Melia azedarach

Botanical Name : Melia azedarach
Family: Meliaceae
Genus: Melia
Species: M. azedarach
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Sapindales

Common Names: Chinaberry, Persian Lilac,  White Cedar, Texas Umbrella, Bead Tree, Lunumidella, Ceylon Cedar, Pride of India,  malai vembu , Bakain and Dharek or Dhraik,Teak (Indian Oak, Saigun in Hindi, Saka in Sanskrit, Sag-??? in Marathi, Shegun in Bengali and Saga in Gujarati) — Tectona grandis

Habitat : Melia azedarach is native to India, Indochina Southeast Asia and Australia.

Melia azedarach: foglie, infiorescenze e frutti
Melia azedarach: foglie, infiorescenze e frutti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description:
Melia azedarach is a species of deciduous tree .The adult tree has a rounded crown, and commonly measures attains a height of 7-12 metres, however in exceptional circumstances M. azedarach can attain a height of 45 metres. The flowers are small and fragrant, with five pale purple or lilac petals, growing in clusters. The fruit is a drupe, marble-sized, light yellow at maturity, hanging on the tree all winter, and gradually becoming wrinkled and almost white.

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The leaves are up to 50 cm long, alternate, long-petioled, 2 or 3 times compound (odd-pinnate); the leaflets are dark green above and lighter green below, with serrate margins.

Medicinal Uses:
Used externally in the treatment of rheumatism.  An aqueous extract reduces the intensity of asthmatic attacks. A decoction is astringent and stomachic. The leaves are harvested during the growing season and can be used fresh or dried.  The flowers and leaves are applied as a poultice in the treatment of neuralgia and nervous headache. The stembark is used as a tonic in India. The fruit pulp is used as a vermifuge.  The seed is antirheumatic. It is used externally. The rootbark is highly effective against ringworm and other parasitic skin diseases.  A gum that exudes from the tree is considered by some to have aphrodisiac properties. Usually combined with Glycyrrhiza glabra to reduce toxicity for internal use.

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Other Uses:
The main utility of chinaberry is its timber. This is of medium density, and ranges in colour from light brown to dark red. In appearance it is readily confused with the unrelated Burmese Teak (Tectona grandis). Melia azedarach in keeping with other members of the family Meliaceae has a timber of high quality, but as opposed to many almost-extinct species of mahogany it is under-utilised. Seasoning is relatively simple in that planks dry without cracking or warping and are resistant to fungal infection. The taste of the leaves is not as bitter as Neem (Azadirachta indica).

The hard, 5-grooved seeds were widely used for making rosaries and other products requiring beads, before their replacement by modern plastics.

The flowers are unattractive to bees and butterflies. Though some hummingbirds like Sapphire-spangled Emerald (Amazilia lactea), Glittering-bellied Emerald (Chlorostilbon lucidus) and Planalto Hermit (Phaethornis pretrei) have been recorded to feed on and pollinate the flowers, these too only take it opportunistically

Known Hazards:
Fruits are poisonous to humans if eaten in quantity. However, like the Yew tree, these toxins are not harmful to birds, who gorge themselves on the fruit, eventually reaching a “drunken” state. The toxins are neurotoxins and unidentified resins, found mainly in the fruits. Some birds are able to eat the fruit, spreading the seeds in their droppings. The first symptoms of poisoning appear a few hours after ingestion. They may include loss of appetite, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, bloody faeces, stomach pain, pulmonary congestion, cardiac arrest, rigidity, lack of coordination and general weakness. Death may take place after about 24 hours. Like in relatives, tetranortriterpenoids consititute an important toxic principle. These are chemically related to Azadirachtin, the primary insecticidal compound in the commercially important Neem oil. These compounds are probably related to the wood and seed’s resistance to pest infestation, and maybe to the unattractiveness of the flowers to animals

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.

Resources:
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melia_azedarach
http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/meaz.html

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