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