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Ashoka

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The Ashoka tree is a plant belonging to the Caesalpiniaceous subfamily of the Leguminosae family. This evergreen tree is native to India and Sri Lanka. Saraca indica is a medium sized evergreen tree up to 9 m in height with numerous spreading and drooping glabrous branches. The bark of the plant is dark brown to grey or black; flowers are fragrant, numerous, dance and orange or red color; leaves are pinnate, 15-25 cm long having pairs of oblong-lanceolate leaflets.
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Botanical Names
Saraca indica
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Ashoka, Gandhapushpa Bengali : Asok Gujarati : Ashoka Hindi : Ashok, Vanjulam Malayalam : Tengalan Marathi : Jasundi Kannada : Kenkalimara Tamil : Asogam Telugu : Vanjulamu
Chemical Constituents
The dried bark of the tree contains tannins and catechol. In powdered bark ash of Ashoka contains silica, sodium, potassium phosphate, magnesium, iron, calcium, strontium and aluminium. The whole plant contains glycosides principles, non-phenolic, sapogenetic glycoside, sterols and aliphatic alcohols. The bark of Ashoka tree contains epicatechin, procyanidin p2, 11'-deoxyprocyanidin B, catechin, catechol, phenolic and non phenolic glycosides, leucopelargonidin and leucocyanidin. From pods of Ashoka catechol, epicatechol and leucocyanidin have been isolated. Most of these phytochemicals are reported to have several beneficial properties.
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs, it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying a quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content by specifying a quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the marker substances or the ‘active’ ingredient. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herb is to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E.coli which are causative agent for various gastro-intestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
Pharmacology
Saraca indica is one of the important indigenous medicinal plants found throughout India. Bark of the plant is bitter and traditionally used as astringent, anthelmintic, demulcent, emollient, and stomachic. It is used to treat colic, piles, ulcers, fractures, menorrhagia, metropathy, and dyspepsia. Leaves are useful in stomachalgia and flowers are use in vitiated condition of pitta, syphilis, hyperdipsia, inflammation, dysentery, haemorrhoids and scabies. Stem bark of Saraca indica is astringent, antileucorrhoeic, antibilious and uterine sedative; flowers are used as uterine tonic, antidiabetic and antisyphilitic traditionally. The anticancer principle from Saraca asoca flowers indicated 50 percent cytotoxicity (in vitro) in Dalton's lymphoma ascites and Sarcoma with no activity against normal lymphocytes but preferential activity for lymphocytes derived from leukemia patients. Saraca indica dried bark is used as an astringent in menorrhagia, to stop excessive uterine bleeding, demulcent, uterine disorders. Saraca asoca shows good antibacterial activity. It was subjected to antibacterial activity with different organisms such as Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhosa, and Staphylococcus aureus. Saraca indica dried flower buds tested against antibacterial activity of methanol extract against Salmonella viballerup, Shigella boydii, Escherichia coli, Vibro cholera, Shigella flexneri and Shigella dyserteriae showed active.
Health Benefits
Indian materia medica describes the use of flowers of Saraca indica in the treatment of a number of ailments, including internal piles, diabetes, dyspepsia, indigestion, burning sensation, blood disorders, fractures, tumors, bits, anti-inflammatory and skin discoloration. The major constituents of flowers of plants contain saracacin, saracadin, waxy substances, fatty acids, flavonoids and other constituents. Dried root of Ashoka tree is used in paralysis, hemiplegia and visceral numbness. Roots are useful in freckles and external inflammations, ulcers and skin diseases. Used for itching in eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and herpes. It is a favorite herb to help relieve Pruritis. Root is also used in obstruction of urinary passage and ammenorhea. It is capable enough to dissolve oxalic stones present in kidney. Decoction is useful in rickets, delayed bone consolidation and calcium deficiency.
Research References
• www.pubmed.gov 1. Saracin: A lectin from Saraca indica seed integument induces apoptosis in human T-lymphocytes.(Ghosh S, Majumder M, Majumder S, Ganguly NK, Chatterjee BP.Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 Nov 15;371(2):163-8.PMID: 10545202). 2. Antimicrobial properties of the stem bark of Saraca indica (Caesalpiniaceae)(.Sainath RS, Prathiba J, Malathi R.Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Sep-Oct;13(5):371-4.PMID: 19961043). 3. Larvicidal activity of Saraca indica, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, and Clitoria ternatea extracts against three mosquito vector species.(Mathew N, Anitha MG, Bala TS, Sivakumar SM, Narmadha R, Kalyanasundaram M.Parasitol Res. 2009 Apr; 104(5):1017-25. Epub 2008 Nov 28.PMID: 19039604). 4. Saracin: a lectin from Saraca indica seed integument recognizes complex carbohydrates.(Ray S, Chatterjee BP.Phytochemistry. 1995 Oct;40(3):643-9.PMID: 7576454). 5. Further studies on the uterine activity of Saraca indica Linn.(Satyavati GV, Prasad DN, Sen SP, Das PK.Indian J Med Res. 1970 Jul;58(7):947-60. No abstract available. PMID: 5531000). 6. Oxytocic activity of a pure phenolic glycoside (P2) from Saraca indica Linn (Ashoka): a short communication.(Satyavati GV, Prasad DN, Sen SP, Das PK.Indian J Med Res. 1970 May;58(5):660-3. No abstract available. PMID: 5473266).
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