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Medicinal trees

The invaluable medicinal properties of `Delonix elata' and `Melia azedarach' have invaluable medicinal properties


THE LESS colourful cousin of Flamboyant or Gul Mohr, Delonix elata is a medicinal tree. It is often seen planted as an avenue tree. The tree does well in sandy soils. Its leaves serve as a traditional medicine for rheumatic problems. The Tamil name of the tree is `Vadanarayan'.

Comparatively, Delonix elata is a medium-sized tree with small leaflets. The leaflets are numerous and the arrangement makes the leaves look like feathers. The flowers are white with long stamens. With age, they turn light orange and the flower bunches often display two coloured flowers. It is not a strong wooded tree.

The medical usefulness of the tree is acknowledged by people living in the villages who take a decoction of the leaves to get relief from rheumatic problems like pain and stiffness of the joints, especially the knees.

The tree yields a convenient, not expensive, and easily available medicines. More of these trees should be planted by roads and in large gardens.

Elderly ladies of Tamil Nadu who believed in traditional medicines have an effective cure for young girls suffering from dysmenorrhoea (pain and discomfort during menstruation).

They gave the suffering patients the decoction of the leaves of Persian Lilac tree, `Malaivembu' in Tamil, Melia azedarach and it is known to cure the conditions very fast.

Melia azedarach is a cousin of the common Neem, `Veppamaram' Azadirachta indica and bears a strikingly similar look. The flowers of neem are white but those of Persian Lilac have dark purple staminal tubes. The leaves are bi-pinnate, the leaflets five or more and the one at the tip larger. It is a fast-growing tree and is raised from seed. In the rainy season, many seedlings grow by themselves in pots and on manure mounds in the gardens, if there is a full-grown Melia tree nearby.

The `Malaivembu' also provides an easily available medicine that, being natural, produces no side effects.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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