Lac/Lakh or Laksha is resin and wax mixture secretion from a scale insect as a hard protective covering. It is a natural commercial resin of animal origin. It has a reddish or dark-brown colour with a disagreeable smell.
Lac has been used in India from thousand years. The detailed habit and behavior of Lac insect is given in Atharva Ved. In Mahabharata, Kauravas built a palace of Laksha, the Laksha Griha लाक्षा गृह (Laksha=Lac; Griha=Home) as a conspiracy to kill Pandavas. Lac has diverse uses. It is used for making dyes, filling the hollow gold and silver ornaments, making of bangles etc. The fluid lac dye obtained by dissolving the crushed stick-lac in water is called Alakta अलक्तः or Alta. This dye is applied by Indian Hindu women on hands and sole of feet.
From the stick-lac (twigs encrusted with lac), shellac is obtained after purification. Shellac is used as coating for medicines.
- SANSKRIT: Laksha
- HINDI: Lakh
- ENGLISH: Shellac
- BENGALI: Gala
- GUAJARATI: Lak
- TELUGU: Kommolakka, lakka
- TAMIL: Komburrki
- MALAYALAM: Arakku, Ambalu
- ARABIC: Luk
In Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani system of medicine Lac is used for treatment of variety of diseases.
In Ayurveda, Lac is considered astringent (Ras/taste), cool (Veerya/potency), and Pungent (Vipaka/post-digetsive effect). It balances pitta-kapha dosh and promotes strength.
The purified Lac is used in Ayurveda for treatment of hiccups, cough, coughing up blood or blood stained mucus and dhatu-gat fever.
Lakshadi guggul /Laksha Guggul, contains Lac along with guggul, hathjod, arjuna, ashwagandha and Nagbala. This medicine is indicated in fracture of bone, improper bone alignment and ostealgia/Pain in a bone. Another important formulation is Chandan Bala Laxadi Tail. This medicated oil is used in treatment of chronic fever, remittent fevers, lumbago, myalgia, epilepsy and hysteria.
In Unani, Lac is considered tonic for liver, stomach and intestine. It is haemostasis (causes bleeding to stop), resolvent of obstructions, jaundice, dropsy, kidney, and to reduces fat.
Lac is used in Unani medicine system to make medicine ‘Safoofe muhazzil’ an anti-obesity drug. Some other Unani medicines which contain Lac as ingredient are Dwaul Luk, Dwaul zarishk, Qurse ambar baris and Qursz Luk.
How Lac is obtained?
Lakh is secretion of an insect (Laccifer lacca family Coccoidea; scale insects) which feeds on a ficus, croton, and ber tree. Its common host tree include Banyan, Peepal, Khadira/Acacia catechu, Ber/Zizyphus mauritiana and Palas /Butea monospema.
The host tree of age 8-10 years is selected and is properly pruned to stimulate production of new branches. After that inoculation or infection is done (introduction of live insect larvae on tree). For this purpose broodlac containing larvae, are tied on to branches of the tree. Larvae emerge from the brood within a week or ten days.
After one week of settling, the larvae start secreting lac from glands distributed under the cuticle all over the body, except the mouth parts, the two breathing pores and the anus. A hard-coating develops around the insect. When it matures, the twigs are cut. These twigs are dried in the shade. The wood shrinks, leaving the lac as hollow tubes, but some of the wood still adheres. The sticklac is heated and processed to remove the impurities. The purified lac is known as shell lac or shellac.
In India, lakh is mainly produced in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Asam, Orissa, Maharasthra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Green lac or sticklac Composition
The major constituent of sticklac is the resin (70-80%);sugars, proteins, and soluble salts – 2-4;colouring matter – 1-2;wax – 4 –6;sand, woody matter, insect bodies and other extraneous matter– 8-12;a volatile oil is present in traces. Lac contains a water soluble red dye.
- Lac is used in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani medicine system for treatment of variety of diseases due to its following medicinal properties.
- Anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, anti-bilious
- Deobstruent (Removing obstructions; power to clear or open the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body)
- Liver tonic, emmenagogue
- Lipid lowering
Medicinal Uses of Lac
For medicinal purpose the purified sticklac is used. This is known as Shellac.
- It is used for reducing weight.
- It reduces heart rate.
- It is used for strengthening the bones.
- It is used to cure pain in bones.
- In case of the vomiting of blood, finely powdered Shell lac mixed with honey is given.
- In dentistry, it is used to make dentures and other dental products.
- It is used for coating the medicines.
- The Wealth of India – CSIR Publications
- A Monograph on LAC – B. Mukhopadhyay and M.S. Muthana
- Lac Cultivation – Shellac export promotion Council, Kolkatta
- Industrial use of Lac – RN Banerjee Secretary, SEPC, Kolkatta
- Baitar IZAA, Al Jami Li Mufradat Al Advia Wal Aghzia, Vol. IV. New Delhi: Urdu translation by CCRUM, 253-254 (2003)
- Maghrabi AI. Kitab Al Fath Fi Al Tadawi (Urdu Translation by Dept. of AYUSH), 1 st ed. New Delhi:
- NCPC printers., 42, 138-39 (2007).Aisha Perveen.
- Evaluation of Luk for its antifertility activity in rat model. Dissertation. Rajiv Gandhi University
- of Health Sciences (RGUHS) in Ilmul Advia (Pharmacology). Bangalore, Karnataka, India (2013).