Women friendly Ashok

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By Dr. Sanjeev Sood

Which takes away all sorrows (Shok) of many patients is Ashok. Because of inducing coolness it is known as Vanjul, ablates the worms, toxins and degenerations like a Yama named Kank that is why called Kankeli also. References of this beautiful tree are available in Vedic literature also, in Ramayana when Sita was kidnapped by Ravan, she was confined in a garden of Ashok trees (Ashok Vatika). Famous botanist Sir W. Jones gave the name Jonesia Ashoka to this tree as he wanted to retain the Sanskrit name Ashok, "as it perpetually occurs in the old Indian poems and treatises on religious rites" Indian scientists changed its name to Saraca Indica and could not preserve the feelings of Sir W. Jones.
Ashok is known to Indians since Vedic age as Atharvaveda mentioned that Ashok bears red flowers. Charaka described it as an anodyne while Susruta mentioned it under Rodradhi Group. Earlier texts did not describe it for gynecological disorders; Vrinda Madhava for the first time indicated it in uterine bleeding. In this context it is very important to note that Ashok is not reported as an emmenagogue, estrogenic or uterine tonic as claimed by the herbal industry. It is having styptic property like ergot preparation and it exhibits potent oxytocin like activity. Therefore one must be cautious while using its bark in therapeutics. Commonly it is adulterated with the barks Polyalthia longifolia or Shorea robusta or Bauhinia Variegata. At present P. longifolia is popular as Ashok tree since it is widely grown in the gardens. But original material is also avail¬able abundantly.
It is a small ever green tree, 6-9 m. in height. Bark with warty surface, dark brown to grey or almost black. Leaves - paripinnate, 15-20 cm. Long; leaflets 6-12, rigidly subcoriaceous, oblong or oblong-lanceolate, 7.5-22.5 cm x 1.3 cm. Flowers- in dense axillary corymbs, fragrant, orange or or¬ange-yellow, finally turning vermillion-red. Fruits- pods, flat, oblong, woody, 7.6-22.4 x 3.8-5.1 cm. seeds- 4-8, ellipsoid - ob¬long, compressed. Ashok blooms in the summer and bears fruits in October. Ashok is grown in shady evergreen forests up to 750 m. in central and eastern Himalayas; abundantly available in South India.
Constituents of Ashok are β-¬sitosterol, quercetin, kaempferol-3-0- β-D-glucoside is isolated from flowers. Isolation of leucopelargonidin- 3-O-β-D-glucoside, leucopelargonidin and leucocyanidin along with β-sitosterol from stem bark is isolated. It contains helmatoxylin, iron also.
According to famous Ayurvedic material medica Bhavaprakash Ashok is bitter and astringent in taste (rasa), pungent in post digestive effect (vipaka) and has a cold potency (virya). It alleviates Vata & Kapha dosha. It possesses laghu (light) and ruksha (dry) attributes.
A phenolic glycoside P² showed highly potent and spe¬cific oxytocic activity in vitro and in vivo on uteri of rat and isolated human myometrial strips and fallopian tube; P² was ac¬tive in remarkably low concentrations and nontoxic to animals up to 250 mg/kg (I.J.M.R., 1970). Two crude glycosides isolated from bark exhibited uterine spasmogenic activity; both showed significant stimulant action on isolated uteri of rat, guinea pig, rabbit, dog and human; pure phenolic glycoside P² was highly potent and showed consistent oxytocic activity (I.J.M.R., 1970).


 

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