Mahua tree is one of the most significant Indian forest trees, especially for the rural and tribal people of India. It is very popular amongst these people because of its delicious and nutritive flowers and seeds. It holds a divine status in the beliefs of people from many parts of the country, and usually, local people do not consider it good to cut this tree.
Mahua tree is present in abundance in many states of India, it provides food, shelter, fuel, and timber to the people of these states. Medicinally it is a very valuable tree, and its various parts are used to treat a number of diseases and disorders. In the recent past, it has been observed that a lot of deforestation has taken place, people have killed many trees like teak trees for commercial gains, and as such many species of trees are left with only a few numbers now.
But interestingly, the mahua trees have not been cut in such large quantities, and the main reason for this is the importance of the living mahua tree in the daily lives of the people. It is one of the few tree species that the people usually don’t cut in masses, because it is very beneficial and it has a lot of uses, and as such, it becomes quite essential for survival, especially for the rural and tribal folks.
Mahua tree is used for oil, for making liquor, for timber, and its flowers are used as the food. The flowering season of the mahua tree starts generally around the month of April which is the onset of the summer season in India. So people in the tribal and rural areas collect the fallen flowers from the trees in large quantities.
These dry flowers are stored for using them as a source of nutritive food. The dried flowers are cooked with the oil, and other items are also added to make a nutritive eating mixture which can be also be stored and consumed as a snack.
Mahua Tree – Basic Description
It is a large deciduous tree; the height of this tree is in the range of 20 to 30 meters. It has a thick gray bark which is scaly in texture. The leaves of the tree are 5 to 7 inches in length and 3 to 4 inches in width, which are formed in groups.
The mahua tree belongs to the family “Sapotaceae” and its botanical name is “Madhuca Longifolia” and is also known as “Madhuca Indica”.
Most of the leaves fall from the months of February to April and during that time the musky scented flowers start to appear. It is at night that the tree blooms, and at then at the time of dawn, these little flowers fall to the ground.
About a couple of months after the flowering period ends, the fruits start to grow, they are fleshy green berries, which are quite large in size and they contain one to four brown seeds.
Health Benefits Of Mahua Tree
Mahua tree is found all over the country, most of the trees get planted by the fallen seeds in the forests, villages, and other areas. It is also planted along the borders of the fields and along the roadsides, as it is a big tree that provides a lot of shade.
According to Ayurveda, the flowers of the mahua tree are cold in nature, which means that they help to cool down the body when consumed. This is the reason that they are very beneficial for improving digestion and increasing body energy. They are also very beneficial in treating weakness, impotence, hemorrhoids, menstruation problems, itching, constipation, gas disorders, lack of breast milk in nursing mothers, low blood pressure, boils, and pimples.
If there is a pain in any part of the body, or one is suffering from joint pain, muscle pain, or pain in the ribs, then it can be treated by massaging the affected body part by mahua oil for a few days.
If one is suffering from cold, cough, and fever issues, then he can make a decoction by grinding freshly dried flowers of mahua tree, along with few cloves, black pepper, and ginger. This decoction will help to get relief from cold, cough, and sore throat. Also, drink the lukewarm decoction will help in reducing fever.
Mahua oil is helpful for small children too, if they are having a cold with chest pain, then the affected area can be massaged with the mahua oil to get relief. This is the reason many people keep mahua oil for use in their homes.
The rural people in many states of India have been using mahua flowers for treating cold and fever for many decades, some people even directly chew the soft flowers. Else it can be taken in the form of decoction, twice a day, in the morning and evening.
Lactating women, who are not able to provide a sufficient quantity of milk for their baby, can also benefit by consuming mahua flowers regularly. If the fresh flowers are not available, then dried flowers can also be consumed.
Patients who are suffering from lungs and respiratory problems can also get benefited by use of mahua flowers. These patients generally use a decoction of mahua flowers for 15 to 20 days before going to bed at night, and after this duration, it is observed that they get much relief in their problems.
People use the twigs of mahua tree for cleaning teeth and gums, it is said that it strengthens the teeth, and cures the bleeding gums.
It is believed that mahua flowers are very helpful in curing harm from bites of poisonous insects, mahua flowers can be grounded finely to form a paste, which can be applied to affected area to get relief.
The flowers of mahua tree are roasted in desi cow ghee and eaten for a few days for getting relief from piles pain. These flowers are analgesic in nature; as such they reduce the pain of the patient and also gives relief from piles.
It is also believed that the smoke which is produced by burning the bark of mahua tree, is helpful in keeping away the snakes and the mosquitoes from the surroundings.
How To Grow Mahua Tree
The best way to grow mahua tree is to grow it from the seeds of the tree. The other methods like air layering and growing from cutting are not very successful for growing mahua tree. So for growing mahua tree from seeds, you have to take fresh seeds of the mahua, and then soak them in water for about 24 hours.
And after that the seeds have to be wrapped in a wet cloth for four to 5 days in a place where there is no direct sunlight, the space should be a little dark and the room temperature should be cool. The seeds shall be kept there for four to five days so that they get sprouted properly.
After that what you have to do is, take a pot or take a polybag to plant the sprouted seeds. You do not need to prepare any special kind of soil mix; the seeds can be grown in the normal garden soil.
Fill the soil in the plot, and then plant the seed in such a way that the sprouted part of the seed faces downwards. The seeds should not be pressed firmly in the soil and only the sprouted part is to be dug in the soil and keep the rest of the seed out.
The mahua tree grows at least 40 to 50 feet tall, as such you will not be on the terrace, and you will have to grow it in the garden soil.
The flowers of this tree are used to make a local intoxicating beverage; if you eat them raw then they taste a little sweet. Its fruits are used for making vegetables and its wood is used for making furniture.
Mahua Oil – For Rural And Tribal People
Mahua tree is a very big source of oil for the rural and tribal areas, especially in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand. For making the oil, people in these areas collect the seeds of the mahua tree, which are available in abundance in the months of June and July. These seeds are then used to extract oil for edible purposes.
1. The collected seeds are to be dried before the oil could be extracted. The nut is separated from the pod, which is present inside the pod, and this nut is then dried thoroughly in the sunlight.
2. This nut is then grounded and turned into a coarse powder; this is generally done with the help of a big wooden pestle.
3. This coarse powder of the nuts is then collected in a cotton cloth and it is then steamed by placing it over the utensil of boiling water, it is made sure that the water does not come in contact with the cloth.
4. After the nut powder gets thoroughly steamed, it is again put into a mortar, and then it is lightly pounded with a pestle in a round manner.
5. This rotational pressure squeezes out the oil from the nuts; this oil is brown to dark brown in color.
6. If the oil has a bitter taste, it is boiled for some time and then allowed to settle down, after which the layer of good oil is sieved and used for cooking and frying purposes.
7. The remaining oil is also used for the other purposes like lighting lamps in the night.
8. Also, the powder from which the oil has been extracted is used for feeding the cattle and is also used as manure, as it is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous.