The banyan tree

Banyan tree, known as 'bargad ka ped' in Hindi has been time and again mentioned in the Hindu mythology as a sacred tree. Many temples across the country have been constructed underneath this tree. In Ayurveda, the banyan tree has been said to be used for the treatment of several diseases and infections. The tree has been mentioned to be beneficial for the ‘vata dosha' as per Ayurveda (controls motion and air in the body).

The banyan tree is an epiphytic (plant that grows on another plant via germination of its seed in the cracks or crevices of the host tree) plant species. This plant belongs to the genus Ficus. The banyan tree found in India is the Ficus benghalensis, which is also the national tree of our country. This species is also native to the tropical and warm temperate regions in the world.

The leaves of the banyan tree are large and elliptical in shape, leathery in texture and are glossy green in colour. A characteristic feature of old banyan trees is the development of aerial roots, also called prop roots, which hang above the ground.

These roots mature to resemble old woody trunks, giving the appearance of small individual trees clustered together. The 'Great Banyan tree' found in the Botanical Garden of Kolkata is over 250 years old and bears a great many numbers of roots. It is the largest known tree in India till date.

Some basic facts about banyan tree:

  • Botanical Name: Ficus benghalensis
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Common Name: Banyan, Bargad, Bara gacha, Bata, Kavirool
  • Sanskrit Name: Nyayagrodh, Vata Vriksha
  • Parts Used: Leaves, branches, fruits
  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Tropical and warm temperate regions of the world
  1. Banyan tree uses
  2. Other benefits of the banyan tree (bargad ka ped)
  3. Side effects of the banyan tree

Banyan is one of the most commonly available tree species in India. The use of extracts from the banyan tree for the treatment of various types of infections and diseases is quite common due to its medicinal properties. The health benefits and uses that can be derived from the banyan tree have been listed below.

  • For digestive system: Banyan tree has several benefits for your gastrointestinal system. It has antimicrobial and healing properties which help relieve dysentery and diarrhoea and the high fibre content of banyan leaves is effective in preventing constipation.
  • Relieves arthritis symptoms: Banyan leaves exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which have been found to be helpful in relieving arthritis symptoms.
  • Boosts immunity: Banyan tree bark extracts are used traditionally for its immunity boosting properties. Research studies suggest that this is because of the presence of antioxidants in this extract. They neutralise oxidative damage, thereby improving immunity.
  • Clears vaginal infection: Banyan leaf powder is mixed with water to prepare a vaginal wash. It has antimicrobial properties which suppress the growth of pathogenic microbes and relieve symptoms of common vaginal infections such as leucorrhea.
  • For skin care: Extracts prepared from banyan leaves have a soothing effect on the skin. It prevents skin allergies when used as a topical formulation along with aloe gel. When mixed with milk, this extract relieves acne and rashes.
  • Beneficial for brain: Banyan tree fruit aids in stress reduction and preventing anxiety and depression. Extracts from banyan tree have an array of bioactive components that enhance memory and reduce the risk of seizures in case of panic attacks.

Banyan tree for the digestive system

The use of the banyan tree to treat infections of the gastrointestinal tract is very common. Banyan tree leaves have powerful healing and anti-microbial properties, and can be used for treating disorders like dysentery and chronic diarrhoea. A study concluded that the use of Ficus benghalensis as a dietary supplement can result in numerous health benefits. The fiber content of banyan tree extract (in the form of latex) is quite high, which makes its use in the treatment of constipation.

Banyan tree for oral health

The root extract of the banyan tree shows prominent antibacterial activity against many bacterial species responsible for tooth decay and gum disorders. The two main strains of bacteria responsible for this are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans. A study demonstrated that the banyan tree root extract, when mixed in a toothpaste, showed significant gerimicidal (potential to destroy or kill germs) activity, when tested on animal models. Use of the banyan tree may thus be beneficial for oral health and hygiene.

Banyan tree for inflammation and pain

Banyan tree has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory (effective against inflammation, that is, swelling, pain and redness) and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. The use of banyan tree leaf extract against inflammation caused by diseases such as arthritis has been demonstrated. Studies found that the aqueous extract of banyan tree leaves has pain-relieving properties similar to that of morphine. Further in vivo studies are, however, required to acknowledge the full potential of banyan tree extract in this regard.

Banyan tree for the immune system

Ficus benghalensis has been popularly used in the folk medicine of India. The extract from the bark of the banyan tree is a good agent for boosting the immune system. Studies found that this extract contained several bioactive compounds. These bioactive compounds have antioxidant properties and the capacity to neutralise free radicals (that cause damage to the internal organs of the body). They help in boosting the immune system and prevent diseases.

(Read more: Immunity boosting foods)

Banyan tree for vaginal infection treatment

The use of leaves and extract of the banyan tree has been found in the treatment of vaginal infection, particularly leucorrhoea. Vaginal infection is usually caused due to the microbial flora of the vagina. Banyan tree extract is antimicrobial in nature and thus can be used for the treatment of vaginal infections. The bark or the leaves are crushed to make a powder, which is then mixed with water to prepare a vaginal wash for treatment of the infection.

Banyan tree for skin care

The extract of the banyan tree leaves and barks have been found to have skin protective properties. It has the capability to block the toxic effects of several allergens (allergy-causing agents) and provide a soothing feeling. It is also used to prevent skin damage.

The leaf extract of banyan tree can be used along with warm milk to prepare a herbal drink to treat conditions like acne and rashes. Dermatologists prescribe concoctions (mixtures) prepared from banyan tree leaves and aloe vera to treat skin allergies and improve skin health. The aqueous extracts of Ficus benghalensis have been found to possess the capacity to heal wounds and are often used in their treatment.

Banyan tree for diabetes

Diabetes is a major health concern gripping the modern world. The use of banyan tree extracts for the treatment of diabetes has been prevalent since the early times. The bioactive compounds present in banyan tree extracts have been used in several preparations to treat diabetes and other related chronic disorders.

Studies have found that these compounds have promising medicinal properties and can be used to develop drugs for the management of diabetes. Further scientific research is, however, required for the extraction of these compounds and to establish their safety as a potential drug.

Banyan tree for the brain

Different parts of the banyan tree are used to treat several neurological conditions. The fruits of the banyan tree have been found to possess the compound serotonin that can act against anxiety and depression. Further studies have also found that banyan tree extract can aid in the relaxation of the muscle cells. The bioactive compounds also have the ability to enhance memory and moderate the levels of seizure in case of a panic attack.

Banyan tree for cholesterol

Leaf extract of banyan tree has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein or LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase the percentage of the high-density lipoprotein or HDL (good cholesterol). Studies have found that lipid levels in the blood have significantly been lowered by the use of medicine containing leaf extracts of Ficus benghalensis.

Besides numerous uses in the health sector, the banyan tree has also been found to be beneficial in other ways. The other benefits that can be derived from the different parts of the banyan tree have been listed below.

Banyan tree against mosquito-borne diseases

The leaf extract of banyan tree has larvicidal properties (killing the larvae) against the Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Anopheles subpictus species of mosquito. These mosquitoes act as vectors of diseases such as encephalitis and malaria respectively. The methanolic extract of banyan tree leaves has been found to effective for the control of mosquito species, which can help to prevent and control mosquito-borne diseases.

Banyan tree as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

The extract obtained from the aerial roots also called prop roots of the banyan tree, have been found to possess anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The aerial roots contain several bioactive compounds that are effective against several species of fungi and bacteria. This property of the aerial roots has an immense potential for their use as biocontrol agents against the spread of many diseases and in food preservation.

(Read more: Infection treatment)

Banyan tree for pollution control

Banyan tree can also be used as agents for pollution control. Studies have found that banyan tree has the potential to act against the agents causing air pollution. This property of banyan tree makes it a good agent for maintaining the quality of air in areas with high levels of air pollution. This may help in the prevention of respiratory disorders and ailments in that community or area.

(Read more: Treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

The medicines and mixtures prepared using banyan tree leaf extract have not been found to cause any side effects. There have been no reports stating the side effects of using medicinal products containing extracts of this tree.

However, studies regarding the effect of banyan tree extract on pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been yet reported. So, as a precautionary measure, it is advisable that breastfeeding or pregnant women should avoid the use of banyan tree extract to avoid any chances of side effects.

Medicines / Products that contain Banyan tree


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