Calotropis gigantea / Calotropis procera

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Buds, Flowers and leaves of the Calotropis procera in Charmwood Village, Faridabad, Haryana

This plant is an old friend on account of its familiarity since childhood, thanks to its wide distribution all over India. I remember this plant as it is pretty easy to identify. It is covered in a whitish powder and when a part of the plant is broken off, it exudes  latex ( a milky-white sap) which is sticky and hard to wash off. As kids we used to break off the leaves and play with the sap or chase its wind borne seeds  after blowing on them. This seed dispersal method probably explains the large distribution of the plant in India. This is in addition to its ability to grow in waste land and in areas of poor soil.

Warning:

Foragers, please do not confuse this plant with the edible milkweed which can be eaten after boiling in a few changes of water. It is possible that this too can be eaten in a similar fashion, but I haven’t yet come across anyone who has done that and I don’t plan on ever trying it as the latex -at least in an uncooked plant is known to act as a cardiac poison. However check the section titled “Medicinal uses (verified)”

Caution:

The latex is known to be highly corrosive and even though we handled it extensively as kids, some people are allergic to it so due care must be taken when handling the plant. I have heard verified reports of permanent eye damage from doctors where the latex got in to the eye of a person.
There seem to be two Calotropis species in India, Calotropis procera and Calotropis gigantea. They look more or less similar with visible differences in their flowers. They can also be identified from the flower buds as C. procera buds are circular whereas C. gigantea buds are cylindrical. You can compare the pictures here as there is a picture of the C. gigantea towards the end of this post.
DSC_9652-300x234Left: A folk remedy for joint pains. The leaves are wiped clean, toasted on a tava (griddle) on both sides till the leaf wilts and becomes pliable, applied to affected part and bandaged.
Common names :  Madaar, Shwet ankh (white eye)  Giant milk weed, Crown flower, Swallow-wort, Sodom apple (Calotropis procera)
English                 :  Blue madar
Hindi                     :   Madaar. Aka, Mandar, Akavan, Aak
Malyalam            :   Neela Erukku
Sanskrit              :   Bhinu, Ravi, Tapana
Tulu                      :   Ekkame (pronounced  Ekka-may)
Kannada              :   Ekka or Yekka
Gujarati               :   Aakado
Assamese            Akan, Akand
Bengali                Akanda, Akone
Kashmiri              Acka
Malayalam           Erikku
Marathi                Rui
Oriya                   Arakha
Punjabi                Ak
Tamil                :    Erukku, Vellerukku
Telugu              :    Jilledu
Urdu                 :    Aak, Madar

Distribution: Throughout India on plains and on wastelands up to 900 meters.

Height :Up to 10 feet in suitable places.

Flowers: White or Lavender  in colour. A flower that has fully bloomed has a centre that resembles a crown.

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A dried seed pod releasing its seeds to the wind (Calotropis procera) [Courtesy Wikipedia
Medicinal uses : (unverified)
  • Leaves found to be effective for treating elephantiasis.
  • Flowers along with jaggery are useful against cough and improving appetite.
  • A mixture of its latex, turmeric and sesame oil  is useful in treating scabies.
  • Plant works as a powerful cardiac stimulant (probably due to the cardiac glycosides present in the latex?)
  • Used to treat leprosy

Medicinal uses : (verified that it is used this way, however its efficacy is not verified)

  • Used for tooth extraction in folk medicine. A piece of cotton lightly dipped in the latex is pushed into the cavity of a decayed tooth or pressed against the tooth.  This causes the tooth to loosen and fall off. It is said to damage other teeth coming into contact with the latex if applied haphazardly.
  • All parts of the plant contain a milky sticky sap.
    All parts of the plant contain a milky sticky sap.

    This is one of my grandmother’s remedies for ear infections -particularly when the ear has a runny sore. In my mother’s words, ” Take the “female” half (ponnu tippi in Tulu) of a cleaned out coconut shell and make a hole through the ‘shoot’ eye of the shell. Next, take a flat stone, and heat it in a fire. When it gets quite hot, take it out of the fire, place  a couple of leaves of the Calotropis  on it and quickly cover it with the coconut shell. place your ear above the hole in the shell and let the smoke + steam from the shell enter the ear.” This deposits inside the ear in a thin film and subsequently cures the infection.

  •  For joint pains and swelling. The leaves are heated on a griddle (tava in Hindi) till they become soft and pliable and then placed on the affected part and wrapped up with a cloth bandage.
  • Dry leaf powder used for treating wounds and boils.
  • Juice squeezed from fresh leaves is used to treat bite wounds in rural areas (dog bites, scorpion stings etc.)
  • Two drops of the latex are dripped onto a batasha ( A disc of candied sugar ) and ingested for worms. This causes vomiting and has a purging effect. This is done every few days. The vomiting allegedly stops when all the worms are purged. This is here for reference only and although my source confirms its use, I’d be scared to try it out.
  • Dried root powder is used medicinally
  • In Maddulur in Andhra Pradesh, the leaves of the Calotropis are warmed on a griddle till it wilts and this is then crushed and a drop each is poured into the nostrils of children suffering from fever.
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Calotropis gigantea at Lakhnadon Christian Hospital, Madhya Pradesh
  • The long fibers (fluff) attached to the seeds may once have served as lamp wicks.
  • Some scholars suggest that the fibers could also have been spun and woven into a kind of linen in Biblical times.
  • The seed fluff is used as a stuffing for pillows instead of cotton and rural folks use it for therapeutic reasons.
  • The seed fluff might serve as a down alternative in cold climates. (untested)
  • The seed fluff might serve as a good tinder for fire starting, particularly when still in its dried shell. (untested)
  • Traditionally, leather manufacturers fermented parts of the plant and mixed it with salt using  it  to aid in dehairing goat ( for making “nari leather”) and sheep skins for production of  leather.
  • Yields a durable fiber (commercially known as Bowstring of India) useful for ropes, carpets, fishing nets, and sewing thread. This is possibly obtained from the inner bark -the phloem layer of the stem.
  • My friend from Bihar claims that his father used to harvest Calotropis roots from the oldest plants in the forest and prepare drums out of them for sale. He also claims that the roots are preferred for making Sarangis – ( An Indian musical instrument) as it resonates with a very sweet tone.
  • The latex was allegedly used to to coat arrow tips during the production of poison tipped arrows
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One of the larger Calotropis plants I saw in Lakhnadon in MP, India

CREDITS : |Sunayana Walters | Spoorthy P | Charlton P | Ramdhani Yadav | Daniel Masih| Manorama Soans|Malyadri Sudarsi|

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7 thoughts on “Calotropis gigantea / Calotropis procera”

  1. its latex is available in market? if yes what is its name???.
    how to extract latex from it?
    its pod is edible?

    i am searching its latex from last two months but unable to get it. please help me

    thnx and regards,
    rajesh agnihotri

    1. Hi Rajesh,

      I did try searching Google for its latex, but it did not put out any useful results. I am unable to comment on the whether the pod is edible as none of the people I knew had any knowledge about it. I strongly doubt whether it is edible as it is full of the seed and the fluff which enables the seed to be carried off by the wind.

      If you want a small quantity of the latex, you should be able to locate the plant easily. It grows wild in most parts of India.

      1. rabid rover, i am very happy to see your reply. thanks for it. actually in Nigerian & African countries someone is using it for cheese making. so i think it is edible. i want it at about 1 ltrs for research purpose.

        i have read some site that its oil is best bio-diesel. its too better than jatrofa oil. but till date i am unable to find out its oil. here jatrofa oil is easily available but unable to get calotropis oil. i can’t understand, if we are succeed in our research, its uses as a biofuel,than gose to its commercialization how we can complete the market demand.

        i need its oil at about 2-3 ltrs for some test. if you are able to find or provide it kindly contact me.

        1. Hi Rajesh,

          Thank you for the information, I never knew about these uses. I’m sorry as I have no resources to provide either the latex or the oil as I am only an amateur wildlife enthusiast. If I get any information, I will be glad to send you the information 🙂

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