The Latin name of False Ashok tree is Polyalthia longifolia. In Ayurveda, it is known as Ulkatah, and Kashtdaru. It belongs to plant family Annonaceae, the custard apple family of flowering plants consisting of trees, shrubs. It is a tall evergreen tree with a straight trunk, and dense, slim, glossy, long leaves.
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Polyalthia longifolia is also a medicinal tree, and has been commonly used by people in the treatment of fever, skin diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and intestinal parasites.
False Ashok tree, is wrongly equated with the name Asoka by some, and is often used as a substitute or as an adulterant to the genuine Asoka bark. But it is not advisable to use false Ashok as substitute of True Ashok. It is completely different from true Ashok tree, which is Saraca asoca. Saraca asoca bears yellow-orange, large bunch of sweet smelling flowers throughout the year. The bark of Ashok is used in the treatment of gynecological disorders, flowers, and leaves are rubbed on the skin to get relief from skin diseases. Ashok is well-known scientifically proven female tonic.
Fake Ashoka / Fake Devdaru, is an ornamental tree cultivated throughout the hotter-drier parts of India. It has straight trunk, drooping branches, and broadly columnar shape. The entire length of the tree is covered by dark green leaves. The leaves are simple, alternate, lanceolate, up to 8.7 inches long, and 1.75 inches wide with a short petiole. The leaf margin is upturned, and undulating. Emerging leaves are coppery, soft, and delicate to the touch.
The flowers which are not clearly visible appear in spring or early summer. They have 5 narrowly triangular, star-like, yellow-green petals. They are arranged in pendulous racemes or umbels. The flowers last only for a short period, usually two to three weeks. They are not fragrant. The fruits are initially green, and turn purple to black. They are ovoid, and are clustered in groups of 10 to 20. They contain a single seed.
The botanical name of Fake Ashok is Polyalthia longifolia. It belongs to plant family Annonaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of the plant.
- Kingdom Plantae
- Division Magnoliophyta
- Class Magnoliopsida
- Subclass Magnoliidae
- Order Mognoliids
- Family Annonaceae
- Tribe Annoneae
- Genus Polyalthia
- Species Longifolia
- Uvaria longifolia Sonn.
- Guatteria longifolia (Sonn.) Wallich
- Unona longifolia (Sonn.)
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Bark, leaves, and seeds
Plant type: Tall tree
Habitat: It is Native to Sri Lanka, and grown as ornamental tree in gardens throughout the warmer parts of India.
Propagation: cuttings, layering, and seeds.
- Latin name: Polyalthia longifolia
- Sanskrit: Ulkatah, Kashtadaru, Kasthadaru उल्कट, काष्टदारु
- English: Mast tree, Fake Asoka tree, False Devadaru, Cemetry tree
- Hindi: Devdaru, Ashupal, Debdari, Ashok देवदारी, अशोक
- Bengali: Debdari
- Tamil: Nettilingam
- Kannada: Ubbina, Kambadamara, Assoti
- Telugu: Nara maamidi
It mainly contains diterpenoids, alkaloids, tannins, and mucilage.
Ayurvedic Properties, and Action
- Rasa (taste on the tongue): Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Ruksha (Dry)
- Virya: Ushna (Heating)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
- Action: Dipana (promote appetite but do not aid in digesting undigested food), Kaphahar, Pittahar, Kriminashak, Virechak, Vrishya, Visphotnashini, Jwar, Kushtha
- Dosage: The decoction is taken in a dose of 50-100 ml in a day.
Medicinal Properties of Polyalthia longifolia
Polyalthia longifolia is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
- Antibacterial: leaves possess potent antimicrobials against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella typhi.
- Antioxidant: stem bark, leaves exhibits antioxidant properties.
- Anti-inflammatory: the methanolic, and aqueous leaves extract of P. longifolia possess a significant anti-inflammatory activity.
- Anticancer: The stem bark has antitumor activities.
- Antihyperglycemic: It has glucose lowering activity.
- Antibacterial and antifungal: The seeds have reported antibacterial, and antifungal activities.
- Hepatoprotective / the liver protective effect: The leaves administration reduces SGOT, SGPT, ALP, and bilirubin.
Medicinal Uses of False Ashok / Polyalthia longifolia
The bark of Polyalthia longifolia is most commonly used medicinal part of the tree. It has bitter, acrid, cooling, febrifuge, and anthelminthic properties. In many parts of India, it is used for treating fever, mouth ulcers, rheumatism, menorrhagia, scorpion sting, diabetes, vitiate conditions of vata, and pitta, and skin disease. The bark is given to treat excessive mensuration, and white discharge.
- The tribal of Andhra Pradesh, use the bark of the tree in the treatment of fever, and to prevent abortion.
- In Tamil Nadu, it is known as Nettilingam, and the juice extracted from the fresh bark is used to treat indigestion.
- For gonorrhea, the stem bark is powdered, and mixed with butter to apply genital region.
- In Madhya Pradesh, the stem bark is given in malignant tumor treatment.
- In west Bengal, the bark is used in the treatment of diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- The leaves, possess antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
- The decoction of bark is used for curing mouth ulcers.
- The stem bark along with Sesamum indicum / Til, and Piper nigrum / Pippali, is used to treat bone fractures.
- In Uthiramerur, the stem bark extract is given orally for indigestion.
The toxicological studies done on Fake Ashok shows, acute oral administration of the leaf is not toxic, and safe in a single dose. The concluded that crude powder, and the extracts of P. longifolia leaf are considered as safe in acute condition up to 3.2 g/kg dose level.
The clinical study done by Nair et al. (Nair R, Shukla V, Chanda S. Indian Drugs) in mice shows the crude powder, and the extracts of P. longifolia leaf is safe.
They were administered orally five different dose levels of P. longifolia leaf extract to the animals. The 5 dose levels studied were 400 mg, 800 mg, 1200 mg, 1600 mg, and 3200 mg/kg. From safety assessment in acute condition, and gross behavioral studies it is concluded that all extracts produced mild to moderate hypo activity, and also exhibited analgesic activity to some extent.
They concluded that crude powder, and the extracts of P. longifolia leaf are considered as safe in acute condition up to 3.2 g/kg dose level.