Tel: Sandra, Khandiramu;
Importance: Catechu is a medium deciduous tree commonly used as a blood purifier and for leoprosy and leucoderma. Catechu or Cutch tree bark is useful in melancholia, conjunctivitis and haemoptysis. It is useful in vitiated conditions of kapha and pitta, catarrh, cough, pruritus, leprosy, leucoderma, skin diseases, helminthiasis, anorexia, diarrhoea, dysentery, foul ulcers and wounds, haemoptysis, haematemesis, haemorrhages, intermittent fever, inflammations, odontopathy, anaemia, diabetes, splenomegaly and pharyngodyna. The gummy extract of the wood (kath) is useful in laryngopathy, flatulence, anorexia, ulcers, wounds, helminthiasis, leucoderma, leoprosy, skin diseases, urorrhea, colporrhagia, erysipelas and odontopathy. For leprosy, root, leaf, flower, bark and fruits are made into a decoction which is given orally as well as for external dressing. In Unani system it is used in “Marham Kharish Jadid” for skin diseases. “Khadirarisht” is an oral medicine, while “Marham” is for external application.
Distribution:It is widely distributed in tropical countries. In India, it is observed from the Indus eastwards to Assam and throughout Peninsular India.
Botany: The genus Acacia belonging to the family Mimosaceae consists of a number of species. The important ones are listed as below:
A. catechu Willd. A. caesia Willd. A. arabica Willd. A. concinna DC.
A. farnesiana Willd.
A. ferruginea DC.
A. instia W. & A. syn. A. caesia Willd.
A. jacquemontii Benth. A. leucophloea Willd. A. modesta Wall.
A. pinnata (Linn.) Willd.
A. pycnantha Benth.
A. senegal Willd.
A. suma Buch-Ham. syn. A. suma Kurz.
A. catechu is a moderate sized deciduous tree, 9-12m in height with dark greyish or brown rough bark and hooked short spines. Leaves are bipinnately compound, leaflets 30-50 pairs, main rachis pubescent with a large conspicuous gland near the middle of the rachis. Flowers are pale yellow, sessile in peduncled axiallary spikes. Fruits are flat brown pods, shiny and with a triangular beak at the apex and narrowed at the base. Seeds are 3-10 per pod.
The gummy extract of the wood is commercially known as ‘ Kath’ or ‘Cutch’. The cutch available in the market is brittle, of different shapes and dark brown in colour. On breaking, it is found to be shiny and form crystal like pieces (Warrier et al, 1993).
Agrotechnology: Catechu is suited to hilly areas and rocky places. The plant is propagated by seeds.
Seeds are soaked in water for 6 hours and sown in seedbeds. Seeds germinate within a month. At four-leaf stage, seedlings are planted in polybags. Two months old seedlings from the polybags are used for transplanting. Pits of size 50cm cube are taken at a distance of 4-5m between plants and filled with topsoil, sand and dried cowdung in 1:1:1 ratio. Seedlings are planted in these pits. Application of organic manure every year during the rainy season is beneficial. Regular weeding is to be carried out. Pruning of branches and tender shoots developing from the base of the plant can be done from second year onwards. Tree is to be grown as single stemmed one. Flowering and fruiting commences from fourth year onwards. At the end of tenth year, the tree can be cut and heartwood collected (Prasad et al, 1997).
Properties and Activity: Heartwood contains kaempferol, dihydro kaempferol, taxifolin, iso rhamnetin(+)- afzelchin, a dimeric procyanidin, quercetin, (-)epi-catechin, (-)catechin, fisetin, quercetagetin and (+)-cyanidanol. The main constituent of heartwood is catechin and catechu tannic acid. Catechin is a mixture of at least four isomers and L(-)epicatechin has been isolated and characterised (Rao et al,1948; Husain et al,1992).
The bark is anthelmintic, antipyretic, antiinflammatory and antileprotic. The flowers are antigonorrhoeic. The cutch from wood is anthelmintic, tonic and aphrodisiac. Bark and cutch are antidiarrhoeal, astringent and stomachic. Cyanidanol is hepatoprotective. The wood is hypoglycaemic, antiinflammatory and hypotensive. The stem is spasmolytic and antiviral (Husain et al, 1992).