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Ashoka (Saraca asoca, Saraca indica)

Ashoka is one of the most ancient sacred and medicinal trees of India. Known by many names in different languages, it is commonly called “Ashok briksh”, or simply “Ashoka”, which means “without sorrow”, or “that which gives no grief.”1 It belongs to the family Caesalpiniaceae subfamily of the legume.2 The medicinal parts used are the bark, seeds, and flowers. Thus, all parts of this tree are considered pharmacologically important and have especially been used to manage various disorders. It is used as spasmogenic, oxytocic, uterotonic, anti-bacterial, anti-implantation, anti-tumor, anti-pregestational, antiestrogenic activity against menorrhagia, and anti-cancer.3

Ashoka (Saraca asoca, Saraca indica)


Gynecological Conditions
The bark is rich in flavonoids, tannins, and glycosides that work as a uterine sedative that has a direct impact on the fibers present in the muscles of the uterus. It has a stimulating effect on endometrial and ovarian tissue. The bark also contains natural phytoestrogens which help to regulate the menstrual cycle, stimulating the uterus to normalize menstrual flow.18

Bark extracts are useful in internal bleeding, hemorrhoids, ulcers, uterine affections, and menorrhagia especially due to uterine fibroids, leucorrhea, ovarian cysts, and certain skin eruptions -acne. Women of Chhattisgarh boil the bark of Ashoka in cow's milk, add sugar, and consume it once a day for three days and repeat the course after three months to prevent gynecological disorders. It is also traditionally used to encourage urine flow and thus helps in treating conditions that cause painful urination, such as urinary tract infections.20

In general, Ashoka can be effectively used to aid several uncomfortable menstrual disorders such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), amenorrhea (absent periods), dysmenorrhea (painful periods), and menorrhagia (heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding).

The presence of quercetin, beta-sitosterol, and luteolin, phytoestrogens support healthy hormonal function during the transition into menopause. Furthermore, it can aid the healthy production of estrogen and progesterone when it is needed. Thus, the hormonal balance that is promoted by this tree makes it effective against many menopause symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood swings, and weight gain.19

Ashoka is considered particularly effective for female infertility and endometriosis. Ashoka is one of the key herbal remedies used by traditional healers of India to treat “reproductive disorders”.20 The success of Ashoka in the treatment of infertility in women may be linked to the herb’s ability to successfully treat endometriosis - one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

Other Benefits
Whilst Ashoka primarily is used to support female health throughout each stage of their reproductive lives, other benefits include:21

Anti-inflammatory – especially effective for the heart, Ashoka has been shown to protect cardiac tissues from infiltration by inflammatory cells.

Sleep Aid - The bark and seeds of Ashoka help to relax an overactive central nervous system, helping to reduce the time it takes to drop off to sleep. The quality and duration of sleep can be improved due to the presence of certain flavonoids, glycosides, and tannins.

Skin Health - The root, bark, and seeds of Ashoka are useful in the treatment of skin conditions including eczema, acne, dermatitis, herpes scabies, and psoriasis. It is also widely used to rejuvenate the complexion.


Its bark is bitter, astringent, and sweet in taste. The bark contains catechol, sterol, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, leucopetargonidin and leucocyanidin, (-) epicatechin, procyanidin p2, 11'deoxyprocyanidin B, leucoperalgonidin and leucocyanidin.13 Additionally, its dried bark contains five lignin glycosides, lyoniside, nudiposide, 5-methoxy-9βxylopyranosyl-(–) isolariciresinol, icariside E3 and schizandriside and three flavonoids epicatechin, epiafzelechin-(4β→8)-epicatechin and procyanidin B2, together with βsitosterolglucoside.14 Its flower contains oleic, linoleic, palmitic, and stearic acids, P-sitosterol, quercetin, kaempferol-3-O-P-D-glucoside,apigenin-7-O-p-D-glucoside,Pelargonidin 3,5diglucoside, cyanidin-3, leucocyanidin, and gallic acid. Four anthrocyanin pigments have been isolated from flowers; beta and alpha sitosterol are isolated from the oil of flowers. Seeds and pods contain oleic, linoleic, palmitic, and stearic acids catechol, (-) epicatechol, and leucocyanidin.15, 16, 17

Clinical Studies

Biomechanical Mechanism

The Ashoka tree has been mentioned in some of the oldest Indian texts and has been regarded as a panacea. Ayurvedic texts from the medieval period till recent times have described the numerous beneficial uses of Ashoka. The classical Ayurvedic treatise Charaka Samhita (1000 BC) describes its effectiveness as an analgesic and astringent as well as in skin diseases, including leprosy.4 The treatise of Susruta Samhita (500 BC) describes its uses in female reproductive disorders, as well as in fever, neurological disorders, snake bites, and eye diseases. The renowned Ayurvedic author and doctor Vāgbhata (6th century AD) described the use of its seeds in cough. The Ayurvedic text Dhanvantari Nighantu (9th century AD) recorded the use of Ashoka as a cooling agent, aromatic and cardiac tonic with curing effects for wounds, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and bone fractures. In the Chakradatta, a text from the 11th century, the bark of Ashoka is prescribed for severe bleeding. It also mentions the ingestion of seeds in the case of urine flow obstruction due to kidney stones. The legendary Indian text, Ramayana also mentions the medicinal virtues of the Ashoka tree.5

Ashoka is especially sacred to the Hindu god of Love, Kamadeva, for whom it is worshipped every year on December 27th. Historically, married women in India are known to eat Ashoka flower buds as a ritual to invoke deities for child protection as well as treat gynecological problems. Natives in India wear root pieces of Ashoka as herbal rosary for mental tranquility.6, 7, 8


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Bharati Academy.1986, Reprint-2015, p.487-488.
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Prakashan, Mumbai, 2005.
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western ghats, India - A Profile. International Development Research Centre, New
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delhi. 1972; reprinted 1999. P 232-234
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the western ghats, India : A Profile, International Development Research Centre, New
Delhi, 2000, 343-360.
13. Yadav G, Kumar V, Thakur N, Khare P. Locomotor activity of methanolic extract
of Saraca indica bark. Advances in Biological Research, 2013; 7(1): 01-03.
14. Pradhan et al., Saraca asoca (Ashoka): A Review, Journal of chemical and
pharmaceutical research, 2009, vol.1, pp. 62- 71.
15. VD Rastogi. Pharmacognosy & Phytochemistry, Career Publication, Nashik, 2003;
16. SK Jain. Medicinal Plants. National Book Trust, New Delhi, 1968; 124.
17. Yadav G, Kumar V, Thakur N, Khare P. Locomotor activity of methanolic extract
of Saraca indica bark. Advances in Biological Research, 2013; 7(1): 01-03.
18. Pharmacopoeia of India. 2001. Vol. I;
Part-I: 17-18.
21. Dhawan BN, Patnaik GK, Rastogi RP, Singh KK, Tandon JS, Screening of Indian
plants for biological activity: part VI, Indian J Exp Biol, 1977, 15, 208-219.

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