Botanical Name: Berbevus arista
Species: B. aristata
Synonyms : B. chitria. B. coriaria.
Common Names: Chitra, Indian Barberry or Tree Turmeric .
The genus comprises approximately 450-500 species of deciduous evergreen shrubs and is found in the temperate and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Europe, and America. Berbevus arista is native to the Himalayas in India and in Nepal. It is also naturally found in the Nilgiri Mountains of southern India and in Sri Lanka.
Berberis aristata is characterized by an erect spiny shrub, ranging between 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft) in height. It is a woody plant, with bark that appears yellow to brown from the outside and deep yellow from the inside. The bark is covered with three-branched thorns, which are modified leaves, and can be removed by hand in longitudinal strips. The leaves are arranged in tufts of five to eight and are approximately 4.9 cm (1.9 in) long and 1.8 cm (0.71 in) broad. The leaves are deep green on the dorsal surface and light green on the ventral surface. The leaves are simple with pinnate venation. The leaves are leathery in texture and are toothed, with several to many small indentations along the margin of the leaf.
The flowering season begins in mid-March and lasts throughout the month of April. The yellow flowers that develop are complete and hermaphroditic. The average diameter of a fully opened flower is 12.5 mm (0.49 in). The flowers form a racemose inflorescence, with 11 to 16 flowers per raceme, arranged along a central stem. The flower is polysepalous, with three large and three small sepals, and polypetalous, with six petals in total. The male reproductive structure, the androecium, is polyandrous and contains six stamens, 5–6 mm (0.20–0.24 in) long. There is one female reproductive structure, the gynoecium, which is 4–5 mm (0.16–0.20 in) long and is composed of a short style and a broad stigma. The plant produces bunches of succulent, acidic, edible berries that are bright red in color and have medicinal properties. The fruits start ripening from the second week of May and continue to do so throughout June. The berries are approximately 7 mm (0.28 in) long, 4 mm (0.16 in) in diameter, and weigh about 227 mg (0.0080 oz)
Berbevus arista prefers a warm moist loamy soil and light shade but it is by no means fastidious, succeeding in thin, dry and shallow soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are very hardy, they survived the severe winters of 1986-1987 without problems in most areas of Britain. Plants can be pruned back quite severely and resprout well from the base. The fruits are sometimes sold in local markets in India. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Most plants cultivated under this name are B. chitria., B. coriaria., B. glaucocarpa. and, more commonly, B. floribunda.
Through seeds – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it should germinate in late winter or early spring. Seed from over-ripe fruit will take longer to germinate. Stored seed may require cold stratification and should be sown in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for at least their first winter. Once they are at least 20cm tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seedlings are subject to damping off, so be careful not to overwater them and keep them well ventilated. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very difficult, if not impossible. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, preferably with a heel, October/November in a frame. Very difficult, if not impossible.
The fruits of the species are eaten by people living in areas where the plant is found, often as a dessert. They are juicy and contain plenty of sugars and other useful nutrients that supplement their diet. The roots can also be used for making an alcoholic drink.
Berbevus arista is used traditionally in Indian system of medicine as an antibacterial, antiperiodic, antidiarrheal and anticancer and it is also used in the treatment of ophthalmic infections. Its root, stem and leaves also find their use in treatment of various ailments and hence is used extensively in AyurvedaIts stem, roots, and fruits are used in Ayurveda.
A preparation called rasaunt is prepared by boiling the bark of the root and of the lower part of the stem in water. The solution is then strained and evaporated until a semi-solid mass, rasaunt, is obtained. It is mixed with either butter and alum, or with opium and lime-juice.
The root bark contains the bitter alkaloid berberine, which has been studied for its potential pharmacological properties.
Other Uses:The plant as a whole is a good source of dye and tannin which is used for dyeing clothes and for tanning leather.
A yellow dye is obtained from the root and the stem. An important source of dyestuff and tannin, it is perhaps one of the best tannin dyes available in India. The wood is used as a fuel. The spiny branches are used for making fencing around fields.
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.