Herbs & Plants

Pongamia pinnata

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Botanical Name : Pongamia pinnata
Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Millettia
Species: M. pinnata
*Cytisus pinnatus L.
*Derris indica (Lam.) Bennet
*Galedupa indica Lam.
*Galedupa pinnata (L.) Taub.
*Pongamia glabra Vent.
*Pongamia mitis Kurz
*Millettia pinnata

Common Names: Pongam Tree, Indian beech, Pongam oiltree, karanj (Hindi), ‘Karach’ (Bengali), Honge (Kannada), Pungai (Tamil), Kanuga (Telugu), Naktamala (Sanskrit)

Habitat : Pongamia pinnata is native in tropical and temperate Asia including parts of India, China, Japan, Malesia, Pacific islands. This species has been introduced to humid tropical lowlands in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, the Seychelles, the United States and Indonesia. It has also been naturalized in parts of eastern Africa, northern Australia and Florida

The natural distribution of Pongamia Pinnata is along coasts and river banks in India and Myanmar. It has a varied habitat distribution and can grow in a wide range of conditions. Typically it is found in coastal areas, along limestone and rock coral outcrops, along the edges of mangrove forests, tidal streams and rivers. It is hardy and can survive in temperatures from 5 to 50 °C and altitudes from 0 to 1200 m. Due to its deep roots it also has a tolerance for drought and is found in areas with rainfall from 200 to 2500 mm a year. It grows well in both full sun and partial shade and can grow in most soil types. Mature trees can withstand water logging and slight frost.

Pongamia pinnata is a legume tree that grows to about 15–25 metres (50–80 ft) in height with a large canopy which spreads equally wide. It may be deciduous for short periods. It has a straight or crooked trunk, 50–80 centimetres (20–30 in) in diameter, with grey-brown bark which is smooth or vertically fissured. Branches are glabrous with pale stipulate scars. The imparipinnate leaves of the tree alternate and are short-stalked, rounded or cuneate at the base, ovate or oblong along the length, obtuse-acuminate at the apex, and not toothed on the edges. They are a soft, shiny burgundy when young and mature to a glossy, deep green as the season progresses with prominent veins underneath.


Flowering generally starts after 3–4 years with small clusters of white, purple, and pink flowers blossoming throughout the year. The raceme-like inflorescence bear two to four flowers which are strongly fragrant and grow to be 15–18 millimetres (0.59–0.71 in) long. The calyx of the flowers is bell-shaped and truncate, while the corolla is a rounded ovate shape with basal auricles and often with a central blotch of green color.

Croppings of indehiscent pods can occur by 4–6 years. The brown seed pods appear immediately after flowering and mature in 10 to 11 months. The pods are thick-walled, smooth, somewhat flattened and elliptical, but slightly curved with a short, curved point. The pods contain within them one or two bean-like brownish-red seeds, but because they do not split open naturally the pods need to decompose before the seeds can germinate. The seeds are about 1.5–2.5 centimetres (0.59–0.98 in) long with a brittle, oily coat and are unpalatable to herbivores.

Cultivation : propagation:
By their nature Pongamia trees grow vigorously under adverse conditions and can seed prolifically. They are pioneers of degraded and disturbed land, and can proliferate freely in such conditions. The successful introduction and subsequent expansion of plantings of the new oil crop is reliant on the ability to develop simple and reliable methods for the propagation of large numbers of plants. Further, the long-term viability of tree crop species such as Pongamia is dependent on good management practices.

The productive plantation of Pongamia Pinnata needs to be scientifically managed for better growth and production. The growth and yield of the plant could be improved through effective management practices. The enhanced cultivation technology and improved inputs developed by CJP may provide about 4000 liters of biodiesel without displacing food crop and without utilizing prime food land in terms of sustainable farming techniques.

Medicinal Uses:
The fruits and sprouts are used in folk remedies for abdominal tumors in India, the seeds for keloid tumors in Sri Lanka, and a powder derived from the plant for tumors in Vietnam. In sanskritic India, seeds were used for skin ailments. Today the oil is used as a liniment for rheumatism. Leaves are active against Micrococcus; their juice is used for colds, coughs, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence, gonorrhea, and leprosy. Roots are used for cleaning gums, teeth, and ulcers. Bark is used internally for bleeding piles. Juices from the plant, as well as the oil, are antiseptic. It is said to be an excellent remedy for itch, herpes, and pityriasis versicolor. Powdered seeds are valued as a febrifuge, tonic and in bronchitis and whooping cough. Flowers are used for diabetes. Bark has been used for beriberi. Juice of the root is used for cleansing foul ulcers and closing fistulous sores. Young shoots have been recommended for rheumatism. Ayurvedic medicine described the root and bark as alexipharmic, anthelmintic, and useful in abdominal enlargement, ascites, biliousness, diseases of the eye, skin, and vagina, itch, piles, splenomegaly, tumors, ulcers, and wounds; the sprouts, considered alexeteric, anthelmintic, apertif, and stomachic, for inflammation, piles and skin diseases; the leaves, anthelmintic, digestive, and laxative, for inflammations, piles and wounds; the flowers for biliousness and diabetes; the fruit and seed for keratitis, piles, urinary discharges, and diseases of the brain, eye, head, and skin, the oil for biliousness, eye ailments, itch, leucoderma, rheumatism, skin diseases, worms, and wounds. Yunani use the ash to strengthen the teeth, the seed, carminative and depurative, for chest complaints, chronic fevers, earache, hydrocele, and lumbago; the oil, styptic and vermifuge, for fever, hepatalgia, leprosy, lumbago, piles, scabies, and ulcers.

Other Uses:
Pongamia Pinnata is one of the few nitrogen fixing trees (NFTS)(The leaves are a good source of green manure and being leguminous, they enrich the soil with nitrogen.) The seeds contain around 30–40% of oil, which has been identified as a source of bio-fuel. The seed oil is an important asset of this tree having been used as lamp oil, in soap making, and as a lubricant for thousands of years. It is often planted as an ornamental and shade tree but CJP has honor to establish this untapped resource as alternative source for Bio- Diesel industry of future.

Juices from the plant, as well as the oil, are antiseptic and resistant to pests.
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are toxic and will induce nausea and vomiting if eaten.

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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