The plant Albizia lebbeck belongs to genus Albizia and has its origin in New Guinea, Indomalaya and the northern regions of Australia. This plant is extensively cultivated in these regions and, over the years, it has been naturalized in several places having tropical as well as sub-tropical climatic conditions.
Albizia lebbeck is known by a number of English common names, such as lebbek tree, lebbeck, frywood, flea tree, koko and even woman's tongues tree. The last mentioned name is actually a play based on the rattling sound made by the dry seeds of the plant inside its pods. Albizia lebbeck is among the most common Albizia species found worldwide. Often, this plant is known as "siris", although the term may denote different locally known species of this genus.
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The Albizia lebbeck tree usually grows up to a height of anything between 18 meters and 30 meters and its trunk measures about 50 cm to 1 meter in diameter. It bears bi-pinnate leaves that are about 7.5 cm to 15 cm in length. The leaves have four pairs (8) of pinnae, while each pinna comprises 6 to 18 leaflets. Albizia lebbeck or "siris" is a deciduous tree and has multiple stems, especially when it is cultivated in the open. However, when this tree is grown in a plantation, it may produce a solitary, straight stem.
Albizia lebbeck trees produce compound, bi-pinnate leaves that are without hair (glabrous) or have some hair on their axis. This is a completely deciduous tree, but only for a brief period lasting about four to six weeks during the arid season. On the top surface of the stalks, the leaves have elevated glabrous glands, whose shape may vary from round to elliptic appearing between the leaflet pairs and near the base. The flowers of Albizia lebbeck appear in inflorescence which comprises large clusters of aromatic globular flower heads with peduncles. Each flower head measures about 5 cm to 7.5 cm in width. About 15 to 40 flower heads appear on stalks measuring anything between 5 cm and 10 cm in length. The corolla of Albizia lebbeck is glabrous and may have a white, cream or green hue. Each corolla measures about 5.5 mm to 9 mm in length and has copious pale green hued filaments measuring about 15 mm to 30 mm in length.
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The whole inflorescence appears "fluffy" and measures about 60 mm across. It has a yellowish-green color and is delightfully aromatic. The inflorescences give way to pods, whose color changes from pale straw to light brown when they become mature. The pods are narrow and oblong shaped measuring roughly 12 cm - 35 cm x 3 cm - 6 cm. They have a papery-leathery texture and puffed up due to the seeds. The pods appear in large numbers and do not open up on their own when mature (indehiscent). Each pod encloses anything between 3 to 12 seeds. The seeds of Albizia lebbeck are brown and their shape may vary - flat, elliptic or orbicular. Each seed measures about 8 mm - 10 mm x 6 mm - 7 mm and they are arranged crosswise.
The Albizia lebbeck tree is a member of the legume family that is found growing naturally in the tropical and sub-tropical regions across the globe. This tree is considered to be an invasive plant in a number of regions. In India, Albizia is used in Ayurvedic medications for treating allergies. Chemical analysis of albizia has shown that the active constituents of this plant include saponins, polyphenols and triterpenoids.
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Albizia lebbeck or siris possesses a number of therapeutic properties and has various applications. This plant is native to India and is found growing naturally across the country. Ayurveda, the ancient herbal medicine system of India, makes extensive use of this plant to prepare a variety of medications. This tree is non-toxic and contains alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, and tannins. All these compounds possess therapeutic properties. Moreover, siris is a nitrogen fixing plant. In Ayurvedic medicine, this herb is especially used for curing bites and stings by venomous animals like snakes.
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Powdered albizia attaches digested substances and aids the intestines to take up water. This herb also helps to purify the blood and is effective for treating respiratory problems caused by allergies. Albizia can also be administered in the form of a nasal infusion. It helps to check histamine discharges and lowers the T-lymphocyte activities, thereby helping to lessen the allergy antibody levels. Findings of several medical studies have shown that early sensitization to allergens helped to inhibit them. Use of albizia helps to lower the levels of antibodies induced by allergy. It was also found that the use of this herb did not have any effect on the adrenal glands.
People struggling with high levels of cholesterol will find this herb useful. It is often employed for lowering elevated blood cholesterol levels. In addition, albizia can also be employed to cure asthma and hay fever. Several studies undertaken to analyze the utility of this herb in curing asthma have shown that it is most effective when used at the onset of the health condition. However, the herb was not found to be as effective in curing older cases of asthma. Interestingly enough, use of albizia may result in male infertility.
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It has been found that albizia is also beneficial for the health of our skin. This herb helps to enhance the skin texture. In addition, it possesses the ability to lessen pain and inflammation, which are often associated with skin conditions like eczema and nettle rash. It is effective for treating insect bites. A paste prepared with albizia powder can be applied topically on the gums and to injuries. In Ayurveda, albizia is often used topically for treating eczema and inflammation of gums.
Albizia lebbeck also possesses astringent properties and in several cultures this herb is employed to treat eye problems, boils, cough, flu, problems related to the lungs, gingivitis, and pectoral problems. In addition, the herb is also used in the form of a tonic. Moreover, it is also employed for treating abdominal tumours. The bark of albizia tree is used for treating inflammation. It has been found that the herb also possesses psychoactive properties. Ancient people in Tamil Nadu culture in southern India had been traditionally using the lebbeck flowers to make crowns to welcome and felicitate victorious warriors.
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In various tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, people extensively grow Albizia lebbeck for its timber, while the leaves of the plant are used as fodder for livestock in the developing countries. Moreover, the bark of this tree is also used for making soap and in tanning.
In their native habitat, Albizia lebbeck trees are usually found growing naturally on the banks of rivers as well as in the forests, savannahs, and bushy places. In Australia, this is a dominant species, especially in the monsoon forests or semi-evergreen vine woodlands, which form its natural habitat receiving an average annual rainfall of about 1300 mm to 1500 mm. Such places usually have an extremely dry winter. Albizia lebbeck trees are also found growing naturally in semi-deciduous microphyll vine grooves found on the steep slopes on Australia's quart sandstone mountains. In such areas, these trees form a dense canopy with each tree growing to a height of anything between 18 meters and 30 meters.
On lateritic plateaux where the soil comprised minerals (mainly iron) deposited by water, trees of this species are found growing along with other species like Grevillea mimosoides and Hakea arborescens, especially in the layer dominated by shrubs just at the foot of low open forests and woodlands. In India, Albizia lebbeck trees are found growing in the tropical evergreen regions, semi-evergreen areas as well as deciduous forests, when the average annual rainfall varies between 600 mm and 2500 mm.
The standard dosage of medications prepared with Albizia lebbeck differ depending on the form in which the herb is used. The standard daily dosage of the extract obtained from the plant can be between 3 ml and 6 ml. On the other hand, the daily dosage of an infusion or decoction prepared with the herb varies from 3 grams to 6 grams.
Albizia lebbeck is known to be a non-toxic herb and there are no reports of any specific drug interaction following its use. Lebbeck is generally considered to be a safe herb. Although there are no contraindications related to the herb, using it in excessive dosage may prove to be toxic.
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