Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa) Information and Medicinal Uses

Chinese Banyan information like botanical information, medicinal properties. Know it’s health benefits and medicinal uses in Ayurveda. What are the diseses in which it is effective and about it’s safety profile like side effects, contraindications, dosage and side effects.

Ficus microcarpa is known by many common names such as Plaksah (Sanskrit), Ithi, Ithiyal (Malayalam), Chinese Banyan, Indian laurel, shining leaved fig (English) etc. It is a Ficus species with few branches and many adventitious roots growing downward.

Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Plaksah is one among the four Nalpamara or Nalpamaram of Ayurveda (the other three are Ficus racemosa/gular, Ficus relegiosa/Peepal, Ficus benghalensis/Bargad) whose bark is used therapeutically in treatment of raktapitta (bleeding) doshas, ulcers, skin diseases, burning sensation, inflammation and oedema.

Ficus microcarpa is cooling, astringent, and anti-bilious. It is found to have good healing property and is used in preparation of oils and ointments for external application in the treatment of ulcers.

The bark and leaves are used in wounds, ulcers, bruises, flatulent colic, hepatopathy, diarrhea, dysentery, diabetes, hyperdipsia, burning sensation, hemorrhages, erysipelas, dropsy, ulcerative stomatitis, hemoptysis, psychopathy, leucorrhoea and vaginal hemorrhage. In Kerala, plant used for treatment of leukoderma, ulcers, leprosy, itching, and biliousness. In China, adventitious rootlets are used for toothaches, for which they are dried, powdered and applied to the decaying or aching tooth.

General Information

Plant Description: It is an evergreen tree reaching up to 15 m (50 ft.) or more in height, with a rounded dense crown, smooth gray bark, milky sap and few aerial roots.

  • Bark is dark grey or brown with a smooth surface except for the lenticels. Outer bark is corky and crustaceous thin and firmly adherent to inner tissue. Inner bark is light and flesh colored with fibrous texture.
  • Leaves are short petioled, 5-10cm long, 2-6cm wide, simple, alternate, leathery, deep glossy green, elliptic-obovate, narrowed at base, glabrous and coriaceous. The main lateral nerves are not very prominent and stipules are lanceolate.
  • Flowers are tiny, unisexual, numerous and hidden within the fig.
  • Figs/fruits are in axillary pairs, sessile, depressed-globose, yellowish or dark red when ripe, basal bracts 3, suborbicular.
  • Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Bark, leaves, Rootlets, Latex
  • Plant type / Growth Habit: Large tree
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Distribution: It is well distributed in forests at low and medium altitudes ascending to 1,500 meters in India (Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Peninsular region, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim), Australia, Bhutan, China, Indochina, Japan, Malesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
  • Habitat: Tropical and Subtropical regions of India. Frequently found along the roadsides and in parks, gardens. It is very common in Delhi.
  • Other Uses: Ornamental plant

Vernacular names / Synonyms

  • Ayurvedic / Sanskrit: Gajapadapa, Ksavataru, Kuberaka, Plaksah
  • Bengali, Hindi: Kamarup
  • English: Chinese banyan, Indian laurel, shining leaved fig
  • Folk: Kinnigoli, Itthi, Itti
  • Gujrati: Pilala
  • Kannada: Kirigoli, Kirugoli, Phaniyala, Itthi
  • Malayalam: Ithi, Ithiyal, Kallithi
  • Marathi: Nandruk, Tunivriksha
  • Scientific name: Ficus microcarpa L. Ficus
  • Siddha: Kal Ichi
  • Tamil: Kallicci, Icci
  • Telugu: Plaksa

Scientific Classification

Ficus microcarpa (Plaksah or Indian laurel) is a tree belonging to genus ficus (commonly known as Fig) and family Moraceae.

Ficus is one of the largest genera in the angiosperms with approximately 1000 species which are distributed throughout subtropical and tropical regions of world. The ficus trees bear fruits/figs, which are eaten by insects, birds and animals throughout the year. Microcarpa, refers to the small size of the fruits.

Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Hamamelididae
  • Order: Urticales
  • Family: Moraceae – Mulberry family
  • Genus: Ficus L. – fig
  • Species: Ficus microcarpa – Laurel fig, Curtain fig, Chinese banyan

Synonyms

  1. Ficus aggregata Vahl
  2. Ficus amblyphylla (Miq.) Miq.
  3. Ficus cairnsii Warb.
  4. Ficus condaravia Buch.-Ham.
  5. Ficus dahlii K.Schum.
  6. Ficus dictyophleba Ficus Muell. ex Benth.
  7. Ficus dilatata Miq.
  8. Ficus dyctiophleba Ficus Muell. ex Miq.
  9. Ficus littoralis Blume
  10. Ficus naumannii Engl.
  11. Ficus regnans Diels
  12. Ficus retusiformis H.Lev.
  13. Ficus retusa auct. Non. Linn.
  14. Ficus rubra Roth nom. illeg.
  15. Ficus thynneana Ficus M.Bailey
  16. Urostigma amblyphyllum Miq.
  17. Urostigma microcarpum (L. Ficus ) Miq.
  18. Ficus amplissima J. E. Smith. Syn Ficus tsiela Roxb. ex Buch.-Ham is used as a substitute for Ficus microcarpa.
  19. Ficus microcarpa is also equated with many other species of the ficus genus. viz.
  20. Ficus infectoria Roxb.
  21. Ficus arnottiana Miq
  22. Ficus lacor Buch-Ham
  23. Ficus talboti King.

Four trees of the Nalpamara (Nalpamaram)

1. Ficus racemosa (Athi)

2. Ficus microcarpa (Ithi)

3. Ficus relegiosa (Arayal)

4. Ficus benghalensis (Peral)

Constituents of Ficus microcarpa

The bark contains tannin, wax and saponin. Sterols, terpenoids, glycoside, flavonoids, polyphenols, proteins and carbohydrates are also present in verious parts of plant.

Important Medicinal Properties

Ficus microcarpa is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

Bark:

  • Antioxidant: Neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and other substances.
  • Antibacterial: Active against bacteria.
  • Antisecretary: Reduces acid secretion into the stomach.
  • Antiulcer: Tending to prevent or heal ulcers.

Leaves and aerial roots

  • Antioxidant: Neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and other substances.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
  • Antidiabetic: Control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes mellitus.
  • Antihistamine: Inhibits the physiological effects of histamine, used especially in the treatment of allergies.
  • Antihyperlipidemic: Promotes reduction of lipid levels in the blood.
  • Antifungal: Treat and prevent fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, candidiasis (thrush) etc.

Medicinal Uses of Ficus microcarpa

The leaves, bark, rootlets and latex are used medicinally in treatment of variety of diseases.

The bark and leaves are astringent, refrigerant, acrid and stomachic. In Ayurveda, the bark is used in preparation of medicines used for ulcers, skin diseases, oedema and inflammations. The bark is given with buttermilk to cure liver diseases for seven days. The decoction of bark is used as a cooling agent in case of abdominal pain, ulcers, liver problems, mouth ulcers and leucorrhoea. Powdered leaves and bark is found very good in rheumatic headache.

Biliousness, blood purification and gastric ulcers.

Decoction of bark is recommended for internal use.

Dental Care

Twigs are used as toothbrush to prevent dental cavities.

Diseases of skin

The bark decoction is prepared and used for bathing.

The paste of bark is applied externally.

Foul smell of urine

Bark extract with fresh milk is given for six days in case of foul smell of urine in children.

Rheumatism

Oil prepared from its bark decoction is applied externally on affected areas.

Bark decoction is recommended for rheumatism.

Stomach and mouth ulcers

Bark ground in milk is given.

Ulcers on head

Latex of stem is applied on head.

Ulcers in genitals

Bark paste is applied on ulcers in genitals.

Latex is applied for penis ulcers and blisters.

Wounds, cuts

Bark decoction is used to wash affected areas.

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