India, the land of Gods and Goddesses where many divine powers took birth. People here see deities as the intermediaries with the divine world, and as a source of connection to God. In many traditions and religions, plants and trees are seen as a spiritual symbol. Rigveda and Atharvaveda take us into the history of plants, and their benefits in Ayurveda. These living greens symbolize divinity, fertility, purity, prosperity and growth.
No doubt, plants and trees are the reason for the existence of entire human race.
So, let us have a look at a few plants and trees which are sacred and are worshipped all around India.
1. Peepal (Ficus religiosa)
Peepal tree is popularly known as Bodhi tree. It is believed that Gautam Buddha gained enlightenment under this tree.
This tree represents three main gods in hinduism- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The leaves represent Shiva, the trunk represents Vishnu and the roots represent Brahma. Therefore, it represents the Holy Trinity in the scriptures. A red thread is tied around the tree to worship it. According to Skanda Pyrana, Lord Vishnu resides under this tree. Peepal tree is considered as the ‘Tree of life’ not only amongst Hindus but also amongst Jains and Buddhists.
The three doshas, vāta, pitta and kapha fluctuate in the body due to various factors and health exists when an equal amount of these elements are present in one’s body. Peepal keeps the balance of these three elements.
This sacred tree finds uses in different ayurvedic medicines and is known to treat various ailments.
- Peepal tree is a storehouse of oxygen as it emits large quantities of breathable air. Every part of this tree has a use. Asthma, high blood sugar levels, constipation and diarrhoea are treatable with the help of leaves, fruits, stem bark and root bark.
- The peepal bark reduces the symptoms of diarrhea by the contraction of mucosal cells due to its astringent properties. Also, constipation can be managed by the peepal leaves.
- Due to its anti-allergic properties the dried powder of peepal bark can be used to manage respiratory problems.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, inflammation related to eczema can be reduced using the leaf extract in the form of ointment by applying topically. Hence, it can manage skin diseases.
- This sacred plant can also be used for a brighter complexion, cracked heels, toothache, impotency, ear infection, eye pain and purifying blood.
*Use peepal formulations under medical supervision only as it can cause allergies in hypersensitive people.
- Banyan (Ficus benghalensis)
Banyan tree is the national tree of our country and is also known as ‘bargad’. It provides a vast field of shade due to its lush and large foliage. It is highly worshipped and is believed to fulfil wishes as per the Hindu mythology. This sacred tree is found commonly near a temple and homes and is known to regulate the balance of the three doshas as peepal does. It is known as the kalpa vriksha. It is generally considered as the humble abode of Krishna.
The Antioxidant properties help reduce bad cholesterol levels and helps manage blood glucose levels by increasing insulin secretion.
The aqueous extract of banyan leaves help reduce pain and inflammation due to arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Banyan tree fruit aids in stress reduction and manages anxiety and depression.
- Digestive system
This tree has anti-microbial and healing properties which may treat diarrhea and dysentery. The tree extract has high fiber content which is used to treat constipation.
- Oral health
The two main strains of bacteria responsible for disturbing the oral health are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans, towards which the banyan shows antibacterial effect and prevents tooth decay.
- Immune system
The banyan tree bark has bioactive compounds rich in antioxidant agents which neutralize the free radicals and prevent damage to internal organs. So, this extract is used in various Indian folk medicines. Hence, it also boosts immunity.
- Vaginal infection
Vaginal infection is caused due to the microbial flora of the vagina. Banyan tree (leaf extract) is antimicrobial in nature. The bark or the leaves are crushed to make a powder, which is then mixed with water to prepare a vaginal wash for treatment of the infection, particularly leucorrhea.
- Skin care
It has the capability to block the toxic effects of several allergens and provides a soothing effect. It is also used to prevent skin damage. Concoctions prepared from banyan leaves and aloe vera help treat skin allergies and improve skin health. Therefore, the sacred banyan has skin protective properties.
Diabetes is a major health concern worrying almost everyone. The bioactive compounds of the tree extract helps deal with diabetes.
- Mosquito-borne diseases
Culex and Anopheles are the vectors for japanese encephalitis and malaria, respectively. The methanolic extract of the tree helps to keep in check the mosquito population due to its larvicidal properties.
- Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
The aerial or prop roots’ extract is rich in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties which work against many types of bacteria and fungi.
- Pollution control
This sacred tree is also a helping hand to nature as it has the potential to minimize the air polluting agents, thus maintaining the air quality of an area.
- Ashoka (Saraca asoca)
Ashoka tree is sacred to Buddhists, Jains and Hindus and is known to be associated with Kama Deva (the god of love). It is heard that Shakyamuni Buddha took birth under an ashoka tree situated in Lumbini Garden. Hanuman meets Sita in the garden of ashoka trees (Ashoka Vatika) which is mentioned in the Ramayana.
This tree has elegant flowers and is an evergreen species. A Toran of Ashoka leaves is hung on the main door on an auspicious occasion as it creates a positive atmosphere in the house.
- Consumption of ashoka juice may promote healthy skin as it purifies blood.
- It aids in controlling internal bleeding in case of piles due to its astringent properties.
- Application of its juice on the skin helps get rid of excess oil.
- Ashoka helps in managing menstrual problems like irregular and painful periods.
- Its powder consumption can relieve abdominal pain.
- Mango (Mangifera indica)
The Mango tree and also its fruit is considered as a vital ingredient for any puja or religious ceremony. The leaves are hung in the house to mark an auspicious occasion as it is said that the leaves mark goddess Lakshmi. Also, these are placed on kalash on rituals during Purnakumba (a hindu ceremony). The coconut on the top of kalash symbolizes the head of the god and the leaves symbolize limbs. The tree has also been quoted in Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas. The sacred fruit symbolizes fertility and purity and is known as the ‘King of fruits’.
- The mango leaves have anti-inflammatory agents which are generally due to mangiferin which prevents inflammation.
- The leaf extract helps to control diabetes, obesity and regulates fat metabolism.
- They are rich in terpenoids and polyphenols. The latter have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and help avoid heart diseases, obesity and cancer, whereas, the former are antioxidants which fight against free radicals leading to a healthy immune system.
- The mangiferin in mango leaves may have anticancer agents, as it combats oxidative stress and fights inflammation.
- It is good for the digestive health
- Promotes healthy hair and skin due to presence of vitamin C
- May boost immunity
- High in antioxidants
- Bael (Aegle marmelos)
Bael tree is linked with lord Shiva. Its leaves are always offered to Shiva and the religious ceremonies are incomplete in the absence of bael fruits and leaves. The fruit is also used to worship Parvati and Viva rupra.
There are numerous benefits associated with this sacred tree out of which some are listed below:
- Relieves constipation
- Its leaves help fight against the recurring colds and respiratory problems.
- Bael juice contributes in beautifying hair by enhancing hair growth.
- Keeps a check on the bad cholesterol levels.
- This vitamin C rich fruit helps keep scurvy at bay
- Prevents peptic ulcers due to its soothing effects
- The bael fruit aids in increasing blood count
- Prevents gynaecological problems
- Its juice and squash keeps you hydrated in summers.
- Neem (Azadirachta indica)
Neem tree is known to be associated with goddess Durga and is believed to protect against the evil spirits. It is highly respected in India. It has various health benefits and ayurvedic uses.
A special puja is held on Chaitra Navaratri when prayers are offered to the Neem tree, symbolising the worship of goddess Shitala. People often bathe new-born babies in water boiled with neem leaves because of its medicinal and sacred properties .
- Its paste relieves tired or irritated eyes, fades away dark spots, chronic ulcers or eruptions on skin, treats dandruff and heals wounds.
- Its leaves prevents bleeding nose, treats upset stomach, intestinal worms, cardiovascular diseases, gingivitis. The leaves aid in birth control and abortion.
- The flower controls phlegm and reduces bile.
- The bark is used for skin diseases, pain, fever and malaria.
- The neem twigs of this sacred tree aid in relieving cough, asthma, urinary disorders, diabetes and checks low sperm count.
- Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
The coconut tree of South India is also one of the most worshipped trees. It is used in religious ceremonies and distributed as prasad at various holy places. Coconuts are worshipped to lord at auspicious occasions and are considered as sacred and lucky.
- Coconut milk
Coconut milk finds its uses in food as well as health. It imparts an extra taste to the meals.
The milk can relieve sore throat and eye infection. Drinking half a glass of this milk can reduce constipation.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil helps get rid of skin and scalp dryness.
Its boiled flower concoction helps relieve kidney related diseases.
The oil may treat headache and fever.
- Coconut water
Coconut water contains natural vitamin C and potassium.It does wonders during summers by hydrating and energizing every part of your body.It is good for both kidneys and bladder.It relieves stomach aches.
- Coconut roots
Coconut roots may treat kidney, gall bladder and urinary infections in some cases. The boiled water of coconut roots is used to take care of oral health.
You all would be knowing many other benefits and importance of the sacred trees than the ones I have mentioned. Share your benefits and remedies with us in the comment box.
To be continued…