Shami Tree (Banni Tree, Prosopis cineraria) Benefits, Research, Remedies, Side Effects

Shami Tree, also called Banni Mara, Khejri tree, is immensely known for its spiritual uses. In Dasara, the 10 day long Hindu festival, on the 10th day, the leaves of this are distributed among one another to share mutual love and respect and to forget past bitterness. No wonder the tree has been given synonyms such as Lakshmi, Shiva, Seeta etc.. suggesting to its auspiciousness. 

Introduction

Banni tree - Khejri tree

Shami  / Banni tree is appreciated as an auspicious plant as per Hindu mythology. Its leaves and flowers are used for worshiping Lord Shiva. Bark is the main usable part of this plant. The plant is cold in potency and heavy and dry in nature. It is used to pacify both Kapha and Pitta dosha.. 

This medium sized tree is found in dry areas. Gujarat and Rajasthan is the main habitat of this plant. The people of Rajasthan and Punjab use its legumes as vegetables; in some part of Maharashtra and Karnataka its fruits are used to feed to the cattle.

Bark is the main usable part of this plant. The plant is cold in potency and heavy and dry in nature. It is used to pacify both Kapha and Pitta dosha.

The plant is known as Sponge tree in English
Botanical name is Prosopis cineraria / prosopis specigera. .
Family- Fabaceae (Simbi kula)

Home Remedies

This section is written by Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD

Mouth ulcers

1. Banni tree Bark decoction for mouth gargling in mouth ulcers:
The bark is collected, cut into pieces. Concentrated decoction is made and this is used for gargling / oral rinsing / swishing. 3-4 days regular gargling pacifies the mouth ulcers.
General method of decoction preparation is –
1 tablespoon (10 grams) of coarse powder of the herb is added with 2 cups of water. Boiled in open air till the total content is reduced to 1 cup. This is filtered and used.

Joint pain, diarrhoea

2. Hot infusion in joint pain and dysentery, diarrhea:
The coarse powder of the bark is taken and 4 parts hot water is added and kept for a while. When it is lukewarm it is filtered and administered in a dose of 20 – 30 ml once or twice a day, before food. This can be taken twice daily. This pacifies joint pain and chronic dysentery.

Itching skin diseases

3. Leaf decoction for itching skin diseases:
Fresh leaves are collected and decoction is made. After taking the bath this decoction is poured over the lesions which are oozing or itching. In dandruff and itching of the scalp also this is beneficial.

Facial hair removal

4. Fruit paste for facial hair removal:
The fruits are crushed well and made into fine paste. This is applied over the area where extra hair growth is found. Regular application acts as facial hair removal, in natural way.

Scorpion bite

5. Banni tree bark paste for scorpion bite:
The fine paste of the bark is applied to the area of the scorpion bite. This pacifies burning and swelling of the bitten area.

Bleeding disorders

6. Cold infusion of the bark in bleeding disorders:
The bark in fresh or dry form is taken and soaked in 6 parts cold water for 1-2 hours. Later it is macerated well and filtered. This is administered internally in various bleeding disorders including haematuria, haemorrhoids and bleeding gum complaints, in a dose of 20-30 ml once or twice a day after food.

Diarrhoea

7. Fresh fruit soup for diarrhea:
The fresh unripened fruits are used as vegetables.The soup is prepared out of the fruits and advised to take. This is practiced abundantly in Gujarat and Rajasthan. This is effective to control the bowel habit.

Bleeding disorders, wounds

8. Bark decoction for bleeding disorders and wounds:
The stem bark is made into decoction and used for washing the wounds. Thus helps to reduce the bleeding as well as to heal the wounds.

Repeated abortion

9. Flower fine paste with sugar candy for repeated abortion:
The Shami plant flowers are taken and fine paste is made. This is mixed with sugar and given  daily to the woman who is repeatedly aborted.

Burning sensation of eyes, face

10. Leaf – cold infusion in burning of the eyes and face:
The chopped leaves are soaked in water and macerated after 30 minutes. This is filtered and used to apply over the closed eyes and skin surface (face).It reduces the burning sensation of the eyes, skin and face.

The holy plant Shami is planted in the premises of the temples, Navagraha vanas and sacred places. Even though it is a common plant in few of the dry areas it has several significant benefits in the treatment of skin diseases and chronic rheumatic complaints. People of Uttar Pradesh, India use its decoction to take bath in the beginning of the summer season and they believe that it prevents several possible disorders of the forthcoming season.
Click to consult Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD(Ayu), PhD

Shami tree - prosopis cineraria

Chemical constituents

Prosopis cineraria chemical Constituents
Flowers- Patulitrin, Patuletin, prosogerins A,B. Paluritin a flavone glycoside patulitrin prosogerins A, B and C Glucoside patulitrin.
Seeds- Specigerin, fixed oil(4.5%), Prosogerine. Specigerin, fixed oil 4.5% posogerine prosapanal G, Flavone prosogerin C.
The tree contains – 5-hydroxytryptamine, apigenin, isorhamnetin-3-diglucoside, l- arabinose, quercetin, tannin and tryptamine.
Wood ash – 31% of soluble potassium salts, used as a source of potash.

Stem – Ursolic acid, glycosides of campestral, stigmasterol, B- Sitosterol

Properties, part used, dosage

Shami – medicinal properties:
Guna (qualities) – Laghu – light to digest, Rooksha – Dryness
Rasa (taste) – Kashaya, Madhura – sweet
Vipaka- Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion
Veerya -Sheeta – Coolant (bark)
Fruit-ushna – hot

Effect on Tridosha – Balances Kapha and Pitta.
Part used- Bark, fruit
Dosage-
Decoction of Khejri tree bark: 50-100 ml;
Khejri fruit powder 3-6 g, in divided doses per day.

Sanskrit verse

Shami tree medicinal uses

Uses, indications

Prosopis cineraria medicinal uses:
Shami tree Bark –
Katu – Pungent
Tikta – bitter
Anushna – not very hot
Kashaya – Astringent
Rochani – improves taste, useful in anorexia
Laghu – light to digest

Indicated in:
Kapha – balances Kapha, useful in productive cough, asthma, bronchitis, chest congestion.
Kushta – skin diseases
Arsha – haemorrhoids
Shwasa – asthma and chronic respiratory disorders
Kasa – cough, cold
Bhrama – Delusion, Dizziness
Krumi – worm infestation
Raktapitta –Bleeding disorders such as nasal bleeding, heavy periods, etc
Atisara – diarrhoea, dysentery, Irritable Bowel syndrome with diarrhea

Banni tree fruits medicinal uses:
Swadu – sweet taste
Guru – heavy to digest
Rooksha – dry
Ushna – hot
Medhya – improves intelligence
Keshaghna – bad for hair
Pittala – Increases Pitta Dosha

As per Kaiyadeva Nighantu, the twigs of Shami tree should not be used as toothbrush. (read related: Ayurvedic way of tooth brushing and tongue scraping)

As per Dhanvantari Nighantu, Shami is one among five tree group called Panchabhringa – Devadali, Shami, Bhrunga, Nirgundi, Sanaka. These five herbs are used for bathing after the person has been cured of his disease. The hot water for bathing is prepared with the bark of these herbs. It acts as a measure of disinfection and it promotes strength.

Folklore uses

  • Flowers are triturated and mixed with sugar candy and are given to a pregnant woman to avoid unexpected abortion.
  • The bark is used in the central provinces as a remedy for rheumatism (watt)
  • The pod is used for making vegetable curry in Bharwad and Punjab.
  • In western India, the bark of Shami is used in treating osteoarthritis.

Eye disorders:
Conch shell (Shankha) rubbed with breast milk in a copper vessel and fumigated with ghee smeared shami leaves is applied to the eye. It relieves severe irritation and pain. A. Hr. Uttaratantra 16.35.

Fruit of udumbara rubbed with breast milk in an iron vessel and fumigated with ghee smeared sami leaves removes burning, pain, redness, lacrymation, and irritation. ( A. Hr. Uttaratantra 16.36)

Pediatric Disorders – The child should be bathed at night with the decoction of bark and leaves of Shami, Ksheeravruksha, Araluka, Bilva, Kapittha. A. Hr. U. 59.

Others – Siddha Name – Vanni Used part – Bark, Fruit, leaf Uses – Giddiness, diarrhea, dysentery, piles, worm infestation, hemorrhage, cough, dyspnoea, skin diseases.

  • It is used for the treatment of  vertigo and as a brain tonic.
  • A paste of bark is applied to scorpion sting.
  • Ash of fruit is applied locally to remove hairs.
  • Flowers are mixed with sugar and administered to prevent miscarriage.
  • Pods are eaten green, dried or after boiling and are considered to possess astringent, demulcent, and pectoral properties.
  • Pods are used as fodder for livestock
  • Pulp before ripened is rich in sweetish farinaceous pulp, which is consumed as food especially in times of scarcity.
  • During famine bark is used as food.
  • Bark is ground into flour and made into cakes.
  • Bark as well as the galls formed on the leaves are used for tanning.
  • Leaves are much used for fodder.
  • Leaves are useful for green manuring.

Pharmacology

The bark possesses antihyperglycemic, and antioxidative potential, hence useful for treating diabetes.
Leaves possess antihyperlipidemic activity. Hence useful in controlling blood lipid levels. It is useful for lowering LDL and increasing HDL.
Dried pods are known to possess antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi.
The powdered plant material possesses analgesic, anti-depressant, muscle relaxant and anti-pyretic effect.
Methanolic extract of dried stem bark possess nootropic, anticonvulsant activity(Source)

Side effects

Prosopis cineraria side effects:
Bark should not be used in people with constipation.
People undergoing hair growth treatment should avoid fruits.
Fruit is contraindicated in high Pitta disorders and Pitta body type persons (with excess burning sensation, prone to gastritis, with migraine etc).
Seek medical guidance for its use during pregnancy. It is relatively safe for use in children and lactating mothers.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Spiritual significance

Use in auspicious rituals:
The Khejri leaves are soaked in water and take bath on Diwali festival day. This is considered as auspicious and sin-cleansing. The tree is prayed with the following verse –

Shami Shamayate papam shami lokhitkantaka
Dharinyarjunbananam Ramasya priyavadini |
Karishmanyatraya yathakal such mya
Tatra nirvighanktri twam bhav Sree Rampujite ||

Meaning: The Shami tree cleanses sins, helps to defeat enemies. It is Lord Rama’s favourite tree and in such a tree Pandavas hide their arms. O Shami, Lord Rama has worshipped you. I now embark upon my journey to victory. May you make it pleasant and free from obstacles! (Source)

Other uses:
Wood is a good source for fuel.
Leaves are consumed by livestock
Tree is well-suited for an agro forestry setting, because it has a single-layered canopy, it is a nitrogen fixer (thus enriching the soil), and its deep roots avoid competition for water with crops.
The dried pods locally called Kho-Kha are eaten. Dried pods also form rich animal feed, which is liked by all livestock. Green pods also form rich animal feed, which is prepared by drying the young boiled pods. Source

History of the herb

In Kritayuga, all Devatas approached Varuna  and requested him to be the lord of Soma – water element.
According to the rites laid down in the scriptures, Varuna took residence in the ocean and began to protect seas, lakes, rivers and other receptacles of water and all aquatic creatures. Hence, the water in those rivers, oceans etc became a place of worship.
Baladeva, the slayer of pralamba, after having bathed in the rivers; the abode of varuna proceeded to Agni tirtha which was the spot where agni, had entered ghee, frightened at the curse of rishi bhrigu, had conceded himself within the Shami wood. At the disappearance of Agni, the Gods who went to Brahma reported their problem of absence of fire. Vasava or Vrihaspati at their head searched for the missing Agni and found him hiding in the shami wood. Since then because of bhrigu’s curse, Agni became an eater of everything, Balarama after bathing at the agni thirtha, the spot where agni had entered the shami wood proceeded to brahmayoni, where brahma had exercised his functions of creation. In Mahabharat the Pandavas while going for pilgrimage for one year had kept these weapons on this Shami tree.

In ancient times kings sometimes performed sacrifices and for that altars were constructed at short distances from one another. The distance was measured by hurling a heavy piece of shami wood and an altar. The site of the next altar was fixed at the spot where the wood of shami had fallen.

Shami is considered as an incarnation of devi, the goddess, since shami, has fire in it and rudra is an embodiment of fire, shiva or rudra is considered as yupa post of shami wood (an evil spirit is believed to reside in it but is evil only if a bed is made or repaired with its wood. Such a bed cannot be slept in.

  • Shami is mentioned in works of  Kalidasa, Banabhatta and Varahamihira.
  • It is not mentioned in Rugveda but found profusely in vedic samhitas, brahmanas and kalpasutras.
  • The sheopards believe this tree as the place for gods residence hence they do not cut this tree.
  • During dussera people perform prayer with respect to this tree.

Research

Nutraceutical Properties
Pods, called “Sangri” are considered as dry fruit of desert and are one of the main ingredients of Rajasthani dishes – The Panchkuta.
In the present study, Sangri pods were studied for various phytochemicals like alkaloids, saponins, tannins, flavonoids, flavanols and total phenolics. As this plant is found in water stress (or deficient area) so the antioxidant potential of pods has also been investigated. Acetone and methanol extracts of Sangri pods are the most potent bio active extracts. Nutritional analysis shows it as a good source of proteins and minerals like calcium, sodium and potassium. This study demonstrates that P. cineraria pods may be employed as nutraceutical food with rich nutrition, disease prevention and health promoting effects.

Anti oxidant potential
Antioxidant activity of different solvent fractions obtained from the leaves of Prosopis cineraria was evaluated. Scavenging ability of the extracts for radicals like DPPH, ABTS, hydroxyl, superoxide, nitric oxide and hydrogen peroxide were performed to determine the potential of the extracts. All six fractions showed scavenging activity. The ethyl acetate and methanolic extracts showed to have maximum scavenging activity.

Increase in crop yield: It has been shown that prosopis ceneraria helps to increase the crop yield (singh et al 1969) where acacia nilotica ssp indica reduces yield levels.

Vernacular names

Names in different languages:
English name – Indian Mesoquite, shamee, sponge tree.
Hindi name-Chikur, Rhejri, Chonkar, Sami, Shami, Chinkur, chokara, chonkara, chounkar, chourkara, sepada, taant, safet kikar, shame, jhand
kannada name – Banni mara, Banni ele, Shamee patre, Perumbe, Perunje, Vunne, vanni Kashanti
Telugu name-Jammi chettu
Marathi name – Saunder, savandad, shamee, shambaree
Bengali name – Shami,
Punjabi name – Jund, Bishnois, Janti
Gujarati name – Samadi, Khijadi
Tamil name – Vanni, Jambu, kalisam, kulisam, parambai, perabe, perumbe, Sami, seemaimullu, sivaa, thamali,
Malayalam name – Parampu, Marampu, Thawi Vanni,
Telugu name – Jammi chettu, Jammi, Jambi, priyadarshini, shamichetta
Arabic name – Ghaf
Rajastani name – Khejri, Rhejri, Loong
Sindh name – Kandi
Burmese name – Gandasein
Konkani name – Konkani – Shami, shemi, xembi
Marvadi name – Khejdo, jaaj, jaati

Sanskrit synonyms

Shami – Shamayati Rogan Iti, Shamu Upashame – pacifies diseases.
Saktuphala – Saktuvat Phalavasyaha Iti – its fruit tastes like flour
Agnigarbha – SHami wood is useful as fuel.
Vai. Sha. Dru. Shamipura Shamikashta Sangharshaad Agnispaghate sma |
kaalidaso api shameemiva abhyantara leenapaavakam iti Raghuvamshe ||

Lakshmi, Shiva, Seeta, Mangalya, Shankari,  Shivaphala, Pavitrapatra, Suphali, Para- Auspicious tree
Papanashini – Cleanses out sins
Tunga – tall tree
Keshamathani, Keshahrut Phala – Fruit increases Pitta, hence not good for hairs. It acts as a good depilator.
Shankuphala, Ishani, Shameera,  Kacharipuphala.

Classical categorization

Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Oshadhi Varga,
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Amradi Varga, Panchabhringa..
Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Vatadi Varga
Raja Nighantu – Shalmalyadi Varga

Taxonomy

Taxonomic Identification (Family Features)
Taxonomic Hierarchy for: Prosopis Cineraria (L.) druce
Kingdom             –        Plantae- plants
Sub kingdom     –        Tracheobionta-Vascular plants
Super division   –        Spermatophyta-Seed plants
Division              –        Magnoliophyta-flowering plants
Class                    –        Magnoliopsida-dicotyledons
Subclass             –        Rosidae
Order                  –        Fabales
Family                –        Fabaceae-Pea family
Genus                 –        Prospis L.-Mesquite
Species               –        Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce-Jand

Habitat, varieties

Habitat
Found in desert areas of Afghanistan, Iran, India, Oman, Pakistan, UAE.

Varieties
The following drugs also have the synonyms shami.
Acacia polyaconta
Acacia suna
Mimosa suma

The above herbs are more similar to khadira i.e. acacia suma also the drug mimosa suma has all the properties similar to that of khadira and hence is taken as a substitute.

Raja Nighantu, mentioned a type of shami that is called as shanta and has syn like shanta, shuba bhadra, aparajita and vijaya, and has the same guna’s as that of prosopis cineraria. This can be taken to be synonymous.

Bhava prakash nigantu mentions a small variety of shami called as samira and is botanically named as prosopis stephaniana. This occurs in Punjab and Gujarat in India.

Systemic action

External – Bark has Anti poisonous action (In animal poisoning) . Fruit is not good for hair (kesa nasana) To reduce hair growth it can be used .
Nervous system – Coolant, and promotes intellect.

Digestive System – Absorbent and Anti helminthic in nature. Indicated in Diarrhea, Dysentery and in Helminthiasis.
Circulatory System – indicated in bleeding disorders.
Respiratory system –Pacifies kapha dosha. Indicated in cough and breathing disorders.
Skin – Indicated in skin disorders

12 comments on “Shami Tree (Banni Tree, Prosopis cineraria) Benefits, Research, Remedies, Side Effects

  • chris

    02/11/2015 - 8:11 pm

    hi doc, if you have acne, is eating porridge (oatmeal with brown sugar) causing additional harm?
    Thanks.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      02/11/2015 - 10:35 pm

      No. you can have it.

      Reply to comment
      • Chris

        03/11/2015 - 8:45 pm

        Is taking one capsul of neem in the Morning, a teaspoon of each guduchi-Churna and manjista churna before lunch and Dinner (so combined 4 times) and one capsule of gotu-kola/turmeric/astragalus complex too much for acne and causing harm?
        Thanks a lot.

        Reply to comment
  • Pruthvi

    19/08/2017 - 6:12 pm

    Sir..is it useful in removing facial hairs.?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      21/08/2017 - 6:07 pm

      Its fruits are burnt in open air. Ash is collected. This is rubbed on facial hair for removal. This is done twice a week for 2 – 3 months.

      Reply to comment
  • Renu

    09/06/2018 - 1:53 pm

    Does this plant close it’s leaves at night??

    Reply to comment
  • rupali sharma

    02/09/2018 - 3:58 pm

    Sir dry ash is applied on facial hairs or we have to make paste with something

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      02/09/2018 - 4:06 pm

      It is rubbed as it is. For this, the ash particles should be very fine.

      Reply to comment
  • Hari

    20/10/2018 - 2:21 pm

    Sir have a question about chyavanaprash.. Please let me know where I can ask.. I mean which forum

    Reply to comment
  • neetu

    27/07/2019 - 8:37 pm

    sir dry ash is rubbed on hairy skin or wet ash and how much time rubbing????

    Reply to comment

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