Origin, Distribution and Composition
Cassia or purging cassia is one of the most beautiful trees of India. It
is a small to medium-sized tree with compound leaves and large, shining,
dark green leaflets. It has bright yellow flowers in very large, hanging
branches and black or shining dark brown, 50 to 60 cm long almost
The tree is also known as Indian Laburnum owing to its resemblance in
color and profusion of flowers with the European Laburnum. The trade name
is based on its scientific name but the specific name fistula, which means
a shepherd's pipe, refers to the shape of its fruit.
The cassia tree is indigenous to India. It is very decorative and is found
throughout India up to an altitude of about 1500 meters. It is more common
in moist or evergreen forests.
The leaves of the tree contain anthraquinone derivatives and very little
tannin. The root bark, besides tannin, contains phlobaphenes and oxy-anthraquinone
substance; the pulp contains rhein, the major anthraquinone derivative, a
small amount of volatile oil, three waxy substances and a resinous
Healing Power and Curative Properties
Nearly all parts of the tree have medicinal properties. The fruits are,
however, most important and are included in the Indian Pharmaceutical
The pulp from the fruits, called cassia pulp, is a well-known laxative,
and is used in the treatment of constipation. It can be safely taken even
by children and expectant mothers. About 50 grams of the pulp is soaked in
water overnight. It is then strained in the morning and taken with 25
grams of sugar.
The pulp of cassia is a mild, pleasant and safe purgative. Approximately
four grams of the pulp is taken with an equal quantity of sugar or
tamarind. As a purgative, 30 to 60 grams are required, but this quantity
may cause colic, nausea and flatulence. It is therefore generally used in
combination with other drugs, preferably in mixture with the leaves of
senna, botanically known as cassia angustifolia.
The root of the tree is useful in common cold. In case of running nose,
smoke from the burning root can be inhaled. It encourages a copious nasal
discharge and provides relief.
The root of the tree is a tonic and useful in reducing fever. An alcoholic
extract of the root-bark is used for black water fever.
For children suffering from flatulence, the cassia pulp can be applied
around the navel to ensure evacuation. Mixed with linseed or almond oil,
it can be massaged on the stomach for easing the bowel movements.
The pulp of cassia is very useful in ageusia or loss of sense of taste due
to excessive use of opium or cocaine. About 24 grams of the pulp is mixed
with a quarter liter of hot milk and used as a mouthwash to treat this
The leaves of the tree are useful in relieving irritation of the skin and
in alleviating swellings and pains. Their juice or paste serves as a
useful dressing for ringworm and inflammation of the hands or feet caused
by exposure to cold. They also relieve dropsical swellings due to
excessive accumulation of fluid in the body tissue. Its leaves can be
rubbed beneficially on affected pails for relief from rheumatism and
Its flowers are at times consumed as vegetables by certain hill tribes in