I grew up watching an Amaltas (Cassia fistula) grow in our side-garden in Lahore. Each spring would bring flowers on the creepers and shortly thereafter the Amaltas would start blooming with yellow flowers setting fire to the little garden adjacent to my room. Lahore’s roads would also glow in the summer adding much zest to a loveable, hot summer. Heat would make one yearn for the rains. So the cycle of seasons would continue with Amaltas at the centre of transitions and unforgettable for the colour and unfathomable beauty…
In Dhaka, Delhi and so many South Asian cities I have watched Amaltas trees in full bloom. The picture above (taken in Islamabad by a newspaper correspondent) today brought back all those muddled memories. Luckily, where I live now, Amalatas exists with a different local name.
Comforting, like an old acquaintance, it is still there in my life. It has not abandoned me.
More on the Amaltas tree, its properties…
Famous for its laxative properties, amaltas (botanical name — Cassia fistula, Sanskrit name — aragvadha or chaturangula) is a medium-sized tree, which is also the favourite roadside tree of the planners. In full bloom in the summer, amaltas is conspicuous by its bright yellow flowers and long cylindrical fruits.
The ancient Indian system of medicine attributes medicinal properties to almost all parts of amaltas tree, but it is the pulp of its fruit which is considered as an excellent laxative. The amaltas’ pulp has a peculiar flavour and is sweet in taste and cold in effect. It also has digestive, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and blood purifying properties. A strong purgative, the root of amaltas is used in various skin diseases, while its leaves form an important part of many ointments and poultices. The bark of the tree, which is known as sumari, has astringent properties.
Amaltas is considered the safest laxative to be used in cases of constipation and other allied diseases. Here are a few tips about the various uses of this tree —
In case of an adult person suffering from constipation, put 10 gm of amaltas pulp in a glass of water overnight. Take this water in the morning after filtering it. This helps to cleanse the bowels very gently and without griping.
Amaltas is an anti-inflammatory agent, both locally and systemically. In throat infection such as tonsilits and other mucosal inflammations of the mouth, its decoction is used in gargles. Similarly, the famous classic ayurvedic medicine rasna saptak qwath which contains amaltas as an important ingredient is very effective in rheumatoid arthritis and gout. It reduces tenderness and inflammation of the joint thus improving mobility.
In alopecia areata, which is characterised by non-inflamed patches of baldness on the scalp, eyebrows and bearded portion of the face, a paste of ash of amaltas’ leaves mixed with goat’s milk is very effective.
As a laxative for an adult person, 10 to 20 gm pulp of amaltas fruit is sufficient. For the sake of purity, it is better to buy the dried fruit of amaltas and extract small cakes of pulp by breaking the hard shell, than using the pre-extracted pulp.
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