CHHATIM (Alstonia scholaris )

Medicinal uses of Dita bark (Alstonia scholaris) Saptaparni

Botanical Name: Alstonia scholaris
Family: Apocynaceae
Tribe: Plumeriae
Subtribe: Alstoniinae
Genus: Alstonia
Species: A. scholaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

English names: Devil’s tree, Dita bark.

Sanskrit names: Saptaparni, Saptaparna, Sarada, Vishalalvaka, Vishamachhda, Ayugmaparna, Gandhiparna, Payasya, Jivani, Kshalrya, Madagandha, Grahashi, Grahanashana.

Vernacular names:
Asm : Chatiar; Ben: Chhatim; Hin : Chatian, SaIni chatian; Kan : Saptaparna, Maddale, Kodale, Elele kale, Janthalla, Hale; Ken: SantnarUkh; Mal: Ezhilampala, Mukkampala, Pala; Mar: Salvin; Ori : Chhatiana, Chhanchania; Silgandha; Pun: Satona; Sin: Rukattana; Tam: Elilaipillai, Mukumpalei, Pala, Wedrase; Tel: Eda kula, Pala garuda.

Trade names: Chatiyan, Shaitan wood, Saptaparni.

Synonyms-Echites scholaris (Linn.). Dita Bark. Bitter Bark. Devil Tree. Pale Mara.
Part Used—The bark.

Habitat-–Throughout moist regions of India, especially in West Coast forests, in the Himalaya it ascends up to 1000 m; also found in Bangladesh , Pakistan and the Philippines. Planted in the gardens.

Description–-The tree grows from 50 to 80 feet high, has a furrowed trunk, oblong stalked leaves up to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, dispersed in four to six whorls round the stem, their upper side glossy, under side white, nerves running at right angles to the mid-rib. The bark is almost odourless and very bitter, in commerce it is found in irregular fragments 1/8 to 1/2 inch thick, texture spongy, fracture coarse and short, outside layer rough uneven fissured brownish grey and sometimes blackish spots; inside layer bright buff, transverse section shows a number of small medullary rays in inner layer.

It is an  evergreen tree with straight, often fluted and buttressed base, branches whorled, bark yellow inside and exudes milky bitter latex; leaves simple, whorled-usually 7 in a whorl, coriaceous, whitish beneath, obovate or elliptic or oblong, obtuse rounded or obtusely acuminate, 30-60 pairs of horizontal veins joining an intramarginal one; cymes peduncled or sessile, umbellately branched; flowers aromatic, 0.8-1.25 cm in diameter, greenish white, pubescent; follicles 30-60 cm long and 0.3 cm in diameter, pendulous, in clusters.

Phenology: Flowering: Autumn; Fruiting: Winter.


The bark of Alstonia scholaris,
Nat. Ord.—Apocynaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Dita bark, Devil tree of India.
Chatim or Alstonia scholaris (Dita bark), is found throughout tropical Eastern Asia and the Malayan Archipelago (Bentham). It is a large tree, with smooth, entire, thick leaves disposed in whorls. The flowers resemble those of Alstonia constricta, but differ in having corolla tubes about three times as long as the calyx, and shorter pubescent lobes. The pods are slender and over a foot long. Don says it is a native of the East Indies and the Moluccas; the bark met with in commerce comes from the Phillippine and neighboring islands, and is the portion used in medicine. The local name of the bark is satween. As a remedial agent dita is old, having been mentioned, it is said, by Rheede (1678), and Rumphius (1741).

Dita bark is about 1/2 inch thick, and is found in market in irregular sizes from 1 to 2 inches wide, and from 3 to 6 inches long. Externally it is of a mottled pinkish or brownish and white color, rather smooth, but marked by shallow fissures which are raised upon the edges and scarcely extend through the corky layer. The cork, a very thin layer, represented by the dark edge of the section b of our engraving, is brown. Internally, the color of the bark is light, slightly striated with yellowish layers or grains. In texture it is granular and brittle, resembling wild cherry bark from old trees. The taste is slightly bitter, free from astringency, not unpleasant, and may be compared to the aftertaste of wild cherry bark, and in like manner the bark is gritty between the teeth.

Constituents:Root and Root-bark: echitamine chloride, α-amyrin, lupeol-OAc, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol, campesterol, alkamicine-its Nb-oxide and Nb-metttiodide, γ-akummicine, Nb-di-Me-echitamine, tubotaiwine; Stem-bark: hydrochloride of echitam­ine, echitamidine, a glyceride of venotarpine, sterols, two isomeric lactones; Latex: caoutchouc and resins; Leaf: picrinine, nareline, akuammidine, picralinal, akuammigine, betulin, ursolic acid, β-sitosterol, flavonoids, phenolic acids, scholarine; Flower: picrinine, strictamine, tetrahydroalstonine, n-hexacosane, lupeol, β-amyrin, palmitic acid, ursolic acid

-It contains three alkaloids, Ditamine, Echitamine or Ditaine, and Echitenines, and several fatty and resinous substances- the second is the strongest base and resembles ammonia in chemical characters.

Chemical Composition.:  According to Husemann, Scharl  in 1863, published an article on the preparation of an alkaloid which he named alstonine. Gruppe found in it about 2 per cent of a substance which possessed febrifuge powers, and he named it “ditain.” It was prepared, according to Hildwein, in a manner similar to that used in making quinine; it is not an alkaloid, but a mixture of substances, as was verified by Gorup-Besanez, who found it to contain a crystallizable substance possessing the properties of an alkaloid. Jobst and Hesse (1875), separated the true alkaloid, ditamine (C16H19O2), from the bark, as a white amorphous powder, slightly bitter, soluble in ether, chloroform, benzene, and alcohol, being alkaline in reaction from the latter solution. It forms soluble salts, with diluted acids, which are very bitter; it dissolves with a reddish color, in sulphuric acid, and yellow in nitric acid, turning dark green at first when heated, then orange-red, with evolution of fumes of the same color. It was obtained only in about 0.02 per cent of the bark operated upon, and on this account can never be expected to come into general use as a febrifuge. A second alkaloid, ditaine (crystallizable) was obtained by Harnack in 1877, for which Hesse, in 1880, found the formula C22H28N2O4, and changed the name to echitamine. Besides, Hesse discovered a brown amorphous alkaloid which he named echitenine (C20H27NO4). In addition, there are present oxalate of calcium, fatty acid, crystallizable acid, and several fatty resinous substances called: Echicaoutchin (C25H40O2); echicerin (C30H48O2); echitin (C32H52O2); echitein (C42H70O2); echiretin (C35H56O2). These substances closely resemble resins obtained from other sources. Doubtless, the bark, if employed in medicine, will be either used in substance or in the form of tincture or fluid extract, as the proximate principles can not become of much commercial importance.

Medicinal Uses:

The roots and bark are used in traditional medicine as an astringent tonic, alterative, antidiarrhoeaticum, antiperiodicum etc. The latex is used to clean wounds and can be used for chewing gum.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage:

.In India: MUNDAS OF CHOTANAGPUR : Bark: in colic pain; SOME PARTS OF INDIA: Plant: used in the treatment of leprosy; Twig: hung in the room of the newly confined woman to lessen the activities of evil spirit on the new born.Â

ATHARVA VEDA: preventive and curative of diseases caused by change of season. CHARAKA SAMHITA and SUSHRUTA SAMHITA: good for headache, sores, and some other diseases; A YURVEDA : the following uses are recommended: (i) Bark: dermal so”res, ragging fever, discharge of sperm with urine, hiccup, insufficiency in breast milk, gout, cold congestion, dyspepsia; (ii) Latex: caries, pimple, pyorrhoea; (iii) Flower: asthma, respiratory troubles.

UNANI: Ingredient of ‘Kashim’.

HOMOEOPATHY: Malarial fever, anaemia, indigestion, general debility and other stomach ailments.

Dita bark has been efficaciously employed in malarial fever; it does not, however, appear to be as prompt nor as active in its influence as the alstonia constricta bark, requiring to be used in somewhat larger doses. Alstonia scholaris has some reputation as a remedy for dysentery (Bancroft, Bixby). Its alkaloid may prove more efficient should it ever become more largely and less expensively prepared. Dose of the fluid extract, 1 to 4 fluid drachms.
The bark is used in homoeopathy for its tonic bitter and astringent properties; it is particularly useful for chronic diarrhoea and dysentry.

Preparations and Dosages-–Infusion of Alstonia, 5 parts to 100 parts water. Dose, 1 fluid ounce. Powdered bark, 2 to 4 grains.

In India the natives use the bark for bowel complaints. In Ceylon its light wood is used for coffins. In Borneo the wood close to the root of the same species is very light and of white colour and is used for net floats, household utensils, trenchers, corks, etc.

Modern use: Bark: known in commerce as Dita bark and is used in medicine as bitter, febrifuge and astringent, in treatment of malarial fever, chronic dysentery, diarrhoea and in snake bite; Milky juice: applied to ulcers.  At one time, a decoction of the leaves were used for beriberi.

Other Uses:  The wood of Alstonia scholaris has been recommended for the manufacture of pencils, as it is suitable in nature and the tree grows rapidly and is easy to cultivate. In Sri Lanka its light wood is used for coffins. In Borneo the wood close to the root is very light and of white color, and is used for net floats, household utensils, trenchers, corks, etc. In Theravada Buddhism, Bodhi by first Lord Buddha is said to have used Alstonia scholaris as the tree for achieving enlightenment.

Other Species-–A bark called Poele is obtained from Alstonia spectabilis, habitat Java; it contains the same alkaloids as dita and an additional crystalline, Alstonamine.

Click to learn more about-> Chhatim Plant

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.




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