Cassia fistula L.
Purging cassia, Indian laburnum, Golden-shower
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Widely planted as a handsome ornamental tree, the plant is being considered as
a firewood source in Mexico. The reddish wood, hard and heavy (spec. grav.
0.9), strong and durable, is suited for cabinetwork, farm implements, inlay
work, posts, wheels, mortars, etc. The bark has been employed in tanning,
often in conjunction with avaram. The drug "cassia fistula", a mild laxative,
is obtained from the sweetish pulp around the seed.
According to Hartwell (1967-1971), the plants are used in folk remedies for
tumors of the abdomen, glands, liver, stomach, and throat, cancer, carcinomata,
and impostumes of the uterus. Reported to be aperient, astringent, laxative,
purgative, and vermifuge, Indian laburnum is a folk remedy for burns, cancer,
constipation, convulsions, delirium, diarrhea, dysuria, epilepsy, gravel,
hematuria, pimples, and glandular tumors (Duke and Wain, 1981). Ayurvedic
medicine recognizes the seed as antibilious, aperitif, carminative, and
laxative, the root for adenopathy, burning sensations, leprosy, skin diseases,
syphilis, and tubercular glands, the leaves for erysipelas, malaria,
rheumatism, and ulcers, the buds for biliousness, constipation, fever, leprosy,
and skin disease, the fruit for abdominal pain, constipation, fever, heart
disease, and leprosy. Yunani use the leaves for inflammation, the flowers for
a purgative, the fruit as antiinflammatory, antipyretic, abortifacient,
demulcent, purgative, refrigerant, good for chest complaints, eye ailments,
flu, heart and liver ailments, and rheumatism, though suspected of inducing
asthma. Seeds are considered emetic. Konkanese use the juice to alleviate
ringworm and blisters caused by the marking nut, a relative of poison ivy.
Leaf poultices are applied to the chilblains so common in the upper Sind; also
used in facial massage for brain afflictions, and applied exter- nally for
paralysis and rheumatism, also for gout. Rhodesians use the pulp for anthrax,
blood poisoning, blackwater fever, dysentery, and malaria. Gold Coast natives
use the pulp from around the seed as a "safe and useful purgative" (Kirtikar
and Basu, 1975). Throughout the Far East, the uncooked pulp of the pods is a
popular remedy for constipation, thought to be good for the kidneys "as those
who use it much remain free of kidney stones" [Heyne as cited in Perry (1980)].
A decoction of the root bark is recommended for cleansing wounds. In the West
Indies, the pulp and/or leaves are poulticed onto inflamed viscera, e.g. the
liver. The bark and leaves are used for skin diseases: flowers used for fever,
root as a diuretic, febrifuge; for gout and rheumatism.
According to Roskoski et al (1980), studying Mexican material, the seeds
contain 5.31% humidity, 4.55% ash, 24.00% crude protein, 4.43% crude fat, 6.68%
crude fiber, and 50.36% carbohydrates with a 81.17% in vitro digestibility.
The foliage contains 11.21% humidity, 6.39% ash, 15.88% crude protein, 6.65%
crude fat, 20.01% crude fiber, 39.86% carbohydrates with a 88.43% in vitro
digestibility. In comparison, the FAO (Gohl, 1981) reports the leaves to
contain, on a zero moisture basis, 17.6 g protein, 7.8% g fat, 66.8 g total
carbohydrate, 30.2 g fiber, 7.8 g ash, 3,270 mg Ca, and 330 mg P per 100 g.
Flowers contain ceryl alcohol, kaempferol, rhein, and a bianthroquinone
glycoside, which on hydrolysis, yields fistulin and rhamnose. Leaves contain
rhein, rheinglucoside, and sennosides A and B. The rootbark contains tannin,
phlobaphenes, and oxyanthraquinone substances, which probably consist of emodin
and chrysophanic acid; also contains (bark and heartwood) fistuacacidin,
barbaloin, and rhein. Stembark contains lupeol, beta-sitosterol, and
Deciduous tree 10 m tall, the bole to 5 m, to 1 m DBH. Leaves alternate,
pinnate, 30-40 cm long, with 4-8 pairs of ovate leaflets, 7.5-15 cm long, 2-5
cm broad, entire, the petiolules 2-6 mm long. Flowers yellow, in long
drooping terminal clusters (racemes); petals 5, yellow; sepals 5, green, the
individual flower stalks 3-6 cm long. Stamens 10, three with longer stalks.
Fruits pendulous, cylindrical, brown, septate, 25-50 cm long, 1.5-3 cm in
diameter, with 25-100 seeds. Seeds lenticular, light brown, lustrous.
Reported from the Hindustani Center of Diversity, Indian laburnum, or cvs
thereof, is reported to tolerate mild drought, poor soils, and slopes.
(2n = 24, 26, 28).
Native of tropical Asia, widely cultivated and naturalized in the tropics
including West Indies and continental tropical America.
Ranging from Tropical Thorn to Moist through Subtropical Thorn to Moist Forest
Life Zones, Indian laburnum is reported to tolerate precipitation of 4.8 to
27.2 dm (mean of 96 cases = 14.2), annual temperature of 18.0 to 28.5°C
(mean of 94 cases = 25.5), and pH of 5.5 to 8.7 (mean of 23 cases = 7.1).
Hortus III (1976) assigns it to Zone 10 in the United States.
Although soaking the seeds in sulfuric acid results in highest germination,
puncturing the seed coat proved to be the simplest, most effective method to
break dormancy in Mexican studies. Seedlings planted in plastic bags
containing 7 kg soil, survived transplant quite well. Cuttings did not take
readily in the Mexican studies. According to Nalawadi et al (1977), Cassia
fistula seeds were either soaked in concentrated H2SO4 for 5-20 minutes and
then soaked in water for 24 hours, or soaked in water alone for 24 hours.
Seeds soaked in water alone failed to germinate, but soaking in acid for 20
minutes resulted in 84% germination. Additional soaking in water did not
further improve germination.
Timber or firewood can be felled as needed. It is usually more practical to
harvest in the dry season, making it easier to suncure or airdry the timber or
bark. Besides other farm duties tend to be less pressing then, at least in the
garden, once irrigation is accomplished.
Among the tanners of Dindigul, Coimbatore, and other places in South India, the
bark, being favored by the tanners, was collected from the forests at the rate
of 200-500 MT/year in South India alone.
The plant is being considered for fuelwood, weighing slightly over800 kg/m.
Apparently this is not one of the nodulated species of Cassia. Certain
factors may militate against nodule formation. Root hairs are uncommon; when
present, they are sparse and thick walled. Simple phenolic compounds, tannins,
quinones and derivatives occur in the overlapping cortical root cells. It is
assumed that these cell layers present a physicochemical barrier because of
their role in thwarting nematode gall formation (Allen and Allen, 1981).
Agriculture Handbook #165 reports the tarspot, Phyllachora canafistulae,
in Maryland, near its northern limit. Very susceptible to attack by scale
insects. Browne (1968) lists: Fungi. Phelospora cassiae, Polyporus anebus,
Trametes incerta. Angiospermae, Cuscuta reflexa, Loranthus sp.
(?), Viscum articulatum. Coleoptera, Acmaeodera stictipennis,
Adoretus bimarginatus, Adoretus caliginosus, Adoretus lasiopygus, Anomala
bengalensis, Anomala polita, Anomala rugosa, Anomala tristis, Apogonia
villosella, Aristobia approximator, Bruchus pisorum, Caryedon serratus
Cephaloserica thomsoni, Colasposoma semicostatum, Holotrichia problematica,
Hypomeces squamosus, Idionycha excisa, Myllocerus pubescens, Schizonycha
ruficollis, Sophrops cotesi, Steraspis speciosa. Hemiptera,
Acudaleyrodes rachipora, Aonidiella orientalis, Euphalerus vittatus,
Eurybachys tomentosa, Otionotus oneratus, Oxyrhachis formidabilis, Oxyrhachis
mangiferana, Oxyrhachis tarandus, Parlatoreopsis chinensis, Pinnaspis
aspidistrae, Pinnaspis buxi. Lepidoptera, Anarsia idioptila, Archips
micaceanus, Buzura suppressaria, Catopsilia crocale, Catopsilia florella,
Catopsilia pomona, Catopsilia pyranthe, Cleora acaciaria, Cryptophlebia
illepida, Cusiala raptaria, Dasychira mendosa, Diaphania conclusalis, Ericeia
inangulata, Euproctis scintillans, Fodina stola, Hypanartia blanda, H. hecabe,
Hyposidra talaca, Kotochalia doubledaii, Nephopteryx rhodobasalis, Omiodes
surrectalis, Phaleri raya, Phalera sangana, Pilocrocis milvinalis, Selepa
discigera, Semiothisa emersaria, Spatularia mimosae, Stauropus alternus,
Stegasta variana, Suana concolor, Thosea cana, Thylacoptila paurosema,
Trachylepidia fruticassiella, Xyleutes persona, Zeuzera coffeae.
Orthoptera, Schistocera gregaria.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Agriculture Handbook 165. 1960. Index of plant diseases in the United States.
Allen, O.N. and Allen, E.K. 1981. The Leguminosae. The University of Wisconsin
Press. 812 p.
Browne, F.G. 1968. Pests and diseases of forest plantations trees. Clarendon
Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
Gohl, B. 1981. Tropical feeds. Feed information summaries and nutritive values.
FAO Animal Production and Health Series 12. FAO, Rome.
Hartwell, J.L. 1967-1971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 30-34.
Hortus Third. 1976. A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United
States and Canada. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York.
Kirtikar, K.R. and Basu, B.D. 1975. Indian medicinal plants. 4 vols. 2nd ed.
Jayyed Press, New Delhi.
Nalawadi, U.G., Bhandary, K.R., and Chandrashekar, T. 1977. Germination of
Cassia fistula (Linn.) seeds could be improved by treatment with
sulphuric acid for 20 Minutes. Current Research. Hort. Abstr. 46. 3645:1975. 4:
Perry, L.M. 1980. Medicinal plants of east and southeast Asia. MIT Press,
Roskoski, J.P., Gonzalez, G.C., Dias, M.I.F., Tejeda, E.P., and Vargas-Mena y
Amezcua. 1980. Woody tropical legumes: potential sources of forage, firewood,
and soil enrichment. p. 135-155. In: SERI: Tree crops for energy co-production
on farms. SERI/CP-622-1086. USGPO. Washington.
Last update July 3, 1996