Origin, Distribution and Composition
The banyan tree is well known all over India. The tree has what is known
as the 'aerial roots'; its branches drop to the ground, take roots again,
and send out more twisting and trailing branches, thus extending the
growth of the tree indefinitely. It has smooth, shining, rather stiff and
leathery leaves, broadly oval in shape. The flowers and fruits are
inconspicuous, very minute, many of them being held together in the fig,
which is a sort of pouch that contains hundreds of flowers or fruits.
The name Banyan tree in English seems to have been given by Europeans in
the Persian Gulf to a particular tree of this species under which Banias
or members of the Indian merchant class used to congregate for worship and
business. Gradually, the name spread to indicate all the species of this
tree. From time immemorial, poets and mystics of India have been eloquent
in singing the praises of this tree. It is now one of the commonest trees
planted along the country roads, shrines, or uncultivated fields in India.
The leaves of the banyan tree yield ficusin and bergaptene. The latex of
the tree is very toxic.
Healing Power and Curative Properties
The banyan has many medicinal properties. It is used in traditional
medicine for the treatment of several ailments. The bark and leaf buds of
the tree are useful in arresting secretion or bleeding. The fruit
exercises a soothing effect on the skin and mucous membranes, alleviates
swelling and pain, and serve as a mild purgative. It is also nutritious.
Diarrhea and Dysentery
The leaf buds of the banyan tree are beneficial in the treatment of
chronic diarrhea and dysentery. The buds should be soaked in water
overnight and taken as infusion in the treatment of these diseases. The
latex is also useful in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery.
Piles or Hemorrhoids
A few drops of the latex of the banyan tree mixed in milk and taken daily
helps to cure bleeding hemorrhoids. With this treatment, the diet of the patient
should contain liberal quantities of green vegetables especially fenugreek
and manattakkali or black nightshade leaves.
Tender roots of the banyan tree are considered beneficial in the treatment
of female sterility. These roots should be dried in the shade and finely
powdered. This powder should be mixed 5 times its weight with milk and
taken at night for 3 consecutive nights after menstruation cycle every
month till the conception takes place. No other food should be taken with
A regular douching of the genital tract with a decoction of the bark of
the banyan tree and the fig tree is helpful in leucorrhoea. A tablespoon
each of the powders of the bark of the two trees should be boiled in a
liter of water till it is reduced to about half. Douching with the
lukewarm decoction will keep the tissues of vaginal tract healthy.
Cleaning the teeth with the aerial roots of the banyan is beneficial in
preventing teeth and gum disorders. As one chews the stick and brushes,
the astringent secretion from the root-stick cleanses and strengthens the
teeth and gums.
The latex is commonly used locally for rheumatism, pain and lumbago.
A hot poultice of the leaves can be applied with beneficial results to
abscesses to promote suppuration and to hasten their breaking. The milky
juice from the fresh green leaves is useful in destroying warts. The latex
is commonly used locally for sores, ulcers and bruises.
Those who do not wear socks and shoes suffer from cracking of heels, a
condition known as kibes. The best way to deal with this condition is to
fill the cracks with the sap of the banyan tree.
An infusion of the bark is a specific medicine for diabetes. The tender
ends of the aerial roots can be taken in obstinate vomiting.