India is the land, where Ayurveda first originated thousands of years ago. This traditional form of remedy broadly categorizes several herbs, shrubs, trees, fruits and vegetables into different sectors where they are employed for the treatment and management of diseased conditions. While some of them are indicated for a particular health condition, others are all-rounders and can be utilized for the treatment of several health anomalies. One such spectacular plant coming from the lap of Mother Nature, and bestowed with immense medicinal qualities is Banyan.
What Is Banyan?
Prized as the National Tree Of India, the holy Banyan, a.k.a ‘Bargad Ka Ped' is of great importance not only because of its religious stature but also for its ample health benefits. The tree is mentioned in several mythological texts for its curative traits and is also seen outside many homes and temples where it is worshipped regularly. Recognized in Hindu folklore as ‘the wish-fulfilling tree’, banyans symbolize eternal life. The name Banyan is derived from the term ‘Banias’, or ‘merchants’ who lounged under the trees to discuss their plans and policies regarding their business, whereas the species name ‘benghalensis’ refers that the plants are aboriginal to Bengal.
Imbibed with Vata balancing characteristics, Banyan is used for the treatment and management of diarrhoea, dysentery, leucorrhea, piles, gum and teeth disorders, lower back and rheumatic pain, female infertility, ear problems, skin and hair woes, nasal troubles, nausea and diabetes.
How To Identify Banyan?
Banyan which goes by the botanical name Ficus Benghalensis comes from the Mulberry family Moraceae. Banyan is an evergreen tree that lives for many years and usually grows up to the height of 15-20 meters. Being an epiphyte, Banyan chiefly grows on another plant via germination of its seed in the cracks or crevices of the host tree but as it grows older, it sends down the aerial roots which reach the ground and become thicker and vigorous to form the trunk. Having pillar-like prop roots and auxiliary trunks, a single Banyan tree can spread over a large area and look like a small forest. The trunk of the trees is massive, fluted, and grey. Roots are usually aerial and propagate downwards to form woody accessory trunks that can become indistinguishable from the main trunk with time. The leaves of Banyan are hard, thick, leathery and oval. Banyans are usually distinguished by a type of involuted inflorescence called Syconium; which is a fleshy receptacle that bears about 50 – 7000 florets on the inner side. The Syconium can be either a Monoecious syconium that bears both male and female florets on the same tree or a Dioecious syconium that bears male florets and female florets on different trees. Fertilization of the flowers occurs through pollination by wasps and mainly gives rise to red, spongy and round berry-shaped fruits.
Geographical Distribution And Habitat Of Banyan
The banyan tree is primarily native to tropical Asia, from India through Myanmar, Thailand, southern China, and Malaysia. It is also widely cultivated and naturalized in many tropical countries of the world including North America, the West Indies, Western Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and even on numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The Banyan tree requires warm, humid climatic conditions and moist well-drained soils to thrive properly.
Historical And Mythological Importance
India is coined in history for having some of the largest, oldest and tallest Banyan trees in the world. The largest Banyan tree in the world is the ‘The Great Banyan', which is some 250 years old and is situated in The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Gardens in Kolkata, West Bengal. It is prized as one of the natural marvels of the world as the entire garden is one tree that spans 3.5 acres of land and is over 80 feet tall.
The banyan tree is mentioned in several spiritual texts including the Bhagavad Gita, which illustrates that Lord Krishna resides in the leaves of ‘Vat Vriksha' or Banyan. It is even worshipped every year by married women for the long life of their husbands specifically during Vat Purnima for 3days in the month of Jyeshtha according to the Hindu calendar.
Common Names Of Banyan
Banyan has found its way into several cultures owing to its religious significance and curative value. Some of its common names in the regional languages include:
English: Banyan, Banyan fig, Indian banyan
Sanskrit: Nyayagrodh, Vata Vriksha, Raktaphal, Ksheeri, Shrungi, Vanadpathi, Neela, Jatala, Yakshavasaka, Yakshataru, Rohini, Danta, Kanchana, Dhruva, Vitapi, Mandali, Vanabhu, Avarohi
Hindi: Bad, Baragad
Bengali: Bat, Bat Briksha
Kannada: Alada mara, Aala, Vatavruksha
Oriya: Vata, Bara
Assamese: Vat, Ahat, Vat gach
Punjabi: Bhod, Bhaur
Chemical Constituents Of Banyan
The holy banyan tree contains a wealth of nutrients. It has B Sitosterols, glycosides, sterols, leukocyanidin, esters, quercetin, and friedelin. Besides these, it also comprises flavonoids, inositol, leucopelar, galactose, rutin and tanins. It is also abundant in polysaccharides, oxositosterol, ketones, and toglic acid. The leaves of the tree contain triterpenes, oxositosterol and friedelin while the bark contains bengalinoside, glucosides, and flavonoid glycosides. The main aerial roots of the tree contain phytosterolin whereas the heartwood contains bengalenoside, liglic acid, and tatraxasterol.
Infused with these powerful biochemical components, Banyan is widely used for remedying several health anomalies including diarrhoea, dysentery, ear, nose, and teeth problems, leucorrhoea, infertility issues, rheumatic pain, digestive troubles, piles, cholesterol, fever, headache etc.
This extraordinary tree has been there since the archaic times and is mentioned in several Ayurvedic scriptures like Charaka Samhita, Raj Nighantu, Susruta Samhita etc for the following indications:
- Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea)
- Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders)
- Prameha (manages diabetes)
- Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting)
- Balya (provides nourishment)
- Amahara (treats indigestion)
- Dahahara (relieves burning sensation)
- Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties)
- Deepana (enhances stomach fire)
- Pachana (helps in digestion)
- Rochana (stimulates appetite)
- Kupachan (prevents bloating)
- Agnimandya (prevents indigestion)
- Jvara (useful in fever)
- Yakrit vikara (treats liver problems)
- Kasahara (Relieves cough)
- Anulomana (improves breathing)
- Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding)
- Pandu (treats skin disorders)
- Raktadoshahara (blood purifying)
- Vran Ropana (heals wounds)
- Vamanopaga (treats emesis)
- Varnya (improves complexion)
- Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms)
- Hridaya (treats heart problems)
- Medhya (treats cognitive problems)
Health Benefits Of Banyan
Diarrhoea a.k.a Ama Atisara in Ayurveda is the condition when the intestine shoves the stool out of the body without absorbing the excess water making it watery. It usually occurs due to inflammation in the intestinal walls, which allows the excess fluid to leak out into the stool. Laden with potent anti-bacterial and anti-diarrhoeal properties, Banyan is extensively used for eliminating bacteria from the intestines that cause diarrhoea and other intestinal infections. This plant extract not only wipes out the toxins from the body but also effectively lessens the frequency of stools.
To treat diarrhoea, take 2-3 gm of banyan leaf powder with milk or water twice a day after having light food.
Leucorrhoea, a.k.a Sweta Pradara in Ayurveda is the release of thick, white discharge from the female genitals. According to Ayurveda, it usually occurs due to the vitiation of the Vata Doshas. Ayurveda categorizes Banyan, as a tree with a powerful astringent trait which plays a significant role in the treatment of leucorrhoea. It helps to regulate aggravated Kapha and decrease the symptoms of leucorrhoea. Apart from vaginal discharge, it also holds high value in treating postnatal ailments, regulating periods, and even helping in treating excessive abdominal pain/bleeding.
Consume 1 tsp of dried powdered Banyan bark with lukewarm milk twice a day to treat leucorrhoea.
Diabetes termed as Madhumeha in Ayurveda is the condition when the blood sugar levels in the human go high. The wealth of hypoglycemic properties in Banyan holds high importance in alleviating the blood sugar levels of the body. The output of the hormone insulin from the pancreatic β-cells becomes robust on taking the bark powder. It also helps to curtail the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels.
Enhances Skin Health
A disturbance of the Pitta doshas within the body may often lead to different types of skin diseases like eczema, and acne and even cause poor complexion. Blessed with antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, Ayurveda recognizes Banyan as a well-known absolute remedy for various skin woes. Owing to its blood purifying characteristics which help in eliminating toxins from the blood, it assists in treating a host of skin infections as well. It not only helps in safeguarding the skin from oxidative radical damage due to the harmful UVA and UVB rays, but also curtails the risk of the different signs of ageing like spots, fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, and dark circles. It also plays a pivotal role in treating allergic conditions like psoriasis, scabies, acne, pimples, zits, eczema and many more.
Just apply the paste of Banyan leaves to the affected area to get rid of skin infections.
Improves Oral Health
Endowed with potent anti-microbial properties, Banyan assists in neutralizing microbes that promote dental plaque. Be it in the form of a mouth wash or decoction or bark powder, the abundance of germ-killing properties of the heartwood of Banyan helps in eradicating bad breath and bacteria from the oral cavities and thus reduces swelling, bleeding and other oral problems. It also helps in dealing with bleeding gums, dental abscesses, throat infections, canker sores or mouth ulcers.
To uplift overall gum and teeth health, take powdered bark of the banyan tree and use this powder as a paste to brush the teeth.
For treating Gingivitis, boil the bark of the Banyan tree in a cup of water. Strain and gargle with the liquid.
Home Remedies With Banyan
- The milky latex extracted from the bark is applied directly over the wound and swelling to get relief and speed up healing.
- Decoction of the bark is used to treat vaginal infections.
- Tender leaves are given in the form of a herbal decoction to boost the uterine muscles during pregnancy.
- Latex of the tree is used to deal with premature ejaculation.
- Milky latex of the plant is smeared topically to treat bruises, painful areas, toothache, rheumatic joints, lumbago, and cracked soles.
- Intake of the powdered root mixed with milk is effective in treating and maintaining female fertility.
- Milk juice collected from tree bark is also utilized as a natural remedy to get rid of skin moles and enhance skin texture.
Effect On Doshas
This humble Banyan showcases Kashaya (i.e., astringent) Rasa. It is endowed with Rukhsha (dry) and Guru (i.e., heavy) gunas. It innately has Shita Virya (cold potency) and Katu Vipaka (pungent metabolic property). Banyan is portrayed as a Vata-Pittashamapaka which means that it helps to normalise the vitiated Pitta (i.e., fire and air) Doshas and Vata (i.e., air) doshas, and often an excess of it can aggravate the Kapha Doshas (i.e., earth and water).
In accordance with the inherent traits and doshas, Banyan portrays a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e., body tissues) which are Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e., Blood), Mamsa (i.e., Muscles), Majja (i.e., cartilage) Asthi (i.e., Bones) and Shukra (i.e., Reproductive Fluids).
The accurate medicinal dosage of Banyan may vary from individual to individual depending upon their age, the severity of the disease and the condition of the patient. One must discuss it with an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, before consuming it.
Banyan can be consumed in the form of powder, paste or decoction. For this purpose, roots, stem bark, latex and leaves are used.
Banyan Side Effects
In the correct dosage, the holy Banyan exhibits no recorded side effects. But care should be taken that Banyan is not taken in excess, as overdosage may lead to stomach problems.
Since there is no credible information on the effects of Banyan during pregnancy or lactation period, hence it is recommended that pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avert using this humble tree extract without medical supervision.