The genus Ficus constitutes an important group of trees with immense medicinal value. It is a sacred tree of Hindus and Buddhists. Among the varied number of species, the most important ones are the four trees that constitute the group “Nalpamaram”, namely, F. racemosa, F. microcarpa, F. benghalensis and F. religiosa (Athi, Ithi, Peral and Arayal respectively).
1. Ficus racemosa Linn. syn. F. glomerata Roxb.
Eng: Cluster fig, Country fig
San: Udumbarah, Sadaphalah
Hin: Gular, Umar
Ben: Jagya dumur
Tel: Udambaramu, Paidi
Gular fig, Cluster fig or Country fig, which is considered sacred, has golden coloured exudate and black bark. It is distributed all over India. Its roots are useful in treating dysentery. The bark is useful as a wash for wounds, highly efficacious in threatened abortions and recommended in uropathy. Powdered leaves mixed with honey are given in vitiated condition of pitta. A decoction of the leaves is a good wash for wounds and ulcers. Tender fruits (figs) are used in vitiated conditions of pitta, diarrhoea, dyspepsia and haemorrhages. The latex is administered in haemorrhoids and diarrhoea (Warrier et al, 1995). The ripe fruits are sweet, cooling and are used in haemoptysis, thirst and vomiting (Nadkarni, 1954; Aiyer et al, 1957; Moos, 1976). Nalpamaradi coconut oil, Candanasava, Valiya Arimedastaila, Dinesavalyadi Kuzhambu, Abhrabhasma, Valiya candanaditaila, etc. are some important preparations using the drug (Sivarajan et al, 1994).
It is a moderate to large-sized spreading laticiferous, deciduous tree without many prominent aerial roots. Leaves are dark green and ovate or elliptic. Fruit receptacles are 2-5cm in diameter, sub- globose or pyriform arranged in large clusters on short leafless branches arising from main trunk or large branches. Figs are smooth or rarely covered with minute soft hairs. When ripe, they are orange, dull reddish or dark crimson. They have a pleasant smell resembling that of cedar apples. The bark is rusty brown with a fairly smooth and soft surface, the thickness varying from 0.5-2cm according to the age of the trunk or bark. Surface is with minute separating flakes of white tissue. Texture is homogeneously leathery (Warrier et al, 1995).
Stem-bark gives gluanol acetate, -sitosterol, leucocyanidin-3-O- -D-glucopyrancoside, leucopelargonidin-3-O- -D-glucopyranoside, leucopelargonidin -3-O- -L-rhamnopyranoside, lupeol, ceryl behenate, lupeol acetate and -amyrin acetate. Stem- bark is hypoglycaemic and anti-protozoal. Gall is CVS active. Bark is tonic and used in rinder pest diseases of cattle. Root is antidysenteric and antidiabetic. Leaf is antibilious. Latex is antidiarrhoeal and used in piles. Bark and syconium is astringent and used in menorrhagia (Husain et al, 1992).
2. Ficus microcarpa Linn. f. syn. F. retusa auct. Non. Linn.
Mal: Ithi, Ithiyal;
Tam: Kallicci, Icci;
Plaksah is the Ficus species with few branches and many adventitious roots growing downward. It is widely distributed throughout India and in Sri Lanka, S. China, Ryuku Isles and Britain. Plakasah is one of the five ingredients of the group panchvalkala i.e, five barks, the decoction of which is extensively used to clear ulcers and a douche in leucorrhoea in children. This decoction is administered externally and internally with satisfactory results. Plaksah is acclaimed as cooling, astringent, and curative of raktapitta doshas, ulcers, skin diseases, burning sensation, inflammation and oedema. It is found to have good healing property and is used in preparation of oils and ointments for external application in the treatment of ulcers (Aiyer and Kolammal, 1957). The stem-bark is used to prepare Usirasava, Gandhataila, Nalpamaradi taila, Valiya marmagulika, etc. (Sivarajan et al, 1994). The bark and leaves are used in wounds, ulcers, bruises, flatulent colic, hepatopathy, diarrhoea, dysentery, diabetes, hyperdipsia, burning sensation, haemaorrhages, erysipelas, dropsy, ulcerative stomatitis, haemoptysis, psychopathy, leucorrhoea and coporrhagia (Warrier et al,1995) F. microcarpa is a large glabrous evergreen tree with few aerial roots. Leaves are short- petioled, 5-10cm long, 2-6cm wide and apex shortly and bluntly apiculate or slightly emarginate. Main lateral nerves are not very prominent and stipules are lanceolate. Fruit receptacles are sessile and globose occurring in axillary pairs. It is yellowish when ripe without any characteristic smell. Bark is dark grey or brown with a smooth surface except for the lenticels. Outer bark is corky and crustaceous thin and firmly adherent to inner tissue. Inner bark is light and flesh coloured with firbrous texture (Warrier et al, 1995). It is also equated with many other species of the genus. viz. F. Singh and Chunekar, 1972; Kapoor and Mitra, 1979; Sharma, 1983).
The bark contains tannin, wax and saponin. Bark is antibilious. Powdered leaves and bark is found very good in rheumatic headache. The bark and leaves are astringent, refrigerant, acrid and stomachic.
3. Ficus benghalensis Linn.
Eng: Banyan tree; San: Nyagrodhah, Vatah;
Hin: Bat, Bargad;
Ben: Bar, Bot; Mar: Vada; Mal: Peral, Vatavriksham;
Tam: Alamaram, Peral;
Banyan tree is a laticiferous tree with reddish fruits, which is wound round by aerial adventitious roots that look like many legs. It is found in the Sub-Himalayan tract and Peninsular India. It is also grawn throughout India. It is widely used in treatment of skin diseases with pitta and rakta predominance. Stem-bark, root -bark, aerial roots, leaves, vegetative buds and milky exudate are used in medicine. It improves complexion, cures erysepelas, burning sensation and vaginal disorders, while an infusion of the bark cures dysentery, diarrhoea, leucorrhoea, menorrhagia, nervous disorders and reduces blood sugar in diabetes. A decoction of the vegetative buds in milk is beneficial in haemorrhages. A paste of the leaves is applied externally to abcesses and wounds to promote suppuration, while that of young aerial roots cure pimples. Young twigs when used as a tooth brush strengthen gum and teeth (Nadkarni, 1954; Aiyer and Kolammal, 1957; Mooss,1976). The drug forms an important constituent of formulations like Nalpamaradi Coconut oil, Saribadyasava, Kumkumadi taila, Khadira gulika, Valiyacandanadi taila, Candanasava, etc. (Sivarajan et al, 1994). The aerial roots are useful in obstinate vomiting and leucorrhoea and are used in osteomalacia of the limbs. The buds are useful in diarrhoea and dysentery. The latex is useful in neuralgia, rheumatism, lumbago, bruises, nasitis, ulorrhagia, ulitis, odontopathy, haemorrhoids, gonorrhoea, inflammations, cracks of the sole and skin diseases (Warrier et al, 1995).
It is a very large tree up to 30m in height with widely spreading branches bearing many aerial roots functioning as prop roots. Bark is greenish white. Leaves are simple, alternate, arranged often in clusters at the ends of branches. They are stipulate, 10-20cm long and 5-12.5cm broad, broadly elliptic to ovate, entire, coriaceous, strongly 3-7 ribbed from the base. The fruit receptacles are axillary, sessile, seen in pairs globose, brick red when ripe and enclosing male, female and gall flowers. Fruits are small, crustaceous, achenes, enclosed in the common fleshy receptacles. The young bark is somewhat smooth with longitudinal and transverse row of lenticels. In older bark, the lenticels are numerous and closely spaced; outer bark easily flakes off. The fresh cut surface is pink or flesh coloured and exudes plenty of latex. The inner most part of the bark adjoining the wood is nearly white and fibrous (Warrier et al, 1995).
The bark yields flavanoid compounds A, B and C; A and C are identified as different forms of a leucoanthocyanidin and compound B a leucoanthocyanin. All the 3 were effective as hypoglycaemic agents. Leaves give friedelin, -sitosterol, flavonoids- quercetin-3-galactoside and rutin. Heart wood give tiglic acid ester of taraxasterol. Bark is hypoglycemic, tonic, astringent, antidiarrhoeal and antidiabetic. Latex is antirheumatic. Seed is tonic. Leaf is diaphoretic. Root fibre is antigonorrhoeic. Aerial root is used in debility and anaemic dysentery (Husain et al, 1992).
.4. Ficus religiosa Linn.
Eng:Peepal tree, Sacred fig; San:Pippalah, Asvatthah; Hin:Pippal, Pipli, Pipar; Mal:Arayal
Tam: Arasu, Asvattam;
Tel: Ravi; Mar: Ashvata, Pimpala
Peepal tree or Sacred fig is a large deciduous tree with few or no aerial roots. It is common throughout India, often planted in the vicinity of the temples. An aqueous extract of the bark has an antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. It is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhoids and gastrohelcosis. A paste of the powdered bark is a good absorbent for inflammatory swellings. It is also good for burns. Leaves and tender shoots have purgative properties and are also recommended for wounds and skin diseases. Fruits are laxative and digestive. The dried fruit pulverized and taken in water cures asthma. Seeds are refrigerant and laxative. The latex is good for neuralgia, inflammations and haemorrhages (Warrier et al, 1995). Decoction of the bark if taken in honey subdues vatarakta (Nadkarni, 1954; Aiyer and Kolammal, 1957; Mooss, 1976; Kurup et al, 1979). The important preparations using the drug are Nalpamaradi taila, Saribadyasava, Candanasava, Karnasulantaka, Valiyamarma gulika etc (Sivarajan et al, 1994). branches bearing long petioled, ovate, cordate shiny leaves. Leaves are bright green, the apex produced into a linear-lanceolate tail about half as long as the main portion of the blade. The receptacles occurring in pairs and are axillary, depressed globose, smooth and purplish when ripe. The bark is grey or ash coloured with thin or membranous flakes and is often covered with crustose lichen patches. The outer bark is not of uniform thickness, the middle bark in sections appear as brownish or light reddish brown. The inner part consists of layers of light yellowish or orange brown granular tissue (Warrier et al, 1995).
Bark gives -sitosterol and its glucoside. Bark is hypoglycaemic. Stem bark is antiprotozoal, anthelmintic and antiviral. Bark is astringent, antigonorrheic, febrifuge, aphrodisiac and antidysenteric. Syconium, leaf and young shoot is purgative (Husain et al, 1992).
Agrotechnology: Ficus species can be cultivated in rocky areas, unused lands, or other wastelands of the farmyard. The plant is vegetatively propagated by stem cuttings. A few species are also seed propagated. Stem cuttings of pencil thickness taken from the branches are to be kept for rooting. Rooted cuttings are to be transplanted to prepared pits. No regular manuring is required. Irrigation is not a must as a plant is hardy. The plant is not attacked by any serious pests or diseases. Bark can be collected after 15 years. Ficus species generally has an economic life span of more than hundred years. Hence bark can be regularly collected from the tree. Root, bark, leaves, fruits and latex form the economic parts (Prasad et al,1995).