Peepul (Ficus religiosa, Linn.)
In the land of Bihar (i.e.Buddha vihaara) and city of Gaya, Gautama Buddha sat for severe penance under the shade of a peepul tree which became famous as Bodhii vriksha, the tree of enlightenment. Goswami Tulsidas himself used to meditate on God sitting under this tree. It is not that the peepul tree was not known or worshipped before. In fact, its earlier name was ashwattha, as horses were tied underneath it, where they would stand and rest(ashva is horse, stha is place). Its roots are believed to be the abode of Brahma, who is the source of its vitality. The sap coming from the roots becomes sacred through yagna in the middle region, where Cord ViIKu is said to reside. The branches, vast foliage and fruit above constitute the final and fulfilling stage where Lord MaheIwara makes his resting place.
Near the great city of Anuraadhapura in Sri Lanka, stands a huge peepul tree humming with the chants of Buddhist monks and devotees. According to the Buddhist work Mahavamsha, this comes from the branch of the peepul tree of Gaya sent by king Ashoka through his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to king Devanampiya Tishya of Sri Lanka. So the peepul receives honour and veneration in all Buddhist countries, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Japan.
There are many references to the peepul in Indian literature. It is cited in the Jataka stories of Buddha. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita considers this the most sacred of trees, comparing the whole cosmic creation to an inverted ashwattha tree. In Atharvaveda, it is proclaimed that the gods of the third heaven reside in this tree. The Padma Puraana names this the king amongst trees. In the Taittriiya Brahmana, there is a myth that once the Lord of fire, Agni, separated from the gods and hid himself in the form of a horse for a whole year in a peepul tree. Hence also the name Ashwattha.
Innumerable religious, auspicious ceremonies and functions are associated with the peepul tree. Whilst placing ceremonial pots (mangala kalash) in temples, leaves of the peepul are used. Since the trees of peepul, banyan, gular and paIa were planted and nurtured outside human settlements, they came to be known as the abodes of demi-gods such as the Gandharvas and Yakshas as well as the heavenly damsels or Apsaraas. Regular ceremonies of worshipping the peepul tree came into vogue. The tree is worshipped in the morning and evening and at no other time; the mantra for this worship is quite interesting:
“ Peepul, protect me from the (inauspicious) throbbing in my eyes and arms, from the prosperity of my enemy. You are the very Lord Janardana! Be propitious to me. Seeing you will remove all sins. Your very sight brings prosperity and perambulations around you will increase my life span. Salutations to you!"
Its association with rituals extends to prehistoric times. In a seal found in Mohenjodaro, appears a figure of the peepul tree with seven gods and goddesses. On particular days, this tree is regarded as the abode of Lakshmii, the Goddess of Wealth. It is sometimes regarded as the abode of Lord Shani and worshipped especially by ladies. Worshipping the peepul on Somavati Amaavasya (New Moon) has a special significance for ensuring good offspring. Lolimbaraja, the author of a medical text, Vaidyajeevana, declares that worshipping the peepul tree wards off fever. In the times of Sayanaachaarya, the younger brother of the sage Vidyaaranya, who established the kingdom of Vijayanagara, the peepul came to be associated with tantra. An incantation of eight mantras from Atharva veda were used for this purpose. Parngadhara writes that whoever plants a peepul tree cannot go to hell. According to him, it should be planted on the south side.
Varaahamihira, the great astrologer, recommends planting banyan and peepul in front of the house to secure happiness and prosperity. Planting of a peepul tree is itself a great function. In south India such planting is associated with installing stones for serpent gods (naaga pratishtaa). The tree itself is then decorated with a sacred thread (yagnopaveetha) like brahmins. At many places, marriages are conducted for the ashwattha tree. The entire ceremony is conducted like the marriage of a brahmin. One can see a number of cases in south India where a neem tree grows in close association with a peepul. This is not accidental but deliberate. It is directed that sacred auspicious ceremonies be conducted under its shade. Perambulations around the peepul tree on the outskirts of a village continue to be a common ritual in India even today. Because of this, it is appropriately named Ficus religiosa in Latin.
Description of the tree
Like the banyan tree, the peepul starts its life in other trees or buildings, growing steadily with little water or soil ultimately smothering the parent tree or destroying the building which had given it support. Like the banyan, it is a native of the sub-Himalayan range but is found widely throughout India and Burma. It is common in most south Asian countries. The leaves are shiny, waxy, droopy and characteristically have an acuminate tip like a drawn out tail. So, water falling on them flows down. Peepul is a large, long-lived, milky tree with many extensively spreading branches. The leaves are thin, with a dark green upper and rather pale green lower surface and wavy margin. Hanging on slender stalks, the leaves of this large tree always seem to flutter, tremble and dance even in the slightest wind. They shine as they face the glistening sun and create a humming murmur as their leathery blades, particularly the tips, rub against each other.
The bark of the tree is a whitish grey. As the tree gets older, it cracks and gets clothed with pappery superficial layers. The branches are long and thick, spreading out in all directions. The height of the tree may go up to 80 to 90 feet. The spread of roots below the ground also extends deep and far.
Like the banyan, it too has aerial roots. However unlike the banyan, they are never very long or thick and do not reach the ground to produce prop roots. Milk or latex comes out from any small injury or incision. It is sticky and white. In old trees, lac is formed and collects on the surface of its smaller branches. The tree is deciduous.
From the month of Magha to Chaitra (viz. November to January), fresh leaves start appearing. These young leaves, are reddish, silky, smooth and slippery, making the entire tree very picturesque. The flowers are small, unisexual and enclosed in the hypanthodium like the banyan. The fruit occur in pairs, are stalkless, smooth, globose and depressed at the apex. The fruit becomes dark purple, sweet and edible when ripe.
Sanskrit gives a long list of names to this revered tree : Keshavaalaya, Krishnavaasa, Achyutavaasa, Ashwattha, Bodhiidruma, Chaityadruma, Chaityavriksha, Chaindaala, Calapatra (with fluttering leaves), Dhanurvriksha, Gajabhakshaka, kunjarasana (whose leaves form a fodder for elephants), Kapitana kshiiradruma (milky tree), Mahaadruma (the great tree), Naagabandhu (friend of serpents), Maangalya, Shri pavitraka, shubhaksuchidruma (auspicious and clean tree), Pippala, Yajnika (whose twigs are employed in sacrificial rites) and so on..’
In English it is called the pipul tree, bo tree or the sacred fig. In Bengali it is, asvattha, asud; in Kannada, arali, aaswattha; in Hindi, pipal; in Punjabi, bhor, pipal; in Malayalam, arachu, areyal, ashwattham; in Marathi, pipala, ashwattha; in Tamil, arasamaram, arasan and in Telugu arasu or Asuvattam.
Like the banyan tree, the peepul too has many medicinal uses. Though it is the bark of the root that is mainly considered to be the medicinal part of the plant, the leaf, milk, tender shoots, stem bark and fruits are also used. Their medicinal properties according to Ayurveda, are as follows:
The bark is heavy and dry. Its taste is astringent, post- assimilative effect or vipaaka is bitter. It assuages aggravations of kapha and pitta and has an action of colouring or pigmenting (varnya). Therapeutically, it has the ability to arrest pain (vedana sthaapana) and remove oedematous swellings (shotha hara). It is styptic (i.e. stops bleeding), conserves blood (rakta samgrahaka),is nourishing and anti-kapha. It helps in the retention of the foetus by checking abortive tendencies and stimulates virility.
The ripe fruit is sweet in taste, cold in effect, agreeable and good for the heart. It is digestive and regulative (anulomak). It is mildly purgative, a purifier of the blood and brings virility. It reduces pitta, and is effective in assuaging vomiting, tastelessness and any burning sensation. It helps relieve afflictions of plethora, convulsions, stomach pain and also calms down vaata pitta.
The latex is usually employed for pain, oedema, haemorrhage, cracks in the feet, painful swellings, ruptured blood vessels, chilblains and redness, swelling and pain in the eyes.
The lac is not strictly a degenerative product of vegetable matter. It is a red coloured product that is secreted by an insect, Coccus lacca or Tachardia lacca, which affects many trees besides the peepul such as the banyan, dak, (Butea frondosa, Roxb. & Koen.), and ber(jujube berries). This is collected by traders during the months of Vaishaakha and Ashwin. Among all the lacs, the peepul lac is medicinally considered best. It is light for digestion, astringent in taste and bitter in vipaaka. It is cooling, strengthening and a purifier of blood. It is viscous,pigment depositing (rangaka) and colouring (vaama prada). It alleviates pitta and kapha aggravations. It is employed for dysentery, typhoid, hiccups, cough and consumption. Other afflictions where it finds useful application are: diseases of the nose, erysipelas, skin diseases, leprosy, haemorrhage and oedematous swellings.
We shall now discuss the use of peepul with reference to some specific diseases.
I. Urogenital system
Caraka classifies peepul as a muutra sangrahaniiya drug i.e. a drug which creates retention of urine.
(i) The bark is employed in gonorrhoea and other pustular infections.
(ii)For urogenital diseases due to pitta vitiation, Caraka advises drinking a decoction of the bark mixed with honey.
(iii)For a person suffering from seminal debility, boil milk with a decoction of the bark. Convert this milk to curd and then ghee. Rice cooked in this ghee gives the patient strength and vigour.
(iv)Urinary dysfunction: Six maashaas of peepul seeds are to be finely pulverised in a mortar using deer horns as a pestle. Sprinkling a little buttermilk aids the pulverisation. Add honey and drink with buttermilk for any type of urinary dysfunction.
(v) If urine becomes bluish in colour, Susruta advises the consumption of a decoction from the root bark of peepul.
(vi)For renal pain It is believed that smoking the dried hanging roots through a chilam will be effective.
(vii)Urinary disorders are often accompanied with excessive and intolerable burning. To assuage this, seven tender green leaves of peepul are taken and ground in 40 tolaas (400ml) of water, filtered and given as a drink with a little amount of sugar candy.
(viii)Fresh peepul leaves are pounded and mixed in eight times the water and then cooked. When the water is reduced to one fourth, remove from the fire, cool and again cook. When it becomes very thick, add an equal quantity of well powdered sugarcandy. Remove from the fire after thorough mixing. Cool and store in a safe place. 2 to 3 rattiis of this, morning and evening, is advised for urinary disorders, emission in the night and impotency.
(ix)For urinary disorders and leucorrhoea, seven to twelve drops of the latex mixed with vamsha lochan can be taken followed by a cup of comfortably hot milk.
(x) For pain in the rectum or kidney, ten drops of the latex mixed with a ball of one tolaa of crushed leaves should be smoked in a chilam like tobacco. The relief one secures is quick.
(i) Take some tender peepul shoots. Cook them in milk and add sugar to taste. This constitutes a nutritive morning drink.
a) Sushruta believes that the following drink would make a person as agile as a sparrow: Cook the fruit, bark and tender shoots in milk and filter. Drink this after sweetening it with sugar or honey.
b) Hakims of the Yunani system consider the root bark of the peepul as a vaajikarana drug i.e. increasing virility and relieving shooting pains in the loins.
(iii) Low fertility
a) The advice given to women whose offspring die prematurely, or whose milk is not favourable to the infant, is to drink a fresh extract of the peepul’s hanging roots. Normally, very few peepul trees develop such beards. So they are always in great demand.
b) For abortion, another simple remedy is a pinch of dried, powdered peepul fruit taken with water for fourteen days.
Yunaani physicians advise the following: take 5 to 7 peepul leaves with an equal quantity of the leaves of Cordia myxa Linn. Powder and mix well. Add a little salt and give it as a drink for ten days.
(v) Take 40 tolaas (400ml) of tender peepul twigs and cook them in 4 sers (approximately 4l) of water till the quantity of liquid gets reduced to a fourth. Cool and filter. Add 2 sers of sugar and cook again to a syrup like consistency. When it becomes homogeneous, remove from the fire, cool and close the lid. Keep it in a safe place for seven days. Eat this murabba morning and evening in a dosage of 2 tolaas, followed by a drink of 250ml of milk mixed with 5 tolaas of butter and sugar candy.
III Gynaecological problems
(i) For many vaginal diseases, a decoction from the bark is employed to cleanse the vagina as a wash.
(ii) A decoction prepared from the bark of peepul and tamarind or their freshly extracted juice, is given as a drink for patients with difficult menstruation or even absence of menstruation.
(iii) For pregnant ladies who have a tendency or fear of abortion, six maashaas of bark powder is to be given with a decoction of the rind of an orange. This is continued 3-8 times a day for a week.
(iv) If they suffer from swelling or other troubles of the breast, burn the bark and drop it in water. Then take a piece of metal, heat it and dip it repeatedly in this water. Now take the root of Indraayan (Citrullus colocynthis, Schrad.), rub it in this water and apply over the breasts.
(v) Hysterical tendency in pregnant women: take 20 gms of thin tender hanging roots of peepul, cut and pound very fine. Mix them with a tolaa each of jatamaansi (Nardostachys jatamansi, DC.) and nutmeg (Myristica fragrans, Houtt.). Add one and a half maashaas of kastuurii (musk), and a little water. One to four pills of the drug are to be given with cold water three times a day and after half an hour, a drink of milk or thin gruel of rice cooked in milk. This is to be continued for one to two months. During the period, the patient should avoid all vata aggravating substances, bitter or hot foods, and try to keep the mind free of tension.
(vi) To avoid the risk of abortion and conceive, 2 tolaas of fresh tender hanging roots are pounded and cooked in 40 tolaas (400gms) of milk. When this gets reduced to half the quantity, cool, filter and add honey or sugar. Start this 5 to 6 days before the expected date of menstruation and continue for 10 days, morning and evening. This measure is reputed to be so effective that even a barren lady is expected to become pregnant! However, uterine dysfunctions should be treated first.
(vii) Another recipe for the same purpose, and equally effective, is: take 2 to 3 tolaas of the tender sprouts of the hanging roots, grind them in raw (i.e. unboiled) milk and give this to the patient 4 days before menstruation. Continue for a fortnight giving it every day, once in the morning. This procedure is to be followed for 2 to 3 months. The results are satisfactory.
IV Gastrointestinal diseases
(i) Even intolerably severe pain in the stomach is relieved by drinking a decoction of the bark with salt and jaggery.
a) Cakrapaani recommends drinking water in which the tree’s dry burnt bark has been cooled. This relieves frequent vomiting, repeated belching and hiccups. It is particularly useful for pregnant women.
b) Severe and repeated vomiting is relieved by using the innerbark of the tree. The bark is dried in the shade and powdered finely. This, when licked with honey repeatedly in a dosage of 4 to 8 rattiis, relieves vomiting due to kapha.
c) For an emesis of pitta origin or one due to fever, add a pinch of unrefined sugar to the above and take it frequently.
d) Honey mixed with lac water stops vomiting also. Lac water is prepared as follows: mix into lac, in a proportion of one tenth of its part, lodhraa (Symplocos racemosa, Roxb.); sodium bicarbonate or sajjikhaar one tenth of lodhraa; and a small quantity of ber (jujube berries) leaves. Cook them in 16 times of water until the liquid is reduced to a fourth. This gives an excellently coloured lac water.
Another procedure is to tie lac powder in a piece of cloth in 6 times the water in a dola yantra. Cook it over fire and filter it 21 times. Yet another, is to boil lac powder in eight times the water until the latter is reduced to a fourth. The dola yantra procedure is considered the best.
Uncontrollable thirst is also quenched by water in which burnt peepul bark is dipped for cooling.
Caraka advises the use of the peepul bark as a preventive enema. For this purpose, the bark is cooked in water, cooled and filtered. For a patient of kapha prakriti, a little salt, honey and oil are added. The decoction is then slightly warmed and retained for some time. For a patient with pitta aggravation, the water should be cooled, adding ghee and honey.
An enema from the tree’s sprouts, cooked in milk and filtered, is advantageously employed for dysentery, rectal prolapse, haemorrhage and fever.
a) For intestinal infections with Staphylococous aureus and Escherechia coli, a water extract of the bark is considered to act prophylactically.
b) Loose motions
For checking loose motions, a gruel (yavagu or a khichadi) prepared with young peepul sprouts is given as a meal. After it is digested, the patient is given milk cooked witha decoction of peepul bark.
c) In case the stools are yellowish-red, accompanied with pain or burning, a saag or curry prepared with young tender peepul leaves checks the secretion and oozing of mucous matter.
d) For dysentery, a simple recipe is to chew soft peepul leaf stalks with coriander and sugar in equal parts.
e) Or, finely powder them together and then suck the juice. This relieves the colicky pain, indigestion and diarrhoea.
f) For dysentery, add honey and lac powder to milk and drink. After the drug is digested, a meal of rice with milk is then taken. The flow or appearance of blood will soon stop.
Caraka prescribes a ghee prepared with sandalwood and other ingredients containing peepul(chandanaadi ghrita) for a patient with sprue.
(vii) For hiccups
a) The ashes of the roots thoroughly mixed with water provides relief.
b) The burnt bark extinguished by sprinkling water over it, when mixed with conjee (rice water) and applied over the chest, also stops hiccups.
(viii) Splenic enlargement
Another Yunani prescription based on the peepul leaf is concerned with splenic enlargement. Peepul leaves are dried in the shade, powdered fine, mixed with jaggery and made into pills of the size of a ber fruit (jujube berries). This is given morning and evening, along with a distillation (arka) of saunf (fennel) for about 14 to 21 days.
(ix) Indigestion and constipation
3 to 4 peepul leaves are ground and mixed with jaggery to make pills of a gram size. One such pill taken with arka of saunf (fennel) relieves indigestion. For severe constipation, two pills should be given at night with warm milk.
(x) For relieving heartburn
Take three maashaas of peepul seeds, grind them with water, filter and mix unrefined sugar or sugar candy. When given as a drink, it is beneficial for digestion as well as constipation.
(xi) Anal Fistula
The powder of the dried bark of peepul is blown through a pipe into the rectum so as to come in contact with the fistula which then heals.
A ghee prepared from sunishannaka (Marsilia grandiflora, Linn,) and changerii (Oxalis corniculata, Linn.) is advised for bleeding piles. According to Caraka, when peepul sprouts are added to this, it increases the potency.
(i) Peepul is effective in fever because of its cooling nature. Burn the bark fully to ashes. Sieve this through a fine cloth and sprinkle on the bed of a patient with fever and eruptions.
(ii) If the eruptions burn, prepare a paste from the aerial roots of the banyan, peepul bark and the bark of neem. With this paste, massage the patient gently.
VI. Respiratory System
(i) For an asthmatic patient, the powder from the dried fruit is given with water. A cough of any type is relieved by taking it with honey.
(ii) This is also believed to render the voice sweet and melodious.
(iii) To check haemoptysis, one to 2 maashaas of very well cleaned peepul lac is given with goat’s milk.
(iv) For dry cough, 3 to 8 rattiis of lac powder with sugar or honey is licked three times a day. The violence of coughing subsides and breathing becomes easy and comfortable.
(v) For cases of coughing with haemoptysis(raktaja kasa), take peepul lac, karkatsrngi(Rhus succedanea, Linn.), munakkaa (dried grapes), kathaa (Acaciaa catechu, Willd.A. Suma), mulethn (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Linn.) shataavarn (Asparagus officinalis,Linn.) and pippali — one part each; 4 times the net quantity of unrefined sugar and 2 times the net quantity of vamsha lochana (cork of bamboo). Powder together and store. Three maashaas of this with honey and sugar is beneficial.
(vi) Just the powder of lac alone taken in a dosage of 4 rattiis with ghee, sugar and honey twice a day will mitigate the violence of coughing significantly.
(vii) For whooping cough in children, giving the powder of peepul lac in a dosage of 3 rattiis along with 3 maashaas of butter, three times a day, has been seen to be beneficial.
A patient of rakta pitta or plethora has a tendency to spontaneous bleeding from the nose or rectum. Peepul is utilised in many ways to give relief to such a person.
(i) An ointment is prepared by rubbing the bark and applied.
(ii) The patient is asked to take a bath with the decoction or made to sit in a tub of its decoction.
(iii)A decoction of the bark is helpful cooked in ghee or oil.
(iv) Another measure is as follows: bruise the peepul sprouts and keep them immersed in hot water for twenty-four hours. Cook the water with ghee. Add honey to prepare an electuary, which should be licked for relief.
VIII. Joint pains
(i) Drinking a decoction of the bark with honey is recommended by Caraka for alleviating even very severe joint pains due to vaatarakta.
(ii)Both Caraka and Vaagbhata advise the application of a paste of finely powdered peepul bark with ghee for relieving oedema in and around the joints.
(iii)Take five tolaas (50 gms) of bark and cook it in five litres of water. When the quantity of liquid is reduced to 100ml, filter, add a little honey and let the patient drink a half in the morning and the rest in the evening. This cures rheumatism even where aggravation of all the three doshas has occurred.
(i) According to Kashyapa, erysipelas can be treated with an ointment made from the powdered bark of peepul with ghee.
(ii) Another application is the paste from the tender leaves and bark mixed with ghee. This greatly relieves the intense burning and redness seen in erysipelas.
(i) For eruptions, the bark is rubbed on a grind stone with water and the paste is applied gently. This is said to aid maturation of the eruptions.
(ii) Tying a peepul leaf on an eruption after slightly warming it is also seen to be beneficial.
(iii) The lac that collects on old branches of the tree, when applied locally, fills and heals wounds.
(iv) If injured regions are washed in a decoction of peepul, their healing is hastened.
(v) Recent injuries are best treated by an application of fresh peepul leaves after cleaning.
(vi) If scar tissue has not yet formed and the wound is fresh and unhealed, sprinkling a fine powder of the dried bark soon closes the injury.
(vii) For wounds: Old peepul trees develop a thin papery cover over the bark. This is dried, powdered fine and stored. For wounds, first smear a thin layer of gingely (sesame) oil and then sprinkle this powder so that a thick layer is formed. If discharge from the wound emerges from this layer, apply the oil again, followed by another thick sprinkling of the powder. By these measures, even severe wounds, that are not filling up heal easily.
(ix) If the wound has ruptured over a scalded area, a sprinkling of the powder is beneficial. Ghee can also be added.
(x) For a wound due to burns, the following is useful: make a decoction of 8 tolaas (80 gms) of bark and filter. Add 8 tolaas of coconut oil to this and cook again. When only the oil remains, add a tolaa each of country wax, camphor and sindhur (red lead). Store this in a clean bottle. Smearing it on injuries, wounds and ulcers gives much relief and is also curative.
(xi) An ointment for boils, eruptions and other lesions can be prepared as follows: take 5 tolaas (50 gms) of powdered resin. Mix it with 10 tolaas of mustard oil and cook them together over a low fire. When the two are mixed thoroughly, add two and a half tolaas of ashes from the inner bark, stir well and prepare an ointment. Repeated application of this ointment heals boils and abscesses. It often happens that one application is enough.
(xii) Another way is to keep applying the bark after rubbing it in brick water.
(xiii) For rotting wounds and ulcers that do not heal by other means, the inner bark rubbed in rose water is applied. The wound soon becomes clean and heals. This procedure is seen to be particularly beneficial in non healing ulcers due to goitre.
(xiv) For ulcers in domestic animals which have become infested with maggots, a bread (roti) is prepared of jawaar (barley) in which the powder of peepul bark is mixed and given as a feed. The results are effective and satisfactory.
(xv) The ashes of the bark with half the quantity of lime when thoroughly mixed with butter, relieves itching, eczema and many other minor diseases of the skin, on application.
(xvi) Burning and eruption following an injury is relieved by dusting it with the powder of the dried bark.
(xvii) For corns in the feet or in cases of rupture of the skin, application of the milk of peepul proves beneficial.
(xviii) A patient with itching or eczema is advised to drink a decoction of peepul bark.
XI. Orodental problems
It is a practice in Sri Lanka to use the bark of the peepul tree for most diseases of the oral cavity.
(i) A decoction or cold infusion of the bark strengthens the gums, heals them, offering relief even in severe toothache.
(ii) Growing children often suffer from frequent mouth ulcers. A favourite and effective remedy is application of the paste of the powdered bark and tender leaves with honey.
(iii) Peepul’s fresh tender sticks make a good toothbrush.
(iv) For inflammation of the mouth and sores on the tongue, take 3 maashaas of the hanging roots of peepul and one maashaa of small cardamom; grind them in milk and apply over the tongue.
XII. Ear problems
(i) Take tender young peepul leaves, grind and cook them in gingely (sesame) oil over a low fire. A small quantity of this oil is to be poured into the painful ear, after making it comfortably warm, to relieve pain.
(ii)Vaagbhatta offers the following remedy for diseases of the ear: spread a little oil on tender peepul leaves. Add a pinch of saindhav (rock) salt. Fill them in a small earthen pot and close its lid with wet flour so tightly that no crevices are left. Place the pot over a charcoal fire until the leaves melt. Remove from the fire, cool and squeeze the juice from the leaves. A few drops of this extract in the aching ear gives definite relief.
XIII. For treating elephants
(i) Caraka mentions peepul as suitable for giving as an enema to elephants.
(ii) Shaalihotra, the author of Paalikapya, an ancient work on veterinary medicine, advises a decoction of peepul bark as the best heart tonic for elephants.
XIV. Psychological disorders.
(i) For nervous debility
Take ten tolaas of tender young peepul twigs and cook them in half a litre of cow’s milk. After 3-4 boilings, remove from the fire, cool and filter. Add sugar candy according to taste and drink. Most cases of nervous debility respond well to this simple remedy. This is a good brain tonic for normal people too.
(ii) Another recipe is: take young tender peepul leaves in the required quantity. Dry them in the shade and cut into thin pieces. Store them in any suitable container. Take about 4 maashaas of this in 250ml of water and make a decoction. Remove from the fire when the quantity of liquid is reduced to a half. Add sugar and milk to drink like a tea.
(iii) For weak memory and mental confusion
Take the fresh peepul bark. Dry it in the shade, powder and store suitably. When needed, cook it in water as above, adding milk and sugar to taste, like tea, morning and evening.
(iv) For confusion and insanity
Take ten tender young peepul leaves or twigs. Cook them in 125ml of milk until the milk gets condensed. Give this to the patient to eat.
(v) Peepalavaleha (an electuary prepared with peepul). Take the tree’s pancaanga i.e. leaves, root, bark,fruit and tender shoots). Pound them well together. Soak this in sixteen times the quantity of water for twenty-four hours. Then cook over a fire and when the water reduces to one fourth of its original quantity, remove, cool and cook again in steam so that the substance becomes thick and opium like. This avaleha is reputed to be a great elixir. It can be made into to a syrupy consistency, decorated with silver foil and made into pills. One to two pills are to be taken with milk at night. This is prescribed as an effective cure for all cases of nervous debility, weakness, mental confusion and mild insanity.
(vi) For cases of swooning
A few drops of peepul juice added to an equal quantity of honey is applied on the head. The patient is expected to come out of his unconscious state almost immediately.
XV. Paediatric problems
(i) If a child suffers from fever (especially due to the aggravation of pitta), with unquenchable thirst, protruding tongue, crying and restlessness, the following remedy is effective: take six maashaas of the ashes of peepul bark and mix well in ten tolaas (100ml)of a distillation (arka) of gavjavan (Onosma bracteatum, Wall.) or ten tolaas of well boiled water (if the latter is not available). Remove the scum, if any, and give to the child to drink. Quite soon, the thirst gets quenched.
(ii) For sores in the mouth, powder from the bark and peepulleaves can be applied with honey.
(iii) For spasms and convulsions in children, prepare a very fine powder of the tree’s tender hanging roots. Mix it thoroughly with an equal quantity of saffron (kesar) and give in a dosage of 1 to 2 rattiis at intervals of half an hour. The convulsions will be quietened soon.
(iv) Another measure is: grind the peepul bark in a little quantity of water, secure the resulting juice and prepare the decoction. Add honey and give. This is advisable even for convulsions in adults.
Other uses of the peepul
The peepul tree has many other uses also. A few of them are mentioned below.
I. For Dyeing
If the leaves are macerated and cooked in water, a reddish light brown pigment can be obtained. This is used to dye coarse silken cloth (tasar), mulberry silk and woollen threads to a reddish fawn colour.
Cotton textiles are dyed a beautiful rose colour by using peepul roots along with alum. Buddhist monks dye their cloth ochre red with the lac extracted from the peepul bark.
II. In tanning
Peepul leaves are employed for tanning leather due to their high tannin content.
III. For paper and ropes
The bark yields a coarse fibre. This was used in Burma to prepare a type of crude paper which was particularly used for making a special type of green umbrella. Ropes are also made from its fibres.
IV. As a bird snare
The latex of the peepul contains 0.7 to 5.1 per cent of caoutchouc. This is used to prepare a material for bird snares. About 250 grams of the latex is boiled in 120gms of linseed oil. Continue stirring for 5 minutes to secure the material.
V. As filling material
If the sticky white milk of peepul is kept for some time, it will turn into a hard gum like material. From this, a substance is prepared which is used for filling the hollow of bangles and other ornaments, cracks and punctures in motor tyres.
VI. Sacred Fuel
The main use of the sticks from the tree has been as a sacred fuel to tend the ritual fires in India. Collecting them is one of the chief duties of a celibate student. As a result, the wood is generally not used at all as ordinary fuel.
VII. For Art
There is a tradition of painting portraits of great men, gods, goddesses and beautiful scenes, on broad, dried,finely veined leaves of the peepul tree.
If one is asked to select two trees as typically representative of India, one can, with all justification, point to the peepul and banyan. They have been associated with India since the time of the Vedas. There is probably no village in India where either of these trees is not found.
The above is only a brief significance of the tree as found in India. There could be many other aspects which still have to be discovered.
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2. K.M. Matthew. An Excursion Flora of Central Tamil Nadu. New Delhi, India; Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 1991, p. 189.
3. K.M. Nadkarni. Indian Materia Medica Vol. I. Mumbai Popular Prakashan Private Ltd., 1982.
4. K.R. Kirtikar and B.D. Basu. Indian Medicinal Plants, Vol II. Dehradun; International Book Distribution, 1988.
5. Naveen Patnaik. The Garden of Life. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.
6. N.K. Shanmugam. Mooligai Kalai Kalangium. Chennai; Kalaiselvi Publications, 1997.
7. P.K. Warrier, V.P. Nambiar, C. Ramankutty. Indian Medicinal Plants. Chennai; Orient Longman Limited, 1996.
8. S. Kannusamy Pillai. Siddha Vaidya Pathartha Guna Vilakkam (Moola Vargam). Chennai; B. Rathina Naikar & Sons, 1990.
9. The Wealth of India. New Delhi; Publications and Information Directorate, CSIR, 1976, [Vol.X]: 171-77.
10. The Useful Plants of India. New Delhi; Publications & Informations Directorate, CSIR, 1986.
This information is meant to create an interest in our traditional plants. It should not be used indiscriminately but under expert guidance.
The modern equivalents of the measures used in this text are:
Dr. K. H. Krishnamurthy has written about medicinal plants as used in the Indian context with deep interest. He is a botanist by profession and poet by sentiment.
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