Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Palash Tree - Magic of Medicinal Herbs and Flowers



The Palash Tree Flower
Before modern medicines became prevalent, humans treated many ailments with flowers, leaves, roots and barks of plants and trees. Ayurveda,  an ancient Indian medicinal science, makes use of many herbs and plant materials without substantial extraction of active ingredients as modern medicine does. The idea is that additional compounds in a medicinal or edible plant is an organic whole and a part of life that supports other life.  The complimentary compounds play a useful balancing role whereas individually extracted and isolated compounds can be harmful. A modern example in wide use as food is sugar, a pure chemical isolated from the juice of sugar cane.

Indeed there is no food or herb that does not contain a compound or two that could be from mildly to extremely dangerous if isolated and consumed but is beneficial as a group with other compounds. That is the reason why alcohol distilled from a natural fermented fruit juice and then diluted with water can give a headache and a hangover while the natural fermented juice with same percentage of alcohol will not. The difference is created by  additional balancing compounds in the natural fermented juice.

Ancient spiritual persons led highly regulated lives and were sensitive to processes in their bodies from breathing down to thoughts and emotions. They discovered effect of various herbs through experimentation and at times by observing animals that consumed these plants. With further use amongst others, certain herbs were declared as being useful for certain ailments. However, the diversity and variety of different plants on the planet is so huge that many useful medicinal plants and their precise effect is yet to be discovered. Such discoveries are not the priority of modern medicinal industry driven by financial motives. They would rather discover a new chemical, patent it and then exploit it for financial gain. Natural plant remedies, especially the most useful ones are a threat to this industry and they would perhaps rather have the most powerful ones such as cannabis declared as a schedule-I drug if possible so that scientists cannot even carry out research on them and discover any potential medicinal value that might interfere with their business. It seems when profit becomes a priority easing the suffering of fellow humans takes a back seat.

The difficulty with ancient herbal science is that it has not been put through the same sort of rigorous scientific analysis as modern medicines. Further the knowledge has not been recorded carefully. Names of some of the herbs are misunderstood and some have become extinct. There is also much fraud in this area as humans are prone to resort to whenever there is profit and when regulation is lacking. On the positive side, these herbs are natural substances unlike modern medicines that are unnatural because they are a product of a laboratory. Even when the original source is a plant, modern practitioners isolate the active or so called active agent and use that as a medicine, an unnatural product. The process of testing is so long that the scientist has little time to study the combined effect of other ingredients in the plant that God put in there along with the so called active substance. The result is that many modern medicines are far more likely to cause a harmful side effect as compared to a natural herb that comes from life and supports life.

Even addictive herbs such as Marijuana and Opium in their natural state are far less addictive than some chemical medicines. Steps are underway around the world to legalize Marijuana which this author supports, since it kills far fewer people than Alcohol does but governments must be careful not to legalize their extracts and so called active agents.

May I now tell something about a personal near magical experience with just one herbal remedy – the Palash flower.  Butea Monosperma or Palash (dhak) is a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of India and Asia. Historically, dhak forests covered much of the area between the Ganges and Yamuna in northern India, but these were cleared for agriculture in early 19th century as the English East India Company increased tax demands on peasants. It is used for timber, resin, fodder, medicine, and dye. The wood is dirty white and soft and, being durable under water, is used for well-curbs and water scoops. Good charcoal can be made from it. The leaves are usually very leathery and not eaten by cattle. However, the leaves are great for making throw away bowls and plates after sewing together and drying and used widely in India for the purpose, a practice that is far more environmentally friendly as compared to use of paper plates. It is a medium sized tree, growing to 15 m tall.. The flowers are 2.5 cm long, bright orange-red, and produced in racemes up to 15 cm long.

Branch of a a Palash Tree in full bloom
The palash tree is a medicinal tree and amongst its various uses it is used to treat inflammation, swelling, conditions related to bones etc.  For some years now I have suffered from time to time with a stiffness of the back and a feeling of weakness and tiredness in that area that has increased with age, not quite an ache but nevertheless not comfortable. It is something that is common with age and those who lead a life on the desk. Therefore, a few months ago when I heard of the use of Palash flowers from a learned source, I visited a traditional supplier and procured some dried flowers and added them to my afternoon cup of tea. They produce a strong yellow color when boiled. If you wish to do that then add the palash flowers to the boiling water first and let boil for few minutes before adding tea leaves that do not need more than an instant of boiling. The effect was magical. The back stiffness and feeling of  back tiredness disappeared within a day. Last month I ran out of the flowers and gradually the back stiffness returned. Two days ago I procured some more flowers and repeated their use. Once again the effect was magical. The back pain disappeared within a day again. Praise the Lord who seeded our planet with such wonderful herbs that humans could benefit more from if they gave up on undesirable distractions and learned to love and nurture nature instead.

UPDATE 2015: 

Over the past few months I had stopped use of  palash flowers and then the back tiredness which is most just after sleep, returned again. As before it disappeared in a day after resuming the tea. Perhaps the flower tea has to be used consistently for very many months for their cure to become permanent or it has to be combined with exercises to strengthen the back about which frankly I am very lazy spending much time on the desk instead. There is a reference in the comments from a highly reputed doctor for those interested in back exercises.


 UPDATE August 2015:


While I have found the Palash flower tea a great aid for back discomfort, one concern has been the need to take it regularly. In principle I am against dependence on any food, medicine or herbs except for the briefest list that includes for me an egg a day, a couple of cups of tea and a cup of coffee after breakfast. However, I have worked out an intermittent schedule for the afternoon tea with Palash now. I take it for a week or two and then give it up. After some days, that perhaps depends on age and exercise, when I notice the back discomfort coming back in bed after a nights sleep, I return to it to repeat the cycle. I suspect if it is combined with physical exercises for the back it may not be needed for a long time after the initial few weeks but so far I have not got around to doing that regularly, one area I have not been particularly disciplined in life.
 



From  the author of  The Babaji Affair

www.amazon.com/Babaji-Affair-Ashok-Malhotra/dp/149232955X










Palash flower image from


38 comments:

Vinod Khurana said...

Dear Ashok ji, Very useful article. Ayurvedic medicines sometime work wonders. But the problem is of quantification of various ingredients.If more rigorous analysis could be carried out, the dosage could be fixed on some scientific basis.This can help revive our ancient system of medicine,like chinese system which is very popular

ashok said...

You are right Vinod, more rigorous research would help. Although as with everything our world moves with money. Since this flower and other natural herbs are cheaply available produced in Gods factory no pharma company would benefit from the research. Rather there have been cases where Pharma companies have carried out propoganda against drugs, even getting research into them banned as they did with cannbis in USA, becuase they are afraid the drug so used will cut the sale of their expensive variant.

ashok said...

When i used the Palash flower I had absolutely no idea of the disage. I went intutively and added a small handful along with a tea spoon of tea for the cuppa. However later I have been adding it before the tee since I felt it needs to be boiled a bit longer than tea that is in granulated form and turns bitter if boiled for long. The method worked well for me. When using food/ natural herb as a medicine one can
be more free with the quantity used whereas with strong allopathic medicines one has to be very careful with dosage.

keiko amano said...

Ashok,

Please try two kinds of easy exercises.

1. Stand up with your feet a foot apart. Open and extend your arms side to side at your shoulder level like an airplane and make sure your thumbs are pointing down.

2. Keep your arms up, rotate your shoulders making small circles, and gradually making the circle larger and larger, then smaller and smaller. Repeat on and on. Your thumbs must be down at all time. Now do the same in opposite direction. Do not stop. Keep rotating your shoulders with thumbs down until your shoulders feel numb and can no longer keep lifting your arms. Then let go.

This relieves stress of your shoulders and back. Do this as many times as you can throughout a day. I learned this exercise in my college physical education class. At the time, I had an acute and chronic shoulder pain, but because of this exercise, I'm free of such pain. I taught this to many people.

The other one.

1. Sit on a regular dining chair with a back (not high back). Flex your foot up, so that your ankles are touching the floor and your toes are up. Your back is against the back of the chair and contract your tummy muscle.

2. Lower your head backward slowly while still contracting your tummy muscles. Keep flexing your foot well. This position will circulate your blood flow very well. If you do this several times a day, I'm sure you feel better and warm your body.

Please let me know how you felt afterward.

Best,

Keiko

p.s. I worry a bit about the flower because your pain came back.

ashok said...

Wonderful. Thanks a lot for sharing Keiko. I shall add it to my set of exercises.

keiko amano said...

Ashok,

Have you tried the exercises? I want to know how you feel afterward. If you do it right, it's very effective.

The first shoulder and back exercise would seem tough to keep going without bringing down your arm to rest, so most people cheat. Also, most people do not keep their thumbs down no matter how much I tell them to keep them down. But if you do that exactly for a long time to the point you feel your shoulder turned like rocks and cannot keep your arms up any longer, then drop them. Feel your shoulders and back. You'll feel very light and tremendous relief.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comment.

ashok said...

I have tried it Keiko but only briefly yet. I shall let you know when I do it in detail, soon.

ashok said...

About this

1. Should the hands be open or closed in a fist?

keiko amano said...

I open my hands and thumbs down, but I just tried it and fists work okay, too.

Please let me know how you feel after you've done for a long time.

ashok said...

I have done it briefly so far and it felt good. I keep fists closed. I will let you know when I do more.

keiko amano said...

Ashok, please open your hands, otherwise you cannot be sure that your thumbs are pointing down. Your thumbs must point down which is not easy to do and maintain. Please don't cheat this, otherwise the exercise won't be effective. it makes a big difference. Please let me know how many minutes continuously you've done.

ashok said...

Thanks for the addition tip Keiko. Will do and let you know, although I rarely exercise for more than a few minutes at a time.

ashok said...

I did it for a minute and a half. It does exercise all of the shoulders and back muscles. Thanks for sharing Keiko. I must remember to do it often though. My discipline for exercise has been poor through life though except swimming and walking that I have done a lot through life, more in the past than now, and as a school boy lot of cycling too.

keiko amano said...

Oh, that's good. If you can keep your thumbs down at all time, one minute and a half is good. If do that throughout your day, I think you feel much better.

I know it isn't easy to keep our good exercise. But it's good for me to tell you so that my own words motivate myself to do it, too! I only walk once a day now. I need more exercise. I used to swim also and ride my bicycle, too, but not anymore.

ashok said...

Thanks again Keiko. Physical exercise just for the sake of exercise is something I have been very poor at but when it involves some work or activity I do it happily. Anway we have to keep trying.

Hari Chand said...

It is true that most plants which find place in literature and folklore like Palash have medicinal values, apart from rendering beauty to environs. Spread of such knowledge through such articles is a noble deed.

ashok said...

Thank you Hari Chand ji for your encouraging comments. I am planning an article on Ashwagandha whenever I find some free time next in the direction of medicinal herbs.

DILIP JAWALE said...

I m doubtful about the photo produced as road side palash tree, it is wrong. It should be silver cotton tree commonly known in Maharashtra State (India) as katsawari tree. No doubt your article is valuable. Please check for the photographs produced.

Ashok said...

Thanks a lot for pointing that out Dilip. I went and checked the original reference and it does seem that it was an incorrect image. I Have removed that image now and will add another one on the Palash tree whenever I can find one. Thanks again.

Ashok said...

Dilip, found another image to replace the earlier one. Appreciate your pointing out the error. That is always the hop throughout this blog that a perceptive reader would help improve the content so that the articles can become more informative.

DILIP JAWALE said...

Dear Ashokji, thanks for considering my suggession. From childhood I am loving the palash tree. As per my observations at flowering stage,the leaves of silver cotton tree are not present whereas in summer at flowering season of Palash, trio leaves of palash are giving full support as cool green backround to red ,orange ,bright Palash fowers which are spreaded as a fire on treetops.But I am unlucky to say you that , my dream to growing aPalash tree in the premises mm house is not achieved. I am having two trees of palash in lawn from last 6 to 7 years,but no flowering have been witnessed by me.Please suggest any proper solution for flowering.

Ashok said...

Dear Dilip, I too love many different types of trees as you would find if you browse through this blog, however, I do not have personal experience with growing the Palash tree. As per my information it flowers in seven or eight years and in a garden might take even nine, therefore just be patient and you would see flowers very soon. It seems that some Palash trees, less than five percent also have white flowers that is quite rare and perhaps yours might turn out to be white one. My experience with trees is that they do best if left alone to their own devices and do not need care especially after two or three years unless they get obviously infected or if they are not native to the area.

Ashok said...

Dilip incase you would like to give the tree additional nutrition please do not give any chemical fertilizer but only a compost prepared from garden leaves and cuttings. Check how to prepare your own if you are not doing it already in another post in this blog at

http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/10/the-compost-heap-in-garden.html

just copy and paste that link in the browser address bar to reach it.

Marle ny said...

Where could I buy palash flowers and seeds, please? Thank you for any suggestions, and for sharing.

Ashok said...

Dear Marle, dried Palash flowers are found easily in Indian cities in shops storing traditional herbs and also in many traditional provision stores of old cities like Jaipur. In the west I am not sure but the place to start would be to search for a store of Ayurvedic herbs. they may stock it or be able to procure it easily from India. Best wishes in your search.

hiren said...

I enjoyed reading your piece on Palash. I have access to Palash flowers can you suggest how does one dry them? Will keeping it in shade do?

Ashok said...

Thanks for your comment Hiren. The best way to dry just about any flower or herb is to spread them out on a newspaper on a table in a shaded place. Just turn them around every day or two. Most flowers or herbs will dry in three to seven days. Give an extra day after you think they are dry to make sure and then pack in a tight container.

shivdas tingare said...

it can be taken into powder form with warm water

Ashok said...

Thanks for the additional input Shivdas Tingare. It would be much easier that way then making tea out of it. Do you recommend a tea spoon of the powder or more?

Incredibly Indian said...

Hi Dr. Malhotra, it is now 'Palash -time' in Delhi and I have the opportunity to collect the flowers as much as I want. Could you please advise if the flowers have to be dried whole or only the petals. Also, when you infuse in the tea - do I have to infuse the whole flower or only the leaves? Would be very grateful for a response as I too suffer from a horrible backache (old sports injury and also perhaps twinge of arthritis). Thanks and regards, Indrani

Ashok said...

Dry the whole flower not the leaves. After drying you can crush it all. Add a heaping tablespoon to a cup water and boil for about five minutes until color comes out, after this you can add tea leaves for another minute if you like and add sugar to make the tea. That is what I do. Another blogger has suggested inan earlier comment that one can add a powder of it to warm water and drink that straight. I have not tried it. However as might be evident from the earlier discussion in comments, these flowers may not lead to a permanent cure but relief for sure. It should perhaps be combined with gentle exercises recommended by an expert Doctor. You might like to search for the book - Goodbye backache for exercises and more info- It is by a Canadian Doctor David Imrie

Nyctanthes said...

Dear sir, thank you very much for this useful article.is there any place i can find these in delhi? thanks

Ashok said...

My pleasure Nyctanthes. These would be available for sure in traditional herbal medicine shops of old Delhi. You would have to ask in the area of Chandani Chowk. Some grocers also carry it and you might wish to ask your nearest grocer from where to get them incase he might know.

vipin said...

i have a white palash tree, if any want that contact me on 08878899670

fawad qurban said...

i want white palash plz send me email address

fawadexport@live.com

send me more information

give me email address

Ashok said...

That is wonderful Vipin, the white Palash is rare. There is a number for you to try Fawad in the preceding comment. best wishes.

Nitin Kekan said...

Hi ashokji...I have planted palas tree recently, and I want to know how many years palas tree will grow flowers...

Ashok said...

Between 4 and 6 years I think. Best wishes with it.