Khadira is an important plant with rich medicinal properties. It is known as Khadira in Sanskrit, Khair, in Hindi, Cutch, Catechu tree, Cachou, Black Cutch in English. Its botanical name is Acacia catechu, derived from the Greek word- “akis” meaning a point or a barb. The species name is derived from ‘cutch’, a tanning extract isolated from its heartwood. The other names are raktasara, gayatri, vala patrika, Dantadhavana, Kantaki, Balapatra, Yajniya, Chandra in Telugu, Karangalli in Tamil, Karingali in Malayalam. It belongs to the family of Mimosoideae.
Description of the tree
Khadira is a medium sized tropical or sub tropical tree with thorny and hairy branches that grows up to 15 mts in height. The leaves are bipannately compound with 30- 50 pairs of leaflets which appear feather like and a pair of recurved thorns at the base of the main stem. The dark greyish brown bark exfoliates in long narrow strips. It is one of the strongest trees and its bark is used in making containers or vessels. The heartwood is red in colour which is very strong, often likened to human bones. The flowers are white to pale yellow in colour that appears in cylindrical spikes. The flowering season is from August- September. The fruit consists of flattened, glabrous and oblong pods with a triangular beak at the top. The tree bears fruits during October- December.
The tree needs well drained, shallow to medium- depth sandy soil for good growth. The tree is found on the eastern slopes of Western Ghats and the sub- Himalayan tract, besides other parts of India. It is largely found in Asia, China and North Africa. Dry and cool climate is suitable for its cultivation. It is propagated from seeds or cuttings of half ripened shoots.
Chemical constituents of Khadira
The bark is classified as the outermost bark, the inner bark and the sapwood which contain similar constituents to the extract: 20-35% of catechu tannic acid, 2-10% of acacatechin, quercetin and catechu-red. The heartwood contains kaempferol, dihydrokaempferol, taxifolin, isorhamnetin, (+)-afzelchin, a dimeric procyanidin, quercetin, (-)-epicatechin,5(-)-catechin, fisetin, quercetagetin and (+ )-cyanidanol.
There is a mention of Khadira in Aranya Kanda in Ramayana and Vana Parva in Mahabharata. There is also a mention of the plant in Bhagvad Purana and in Rig Veda.
The bark, heartwood, flowering tops, gum and the Khadira saar (the extract of the bark) is used in various ayurvedic preparations. Khadira has hypoglycaemic properties. Khadira is an essential drug used during delivery. Bleeding disorders are effectively treated by Khadira. Khadira is highly effective in treating Kapha and Pitta doshas.
In ayurveda, the properties of Khadira are classified as follows:
Rasa – Tikta, Kasaya
Guna – Laghu, Ruksa
Virya – Sheetha (cold)
Vipaka – Katu
Prabhava – Kusthaghna (leprosy)
Black Catechu: The extract from the wood which appears gummy is known as black catechu, cutch or kat is dark brown and brittle. The black catechu is prepared from the dried gum of the heartwood by boiling in water. The gum so prepared is concentrated and cooled in moulds. The dried mass is broken into small pieces for ease of use. The black catechu used in several ayurvedic preparations or rasayanas due to its dyslipidemic, anthelminthic, anti inflammatory, diuretic, anti pyretic, taste promoting properties.
Black Catechu is used as an anodyne (medicine used to relieve pain), astringent, bactericide (that kills bacteria), refrigent, detergent, stimulant, styptic, (stops bleeding when applied to the wound) expectorant and antiphlogistic (to prevent or relieve inflammation). Black catechu is used to treat asthma, cough, bronchitis, colic, diarrhoea, styptic, boils, in skin infections, sores and for stomatitis (inflammation of the mucus membrane of the mouth).
Khadira is used both internally and externally in treating various diseases, some of which are given below:
Improves circulatory system: Juice of the fresh bark along with asafoetida is used to treat haematosis (oxygenation in the lungs)
Improves digestion: Improves taste, constipation, useful in anorexia (loss of appetite), diarrhoea and intestinal parasites
Clears respiratory tract: A concoction of Khadira along with cinnamon bark is effective in clearing the phlegm
Reproductive and women related ailments: Khadira’s astringent properties act as a spermicidal and are used as a uterine tonic. It is also used to treat leucorrhoea (discharge from the vagina) and menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during menstruation). Khadira along with Yashtimadhu is used to treat ulcers in vagina and anal mucosa.
Fistula: A decoction of the bark along with triphala mixed with ghee and vidanga is used in treating fistula
Oral Diseases: Fine powder of the bark is used to stop bleeding from the gums. Khadira is also effective in treating dental cavities. A paste of the flowers is used to treat mouth ulcers. A decoction of the leaves is used to treat stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth and lips) and halitosis (bad breath)
Sore Throat and cough: A decoction of the leaves used as gargle is effective in treating sore throat, cough and hoarseness of voice. A popular preparation known as Khadira Guti is used to treat tonsillitis, remove phlegm and improve the taste. Powdered leaves with curd are useful in treating cough. A mixture of the leaves along with honey is not only an antidote for cough but also is very effective in treating haemoptysis (bleeding through sputum).
Skin diseases: A paste of the leaves is a panacea for skin related ailments. A decoction of the bark is highly effective in treating leprosy and all types of allergic reactions on the skin. The extract of the seeds is also effective in treating leukaemia and hypoglycaemia.
Diarrhoea: A concoction of Khadira along with fennel and ginger is highly effective in treating diarrhoea, dysentery and colitis especially associated with bleeding.
Obesity: Khadira burns the excess fat in the body. A daily dose of 3- 6 gms of Khadira taken in 100 ml water is effective in removing excess fat in 3- 6 months time.
Spleen enlargement: A mixture of the Khadira powder is an effective antidote to treat chronic fever due to spleen enlargement.
Wounds: The powder of the bark along with Ashtamadhu is used to treat wounds.
Anal Fistula: A decoction of its bark skin and Triphala mixed with ghee and vidanga powder is used to treat anal fistula.
The branches of the tree are used as fodder for goat and cattle.
Khadira’s heartwood is used in dyeing and leather tanning. The original khaki was dyed and shrunk with the bark of Khadira.
It is also used as a preservative for fishing nets and as a viscosity regulator for oil drilling.
The seeds are a good source of protein. An extract of its heartwood is used as an ingredient to give red colour and flavour to paan.
The trunk of the tree is used in making furniture and tools, besides being used as firewood and charcoal.
Veterinary usage The sap of Khadira is used to treat wounds and diarrhoea in ruminants (ruminants are mammals that acquire nutrients from plant based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion through bacterial actions)
Black catechu is used in veterinary medicine to treat broken horns.
The wood is considered sacred and used in Havan/Homa, as it produces very hot embers. The Sruva or the sacrificial ladle is made of Khadira wood.
“Khadira Bhasma”, the ash of the roots is used for controlling the effects of the planet Mars. When the planet Mars is ill placed in the horoscope, the person is susceptible to anger, instability, irritability, high blood pressure anaemia and impurities in the blood. Applying Khadira Bhasma will negate the negative effects and bring in positive energy, courage, passion and make the individual learned and noble.