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Bombax ceiba back  |  home
Latin Names English Names Sanskrit Names Hindi Names
Bombax ceiba Linn. (Bombacaceae) / B.malabaricum DC., Salmalia malabarica, Gossampinus malabarica
(DC) Merr.
Silk Cotton Tree Shalmali Semul or Simul
Bombax CeibaHistory
TIn 'Mahabharata' it is related to 'Pitamaha' after having created the world, reposed under the tree 'Salmali'. In the 'Yajnavalkya' it is mentioned as one of the trees of the infernal regions. Roots of very young tree have astringent, aphrodisiac and alterative properties. In Holland, the gum is used as an astringent. In Madras, the young fruits are dried and used as a demulcent and astringent. Also the gum is used in diarrhea and dysentery.

It is found in India, Burma and Sri Lanka. It grows throughout the hotter parts of India, Eastern Himalayas and is abundant in Assam, Andaman and West Bengal.

Morphology Description (Habit)
A large sized tall, deciduous tree having straight, buttressed trunk with a clear bole and widespread branches. The trunk and branch bark is gray in colour having hard, sharp and conical prickles. Leaves are large, deciduous, digitate and glabrous. Leaflets 3-9, entire, lanceolate or oval, cuspidate and tip is acute. Petiole is long (up to 20 cm), petiolules 1,2-2.5 cm long, and stipules small and caducous. Flowers solitary or clustered, axillary or sub-terminal, fascicles at or near the ends of the branches, when the tree is bare of leaves. Calyx is cup-shaped usually 3 lobed. Corolla red or white, petals 5, oblong, recurved, fleshy, tomentose on the out side and sparingly pubescent inner. Staminal tube is short, more than 60 in 5 bundles. Ovary conical, glabrous, stigma 5, capsule ovoid, 5 valued dehiscing by 5 leathery, woody valves and lined with white silky hairs. Seeds are numerous, long, ovoid, black or gray in colour and packed in white cotton.

Principal Constituents
Preliminary tests show the presence of glycosides and tannins from root, stem and leaf. In the stem some alkaloids and in root proteins are identified1. The stem bark contains lupeol and b-sitostrol2 The root bark has 3 naphthalene derivatives related to gossypol (toxic principle of cotton seed) and called as 'semigossypol'3. Flowers contain b-sitosterol, traces of essential oil, kaempherol and quercetin4. On hydrolysis gum yield arabinose, galactose, galacturonic acid and rhamnose.

Aqueous extract has moderate oxytoxic activity on gravid and non-gravid isolated rat uteri and guinea pig and rabbit uterine strips. It has musculotrapic action in guinea pig ileum and cardiac stimulant action on frog's heart5. It has a negligible blood-pressure elevating action in anaesthetized dog6.

No adverse effect is reported on use of the plant as a drug.

The gum has aphrodisiac, astringent, demulcent, haemoptysis of pulmonary tuberculosis and influenza, malaena and menorrhagia and acute dysentery with beneficial results. Flowers are used for haemorrhoids. Root has stimulant, tonic and aphrodisiac properties.

  1. Mehra, Indian J Pharm, 30, 284, 1968.
  2. Mukherjee, J Indian Chem Soc, 48, 789, 1971.
  3. Seshadri, Curr Sci, 40,630, 1971; Indian J Chem, 11, 825, 1973.
  4. Harish Gopal, J Pharm Sci, 61, 807, 1972.
  5. Misra, Indian J Pharm, 30, 165, 1968.
  6. Misra, Indian J Physiol & Pharmacol, 10, 59, 1966.

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