder of seeds is used to expel round worms, in skin diseases and diabetes.

Doses: Decoction of bark—50 to 100 ml; powder of flowers—3-6 grams; gum—1-3 grams; powder of seeds—3-6 grams.

Dr. Pratibha Mamgain, Dept. of Ayurvedic Medicine