The Sacred Grove of the Vandalur Zoo – Part 1

Compiled by Prajwal Ramesh

Morphological characters and Medicinal importance of trees of Nakshatra Vanam in Vandalur Zoo

We know that Panchatattwa (the five elements) namely Prithvi (Earth), Jala (Water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akasha (Space/Ether) are manifested throughout the planet. While the four elements of these are fundamental components of the nature and are used in our daily lives, Akasha Tattwa (Space element) manifests in the higher dimensions of life.

Our saints have developed customs to protect our ‘Prakriti’, the environment. Incorporating divinity towards the celestial bodies, earth, trees, animals, plants and food into our faith and beliefs ensures that we provide special care which ultimately helps to maintain the ecological balance. One has to understand that Vedic Jyotish is primarily based on the panchatattwa, natural sciences and astronomy such as Nakshatras (Constellations) and Rashis (Moon signs).

There are 27 Nakshatras in total and each individual has a Janma Nakshatra (birth star) assigned depending the date and time of birth. Each Nakshatra has a symbolic plant that defines its connection with the eternal nature. There was a customary in the past that the parents had to plant a tree whenever a child was born depending on the child’s Nakshatra. The parents were tasked with the responsibility of raising the tree as their own child.

On an ecological note, the existence of entire set of 27 trees directly results in a healthy and sound physical, mental, and psychological being; which is the ultimate form of bliss for an individual as well as the Earth. In addition, it is beneficial for us to know the trees that belong to our Janma Nakshatras and have some knowledge about its medicinal values and other properties.

Plants corresponding to the Nakshatras and their properties

  • Nakshatra- Ashwini

Moon sign- Aries (Mesha)

Scientific name of the tree- Strychnine nux-vomica

Local name- Etti Maram

Strychnos species are medium sized deciduous trees that are distributed across tropical India. It can grow up to 15 m. It has round leaves which are arranged opposite to each other. The attractive flowers are either white or green and is fragrant. The tree produces spherical berries and is known as Strychine nuts, which are hard and bitter. The seeds of this plant are poisonous and also contain certain alkaloids that are useful.

In addition, the tree is an important medicinal tree and is mentioned in ancient medical systems.

The plant is used in treating conditions such as

  • Liver
  • Cancer
  • Stomach problems
  • Abdominal problems
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal irritation
  • Insomnia
  • Circulatory problems
  • Eye problems
  • Respiratory illnesses and many more.

The seeds are taken out of the berries and allowed to dry in the sun. Heating them decreases the amount of poison and the dried seeds are used to create a variety of herbal medicines, pills, liquid extracts etc.

  • Nakshatra- Bharani

Moon sign- Aries (Mesha)

Scientific Name- Phyllanthus emblica

Local Name- Nelli Maram (Indian Gooseberry)

These trees are deciduous trees that can be found growing in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. These trees can grow up to 18 m. It has oblong shape compound leaves that are arranged alternate to each other. The tiny flowers are arranged in clusters and are usually white in colour. The fruits are berries and are the most famous parts of the tree and are used extensively for medicinal and culinary purposes.

  • The berry is rich in vitamin C and is considered the best anti-aging herb.
  • It also improves vision and overall health of eyes. It is also effective in treating various disorders related to blood.
  • It reduces the blood sugar levels and burning sensation and also improves voice and helps treat sore throat.
  • The plant effectively protects from a range of viral, bacterial and fungal diseases.
  • Nakshatra: Kritika (Karthika)

Moon sign: Aries (Mesha)

Scientific name of the tree: Ficus glomerata

Local name: Atti Maram (Cluster fig)

Cluster fig are the famous trees that belong to the family Moraceae. These are deciduous trees found throughout India. This tree can reach heights up to 30 meters. The leaves are usually ovate. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate manner (90o between each leaf). The tree produces attractive small white flowers and are sheathed which grow in clusters. The fruit arises from inflorescence and is called Synconus, which vary from green to orange and dark crimson.

The famous tree is mentioned in various ancient scriptures. The medicinal properties possessed by it are

  • Chemoprotective
  • Hepato-protective
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-inflammatory and many more

It is used to treat

  • Fever
  • Piles
  • Fistula
  • Urinary disorders
  • Blood disorders
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Gonorrhoea and many more.
  • In addition, cluster figs are an excellent source of fibres to regulate the digestive tract and are rich in calcium. It is also rich in potassium and iron.
  • Nakshatra: Rohini

Moon sign: Taurus (Vrishabha)

Scientific name of the tree: Syzygium cumini

Local name: Naval Maram (Java plum)

Java plum is a slow growing tree and can reach height up to 30m. These trees can survive up to 100 years. The wood of this tree is resistant to water. Leaves are highly aromatic and have leathery and glossy texture. Leaves also have a rich nutritional value. The flowers are very small, aromatic and are white in colour. Fruits are called drupe, is ovoid in shape, large berries and are dark crimson in colour. The fruit has a special property to change the colour of the tongue to purple after consumption.

The fruit is highly nutritious.

  • The rich iron content in the fruit makes it a natural blood purifier.
  • Rich vitamin A and C is beneficial for skin and eyes. The fruit does wonders for diabetic patients.
  • It contains wide array of chemical compounds such as oxalic acid, gallic acid etc. making it fight against malaria and several other infections.

It is used in treatment of

  • Lungs
  • Digestive system
  • Anaemia
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation and many others.
  • It is also beneficial in mouth ulcers, sore throat and strengthening of teeth and gums.
  • Nakshatra: Mrigashira (Mrigashirasha)

Moon sign: Taurus (Vrishabha)

Scientific name of the plant: Acacia catechu

Local name: Karungali Maram

Acacia catechu is a deciduous tree is a member of the legume family Fabaceae. The tree can reach heights of 15m. It is very popular plant in the Indian subcontinent. The plant has compound leaves with small leaves which resemble a bird’s feathers. Flowers of the tree are light yellow and have cylindrical spikes. Fruits are oblong pods that are glabrous and flat.

It is an extremely important plant with excellent medicinal qualities.

  • It is primarily used to treat skin disorders of all types such as irritation, itching etc.
  • It also helps in detoxifying the accumulated toxins in the body. Regulated use can stop several liver problems.
  • Recent studies have proved the great antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the plant.
Source: Dreamstime
  • Nakshatra: Ardra (Thiruvathira)

Moon sign: Gemini (Mithuna)

Scientific name of the plant: Senegalia catechu

Local name: Senagarungali Maram

This plant has similar characteristics and properties of the previous tree. This tree can grow up to 12 meters. The sap wood of the plant is whitish yellow coloured. The bark of the tree is brown to greyish and can at times form rectangular plates.

In addition to some of the medicinal properties mentioned for the previous tree, these plants can also help

  • Combat blood related disorders
  • It can also be used to treat leprosy
  • These plants are used in variety of tablets, capsule and syrup formulations.

  • Nakshatra: Punarvasu (Punarpusam)

Moon sign: Gemini (Mithuna)

Scientific name of the plant: Bambusa arundinacea

Local name: Moongil (Bamboo)

Bamboo is a woody plant and are abundantly found in the Indian sub-continent. These plants can grow up to 40m. These are economically, culturally and medicinally important plants. They have lanceolate shaped leathery leaves that are arranged alternate to each other. The flowers of bamboo are quite rare and it is sometimes referred to as ‘mysterious flowering cycle’ as the flowering cycle of bamboo ranges from 3-150 years. Bamboo flowers are quite distinct and an image of it is given below. The bamboo fruits are called caryopsis.

Bamboo is extensively used in the field of medicine. It is used in skin care and to treat

  • Lung inflammations
  • Spasms
  • Coughs
  • Fever
  • Bronchial and cerebral infections etc.
  • It also encourages the flow of urine and checks blood flow. It is also anti-inflammatory in nature.
  • Nakshatra: Pushya (Pusam)

Moon sign: Cancer (Kataka)

Scientific name of the plant: Ficus religiosa

Local name: Arasa Maram (Peepal)

Peepal is a long lifespan tree with an average lifespan of 900-1500 years. It can grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates up to an astonishing 4,990 feet. Habitually it is around 100 feet tall and are cultivated as ornamental trees. Leaves are shiny bright green, cordate and foremost point is lanceolate shaped and arranged in opposite decussate order. The flowers of the tree are unisexual and hence the trees are distinguished as male and female. The fruits are small figs and arise from inflorescences and are named as Synconus.

In addition to its cultural importance, it has a wide range of medicinal properties. It has properites such as

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-protozoal

These properties help in treating

  • Gonorrhoea
  • Ulcers
  • Skin diseases.
  • The leaves have reported to have anti-venom properties also regulates menstrual cycle
  • In several places, it is used to treat cancer and other infectious diseases
  • The laxatives present is fruit is used to treat asthma
  • Nakshatra: Ashlesha (Aayilyam)

Moon sign: Cancer (Kataka)

Scientific name of the plant: Calophylum inophyllum

Local name: Punnai Maram (Beauty leaf tree)

The tree is a medium sized tree that can grow up to 35m. It is widespread across several continents but have its origin in India. It has simple leaves that arranged in opposite decussate manner. The leaf is ovate in shape and is leathery. Flowers are bisexual and sweetly scented. Fruit is a globose drupe and contains a seed. The fruits are edible but some toxic compounds can be present in the mature fruit.

It is used as skin moisturizer and hair oil in cosmetic industry. Medicinally, it is used to treat

  • Ulcers
  • Boils
  • Orchitis
  • Rheumatism
  • Psoriasis.
  • Eye infections
  • Wounds
  • Insect bites
  • Swellings
  • Lung infections
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Dysentery
  • Migraine
  • The oil extracted from this tree is used extensively as biodiesel.
  • Nakshatra: Magha (Magam)

Moon sign: Leo (Simha)

Scientific name of the plant: Ficus benghalensis

Local name: Aalamaram (Banyan)

This tree is popularly known as Banyan tree. It is an evergreen tree and can reach heights up to 20 meters. The plant is famous for the growth of prop roots. These plants are primarily epiphytes. But the prop roots become thick over time and provide nutrients to the epiphyte, making it grow faster than host plant. The tree provides significant amount of shade. The leaves are ovate and thick. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate manner and are hard. Male and female flowers are borne separately in a single tree and is bright red in colour. The fruits are red, round and spongy and are called Synconus.  

The plant contains numerous medicinally valuable chemicals. It is used to cure

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vaginal infection
  • Regulate diabetes
  • Acne and skin patches
  • Cholesterol,
  • Tooth decay and gum problems

It is also beneficial for other health issues such as

  • Hair problems
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Excess urination
  • Ulcer
  • Swelling of eyes and itching.
  • Nakshatra: Poorva Phalguni (Pooram)

Moon sign: Leo (Simha)

Scientific name of the plant: Butea monosperma

Local name: Purasu Maram (Palash)

Butea is a medium sized deciduous tree that can grow in arid regions. The plant can grow up to 15m. The leaves are tri-lobed and are ovate and leathery. Flowers are strikingly brightly coloured either in scarlet or orange-red. The flowers are borne in clusters. The fruits are indehiscent pods and are flattened. During the flowering period, the tree is completely covered with flowers.

The plant is extensively used for its medicinal properties.

  • It can heal ulcers and wounds quickly.
  • It is used cure worm infestation due to its laxative nature.
  • Tree’s gum is used to treat diarrhoea.
  • It can be used to treat
  • Body pain
  • Impotency
  • Irregular bleeding and severe abdominal pain during menstrual cycle
  • Boils
  • Pimples
  • Ulcers
  • Piles
  • Eye related disorders
  • Bone fractures
  • Flowers also purify blood and remove toxins from the body.
  • Nakshatra: Uttara Phalguni (Uthiram)

Moon sign: Leo (Simha)

Scientific name of the plant: Nerium indicum

Local name: Arali

Nerium is a huge evergreen tree. This plant contains white milky latex. The tree can reach heights up to 6 meters. It is also drought tolerant. The bark of the plant is quite soft and silvery white in colour. The leaves of this plant are lanceolate shaped, long, thick and arranged in opposite decussate manner. The flowers are pinkish-white in coloured and are attractive. Fruits are cylindrical in shape and is either white or red in colour.

The plant has several medicinal uses even if the plant is deemed poisonous.

  • It is used to treat the bites of poisonous insects and functional disorders of heart.
  • It is used to treat
  • Body pain
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Ulcer
  • Vomiting.

It can be used to stimulate menstrual flow

It has properties of a good

  • Fungicide
  • Insecticide
  • Larvicide
  • Parasiticide
  • Rodenticide.
Source: Flickr
  • Nakshatra: Hasta (Astham)

Moon sign: Virgo (Kanya)

Scientific name of the plant: Bauhinia racemosa

Local Name: Aathi Maram

Bauhinia is a deciduous tree which can grow 15 meters tall. It has a well spread crown. The outer bark is small and smooth. Leaves of the plant is two lobed, ovate or circular. Leaves look like camel’s hoof. Flowers are similar to orchids and the colour varies greatly. The flower clusters are unbranched and scented. Fruit is dehiscent pod and contains seeds that are flat.

While the tree bears beautiful flowers, it also has a few important medicinal properties.

It is used to correct the hormonal imbalance and relives menstrual disorders.

It is also used in treating

  • PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • It helps in treating thyroid related problems
  • Leaves extract helps in reducing jaundice and liver functioning.
  • It is also used to maintain proper metabolism and functioning of liver.
  • Reduces extra fat in the body
  • Relieves infections related to urinary tract
  • Purifies blood
  • Cures dysentery
  • Regulates blood glucose levels

Read part 2 to know more!

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