Tree of Damocles
Tree of Damocles - Oroxylum indicum
Oroxylum indicum is a species of flowering plant belonging to the monotypic genus Oroxylum and the family Bignoniaceae, and is commonly called Indian trumpet tree, Indian trumpet flower, broken bones, Indian caper, scythe tree or tree of Damocles.
A locally popular vegetable in southeast Asia, it is especially liked in Java where it is often sold in local markets. Various segments of the tree are used in traditional medicine, where it is known as Shyonaka or Sona
Patha. The plant is also widely used to supply a range of traditional remedies. A handsome specimen tree with bold, glossy foliage and extremely long and substantial fruits, it is often cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens of the tropics and subtropics.
Oroxylum indicum is a fast-growing, lanky and sparsely limbed evergreen or partly deciduous tree with an open, irregular crown; it can grow 10 - 20 metres tall. The bole can be 40cm in diameter.
It is a medium sized deciduous tree, growing 8-12 m tall. The bark is grayish brown with corky lenticels. The leaves are huge, 0.5-1.5 m long, 2-3 pinnate, leaflets 12 cm long and 8 cm
broad, borne on petioles or stalks up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length,making this the largest of all dicot tree leaves, which are quadripinnate (leaflets display four orders of branching).
The large leaf stalks wither and fall off the tree and collect near the base of the trunk, appearing to look like a pile of broken limb bones.
The tree is a night-bloomer and flowers are adapted to natural pollination by bats. The flowers are reddish- purple outside and pale, spinkish-yellow within, numerous, in large erect racemes.
They form enormous seed pods – the fruits – are up to 1.5 metres
long and 5-10 cm broad, that hang down from bare branches, resembling swords. The long fruits curve downward and resemble the wings of a large bird or dangling sickles or swords in the night,
like the sword of Damocles, giving the name "tree of Damocles". The seeds are round with papery wings.
Oroxylum indicum is native to the Indian subcontinent, the Himalayan foothills with a part extending to Bhutan and southern China, Indochina and the Malesia regions. In Vietnam, the tree is called núc nác (sometimes sò đo), and specimens can be found in Cat Tien National Park.
The tree is often grown as an ornamental plant for its strange appearance. Materials used include the wood, tannins and dyestuffs.
Oroxylum indicum iss a plant with edible leaves, flower buds, pods and stems.
Young leaves and flowers eaten raw or cooked. Eaten uncooked as a side dish with rice, usually with a mixture of various spices including chillies, red onions, candle nut, lemon grass and ginger. The young shoots can be eaten cooked as a vegetable.
The large young pods, known as Lin mai or Lin fa in Loei, are eaten especially in Thailand and Laos. They are first grilled over charcoal fire and then the inner tender seeds are usually scraped and eaten along with lap. The pods also eaten by Chakma people in Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh and India.
Known as karongkandai among the Bodos of north east India, its flowers and fruit are eaten as a bitter side dish with rice. It is often prepared with fermented or dried fish and believed by them to have medicinal uses.
The unripe seed is grilled and served with chilli sauce. Mature seeds are used to make a refreshing drink known as chub liang. The seed is also an ingredient of Chyavanprash, a famous Ayurvedic food tonic.
Oroxylum indicum seeds are used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines. Root bark is one of the ingredients thought to be useful in compound formulations in Ayurveda and other folk remedies.
The plant has a long history of traditional medicinal use and modern research has shown that it contains a number of medically active compounds.
The various parts of the plant are rich in flavonoids and glycosides and trials have shown various activities in the body. In particular, dichloromethane extracts of the stem bark and root have been shown to have antimicrobial activities against a range of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and also the yeast Candida albicans.
The isolated flavonoid baicalin has shown inhibitory effects against the human T cell leukaemia virus type 1, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1).
The bitter bark of the root is anti-allergic, astringent, blood purifier and tonic. It is used in the treatment of allergic diseases, urticaria, jaundice, asthma, sore throats, laryngitis, stomach complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery.
An alcoholic maceration of the fresh bark is externally applied on allergic dermatitis. When mixed with turmeric, the bark is used for healing sores of animals.
The root is credited with antirheumatic, antidysenteric and diuretic properties.
The seeds and bark are used medicinally for alleviating body pain, especially during fevers, and as an antiphlogistic medicine. It is also applied to burns and wounds.
The juice of the bark is taken internally to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. A decoction of the bark is refrigerant, used in the treatment of fevers and jaundice.
The seed is expectorant and laxative. A decoction is used in treating coughs, bronchitis and gastritis.
The seeds are applied externally to ulcers.
A decoction of the leaves is drunk as a treatment for stomach-ache. Applied externally the leaves are employed in the treatment of cholera, fever, childbirth and rheumatic swellings. The boiled leaves are used as a poultice during and after childbirth, and in dysentery as well as for an enlarged spleen. Leaf poultices may be further applied for toothache and headache.
The seeds are used as a lining of hats and to cover umbrellas. The papery and wined seeds are strung together as an offering to the gods and goddesses, especially by Buddhists.
The fruit is used in tanning and dyeing. The bark is rich in tannins.