India is not only known for its diverse culture, food and festivals, but also as the land where Ayurveda, an ancient practice of alternative medications originated. Ayurveda has the answer to more or less every other diseased condition and provides us with home remedies and natural supplements. Additionally, Mother Nature bestows us with a bounty of trees, herbs and spices that are bequeathed with curative properties whether we realize it or not. One such incredible plant that has numerous benefits and has been mentioned time and again in the Ayurvedic texts and scriptures by various sages is the Sal Tree.
What Is Sal?
Sal, which goes by the name Shala in Ayurveda is famed for its medicinal, religious and commercial uses. Coming from the Dipterocarpaceae family, Sal goes by the botanical name Shorea robusta. Valued as a holy tree, Sal is quite often termed as “House Of Tribal Goddess” owing to its wide range of therapeutic benefits. According to folk tales, Sal has been believed to be an incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu and hence has been worshipped in Hindu culture and even considered pious in Jainism, and Buddhism.
Sal is of deciduous origin with a height of about 50 meters high and a stem circumference up to 5 m. It is an imperative non-timber product and covers almost 14% of the total forest area of the country. Sal is native to India and is chiefly found growing throughout. It is even found stretching from Myanmar in the east to Nepal, India and Bangladesh.
Sal possesses clean, cylindrical and straight stems with epimoric branches and a darkish-brown bark. Leaves are delicate green, reddish, shiny, simple and about 10-25 cm long. Leaves are primarily oval at the base with the apex tapering into a long point. Sal bears flowers which are yellowish to white in hue and arranged in large terminal or axillary racemose panicles. Fruits are long and surrounded by segments of calyx which is enlarged by five unequal wings. Seeds embedded within the fruits are brown with calyx and wings. Sal requires an average temperature of about 22-47ᴼC and prefers a deep, well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy to clayey soil to thrive well. It also requires an annual rainfall around 3000 - 6600 mm per year.
Synonyms Of Sal
Sal is known by different names in different parts of the world. It is chiefly known as Sakhua, Sal, Common Sal, Sal seeds, Indian Dammer, Yellow balau, Shala tree in English, Sal, Dammar De Linde, Arbre, Balau Jaune in French, Sal, Shoreia Moshchnaia, Salovoe Derevo in Russian, Sal-trad in Swedish, Serangan Batsuu, Sara Noki, Shara Noki, Serangan batsuu in Japanese and Suo Luo Shuang, Suo Luo Shuang Shu in Chinese.
In the subcontinent, the various states know Sal by different vernacular names mainly; Dhuna, Salwa, Sal, Jall, Damar, Shal in Hindi, Sakher, Sal, Sakhu, Salwa in Bengali, Kungiliyam, Gugglu, Saruva rasam, Kungiligam, Kukkil in Tamil, Guggilamu, Saluva, Gugal, Sarjmu in Telugu, Damar laut, Bangkirai, Selangan batu kumus, Selangan batu, in Malayalam, Guggilu, Rala in Marathi, Ral in Gujarati, Sal, Seral in Punjabi, and Sagua, Salwa, Sal, Sekwain Oriya.
Ayurveda knows this holistic plant by the various Sanskrit terminologies which include Agnivallabha, Ashvakarnika, Ashvakarna, Latashankha, Rala, Latataru, Ralakarya, Salaniryas, Sala, Salaveshta, Sarjakarya, Sarja, Sarjarasa, Sasyasambara, Shankurriksha, Shankataru, Sarjjaka, Sasyasamvera, Dhanya, Chiraparna, Dirghaparna, Divyasara, Dirghashaka, Jaranadruma, Jaladashara, Kaushikahva, Lalana, Kushika, Shasyasambara, Shura. Sidhaka, Tarkshyapravasa, Sureshtaka, Vallivriksha, Vastakarna, Vansha, Yakshadhupa. While the Unani medication knows this plant by Raal, Siddha recognizes it as Kungilyam.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Sal
Ayurveda, the holistic science of herbal remedies has extensively mentioned this herb time and gain in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include, Asra Dagdharuk (remedies wounds and burns), Vishaha (antitoxic), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Kustha (treats skin disorders), Varnya (improves complexion), Kshayajit (treats tuberculosis), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Anulomana (improves breathing), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Karnarogahara (treats ear disorders), Sonisthapana (treats bleeding), Chakushya (treats eye problems), Garbhaprada (treats infertility), Vamanopaga (treats emesis), Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders), Amahara (treats indigestion), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Hikkanigrahana (controls hiccups), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation), Kandunashana (relieves itching), Hridaya (treats heart problems), Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body), Vayasthapana (prevents ageing), Jvara (useful in fever), Kasahara (Relieves cough, Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties),Balya (improves muscle strength), Gulmajit (useful in abdominal tumours), Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Pandu (treats anaemia), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), Kanthya (improves voice), Arsha (treats piles), Krichra (treats painful micturition) and Pushtida (good for nutrition).
Phytochemical Constituents Of Sal
The holistic Sal has a quarry of bioactive constituents including alkaloids, carbohydrates, flavonoids, glycosides, phenols, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, dipterocarpol, nor-triterpene, dammarenolic acid, asiatic acid, triterpenic acid, tannic acid, ursonic acid, oleanane, Shoreaphenol and phenolic content, chalcone, glycoside 4’hydroxychalcone- a’ -O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, apolyphenol-hopeaphenol, leucoanthocyanidin, etc.
Imbued with antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, anti-ulcer, digestive, expectorant, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective and wound healing properties, Sal is quintessential in the treatment and management of wounds, burns, indigestion, constipation, skin infections, piles, arthritis, general debility, ear problems, diarrhoea, dysentery, headache, cough, cold, obesity etc.
Formulation Containing Sal
Laden with potent biochemical components and incredible therapeutic properties, Sal is a oneshot herbal remedy for various health anomalies. Be it in the form of churna, kwath, gutika, lehyam, rasa or tailam, the magical benefits of the holy Sal can be employed via all. One such incredible ayurvedic formulation containing Sal Is Eladi Thailam.
What Is Eladi Thailam?
Eladi Thailam, also known as Eladi Oil is a powerful ayurvedic oil with elaichi as the main ingredient. Along with other kalka and drava dravyas, it is extremely useful in the treatment and management of pruritus (itching), boils, eczema, urticaria or hives, leukoderma, poisonous bites, chronic catarrh etc. It also enhances skin complexion and makes it luminant. It can even be used in scalp massage as well as in body massage.
How To Make Eladi Thailam?
Kalka Dravya: 1 part each of-
Elachi (Green Cardamom) – Elettaria cardamomum
Badi Elaichi (Black Cardamom or Nepal Cardamom) – Amomum subulatum
Sal Tree (Devadhupa) – Shorea robusta
Tuvaraka – Hydnocarpus laurifolia
Jatamansi (Spikenard) – Nardostachys jatamansi
Jaladhyamaka (Iruvale or Iruveli) – Coleus zeylanicus
Sprikka (Malabar Catmint) – Anisomeles malabarica
Choraka – Angelica archangelica
Dalchini (Cinnamon) – Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Kuth or Kushta (Indian Costus Root) – Saussurea lappa
Priyangu flowers – Callicarpa macrophylla
Tagara – Valeriana wallichii
Sthauneya – Taxus baccata
Javitri (Mace) – Myristica fragrans
Hirabol (herabol myrrh) – Commiphora myrrha
Shukti – Ostrea edulis
Vyaghranakha – capparis sepiaria
Devdaru (Deodar Cedar or Himalayan Cedar) – Cedrus deodara
Agaru (Agarwood) – Aquilaria agallocha
Sarala (Chir Pine) – Pinus longifolia
Kesar (Saffron) – Crocus sativus
Keukand (Chanda) – Costus speciosus
Guggulu – Commiphora mukul
Salai Guggul (Shallaki) – Boswellia serrata
Punnaga (Sultan Champa) – Calophyllum inophyllum
Nagkesar – Mesua ferrea
Taila Dravya – Base Oil:
104 parts of Murchhita Tila Tail (Sesame Oil) – Oil of Sesamum indicum or 104 parts of Coconut Oil – Coco nucifera
416 parts of Water
Wash and dry all the kalka dravyas separately under direct sunlight.
Mix them together in a vessel with some water to make a paste.
Now add water and oil base to the paste in a large stainless-steel vessel.
Put it on the fame and keep stirring until all the water components evaporate and only oil and paste remains back.
Cool it and filter it through muslin cloth to remove kalki residue.
Pour it in amber-coloured glass bottle and keep it away from sunlight for future use.
Therapeutic Benefits Of Sal
Treats Wounds And Ulcers
The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of Sal plays a pivotal role in treating different types of ulcers like ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcer, canker sores or mouth ulcers, etc. The bioactive compounds in Sal cleanses wounds, facilitates wound healing, and promotes tissue regeneration. The astringent property of Sal also helps in reducing swelling of wounds.
The potent anti-bacterial and anti-diarrhoeal properties of Sal is extensively used for removing bacteria from the intestines that causes diarrhoea and other intestinal infections. When ingested in prescribed amounts, it can be used for treating a type of diarrhoea known as AMA ATISARA i.e. acute diarrhoea where the bowel is slimy, sticky, full of mucus and has a foul odour. Formulations containing sal not only removes the toxins from the body but also effectively reduces the frequency of stools and even treats dysentery.
Relieves Pain And Inflammation
Imbued with strong analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties of the bio-active components, Sal offers extensive relief from pain and inflammation in case of arthritis and joint pain. It is also used to treat painful muscle spasms, sore muscles, arthritic conditions, and other inflammatory situations. Application of a paste of Sal mixed with egg whites when applied on affected area is extremely effective against Rheumatoid arthritis which is known as Amavata in Ayurveda, an ailment that stems due to the vitiation of Vata doshas and accumulation of Ama in the joints.
Thanks to the mild carminative and digestive properties, Sal offers an absolute solution for all digestive woes. The anti-flatulent property reduces the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus reducing flatulence, bloating, constipation, and abdominal distension. The antacid property of the herb prevents the formation of excessive acids in the stomach thereby treating indigestion, ulcer, gastritis and promoting better absorption of nutrients in the body.
Aids In Weight Loss
The abundance of flavonoids in Sal helps the body shed excess weight faster. Owing to the presence of fibre and anti-obesity action, when taken regularly, the formulations of Sal satiate sudden hunger pangs and prevents overeating and hence can play a pivotal role in one’s weight loss regimen. The herb also reduces the accumulation of LDL (i.e. Low-Density Lipoproteins or bad cholesterol) in the body, thereby improving metabolism and helping the body to maintain a proper weight.
Fights Respiratory Issues
Blessed with powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and anti-asthmatic properties, Sal holds high significance in treating a host of respiratory troubles. It is extensively used for treating the common cold, sore throat, cough and flu symptoms. It also thins and loosens catarrh particles within the chest and nasal cavities and hence eases breathing and helps the body to get rid of mucus. It is also beneficial in treating bronchitis and asthmatic conditions.
Alleviates Difficulty in Urination
The formulations containing Sal is also used for treating urinary disorders like urinary incontinence, painful urination, burning sensation while urinating owing to its astringent and cooling properties.
Thanks to the quarry of antioxidants and the bioactive components, Sal confers several folk remedies for improving the immune system, fighting microbes and shielding the body against various infections. It also portrays the presence of strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antifungal properties, which is quintessential in preventing infections like fever, common cold, sore throat, and other respiratory anomalies.
The host of anti-bacterial properties present in the wondrous Sal plays a crucial role in treating skin infections like acne, warts, boils, eczema, blisters, itching etc. Beauty essentials imbued with the oil obtained from Sal bark or seed also improves complexion by evening out the skin tone, clearing blocked pores, and also reducing various signs of ageing. Owing to the antiseptic nature, the oil obtained from Sal also prevents wounds and injuries and facilitates healing.
Remedies Hair Troubles
The wealth of antioxidant, astringent and antimicrobial properties in Sal makes it extremely beneficial for all sorts of hair woes. Sanctified with essential bioactive constituents, this oil not only improves blood circulation in the hair follicles but also prevents various hair infections and actively takes part in collagen formation. It is extremely useful for treating dandruff, revitalizing dull, lifeless hair. Regular use of the oil obtained from Sal improves hair texture, adds shine and stimulates hair growth. By effectively alleviating stress, it also prevents hair fall and premature greying of hair.
Other Uses of Sal
From the leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, seeds, seed oil and even resin exuding from the bark, the incredible Sal has numerous uses both medicinally and commercially. Apart from potent curative uses, owing to its strong, durable nature and resistance to fire, Sal has been used commercially and economically for its timber since ages. It is extensively used for construction of house, telephone, and electrical poles, sleepers, and boats, furniture, and other carpentry works. The resin obtained from the plant is used for making paints and varnishes and also used for sealing the joints or seams in boats and even a pure oil extracted from the resin, known as Chua oil is used for treating skin and ear infections. While the leaves that are shed are used for making biodegradable leaf plates and cups, the seed oil is used for cooking and even skin lightening.
Effect On Doshas:
The holy Sal inherently showcases Kashaya (i.e. astringent) and Madhura (i.e. sweet) Rasa. It is blessed with Rukhsha (i.e. dry) and Ushna (i.e. hot) gunas. It has Sheeto Virya (i.e. cold potency) and Katu Vipaka (pungent metabolic property). The bioactive ingredients in this bitter herb balances the Pitta (fire and air) doshas and Vata (air) doshas and often an excess of it can aggravate the Kapha (earth and water) doshas.
Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, Kutki 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), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids).
The ayurvedic properties that help in portraying the following main prabhabs on the body are Bhagnasandhanakrut (heals fractures), Vranasodhana (cleanses wounds), Swedahara (decreases sweating), Badhiryahara (treats deafness), Grahi (useful in diarrhoea), Tvakadosh-har (cures skin diseases) and Sotha-har (reduces swelling).
Sal is widely available in the form of churnas, kwaths, lehyams, thailams, and gutikas and even as resin oil. Owing to its bitter-astringent taste, one can consume it alongside honey or milk to mask the taste.
The accurate therapeutic dosage of the sal may vary from person to person depending upon the age, severity, and condition of the patient. One must consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, as he or she will thoroughly examine the indications and prescribe the effective dosage for a specific period of time.
Powder/ Churna - ¼ - ½ teaspoon twice a day alongside some honey or milk after meals.
Decoction / Kwath – 8 - 10 teaspoon twice a day along with water after meals.
Paste / Lehyam – ½ - 1 teaspoon once a day.
Oil / Thailam – 1 – 2 tsp twice a day.
Sal Side Effects:
Thanks to the presence of potent bioactive components, the magical Sal tree exhibit no recorded side effects when used in the correct proportion. It is extremely effective in normalising the aggravated levels of Sama Pitta doshas and Vata doshas in the body. But an excessive amount of it can cause rashes and allergy in people. However, since there is no reliable information of the effects of Sal during pregnancy or lactation period, it is suggested that pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers should avoid using this bitter herb without medical supervision. It also highly contradicted for people already suffering from skin diseases and infections to avoid using any form of Sal without doctor’s approval.
Since the ancient ages, Sal has been widely used for its therapeutic applications. Thanks to the quarry of essential bio-active ingredients, and host of therapeutic properties, it is quintessential for treating burns and wounds, diarrhoea, arthritis, digestive anomalies, rectifying flu and feverish conditions, augmenting skin and hair related woes, relieving pain and inflammation, managing cough and cold, sore throat, preventing viral infections, and many more.