Herbs & Plants

Bombax ceiba (Shimul in Bengali)

Botanical Name : Bombax ceiba
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Bombax
Species: B. ceiba
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malvales

Synonyms: Salmalia malabarica

Common Nams:  cotton tree, Red Silk-Cotton, Red Cotton Tree  or ambiguously as silk-cotton or kapok, both of which may also refer to Ceiba pentandra.

This tree is commonly known as semal (Hindi) or shimul (Bengali) in India.  The local Urdu and Punjabi name for the tree is sumbal.

Habitat:  Bombax ceiba is native to India, tropical southern Asia, northern Australia and tropical Africa.

Bombax ceiba grows to an average of 20 meters, with old trees up to 60 meters in wet tropical weather. The trunk and limb bear numerous conical spines particularly when young, but get eroded when older. The leaves are palmate with about 6 leaflets radiating from a central point, an average of 7~10 centimeters wide, 13~15 centimeters in length. The leaf’s long flexible petiole is up to 20 cm long.
Cup-shaped flowers solitary or clustered, axillary or sub-terminal, fascicles at or near the ends of the branches, when the tree is bare of leaves, an average of 7~11 centimeters wide, 14 centimeters in width, petels up to 12 centimeters in length, calyx is cup-shaped usually 3 lobed, an average of 3~5 centimeters in diameter. Staminal tube is short, more than 60 in 5 bundles. stigma is light red, up to nine centimeters in length, ovary is pink, 1.5~2 centimeters in length, with the skin of the ovary covered in white silky hair at 1mm long. Seeds are numerous, long, ovoid, black or gray in colour and packed in white cotton. Fruiting can start as early as March. The fruit, which reaches an average of 13 centimeters in length, is light-green in color  immature fruits, brown in mature fruits.

The cotton fibers of this tree can be seen floating in the wind around the time of early May. This tree shows two marked growth sprints in India: in spring and during the monsoon months.

Edible Uses: The dry cores of the Bombax ceiba flower are an essential ingredient of the nam ngiao spicy noodle soup of the cuisine of Shan State and Northern Thailand, as well as the kaeng khae curry. At the peak of its flowering season in Hong Kong, elderly people could often be found picking flowers off the ground to dry, which is used to make a type of tea.

Chemical constituents :
All parts of the plant gave betasitosterol and its glucosides; seeds, bark and root bark, lupeol; flowers, hentriacontane, hentriacontanol; root bark, in addition, gave -hydroxycadalene. The seed oil yields arachidic, linoleic, myristic, oleic and palmitic acids; seeds contain carotenes, n-hexacosanol, ethylgallate and tocopherols; the gum contains gallic and tannic acids, yields L-arbinose, D-galactose, D-galacturonic acid and D-galactopyranose. Younger roots contain more sugars (arabinose and galactose  and peptic substances than the older ones. They contain mucilage, starch, mineralmatter, tannins  and non-tannins, along with other constituents. [Indian Medicinal Plants An Illustrated Dictionary

Medicinal Uses:
Bombax ceiba or shimul  has various uses in medicine.(Astringent, demulcent, diuretic,aphrodisiac, emetic):-
Ayurvedic uses: Raktapitta, Vrana, Daha.

Unani uses: Jaryan, Auram

To increase the potency of a man – seedling roots of Bombax ceiba L. (salamali) to chew. To treat the nocturnal pollution [The nocturnal pollutions are, in fact, involuntary loss of  semen during sleep. Most often, pollutions occur during the so-called “wet dreams” or erotic dreams] consume the flowers of Bombax ceiba L. (salmali). Rural folk of Assam use leaf to treat infertility; Santals find seedling spermatorrhoea.

Garhwalis and tribes of Dahanu forest use root to treat impotency. The roots are used in dysentery. The gum is useful in dysentery, haemoptysis of pulmonary tuberculosis, burning sensation. The bark is used for healing wounds. Leaves are good for skin eruption. Flowers are good for skin troubles. [Herbal Cures: Traditional Approach]

Young root tips are dried in shade and cooked as a vegetable for patients suffering from impotency. This vegetable is considered to be as good as the leaves of Adansonia digitata to increase the amount of sperm in semen. A half-cup extract of bark and flowers is taken for 3 d to treat sexual diseases such as hydrocele, leucorrhoea and gonorrhoea and to treat an irregular menstrual cycle. [Herbal Drugs: Ethnomedicine to Modern Medicine

Young roots (Semulmusali)— astringent, (used for dysentery) stimulant, demulcent. Fruits—stimulant, diuretic, expectorant. Used for chronic inflammation of bladder, kidney also for calculus affections. Flowers— astringent and cooling, applied to cutaneous affections. Leaves— anti-inflammatory. Stem bark— demulcent, styptic. Aqueous extract with curd is given for blooddysentery. Bark—paste is applied to skin eruptions, boils, acne, pimples. Seeds used for chickenpox, smallpox, catarrhal affections, chronic cystitis and genitourinary diseases. Gum—astringent, demulcent, styptic. Used for diarrhoea, dysentery, haemoptysis, bleeding piles, menorrhagia, spermatorrhoea. Root and pod—used for the treatment of low vitality and debility.

Various parts of the plant are used in fever, smallpox, rheumatism and leprosy. Bark is demulcent and tonic and is used in menorrhagia, leucorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, boils, acne, pimples and coughs. Roots have stimulant, tonic and aphrodisiac properties and are given in impotency. Roots and barks are emetics. Young fruits are stimulant, expectorant and diuretic and beneficial in calculous affections, chronic inflammation and ulceration of bladder and kidneys. Seed extract is used as oxytocic and gonorrhea. burned infections, dysentery and urinary problems.

Other Uses:
This tree is planted on road side for beautification. The phenomenon paints the whole landscape in an enchanting red hue.

The fruit, the size of a ping-pong ball. These are full of cotton-like fibrous stuff. It is for the fiber that villagers gather the semul fruit and extract the cotton substance called “kopak”. This substance is used for filling economically priced pillows, quilts, sofas etc. The fruit is cooked and eaten and also pickled. Semul is quite a fast growing tree and can attain a girth of 2 to 3 m, and height about 30 m, in nearly 50 years or so. Its wood, when sawn fresh, is white in color. However, with exposure and passage of time it grows darkish gray. It is as light as 10 to 12 kg, per cubic foot. It is easy to work but not durable anywhere other than under water. So it is popular for construction work, but is very good and prized for manufacture of plywood, match boxes and sticks, scabbards, patterns, moulds, etc. Also for making canoes and light duty boats and or other structures required under water. Bombax species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the leaf-miner Bucculatrix crateracma which feeds exclusively on Bombax ceiba.

The flowers are very attractive to local wildlife, with many birds like the Japanese White-eye, a type of fruit eating bird, which often draws a hole in an unopened Bombax ceiba flower bud. Honey bees, and bumble bees also attracted to the flowers to collect pollen and nectar. Because the flowers attract many insects, Crab Spiders can be occasionally found on a fully opened flower, hunting bees.

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


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