The mesmerizing MAHUA TREE

  • This article tells about the medicinal and economic value of the Mahua tree.

It makes me really proud to say that India has thousands of medicinal trees/plants spread across all the terrains. Each tree has it unique value, uses, stories, beliefs as it stands proudly rooted on the revered and holy soils of India.


Let us know about the Tribal Tree of India, Mahua tree ((Madhca indica)/M.longifolia). It is also called Tree of Life because of the immense properties and importance it holds, like a one tree stop to sustain a living!


I am sure many of you must have heard of this tree, if not about its values then atleast for the intoxicating beverage it is famous for. The tree has tremendous medicinal cures almost for all types of health issues. Thus Ayurveda regards Mahua as a universal formula tree.


The Mahua tree is a tropical tree also commonly known as Indian Butter Tree due to its high fat content. These trees are overall found in the Indian Subcontinent and distinctly in central India.


The most valuable thing about this tree are its fragrant flowers which can be stored indefinitely. The tree is large, has a thick and grey bark which is vertically cracked. During the months of February to April leaves fall and musky scented flowers appear, beautifying the tree for that season. The yellow-white flowers are seen hung in dozens of bunches at the end of the branchlets.


Medicinal and Economic uses


The Mahua tree not only provides timber but each part of the tree is valuable. As we know the seeds are oily, the fat is used for skin care to manufacture soap, used as vegetable butter and for fuel/biodiesel. The seeds residue after the extraction of oil is used as a good fertilizer too. Mahua fat is a good substitute for cocoa butter in pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, chocolates and cooking oil. The tender shorts are used to make vegetable which is common among the tribal communities while on the other side the small twigs are used as datun to clean the teeth.


The most heard and lucrative part of this tree are its flowers…These flowers are sweet and nutritive (having 65-70% sugar). They are fermented to make an alcoholic drink in the tribal belts of India. The areas of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have tribes which are historically associated with the distillation of country liquor. 


When tribal areas experience scarcity of food, the flowers are mixed with jaggery or sal seeds (Shorea robusta) and consumed as an important source of irons, minerals and vitamins. To explore the culinary side, jams, jellies and biscuits are also made out these flowers and added in traditional Indian desserts.


Coming to the leaves of Mahua, moth Antheraea paphia feeds on them and produces tassar silk! Isn’t that interesting…So it’s the South Indian tussar silk moth which gives us the popular tussar silk sarees.


Moving on to the medicinal value, this magical tree has many curing abilities, no wonder it is called the tree of life. It is said that the alcoholic extracts have analgesic properties which can be used for treatment of pain, wounds and burns. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which promote quick recovery.


Here are the medicinal benefits of different parts of the tree.


Fruits, Flowers and Leaves.


Seeds - The Mahua oil from the seeds has soothing properties and is used to cure headaches, fever, piles, constipation, haemorrhoids and heart diseases. The monounsaturated fatty acids present in seeds helps reduce bad cholesterol hence preventing coronary ailments.


Bark - Bark has astringent and antibacterial properties which can heal wounds, cure rheumatism, diabetes, leprosy and dental problems. The powder also helps ease troubles with reproductive systems.


Flowers - Flowers help to get relief from nausea, sinusitis, cough, bronchitis, tonsillitis and polyuria. The flower juice also helps in curing skin conditions and itching.


Leaves - Research says the methanolic extracts of the leaves helps cure epilepsy and intestinal worms.


Roots - Roots are effective against diarrhea, inflammation and fever.


Fruits - Fruits in different forms treats blood diseases, used in hair oils and for therapeutic massages.


Usage of Mahua as medicine


4 ml of liquid bark extract along with 300 ml of water is used as gargle to get relief from swollen/bleeding gums, sore throat and tonsillitis.


Distilled juice of Mahua flowers along with glass of milk will give relief from chronic bronchitis.


Sesame oil when coated with Mahua leaves and heated cures eczema when applied on affected areas.


30-40 ml of dried flowers boiled in milk will help treat neuromuscular diseases.


20-25 ml of fresh flower juice consumption will help to reduce cough and hypertension.


30-40 ml cold extract of flowers or bark will help cure burning sensation in the body.


30-40 ml boiled liquid of bark when consumed will help treat diarrhea and rheumatism.


Application of seed oil on affected areas helps treat rheumatism, arthritis and inflammation.


The pickle of these flowers are used to treat tuberculosis in Bihar, ideally 2 teaspoons for 2 months.


Ash of leaves are used to heal burns and itching problems.


Be careful with Mahua

It is advisable to consult a doctor before consumption of Mahua to avoid it interfering with any drugs you might be consuming.


a. Research suggests daily or over consumption may cause infertility.

b. Do not intake Mahua if you are suffering from autoimmune diseases or taking immunosuppressant drugs.

c. If you are taking anti-diabetes medicines then avoid Mahua.

d. Tamil tradition warns that over consumption of flowers affects the mind and can cause lunacy.


Nursery practice


If you wish to have this large tree in your back yard, then here are few lines for you.


Ripe fruits are collected by shaking the tree branches and the seeds are separated by pressing the fruits. Seeds can be dried but since they are oily they lose its viability soon. Hence, seed sowing should be done soon and covered with a layer of 2 cm thick soil. Please note the growth of the seedlings is slow and germination takes 10 days. You can later after a month prick the sapling out of the small pot or polybag wherever it is planted and replant in your desired area. The trees will begin bearing fruits after 10 years. It is best grown in warm and humid regions and sandy soil.


Tip: Keep 8m space between two saplings. Harvesting of seeds in India is done in May, June and July.



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