Banyan tree- Ficus benghalensis finds mention as medicine in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and homeopathy. It is widely used in the treatment of diabetes. In the Unani system of medicine, its latex is regarded as an aphrodisiac and anti-inflammatory medicine. It treats digestive ailments like dysentery, ulcers, and biliousness. It serves as a tonic and astringent.
The banyan tree treats skin diseases, vaginal disorders, leucorrhoea, menorrhea, and deficient lactation in Ayurveda. A milky, sticky latex oozes from any injury on the plant. The latex is externally applied on bruises for relief. It relieves the pain. It is also used to provide relief in cases of rheumatism, back pain, and toothache. Leaves are heated and applied as a poultice to offer comfort in abscesses. The bark is astringent, and the seeds have a cooling effect.
Ficus benghalensis (banyan) tree Photo: Sudhir Ahluwalia
The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India recommends using the aerial root in lipid disorders. The latex of the tree is also helpful in treating dysentery and diarrhea. The root bark contains ß-sitosterol, a D-glucose, and meso- inositol, which has anti-diabetic properties that can treat pituitary and alloxan-induced diabetes. The hypoglycemic action of a glucoside (bengalenoside) isolated from Ficus benghalensis was demonstrated to be effective against normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits (Augusti, 1975).
Extract from the roots of the tree was found to stimulate cell and antibody-mediated immune responses in rats. It enhanced the phagocytic function of human neutrophils in-vitro (Gabhe et al., 2006). Antimutagenic and antioxidant activity of the stem bark of Ficus benghalensis and root extract of Moringa oleifera was seen in a study conducted by Satish et al. (2013).
The hypolipidemic and antioxidant property of the bark of the banyan tree was observed in rabbits (Shukla et al., 2004). The bark of the banyan tree was found to possess anti-stress and anti-allergic properties (Taur et al., 2007). Aswar et al. (2008) saw the anti-helminthic activity of the species. The anti-microbial activity of the roots and the fruit extract was seen in studies conducted by Murti et al. (2011) and Gaherwal (2013).
Ethanolic and aqueous extracts of F. benghalensis have properties that promote accelerated wound-healing activity. This property was observed in placebo control trials. The wound-healing property of F. benghalensis may be attributed to the presence of phytoconstituents in the plant (Garg et al., 2011). The anti-inflammatory activity of the plant on rats was observed in experiments conducted by Deore et al. (2012).
Significant anti-helminth actions of banyan tree aerial roots have been studied and validated (Tuse et al., 2011). The anti-microbial activity of the plant has also been studied and validated against a range of disease-causing bacteria like Escherichia coli, Klebsiella sps, etc. (Ogunlowo et al., 2013). Scientists have also studied the antioxidant and antimutagenic properties of the plant.