Herbs & Plants

Sonajhuri (Acacia auriculiformis)

Botanical Name :Acacia auriculiformis
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia
Species: A.auriculiformis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Common Names:Auri, Earleaf acacia, Earpod wattle, Northern black wattle, Papuan wattle, Tan wattle,  In Bengal it is called Sonajhuri

Habitat :Acacia auriculiformis is native to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. One can see these trees in Santinikatan in West Bengal, India

Acacia auriculiformis is an evergreen tree that grows between to 15-30 m tall, with a trunk up to 12 m long and 50 cm in diameter. It has dense foliage with an open, spreading crown. The trunk is crooked and the bark vertically fissured. Roots are shallow and spreading. Leaves 10-16 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm wide with 3-8 parallel nerves, thick, leathery and curved. Flowers are 8 cm long and in pairs, creamy yellow and sweet scented. Pods are about 6.5 x 1.5 cm, flat, cartilaginous, glaucous, transversely veined with undulate margins. They are initially straight but on maturity become twisted with irregular spirals. Seeds are transversely held in the pod, broadly ovate to elliptical, about 4-6 x 3-4 mm. The generic name acacia comes from the Greek word ‘akis’ meaning a point or a barb and the specific epithet comes from the Latin ‘auricula’- external ear of animals and ‘forma- form, figure or shape, in allusion to the shape of the pod.
Medicinal Uses:
It was also reported that the oil from the seeds produced some medicinal properties such as spermicidal and anti-HIV properties along with the safe use on vaginal epithelium.

The tannin rich inner bark and gums of wattles have therapeutic effects, and this has been known to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Bark can alleviate diarrhoea, gums can soothe inflamed skin. The Zulu of Africa use Acacia caffra as an emetic, and give the leaves to their children for tummy troubles.

In more recent times, Gum Arabic has been used as a major component of artificial blood serum. Sap from the phyllodes of the Hawaiin Acacia koa can inhibit Golden Staphylococcus bacteria, and there are recent reports that Acacia victoria in Australia can produce chemicals called triterpenoid saponins that inhibit tumour growth. More bioprospecting needs to be done!

Other Uses:
This plant is raised as an ornamental plant, as a shade tree and it is also raised on plantations for fuelwood throughout southeast Asia, Oceania and in Sudan. Its wood is good for making paper, furniture and tools. It contains tannin useful in animal hide tanning. In India, its wood and charcoal are widely used for fuel. Gum from the tree is sold commercially, but it is said not to be as useful as gum arabic. The tree is used to make an analgesic by indigenous Australians. Extracts of Acacia auriculiformis heartwood inhibit fungi that attack wood.

Fodder: Not widely used as fodder, but in India 1-year-old plantations are browsed by cattle. Apiculture: The flowers are a source of pollen for honey production. Fuel: A major source of firewood, its dense wood and high energy (calorific value of 4500-4900 kcal/kg) contribute to its popularity. It provides very good charcoal that glows well with little smoke and does not spark. Fibre: The wood is extensively used for paper pulp. Plantation-grown trees have been found promising for the production of unbleached kraft pulp and high-quality, neutral, sulphite semi-chemical pulp. Large-scale plantations have already been established, as in Kerala, India, for the production of pulp. Timber: The sapwood is yellow; the heartwood light brown to dark red, straight grained and reasonably durable. The wood has a high basic density (500-650 kg/m³), is fine-grained, often attractively figured and finishes well. It is excellent for turnery articles, toys, carom coins, chessmen and handicrafts. Also used for furniture, joinery, tool handles, and for construction if trees of suitable girth are available. Tannin or dyestuff: The bark contains sufficient tannin (13-25%) for commercial exploitation and contains 6-14% of a natural dye suitable for the soga-batik industry. In India, the bark is collected locally for use as tanning material. A natural dye, used in the batik textile industry in Indonesia, is also extracted from the bark. Other products: An edible mushroom, Tylopylus fellus, is common in plantations of A. auriculiformis in Thailand.

Usefullness of the plant:
Erosion control: Its spreading, superficial and densely matted root system makes A. auriculiformis suitable for stabilizing eroded land. Shade or shelter: The dense, dark-green foliage, which remains throughout the dry season, makes it an excellent shade tree. Planted to provide shelter on beaches and beachfronts.

Reclamation: The spreading, densely matted root system stabilizes eroding land. Its rapid early growth, even on infertile sites, and tolerance of both highly acidic and alkaline soils make it popular for stabilizing and revegetating mine spoils.

Soil improver: Plantations of A. auriculiformis improve soil physio-chemical properties such as water-holding capacity, organic carbon, nitrogen and potassium through litter fall. Its phyllodes provide a good, long-lasting mulch.

 Nitrogen fixing: Acacia auriculiformis can fix nitrogen after nodulating with a range of Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium strains. It also has associations with both ecto- and endo-mycorrhizal fungi.

 Ornamental: It is used for shade and ornamental purposes in cities where its hardiness, dense foliage and bright yellow flowers are positive attributes.

Intercropping: The effect of intercropping with annual crops varies. Increased tree growth has been found with kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), upland rice and groundnut in Thailand; reduced growth with maize in Cameroon.

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.


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Herbs & Plants

Brassica cernua

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Botanical Name : Brassica cernua
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica
Species: B. juncea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Brassicales

Synonym :Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. subsp. juncea

Common Name : Chinese cabbage, pak choi, pakchoi, Pe-tsai, petsai, wong bok, wongbok, Chinese salad, Chou chinois (Fr), kapisi, kapeti ni jaina (Fiji), kapisi siaina (Tonga, Tuvalu),
Mustard greens, Indian mustard, Chinese mustard, Jie Cai (in Mandarin) or Kai Choi (in Cantonese), or leaf mustard is a species of mustard plant.

Habitat :Brassica cernua is native to Eastern Asia. Places in India where it grows are  Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Brassica cernua is a  perennial, biennial, often grown as an annual herb.It is a succulent herb forming rosettes, of open or tight vegetative heads followed by flowering stalks reaching 20-50 cm in height. Leaves are succulent and light green.May be harvested after 40-60 or 50-90 days, depending on variety. (Eswaran) 25-45 days for leaves and 100-110 days for seeds.


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Edible Uses:
The leaves are eaten fresh, boiled, fried, or fermented. Some varieties produce seeds that can be pressed for oil.

It can in the tropics be grown at elevations up to 1500 m, but at elevations below 500 m heading is less likely to occur. A difference of 5-6°C in day and night temperatures appears to increase the vigour of the plant. Temperatures below 16°C promote flowering, particularly in daylengths of 13 hours or more. Drought stress in the heading stage prevents head formation. It is easely damaged by high winds. Leaf yields between 5 and 70 t/ha or 0.5-7 kg/m? may be obtained depending on length of growing period, plant desity, environmental conditions and cultivars. Photosynthesis pathway C3.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds treat pain in nerves, arthritis, pneumonia

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


Herbs & Plants

Alstonia scolaris

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Botanical Name :Alstonia scolaris
Family: Apocynaceae
Tribe: Plumeriae
Subtribe: Alstoniinae
Genus: Alstonia
Species: A. scholaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Synonyms: Echites scholaris L. Mant., Pala scholaris L. Roberty

Common Names :Blackboard tree, Indian devil tree,Saptaparni, Ditabark, Milkwood pine, White cheesewood and Pulai

Bengali name: Chhatim

Habitat : Alstonia scholaris is native to the following regions

*China: Guangxi (s.w.), Yunnan (s.)
*Indian subcontinent: India; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Pakistan
*Southeast Asia: Cambodia; Myanmar; Thailand; Vietnam, Indonesia; Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; Philippines
*Australia: Queensland

It has also been naturalised in several other tropical and subtropical climates. Alstonia scholaris (Saptaparni in Bengali) is declared as the State Tree of West Bengal, India

Alstonia scholaris is an evergreen small tree that grows up to 40 m tall and is glabrous. The bark is greyish; branchlets are copiously lenticellate.The upperside of the leaves are glossy, while the underside is greyish. Leaves occur in whorls of 3-10; petioles are 1–3 cm; the leathery leaves are narrowly obovate to very narrowly spathulate, base cuneate, apex usually rounded; lateral veins occur in 25-50 pairs, at 80-90° to midvein. Cymes are dense and pubescent; peduncle is 4–7 cm long. Pedicels are usually as long as or shorter than calyx. The corolla is white and tube-like, 6–10 mm; lobes are broadly ovate or broadly obovate, 2-4.5 mm, overlapping to the left. The ovaries are distinct and pubescent. The follicles are distinct and linear.

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Flowers bloom in the month October. The flowers are very fragrant similar to the flower of Cestrum nocturnum.

Seeds of A. scholaris are oblong, with ciliated margins, and ends with tufts of hairs 1.5–2 cm. The bark is almost odourless and very bitter, with abundant bitter and milky sap.

Medicinal Uses:
Alstonia or devil tree or Saptaparni is genus of evergreen trees or shrubs with white funnel-shaped flowers and milky sap. In India the bark of Alstonia scholaris is used solely for medicinal purposes, ranging from Malaria and epilepsy to skin conditions and asthma.

There are 43 species of alstonia trees.  The bark of the tree is used medicinally in the Pacific Rim and India.

In Ayurveda it is used as a bitter and as an astringent herb for treating skin disorders, malarial fever, urticaria, chronic dysentery, diarrhea, in snake bite and for upper purification process of Panchakarma . The Milky juice of the tree is applied to ulcers.

The bark contains the alkaloids ditamine, echitenine and echitamine and used to serve as an alternative to quinine. At one time, a decoction of the bark was used to treat diarrhoea and malaria, as a tonic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, anticholeric and vulnerary. A decoction of the leaves were used for beriberi. Ayurveda recommends A. scholaris for bowel complaints. In Sri Lanka its light wood is used for coffins. In Borneo the wood close to the root is very light and of white colour, and is used for net floats, household utensils, trenchers, corks, etc. Extracts prepared from the plant has been reported to possess cytotoxic activity. The active compounds include alkaloids, flavonoids etc. These are present in all parts of the plant. An ethanol extract of the bark of Alstonia scholaris enhanced the anticancer activity of berberine in the Ehrlich ascites carcinoma-bearing mice. This extract also showed cytotoxic activity to HeLa cells. It contains echitamine and loganin as major compounds and could potentially be used as an anti-irritation agent.

Scientific investigation has failed to show why it is of such service in malaria, but herbalists consider it superior to quinine and of great use in convalescence .  It lowers fever, relaxes spasms, stimulates lactation and expels intestinal worms.  Used for chronic diarrhea, dysentery and in intermittent fever; also as an anthelmintic. It is also much used by homoeopaths.

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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


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News on Health & Science Yoga

Laughter Therapy for Downturn Blues

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Laughter is the best medicine, even for depression and stress caused by the downturn.
…………… & see
Members of a laughing club in action.

.According to the apex body of laughing clubs in the state, their membership is growing steadily even though the economy is in the doldrums.

“The number of members in the 15-20 laughing clubs in the city proper is increasing 5 per cent every year. The rate in greater Calcutta is about 15 per cent,” said Jyotirmoy Sengupta, the secretary of the Laughing Academy of Eastern India, the apex body.

“I request anyone who is depressed or stressed because of the economic turmoil to join a laughing club and feel the difference. Many have overcome depression with laughter. Also, when you start the day with a laugh, the mind is relaxed and fresh, which may help in tackling professional challenges better,” he added.

Psychologists agree. “When one laughs, chemicals are released in the brain. This leads to a feeling of happiness. For example, when one is unhappy, thinking about something pleasant may lift the mood,” said psychologist Moharmala Chatterjee.

According to Sengupta, psychologists have found that the body doesn’t know the difference between a forced and a real laugh and “releases endorphins to relieve stress as a natural physiological response to the physical act of laughing”.

The potential for professional benefits is perhaps making more young people join laughing clubs, which mostly have elderly members.

Promotional activities by the clubs, such as a daylong programme at Rabindra Sarobar stadium on Sunday, also attract the young. The academy plans to visit schools to draw more students.

Members, whether young or old, vouch for laughter therapy. “I have been a member of a laughing club for 10 years and have benefited immensely. I am physically fit and haven’t had to visit the doctor much, except when I had malaria. Whenever I am depressed or stressed laughing cheers me up. In fact, if I miss my morning laughter session, I feel very sad,” said Banani Chakraborty, a working woman in her 40s.

You may Click to see:->Laughter as Medicine

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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News on Health & Science

The New Silk Route

Proteins from silkworms can help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Proteins from the tussar silkworm increase the shelf life of L-Dopa

.Subhas Kundu was always interested in silkworms. When the biotechnologist was a child growing up in a remote village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal, he used to collect cocoons of tussar silkworms falling off Sal trees and exchange them in a neighbourhood shop for a handful of coloured sugar candies.

He is still collecting silkworms, but not for toffees. For long years, he has been studying the caterpillar — which gives us the finest variety of malmal silk. The head of the biotechnology department at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, has shown that proteins extracted from these worms can play a critical role in bone repair, grafting, delivery of drugs and even in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s.

While mulberry silk, reeled from the domesticated silkworm Bombyx mori, accounts for the lion’s share of silk products globally, there are several wild silk moths such as those that yield prominent silk varieties like tussar, muga and eri.

Silkworm cocoons, be it mulberry or non-mulberry, contain two major proteins — fibroin and sericin. While the fibrous protein fibroin — which constitutes nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the cocoon’s weight — is responsible for silk fibres, sericin acts more like glue and holds the fibres together. Sericin, which is at present thrown away, has potential pharmaceutical, cosmetics and biotech applications.

For instance, Kundu’s team has used these proteins (isolated from the glands of the tussar silkworm or the Antheraea mylitta) in making films, scaffolds, hydrogels and nanoparticles that can be used in medical applications such as wound dressing, skin grafting and even in the delivery of drugs and other bioactive molecules inside the human body. All these new products are in different stages of development, Kundu told KnowHow.

Another important development recently reported by the IIT, Kharagpur, scientists is that the silkworm protein extends the shelf life of a crucial drug, L-Dopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. L-Dopa seeks to substitute a brain chemical called dopamine that gets lost in the disease. But it’s very difficult to store the drug, for it becomes completely ineffective within a few days if exposed to oxygen and light.

The researchers have now found that if L-Dopa is held together by a matrix made of the silkworm’s fibroin protein, it is effective even after 10 days. “This, I believe, can be an important feat in the management of Parkinson’s,” says Kundu.

Kundu is not alone in this quest for finding novel applications for silk whose properties, such as its smooth texture, shimmering appearance and strength, have made this natural fibre the darling of textile designers all over the world. Researchers in countries like China, Japan and Korea have several silk-based non-textile products such as mulberry tea, nutritive supplements rich in antioxidants and many others.

Sutures made of biocompatible silk fibre have been in use for surgeries for some time now. Scientists elsewhere are even trying to develop blood vessels and heart valves using the fibre.

Kundu thinks that finding high-value application for the Indian silk varieties, which are already suffering from an onslaught from the cheaper mulberry silk from China, can help poor farmers involved in sericulture.

“Going beyond textile applications is the way forward for the silk industry,” says Kanika Trivedi, a researcher at the Central Sericultural Research and Training Institute

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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