Mahua is a large sized multipurpose forest tree that is found throughout the mixed deciduous forests of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries. It is an important economic tree used as food, medicine and for other commercial uses such as soap and detergent manufacture, oil extraction, skincare, etc.
Mahua flowers and seeds are edible. The fruits of the tree are used as vegetable. The seeds of the tree contain about 40% pale yellow oil. This oil is used as cooking oil by most of the tribes in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. After the oil extraction the residue is used as fish poison. Bheel tribe of Madhya Pradesh burn this residual cake inside the room for keeping the snakes away. The other uses of Mahua oil are as hair oil, skincare, vegetable butter and in the making of soaps.
Mahua flowers contain about 65 to 70% sugar (reducing sugar 48 to 55%;inert sugar 14 to 18%), cellulose, albuminous substances, ash, enzymes, yeast and water. Due to high sugar content, the flowers provide adequate energy on oral administration. In some parts of India, tribal women eat Mahua flowers during breastfeeding as a nutritive food. In Bihar, flower pickle is used (two teaspoonful, for two months) in the treatment of Tuberculosis. Tribals of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and North Maharashtra produces alcoholic drink of Mahua flowers by fermentation. The tribes of Rajasthan uses the stem bark powder for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Mahua flowers are also used to make jams, jellies, biscuits and many other food items due to their nutritional value (contains vitamins, sugars, amino acids, organic acids, enzymes and other compounds).
Mahua tree is an important medicinal tree as well. Mahua Flowers are stimulant, demulcent, laxative, anthelmintic, and cough relieving. The flowers are cooling in nature and used for treating cold, cough, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders. Seed oil is galactogenic (stimulating breast milk), pain-relieving and vomiting inducing in action. These are used in pneumonia, skin diseases, and piles. The tree bark is astringent and emollient (skin softening). The bark is used for tonsillitis, gum troubles, diabetes and ulcers. The leaves of the tree contain alkaloids, carbohydrates, proteins, saponins, tannins, triterpenoids and absence of gums and fixed oils. These are traditionally used in the treatment of are expectorant and also used for chronic bronchitis, bronchitis, rheumatism, head-ache and hemorrhoids. In Ayurveda for the preparation of alcoholic fermented drugs (Asava and Arishta), Mahua flowers are used as fermenting agent. Different parts possess the liver protective, fever reducing, swelling reducing, pain relieving, anti-tumor, anti-estrogenic (blocks the production or utilization of estrogens/ female sex hormones, or inhibits their effects;estrogen is hormone that produces an environment suitable for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition of the early embryo), blood pressure lowering, wound healing and anti-progestational (works against progesterone; progesterone is responsible for preparing and maintaining uterine envoirnment for fertilised egg) activities.
The botanical name of Mahua is Madhuca indica and it belongs to the family Sapotaceae. The synonyms of species are M. latifolia (Roxb.) Macbride, Bassia latifolia Roxb. Its taxonomical classification is as given below:-
- KINGDOM Plantae
- DIVISION Magnoliaphyta
- CLASS Magnoliopsida
- ORDER Ericolos
- FAMILY Sapotaceae
- GENUS Madhuca
- SPECIES Indica (syn. Bassia latifolia) long
Large tree; bark grey to dark brown, scaly; leaves linear-lanceolate clustered near ends of branches, tapering towards base; flowers: glabrous, aromatic, pale yellow, small, many in dense clusters near ends of branches; berries ovoid, yellow when ripe; seeds usually one to two, compressed, shining.
Parts used: Seeds, bark, flowers, fruit, oil of the seeds, leaves, and bark.
- Hindi: Mahuwa
- Kannada: Hippegida, Halippe, Hippe, Hippenara, Madhuka, Ippa, Eppimara
- Malayalam: Irippa, Ilippa, Iluppa, Eluppa
- Marathi: Mohda
- Oriya: Mahula
- Punjabi: Maua, Mahua
- Tamil: Katiluppai, Kattu Iluppai, Iluppi
- Telugu: lppa Puvvu
- Urdu: Mahuva
- Siddha: Ieluppai
- Sinhalese: Mipup
- Persian: Gul-e-chakan
Mahua tree is native to dry region of India. It is a multipurpose tree, mostly found in tropical and subtropical areas, in forests of North and Central part of India. In India this tree is found in the forests of western India from Konkan southward to Kerala. It occurs wild in plains and lowers hills of India up to 1200m. It is a common tree in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.
In Ayurveda, for medicinal uses the flowers of the tree are used. Ayurvedic properties and action of flowers as given in texts is given below.
- Rasa (Taste): Madhura/Sweet
- Guna (Characteristics): Guru/Heavy,
- Virya (Potency): Sheet/ Cool
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet
Action and uses:
The flowers are Sukrala (Semen augmentator), Balya (Restoratives), Pittakara (increases pitta), Vatahara (reduces Vata), Ahridya (harmful for the heart).
Bark: ethylcinnamate, sesquiterene alcohol, a-terpeneol, 3ß-monocaprylic ester of eythrodiol and 3ß-capryloxy oleanolic acid. a- and ß- amyrin acetates
Fruits: a- and ß- amyrin acetates
Seeds: arachidic, linolelic, oleic, myrisic, palmitic and stearic acids, a-alanine, aspartic acid, cystine, glycine, isoleucine and leucine, lysine, methionine, proline, serine, threonine, myricetin, quercetin, Mi-saponin A & B.
Leaves:ß-carotene and xanthophylls;erthrodiol, palmitic acid, myricetin and its 3- Oarabinoside and 3-O-L-rhamnoside, quercetin and its 3-galactoside;3ß-caproxy and
3ß-palmitoxy- olean-12-en-28-ol, oleanolic acid, ß-sitosterol and its 3-O-ß- Dglucoside, stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol- ß-Dglucoside, n-hexacosanol, 3ß- caproxyolcan- 12-en-28-ol, ß-carotene, n-octacosanol, sitosterol, quercetin.
Nutritional value Of Mahua flowers (in terms of percentage;Source: Kureel R.S et.al, 2009)
Mahua flowers contain moisture (20%), protein (6.4%), reducing sugar (51%), total sugar (54%), calcium (8%), phosphorus (2%), and fat (0.5%).
Traditional medicinal uses of Mahua
Various parts of Mahua tree are used for the treatment of a variety of diseases. In preparation of Ayurvedic alcoholic medicines the flowers are used as fermenting agent. Some of the important Ayurvedic formulations containing Mahua as an ingredient are Madhukasava, Drakashdi Kvatha churna, Eladi Modaka, etc. In various parts of India, people uses the flowers and seeds as food and also for medicinal purpose. These therapeutic uses are time tested and passed from generations as traditional natural remedy.
The bark of the tree is used for rheumatism, chronic bronchitis, diabetes mellitus, decoction for rheumatism, bleeding and spongy gums. The fruits are also edible and used to treat ulcer (as lotion), in acute and chronic tonsillitis and pharyngitis.
The edible flowers are nutritive and used as Tonic, analgesic and diuretic. Traditionally flowers are used as cooling agent, Tonic, aphrodisiac, astringent, demulcent and for the treatment of helminths, acute and chronic tonsillitis, pharyngitis and bronchitis.
- For rheumatism, decoction of bark prepared by boiling bark in water is taken internally and the seed oil is applied externally on the affected areas.
- The bark decoction is given for managing diabetes.
- Mahua leaves are used in the treatment of eczema. The leave are coated with Til/Sesame oil and heated. This is applied externally on the affected area to get relief from eczema.
- In the case of spongy and bleeding gums, four ml of the liquid bark extract is mixed with 300 ml of water is used as a gargle. Gargling with bark extract is also useful in acute tonsillitis (inflamed tonsils) and pharyngitis.
- For improving breast milk, the flowers of the tree are useful.
- In diarrhea a cup of infusion of bark is taken orally twice a day.
- Decoction of stem bark is used to cure skin disease, hydrocele and skin disease.
- For scabies, the powdered bark is applied. The flower juice is also applied externally in skin diseases.
- The seed oil massage is very effective remedy for reducing pain.
- The stem bark powder, mixed with Gular (Ficus racemosa) latex is given in a dose of five grams twice a day, with warm water for respiratory illness.
- The roots are ground and applied on ulcers.
- Mahua flowers are very nutritive and taken as a general tonic. For this purpose, the dried flower powder is eaten with ghee and honey.