By Vishnupriya Hathwar
Trick or “Tree”t is a column dedicated to plants – the ones which give us not just oxygen but also clean water and medicines too.
This edition’s Trick or “Tree”t is dedicated to Vitex negundo (Sanskrit- Nirgundi, English- Chaste tree, Hindi -Sambhalu). This plant is seen with thin leaves and small purple to lavender flowers in between the Thespesia populnea or the Portia tree on the way from the gazebo to the viewing deck at the lake. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming look of this plant. Its “talents” are all hidden within.
Found in many parts of the world ranging from parts of Africa through Afghanistan, India to the whole of South East Asia and Japan, this plant is used in different ways. Vitex negundo is a rich cocktail of chemicals which possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory properties. Different parts of the plant have their own special properties and uses. For asthma and other bronchial diseases (bark), anti-rheumatic and diuretic (roots), anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic (leaves), helping digestion and reducing the risk of haemorrhages (flowers), to calming the nerves and cooling the head (fruits). In low doses, the chemicals are also known to aid in muscle relaxation, reducing labour pains.
This plant generally grows near water bodies, thus keeps the land and water clean from harmful parasites. At Puttenahalli lake they provide a clean environment around the locality while ensuring that the bees and butterflies don’t go hungry.