Spices and condiments are a key part of Indian cuisines that renders a unique zest and flavour to the dishes. Mother Nature has blessed us with a rich array of condiments, whether it is ornamental, health, wellness, or culinary purposes, our planet has been super bountiful. One such magnanimous deciduous tree is Bombex ceiba which belongs to the family of bombacaeae, also popularly called semal. Semal is native to India, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The tree bears spectacular deep red flowers, and a tiny capsule that contains white fibers like cotton when they are fully ripe. The fruit of this tree that comes in buds is cooked, eaten, and pickled. Cotton from the tree is used as fabric filler. From flowers to seeds to leaves, semal has been very popular because of its health properties and other wellness incentives that can be derived from it. In fact, since age-old times, our tribal communities have been making use of this wonder plant, thus protecting this tree for ages. The tree is believed to have potent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and oxytocic properties. And last but not the least, this tree is fire resistant.
Indian cottonwood, Indian kapok, and red silk-cotton tree are common names in English. It is known by other vernacular names like Himila in Assamese, Safed Shimalo in Gujarati, Kanntisenbal, Rakta Senbal in Hindi, Kempuburuga in Kannada, Ilav, Mulalilav in Malayalam, Ilav, Puulaa in Tamil, and Buruga in Telugu.
Semal In Ayurveda
Semal has been mentioned in ayurveda since times immemorial. Be it flowers, bark, fruit or its gum, every part of this tree confers umpteen health benefits. Its cooling, astringent, stimulant, aphrodisiac, and demulcent nature protects us from many chronic ailments. It is beneficial in promoting sexual health, and relieving problems like asthma, anaemia, diarrhoea, pulmonary tuberculosis, and influenza.
Healing Health Benefits
Prevents Liver Damage
The root extracts are supposed to prevent liver damage. Besides curing chronic liver ailments, the semal root also cures symptoms of hepatotoxicity which is impairment of the liver function caused by overexposure to drugs or excessive use of alcohol.
Alcoholic extract of the bark consists of antimicrobial properties that are used to combat acne and other skin ailments.
Reduces Blood Pressure
The plant has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic and oxytocic properties that help reduce blood pressure and are also good for the heart.
Prevents Oxidative Damage
The bark of semal root is sun-dried and used in concoctions to prevent oxidative damage to the system.
Semal is highly diuretic in nature and extremely beneficial to treat urinary problems. The roots of the tree have been used since ancient times to cure all kinds of urinary infections.
If that is not enough, semal is bestowed with amazing culinary benefits as well! If you are wondering how to make use of semal fruits or flowers in your food, here are two delicious recipes that you can relish.
250 grams tender semal buds
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 cup tomato paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
3 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
- Chop the buds into four parts
- Heat mustard oil and add chopped semal
- Fry for a few minutes, add potatoes and keep aside
- Heat the remaining mustard oil and add fenugreek seeds
- Wait till they turn light brown and add onion paste
- Fry the paste till it becomes pinkish brown
- Add the ginger-garlic and tomato paste and salt
- Cook till the mixture becomes glossy
- Add the powdered spices and mix well
- Add the partly fried semal and potatoes to the cooked spice mixture
- Add water and cook for 15 minutes
- Serve hot with rotis
The vegetable made from sun-dried buds has a faint fragrance and a tangy taste. Semal is the key ingredient of this recipe and contains proteins, carbohydrates, Vitamin A and Vitamin C in ample quantity. Potatoes are a good source of fibre, which keeps you full and boost energy levels.
2 cup yoghurt
2 fresh semal flowers
1 tablespoon roasted cumin powder
Pinch of chili powder
Salt to taste
- Boil semal flowers for a few minutes
- Drain water and keep aside
- In a bowl add cumin powder, salt and curd and mix well
- Add chopped coriander leaves to the curd mix
- Now add chopped cucumber and semal flowers to the mixture
- Mix all the ingredients well
- The raita is ready to be served
- Garnish it with chilli powder