Bakula or Mimusops elengi has been too much in the news for its growing demand. The Bakula pushpa plant has lots to offer and is also called Indian Medlar or Bulletwood tree when it comes to therapeutic benefits. However, Indians aren’t stranger to its beneficial properties for hair care and skin care. Known as Bakula to us, back home, this tree finds mention in the ancient scriptures of Ayurveda as well as in Kalidas’ Megduta.
It is believed that Bakula flowers bloom when a sweet wine is sprinkled from the mouth of a beautiful woman on them. They are the harbinger of ‘basant’ or spring in India. The blooming phase of the flowers is from May to June. The flowers are small, about 2 cm in diameter. The flower has a crown coming out from the middle. The flowers would fall by morning, however, the fragrance remains as-it-is.
Bakula has fresh and sweet-smelling fragrance. It is an evergreen tree and it has distinctive appearance due to its dark bark with deep fissures. The bark is red on the inside whereas the reddish-grey bark, which is hardy, makes for the outer part. Bakula trees grow throughout the country and have smooth and shiny leaves.
The flowers grow in bunches and are fragrant. They are white in colour with a yellow-ish tinge. The fragrance can be retained for years if the flowers are sun-dried and preserved well. The dried flowers are used to make necklaces and other ornaments by women. The fruits of the trees are oval-shaped and green in colour when raw. The fruits turn yellow on ripening. The ripened fruits are shiny and become grayish brown. They would have usually 1 or 2 seeds and are caustic in mature. The flowers bloom in April whereas the fruits develop in June.
Medicinal Uses of Bakula Tree, Bark, Fruits and Flowers
The flowers are used to extract a volatile oil while the fruits and seeds are used for their phytoactive compounds such as quercitrol, ursolic acid, triterpene alcohol, di-hydroquercetin and more. Even the bark of the tree has some complex compounds that can be used for various therapeutic benefits, hence Bakula tree found in various ayurvedic books as a medicinal plant.
Bakula fruits are believed to provide relief in diarrhoea and in dental problems such as caries and gum disease. The tender stems are used as toothbrushes and the bark powder can be used as an exfoliator for teeth. Gargling with the solution of its bark powder and Acacia catechu is very beneficial for bleeding gums and swollen gums. It is also believed to have cardiovascular benefits, but there is no scientific data to back it up. The flowers have anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
Bakula fruits also double up as a body tonic. It is believed to strengthen the nervous and cardiac system. According to Ayurveda, its fragrance relives in migraines and common headache.
Bakula Tree for Religious Purposes:
Bakula flowers are offered to Lord Ganesha during the 21-pushpa puja. The flowers are considered to be very sacred in Jainism and Buddhism.