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Bastard Teak

Butea frondosa

Herbs gallery - Bastard Teak

Common names

  • Bastard Teak
  • Dhak
  • Flame Of The Forest
  • Palasa

Bastard teak (botanical name Butea frondosa) is a member of the plant family Fabaceae. This herb is found growing throughout India, especially in dry or mixed deciduous forests located in the central as well as western regions of the country. Bastard teak can be found growing at altitudes of up to 1200 meters. Usually, trees belonging to this species grow up to a height of anything between 12 meters and 15 meters and they have an irregular branching. The bark of this tree is rough and grey hued. While the leaves of bastard teak are trifoliate, usually the leaflets are silky and tomentous (thickly covered with woolly hairs). This tree bears vividly orange-red flowers that appear in racemes. Since the tree produces an abundance of orange and scarlet flowers between February and March, it has perhaps appropriately been named "Flame of the Forest". The fruit of this tree is an even pod enclosing a solitary seed.

Interestingly enough, the bastard teak produces dazzling flower clusters. While the tree grows quite tall in its natural habitat, it is also possible to grow this plant can in containers in the form of undersized specimen tree. The trunk of this tree is rather interesting as it not only becomes twisted, but also does not follow any specific pattern. This aspect of the tree makes it a wonderful conservation piece. In you are growing the bastard teak in a container or pot it can develop a bottle-like main stem (caudex) at its base. The bastard teak (Butea frondosa) is a very sluggishly growing plant and it reaches a height of roughly 15 feet when it is mature - sometime when it is about 50 years old.

Also known as Dhak locally, the bark of bastard teak is fibrous and has a bluish-grey hue. Often, the color of the bark may even be brown. When the bark is injured, it gives out a reddish juice, which dries out to form a very useful gum. The leaves of this tree are quite large, often measuring about 1 foot in length and width. These leaves are compounded and each leaf comes with three leaflets having a coarse texture. These leaflets are coriascious (leathery) with a glabrescent surface on top and a hairy smooth surface on their underside.

The bastard teak is a deciduous tree and it sheds its leaves in December, while the new growth begins in spring. When the trees have shed all its leaves, it bears flaming blooms whose color may vary from orange to red. These flaming flowers appear in February and the blossoming continues till April end, making the area where the plants grow naturally look inflamed. In fact, the flowers of Butea frondosa form a stunning canopy at the top of the trees. When looked from afar, it appears that the forests are on fire. The plant is commonly known as "palas" in India and its fruit is a flat legume. The tender pods have plenty of fine hairs as well as a downy cover. On the other hand, the mature or ripened pods dangle like strange legumes.

The bastard teak is also useful in several other ways. Aside from its therapeutic value, the leaves of this tree are an essential item in various Hindu religious ceremonies. In addition, the leaves of this tree are also employed in the form of inexpensive organic leaf plates as well as cups, especially during rural feasts. In some regions of India, the leaves are also used to wrap tobacco to make local brand of cigars called "biddies". In addition, they are also employed for packaging cooked foods in several parts of the country. The foliage of the bastard teak is also a delicious food for cattle. The bark of this tree supplies us with a rough, brown hued fiber that is used for making coarse cordage.

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The gum obtained from the Butea frondosa is basically a dehydrated astringent juice that is collected by making cuts in the tree stem. The juice that is subsequently emanated by the bastard teak bark becomes hard forming easily broken ruby hued gum beads. It has been approved that the gum can be employed in the form of a replacement for kino gum. This gum is widely used for caulking boats. On the other hand, the flowers of bastard teak yield an orange dye, while the seeds of this plant are employed in the Ayurvedic as well as Unani medicine systems for curing several human health conditions.

Moreover, this tree, also known locally as the Dhak, serves as a host for insects that produce lac and, hence, it is very helpful in natural lac production. You may use the Dhak tree in the form of a specimen. Alternatively, you can also use the tree in the form of a background element of a canopy. As the flowers begin to appear, the bastard teak tree starts shedding its leaves during the period between January and March. Bastard teak possesses the ability to endure elevated amounts of salt in the soil and, hence, it can be grown in the coastal areas. However, they need to be sheltered from direct contact with salt spray, as it may scorch the plant's leaves.

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Parts used

Gum, seeds, flowers, barks, leaves.

Uses

Several parts of the bastard teak (Butea frondosa), including its leaves, flowers, seeds, barks, and the gum obtained from it possess valuable therapeutic properties. A decoction prepared from the bark of the tree is excellent when used topically in your bath water to stop bleeding piles. On the other hand, a hot decoction prepared from the flowers and applied externally below the naval area helps to ease micturation or discharge of urine from the bladder. The seeds of the bastard teak are pounded in water and the paste is applied topically to treat scorpion stings effectively. In addition, a paste prepared with the seeds and water is also applied topically to treat a number of conditions, including edema, skin diseases and diseases related to the eyes. The dried out seed is powdered and applied in the form of nasal drops to help epilepsy patients recover from unconsciousness. In addition, the seed paste blended with lemon juice is a very effectual panacea for a number of skin disorders including eczema, ringworm and tinea.

Aside from the above therapeutic values of the bastard teak, the leaves of the tree are employed in the form of an ingredient in several tonics as well as aphrodisiacs. In addition, the leaves of this herb are also effective in stopping secretion or bleeding.

In addition, taking the gum exuded by bastard teak in three regular doses has often been found to be effective in alleviating diarrhea. However, here is a word of caution. This gum should never be given to children and women for internal usage.

It has been found that the gum of bastard teak is also effective in curing dysentery, while you can ground its seeds into a powdered form and take the powder internally for eliminating worms infesting the stomach as well as the intestines.

The therapeutic value of this tree does not end here, as the leaves can be effective in lowering the levels of blood sugar, thereby alleviating diabetes.

There are several other therapeutic benefits of the bastard teak tree. You can boil the leaves of this tree in water and can use the resultant solution in the form of a mouthwash to get relief from sore throat. In addition, the seeds can be pulverized and made into a paste with water and applied to the affected body areas on a regular basis to cure skin conditions like itching, eczema and other skin problems.

Even the leaves of this tree are useful for keeping leucorrhea under check. A decoction prepared with the bastard teak leaves can be used to rinse the genitals with a view to treat any disease in that body part. You can prepare a decoction with the leaves of this tree to rinse your pubic area on a regular basis so that it ensures you have normal urine flow.

Habitat and cultivation

The bastard teak or Butea frondosa has its origin in India, where it is found growing in the wild throughout the country. This tree is especially seen in dry and mixed deciduous forests in the western and central parts of India.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of different parts of the bastard teak has revealed that while the resin exuded by the tree and its bark skin encloses gallic acids and tannins, the seeds contain an alkaloid called palasonin. This alkaloid is an effective anthelmintic, particularly in eliminating round worm (Ascaris lumbricoides) infestations. The resin gum yielded by the tree is known as Kino oil, and it encloses amyrin, lipolytic and proteolytic enzymes, lectins, sitosterol, lactone and monospermin.

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