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Silk Cotton Tree (Salmalia malabarica) - Health Benefits, Medicinal Properties, Uses, Dosage

saussurea natural herbs

English: Silk Cotton Tree

Hindi: Semul

Sanskrit: Rakta-pushpa

The long silky seed hairs ('cotton') have been used as a source of kapok.


It is found all over India and other parts of tropical Asia up to an altitude of 1500 m.

Botanical description

A tall deciduous tree up to 40 m in height, with horizontally spread branches. The bark is ash coloured or silvery grey, leaves large and digitate with lanceolate leaflets. The flowers are bright crimson or yellow to orange, bunched at the tip of branches, the fruits oblong-ovoid capsules with many seeds.

Parts used

Seeds, leaves, fruit, roots, flowers and gum exuded by the stem bark (known as 'mocharus').

Traditional and modern use

The gum is used mainly in the treatment of acute dysentery, haemoptysis of pulmonary tuberculosis, influenza and menorrhagia. It acts as an astringent, diuretic, expectorant, tonic, emetic, stimulant, alterative, antiinflammatory, styptic and demulcent. It has also been used in bladder disorders, calculus, catarrh, cystitis, gonorrhoea and skin troubles such as sores and wounds. The seeds are used in chicken pox, gonorrhoea, chronic cystitis and catarrhal affections.

Ethnoveterinary usage

Applied to wounds and sores.

Major chemical constituents

The gum contains 8.9% mineral matter and a large proportion of catechol tannin, along with tannic, gallic and catechutannic acids.


The gum yielded DL-valine and indicamine.

Fatty acids

The seeds contain linoleic acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid.


Aucubin was isolated from the gum.

Medicinal and pharmacological activities

Oxytocic activity: An aqueous extract of seeds exhibits oxytocic action on rat uteri and guinea pig and rabbit uterine strips.

Cardiac activity: An aqueous extract of the seeds acts as a direct and indirect stimulant to the frog heart in situ.

Safety proftle

The maximum tolerated doses of the stem bark and flowers are 50 and 250 mg/kg body weight (IP in adult albino rats).


  • Root powder: 6-12 g
  • Infusion of flower: 12-20 g
  • Fruit powder: 1-3 g
  • Gum: 1-3 g

Ayurvedic properties

  • Rasa: Madhur (sweet), shita (cold)
  • Guna: Guru (heavy), ruksha (dry)
  • Veerya: Shita (cold)
  • Vipaka: Madhur (sweet)
  • Dosha: Pacifies pitta and vata