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Bombax ceiba, Bombax malabaricum, Salmalia malabarica, Gossampinus malabarica

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Shivani Kagra* & K.L. Dahiya**


* Pursuing Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgeory; Lal Bahadur Shastri Mahila Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Bilaspur (Yamuna Nagar), Haryana, India

** Kurukshetra Global City, Kurukshetra, Haryana, India


Vernacular name:

Assamese: Dumboil, Semul

Bengali: Shimul, Simul

English: Silk Cotton Tree, Kapok Tree, Red Silk Cotton Tree

Gujarati: Shemalo

Hindi: Semal, Semar, Shalmali

Kannada: Kempuburunga

Malayalam: Mullilavu, Unnamurika

Manipuri: Tera

Marathi: Sanvar, Katesavar

Punjabi: Simble

Sanskrit: Moca, Picchila, Raktapuspa, Kantakadhya, Tulini

Tamil: Elavam, Sanmali, Sittan

Telugu: Buruga, Sembhal

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Kingdom: Plantae - plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants

Subkingdom: Viridiplantae

Infrakingdom: Streptophyta - land plants

Superdivision: Embryophyta

Division: Tracheophyta - vascular plants, tracheophytes

Subdivision: Spermatophytina - spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames

Class: Magnoliopsida

Superorder: Rosanae

Order: Malvales

Family: Malvaceae - mallows, mauves

Genus: Bombax L. – cottontree

Species: Bombax ceiba L. – Silk Cotton Tree, Kapok Tree, Red Silk Cotton Tree (Syn. Bombax malabaricum DC., Salmalia malabarica (DC.) Schott &Endl., Gossampinus malabarica DC. Merr.)

Phytogeography: Native to India, tropical southern Asia, northern Australia and tropical Africa.

Description: Silk cotton trees comprise eight species in the genus Bombax. It is a type of native cotton tree with large red flowers. The genus name Salmalia is derived from the sanskrit name shaalmali.

Semul trees bear beautiful red-coloured flowers during January to March. The phenomenon paints the whole landscape in an enchanting red hue. The fruit, the size of a ping-pong ball, on maturity appears during March and April. These are full of cotton-like fibrous stuff. It is for the fiber that villagers gather the semul fruit and extract the cotton substance called "kopak". This substance is used for filling economically priced pillows, quilts, sofas etc. The fruit is cooked and eaten and also pickled. Semul is quite a fast growing tree and can attain a girth of 2-3 meter, and height about 30 meter, in nearly 50 years or so. Its wood, when sawn fresh, is white in colour. However, with exposure and passage of time it grows darkish gray. It is as light as 10-12 kg, per cubic foot. It is easy to work but not durable anywhere other than under water.

It is a large deciduous tree with tall trunk and spreading crown. Trunk and branches, particularly of young trees covered with large woody conical prickles.

Leaves: Large, leaflets 3-7, palmately arranged, 15-30 cm long; petiole longer than the leaflets.

Flowers: Large, yellow to bright red, numerous, fascicled at the end of the branches, appearing before the new leaves.

Fruits: 15-17.5 cm, oblong-obtuse, 5-valved, lined within with white silky hairs.

Flowering season: January-March

Propagation: Seeds

Parts used: Bark, flowers, gum, roots, stem bark

Phytochemical Constituents: b-D-glucoside; b-sitosterol; 2-b-D-glucopyranosyl-1,3,6,7-tetrahydroxy-9H-xanthen-9-one; Benzopyran dimer; Essential oil; Flavonol glycoside; Flavonols; Hentriacontane; Hentriacontanol; Kaempferol; Lupeol; Naphthoquinone; Phenolic acids; Quercetin; Saponins; Sesquiterpene lactone; Shamimin; Tannins; Xanthone (mangiferin).

Pharmacological actions: Alterative; Analgesic; Anthelmintic; Antiangiogenic; Anti-diabetic; Antidiarrhoeal; Antidysenteric; Antifilarial; Antioxidant; Anti-paralytic; Antipyretic; Aphrodisiac; Astringent; Cardioprotective, Cardiotonic; Demulcent; Diuretic; Emetic; Haemostatic, antihaemolytic; Hepatoprotective, hepatocuritive; Hypoglycaemic; Hypotensive; Laxative; Restorative; Stimulant; Tonic.

Medicinal uses: Catarrh; Diabetes mellitus; Diarrhoea; Elephantiasis; Fever; Hepatosis, hepatopathy, hepatitis; Inflammation; Paralysis; Skin eruptions; Ulceration bladder, kidney.

Bark is molded and fried in Dissenia pertagyna oil, and then massaged on affected part to cure paralysis by Rawat and Sahariya tribes of Jhansi district, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Other uses: It is popular for construction work, but is very good and prized for manufacture of plywood, match boxes and sticks, scabbards, patterns, moulds, etc. Also for making canoes and light duty boats and or other structures required under water. Bombax species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the leaf-miner Bucculatrix crateracma which feeds exclusively on Bombax ceiba.

Dosage and administration: Stem bark: 5-10 gm in powder form.

Adverse reactions: At higher doses, it has adverse effects on heart, liver and kidneys.


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