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Ashoka Tree: Uses, Benefits, Side effects and More By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

You would come across an Ashoka tree while walking in your building compound or on the streets. The Ashoka tree is considered sacred and legendary in India. In Sanskrit, Asoka or Ashoka means ‘without sorrow’. Ashoka is associated with several traditional beliefs and is sacred to the Hindu God of love, Kamadeva. It is believed that Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, was born under the Ashoka tree. The scientific name of the Ashoka tree is Saraca asoca, which belongs to the Caesalpinaceae family. Ashoka tree is native to India and is found all over India, especially in the Himalayas, Kerala, Bengal and the southern regions. The Ashoka tree has been used extensively in Ayurveda.1 Let us look at some of the health benefits of the Ashoka tree. 

Nutritional Value of Ashoka Tree: 

Ashoka plants may contain several bioactive compounds like saponins, steroids, proteins, carbohydrates, tannins, glycosides, flavonoids, and many more.1 Ashoka tree leaves and flowers may contain the following components: 


Part of the tree Nutritional Component Amount 
Leaf Alkaloid  0.064 g 
Flavonoid 0.005 g 
Saponin 0.597 g 
Flower Alkaloid 0.032 g 
Flavonoid 0.004 g 
Saponin 0.115 g 

Table 1: Nutritional Value of Ashoka tree leaf and flower2 

Did you know that in Sri Lanka, the traditional medicine called Asokaristha is used to tackle menstrual disorders like menorrhagia? The key component of this medicinal preparation is the bark of the Ashoka tree. However, additional studies have been conducted to understand the scientific basis behind its effectiveness.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Properties of Ashoka Tree: 

Several studies have shown that the Ashoka tree may have the following properties: 

  • Leaves and flower of the Ashoka tree may have antioxidant properties. 
  • It may be used to relieve pain. 
  • Ashoka tree may have properties to relieve fever. 
  • Ashoka tree may lower blood sugar levels. 
  • Ashoka tree may act against microbial infections. 
  • Compounds in the leaves and flowers of the Ashoka tree may reduce inflammation. 
  • Bioactive compounds in the Ashoka tree may reduce ulcers. 
  • Ashoka tree leaves and flowers may help to remove kidney stones. 
  • Parts of Ashoka tree may aid in expelling worms from the body.1 

Did you know that the bark of the Ashoka tree might aid various conditions like indigestion, dysentery, piles, irregular menstruation, and sores? And guess what? The dried flowers of the tree may be used in syphilis and haemorrhage!

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Potential Uses of Ashoka Tree for Overall Health 

Some of the potential Ashoka tree uses are: 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for cancer 

A study by Cibin et al. in 2012 showed that flavonoids from Ashoka tree flowers might reduce the number of tumours in skin cancer. This is because it may destabilise the free radicals (harmful molecules in the body) and reduce oxidative degradation of lipids (fats). Additionally, flavonoids from the Ashoka tree may reduce the enzymes like glutathione peroxide, catalase and ornithine decarboxylase, which may be responsible for causing skin cancer.3 However, these studies were conducted on animals; therefore, further studies on humans are required to check if the Ashoka tree can act against cancer. You must immediately consult your doctor if you suspect any symptoms of cancer. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for bacterial infections 

A study by Shirolkar et al. in 2012 showed that catechins in Ashoka tree bark and leaves might show antimicrobial activity. The catechins may inhibit the growth of bacteria. It may act against infections caused by bacteria like E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureas and many more.4 However, further studies are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial for bacterial infections. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you suspect any bacterial infection. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for heart diseases 

A study by Swamy et al. in 2013 showed that bioactive compounds like β-sitosterol and epicatechin in the Ashoka tree might reduce the risk of heart disease. Ashoka tree may reduce bad cholesterol levels by destabilising the body’s free radicals (harmful molecules) and reduce oxidative degradation of lipids (fats). High cholesterol levels in the body may increase the risk of heart diseases; therefore, antioxidant activity may contribute to protecting the heart.5 However, further large-scale studies on humans are required to investigate if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Therefore, you must immediately consult your doctor if you suspect any symptoms of heart disease. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for arthritis 

A study by Gupta et al. in 2014 showed that the flavonoids like quercetin and gallic acid in the Ashoka tree may reduce inflammation caused in arthritis. The inflammation may be reduced by inhibiting the release of inflammatory cytokines (molecules in the body responsible for causing inflammation).6  However, further studies are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial for arthritis. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you suspect arthritis instead of self-medicating. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for stomach ulcers 

A study by Maruthappan et al. in 2009 showed that flowers of the Ashoka tree might help to reduce stomach ulcers. The results suggested that the Ashoka tree may reduce lesions, inflammation and acid secretion to reduce stomach ulcers.7 However, these studies were conducted on animals; therefore, further large-scale studies on humans are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial for stomach ulcers. You must consult your doctor if you suspect ulcers. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for diabetes 

A study by Mishra et al. in 2014 showed that bioactive compounds like phytosterol, flavonoids and saponins in the Ashoka tree might be beneficial for type II diabetes. These bioactive compounds may increase the secretion of insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels). Additionally, it may reduce blood sugar levels.8 However, further large-scale studies on humans are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial for diabetes. You must consult your doctor if you have abnormal sugar levels. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for reducing pain 

A study by Verma et al. in 2010 showed that intake of leaf extracts of the Ashoka tree may help to relieve pain. The bioactive compounds like tannins, triterpenoids, saponin, flavonoids and glycosides in the Ashoka tree might help to reduce pain.9 However, further studies are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial in reducing pain. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you experience pain for a prolonged period. 

Potential use of Ashoka tree for depression 

A study by Gill et al. in 2017 showed that flavonoids and phenols in the Ashoka tree might help to reduce depression. These bioactive compounds may increase the antioxidants in the brain and reduce oxidative stress by destabilising harmful free radicals. This may reduce the symptoms of depression.10 However, further large-scale studies on humans are required to check if the Ashoka tree may be beneficial for depression. Therefore, you must consult a doctor if you suspect symptoms of depression. 

Though studies show the benefits of the Ashoka tree in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of the Ashoka tree on human health. 

It’s interesting to note that the Ashoka tree might be beneficial in detoxifying the body and naturally purifying the blood. This may help to keep skin allergies away. It’s amazing how this natural remedy offers multiple benefits for overall well-being!

Dr. Smita barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

How to Use Ashoka Tree? 

Various parts of the Ashoka tree can be consumed in the following ways:1 

  • The bark of the Ashoka tree can be powdered and consumed with honey. 
  • The decoction of the bark of the Ashoka tree can be consumed with milk. 
  • Ashoka tree can be consumed as ayurvedic medicines in the form of ‘Asokarishta’ and ‘Asokaghrita’. 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking Ashoka tree in large quantities or any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor. 

Did you know that the Ashoka tree is like a superhero for your skin? Its root, bark, and seed extracts may have incredible powers to tackle a wide range of skin issues! From fighting off acne and eczema to reducing freckles and even enhancing skin complexion, this tree with its various parts might be a true skin saviour.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Side Effects of Ashoka Tree 

Various natural preparations made from parts of the Ashoka tree has no specific side effects. However, if any reaction is noticed on using it, seek immediate medical attention. Consult your ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you; they will be able to identify the cause and treat it effectively. 

The Ashoka herb has special benefits for the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and uterine muscles. This might make it a helpful uterine tonic for addressing irregular menstrual cycles and avoiding miscarriages.

Dr. Ashok Pal, BAMS

Precautions to Take with Ashoka Tree 

The following precautions must be taken before consuming the Ashoka tree: 

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be careful before consuming any parts of the Ashoka tree. 11 
  • People with heart disease should practice caution before consuming any parts of the Ashoka tree.11 
  • Elderly people and children should be cautious before consuming any natural preparation made from any part of the Ashoka tree. 

It is advised to consult your doctor before consuming a preparation made from parts of the Ashoka tree if you have any pre-existing diseases. 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

There is not enough evidence on the interaction of the Ashoka tree with other drugs. Further studies on the interaction of the Ashoka tree are required. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you are on any other medication before consuming Ashoka tree. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What are the Ashoka tree medicinal uses? 

There are several medicinal uses of Ashoka tree. Ashoka tree may act against cancer. It may be used for bacterial infections, arthritis, ulcers and depression. Ashoka tree may protect the heart and help to reduce blood sugar levels. Additionally, the Ashoka tree may help to relieve pain.3-10 However, you must consult your doctor if you experience symptoms of the mentioned conditions instead of self-medicating. 

2) How do you consume different parts of the Ashoka tree? 

Various parts of the Ashoka tree can be consumed. The bark of the Ashoka tree can be powdered and consumed with honey. The decoction of the bark of the Ashoka tree can be consumed with milk. Ashoka tree can be consumed as ayurvedic medicines in the form of Asokarishta and Asokaghrita.1 However, you must consult a qualified doctor before using such preparations. 

3) What precautions should be taken before consuming any part of the Ashoka tree? 

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be careful before consuming any parts of the Ashoka tree. People with heart disease should also be careful before consuming any parts of the Ashoka tree.11 You should consult a doctor before consuming the leaf or flower of the Ashoka tree if you have any pre-existing diseases. 

4) What are the side effects of consuming a part of the Ashoka tree? 

Various natural preparations made from parts of the Ashoka tree have no specific side effects. However, if any reaction is noticed on using it, seek immediate medical attention. Consult your ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you; they will be able to identify the cause and treat it effectively. 

5) What is the nutritional value of the Ashoka tree?


Ashoka leaves and flowers may contain bioactive compounds like tannins, steroids, proteins, carbohydrates, saponins, glycosides, flavonoids and many more.1 

References: 

  1. Kulkarni RV. Saraca asoca (Ashoka): a review. World J. Pharmaceut. Res. 2018 Oct 10;7(19):536-44. Available from: https://wjpr.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/article_issue/1543628116.pdf 
  1. Athiralakshmy TR, Divyamol AS, Nisha P. Phytochemical screening of Saraca asoca and antimicrobial activity against bacterial species. Asian Journal of Plant Science and Research. 2016;6(2):30-6. Available from: https://www.imedpub.com/articles-pdfs/phytochemical-screening-of-saraca-asoca-and-antimicrobial-activity-against-bacterial-species.pdf 
  1. Cibin TR, Devi DG, Abraham A. Chemoprevention of two-stage skin cancer in vivo by Saraca asoca. Integrative cancer therapies. 2012 Sep;11(3):279-86. Available from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1534735411413264 
  1. Shirolkar A, Gahlaut A, Chhillar AK, Dabur R. Quantitative analysis of catechins in Saraca asoca and correlation with antimicrobial activity. Journal of pharmaceutical analysis. 2013 Dec 1;3(6):421-8. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095177913000117 
  1. Swamy AV, Patel UM, Koti BC, Gadad PC, Patel NL, Thippeswamy AH. Cardioprotective effect of Saraca indica against cyclophosphamide induced cardiotoxicity in rats: a biochemical, electrocardiographic and histopathological study. Indian journal of pharmacology. 2013 Jan;45(1):44. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3608294/ 
  1. Gupta M, Sasmal S, Mukherjee A. Therapeutic effects of acetone extract of saraca asoca seeds on rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis via attenuating inflammatory responses. International Scholarly Research Notices. 2014; 2014. Available from: https://downloads.hindawi.com/archive/2014/959687.pdf 
  1. Maruthappan V, Shree KS. Antiulcer activity of aqueous suspension of Saraca indica flower against gastric ulcers in albino rats. Journal of pharmacy research. 2010 Jan;3(1):17-20. Available from: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=e528861d147ab4300e903395ea82c1595fda211b 
  1. Mishra SB, Vijayakumar M. Anti-hyperglycemic and antioxidant effect of Saraca asoca (Roxb. De Wilde) flowers in Streptozotocin-Nicotinamide induced diabetic rats: A therapeutic study. J Bioanal Biomed S. 2014;12:2. Available from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1961/799042550ee7af39d4f11236d1ec3e89480f.pdf 
  1. Verma A, Jana GK, Chakraborty R, Sen S, Sachan S, Mishra A. Analgesic activity of various leaf extracts of Saraca indica Linn. Der Pharmacia Lettre. 2010;2(3):35. Available from: https://www.academia.edu/download/46571113/Analgesic_Activity_of_Various_Leaf_Extra20160617-10456-15q4b65.pdf 
  1. Gill M, Kinra M, Rai A, Chamallamudi MR, Kumar N. Evaluation of antidepressant activity of methanolic extract of Saraca asoca bark in a chronic unpredictable mild stress model. Neuroreport. 2018 Jan 17;29 (2):134-40. Available from: https://www.academia.edu/download/56422945/Antidepressant_activity_of_Saraca_asoca.pdf 
  1. TabletWise.com. Saraca indica – product [Internet]. tabletwise.net. TabletWise.com; 2020 [cited 2022Dec5]. Available from: https://www.tabletwise.net/medicine/saraca-indica 

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