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Botanical Name:Pongamia glabra
Family : Fabaceae
Species: P. pinnata
Other Name:Pongamia pinnata, Indian Beech Tree, Honge Tree, Pongam Tree, Panigrahi
Habitat : Originated in India and is found throughout Asia.
It is a deciduous legume tree that grows to about 15-25 meters in height with a large canopy which spreads equally wide. The leaves are a soft, shiny burgundy in early summer and mature to a glossy, deep green as the season progresses. Small clusters of white, purple, and pink flowers blossom on their branches throughout the year, maturing into brown seed pods. The tree is well suited to intense heat and sunlight and its dense network of lateral roots and its thick, long taproot make it drought tolerant. The dense shade it provides slows the evaporation of surface water and its root nodules promote nitrogen fixation, a symbiotic process by which gaseous nitrogen (N3) from the air into NH3+ (a form of nitrogen available to the plant). Withstanding temperatures slightly below 0°C to 50°C and annual rainfall of 50–250 cm, the tree grows wild on sandy and rocky soils, including oolitic limestone, but will grow in most soil types, even with its roots in salt water…
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Constituents:Seeds contain 27% bitter and dark (sherry) coloured fixed oil (pongamia oil). The oil contains toxic flavonoids including 1.25% karanjin and 0.85% pongamol alkaloid, resin, mucilage and sugar.
Known by many names (Indian Beech, Pongam, Honge, Ponge, and Karanj among other) it is a tree that is well-adapted to arid zones and has many traditional uses. It is often used for landscaping purposes as a windbreak or for shade due to the large canopy and showy fragrant flowers. The bark can be used to make twine or rope and it also yields a black gum that is used to treat wounds caused by poisonous fish. The flowers are used by gardeners as compost for plants requiring rich nutrients. Juices from the plant, as well as the oil, are antiseptic and resistant to pests. In addition the Pongam tree has the rare property of producing seeds of 25-35% lipid content. 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. This oil is rapidly gaining popularity as a source of feedstock for bio-diesel production.
Medicinal Uses: .Seed extract is used for Skin problems, in tanning, Shops, infestation of grains, piscidal, insecticidal, nematicidal and bactericidal activity.
According to Ayurveda, Karanj is anthelmintic, alexipharmic and useful in diseases of eye, vagina, skin. The oil has been used to treat tumours, wounds, ulcers, itching, enlargement of spleen and abdomen, urinary discharges. It also reputed to cure biliousness, piles, head pains, leucoderma, skin diseases and wounds.
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.
Cautions: Generally non-toxic and non-sensitizing. Use well diluted. Avoid during pregnancy.
The seed oil has been found to be useful in diesel generators and, along with Jatropha, it is being explored in hundreds of projects throughout India and the third world as feedstock for biodiesel. It is especially attractive because it grows naturally through much of arid India, having very deep roots to reach water, and is one of the few crops well-suited to commercialization by India’s large population of rural poor. Several unelectrified villages have recently used Honge oil, simple processing techniques, and diesel generators to create their own grid systems to run water pumps and electric lighting.
In 2003 the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy as part of its Biofuel Rural Development Initiative started a campaign of education and public awareness to rural farmers about Pongamia in two Indian states. One of the Himalayan Institute’s partners developed a consistently high yield scion that reduced the time it takes to mature from 10 years to as little as three. To help the farmers in the transition from traditional crops to the Pongamia tree the Indian government has contributed over $30 million in low-interest loans and donated 4.5 million KG of rice to sustain impoverished drought-stricken farmers until the trees begin to produce income. Since the project began in 2003 over 20 million trees have been planted and 45,000 farmers are now involved.
In 2006 the Himalayan Institute began looking at locations in Africa to transplant the Pongamia tree into. Initially they began in Uganda but due to the lack of infrastructure and growing desertification the project has been growing very slowly. They have also begun a project in the Kumbo region of Cameroon where conditions are better. There has been some suggestions that the Pongamia tree could be grown all the way across the continent as a way to prevent the encroachment of the Sahara.
The University of Queensland node of the Center for Excellence in Legume Research, under the directorship of Proffessor Peter Gresshoff, in conjunction with Pacific Renewable Energy are currently working on Pongamia Pinnata for commercial use for the production of Biofuel. Projects are currently focussed on understanding aspects of Pongamia including root biology, grafting, salinity tolerance, and the genetics of the oil production pathways.
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Oil from Karanj tree can be the best option of bio fuel
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are toxic and will induce nausea and vomiting if eaten, the fruits and sprouts, along with the seeds.
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.