Bullet Wood

Mimusops elengi

Herbs gallery - Bullet Wood

Common names

  • Bakula
  • Bullet Wood
  • Spanish Cherry

The bullet wood (scientific name Mimusops elengi) is a tropical tree that grows in the forests of Southeast Asia, South Asia and northern Australia. This evergreen medium-sized species is important for its timber, as well as the edible fruit. It is also valuable in medicine and a popular garden tree due to the pleasant fragrance of the flowers and the generous shade that it provides. Thailand's Yala Province has chosen its flower to be the provincial flower.

This tropical tree can grow to a height of up to 16 m. The bullet wood bloom starts in the month of April and the fruits become ripe in June. Leaves have a length between 4 and 14 cm and a width of 2.5 to 6 cm and are dark green, with an oval shape and a glossy appearance. The thick bark is covered by cracks and striations, with a dark color that can be brown or grey. The bullet wood trunk has a diameter of about 1 m and the tree can reach also a height up to 18 m. Flowers have an attractive scent and are covered in hairs, with a cream color.

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The tiny flowers with a star shape have a distinctive structure in the center that resembles a crown. Leaves have waved margins and an oval shape, with a size of 5 to 16 cm in length and 3 to 7 cm in width. The bullet wood flowers have a strong fragrance that can be detected from distance and usually fall to the ground in the evening. Since the fragrance persists for several days, people often gather them from the ground and use them as religious offerings. The fragrance is even mentioned in Indian myths, where the tree is known as Vakula and said to produce flowers if touched by nectar from the mouths of beautiful women. The edible bullet wood fruits are usually consumed fresh.

Parts used

Bark, fruits, flowers, seeds.

Uses

Several parts of the bullet wood tree are known to be beneficial for health. An old use for bullet wood is as a primitive form of oral cleaning. For natural oral hygiene and more durable teeth, prepare a solution with bullet wood and water and rinse your mouth with it. This will also strengthen your gums and refresh your breath.

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The ancient Ayurvedic medical system of the sacred Vedic texts considered many parts of the plant, like the flowers, fruits, seeds and bark, to have cooling, anthelmintic, astringent, febrifuge and cooling properties. Its benefits for oral health were known even back then, when the plant was used to treat pyorrhea, bleeding gums, loose teeth and cavities.

Besides its use in oral hygiene, the sweet and acrid bark can cure biliousness and has stomachic, anthelmintic, astringent, cooling, cardiotonic and alexipharmic effects. The flowers are sweet and acrid as well, with an oily texture. They trigger flatulence, are astringent to the bowels, act as an expectorant and are useful in oral health. Burning them releases a smoke that cures asthma if inhaled and they can also treat biliousness, liver complaints, headache and nose problems. Seed are errhines so they can treat headache and nasal congestions, as well as restore loose teeth. The bullet wood root has a sweet and sour taste; it was known since ancient times as an aphrodisiac. It strengthens the gums if gargled, treats gonorrhea and has diuretic and astringent properties. Fruit pulp is also astringent even when sweet and has been used to fight dysentery. The bullet wood leaves have antipyretic effects and also work as painkillers.

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Bullet wood seeds can be ground into a powder that fixes loose teeth if rubbed on them. For a stronger effect even at an advanced age, prepare a root bark decoction and take it with milk for three mornings in a row. If the problem persists, regularly chewing the bark will eventually fix your teeth. A very effective natural remedy for spongy gums, stomatitis, halitosis, pharyngeal issues and anorexia includes bullet wood bark as an ingredient. It is also part of many teeth fixing formulas because of its astringent properties. The bark was mentioned as toothpowder in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine.

Most parts of the bullet wood tree are astringent and can be included as an ingredient in lotions used to treat sores or open wounds. The flowers and both ripe and unripe fruits can be used for this purpose. A native Bengal disease named ahwah is treated with an inhalable powder prepared from dried flowers. This disease causes high fever as well as generalized pain, especially in the shoulders and neck. The powder is known to clear the nose and reduce the pain associated with this disease. People in the southern part of India prepare a perfume and stimulant by distilling the bullet wood flowers.

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A popular cure for kids' constipation in Asia is the application of bruised bullet wood seeds in the anal area. The bark is widely used in Java for its tonic and astringent properties that make it effective against fever and as a general stimulant. Ancient Indian surgeon Sushruta mentioned the tree leaves as a venom antidote. The leaves juice is also used to revive people from coma or stupor, by inserting half a spoon of it in their nostrils.

Despite being highly irritant, bruised seeds are an effective natural way to relieve constipation in children. They are mashed into a paste and combined with old ghee, then inserted just like a suppository. Bark decoctions are an effective astringent gargle. A solvent extract from the leaves has many medicinal uses, it reduces internal pain when ingested and can treat ear pain and suppuration if dropped into the ears. Adults can take a hot aqueous root extract as an anti-pyretic. The same type of extract from the dried bark can be used externally and shares the astringent effects found in most other parts of the tree. If is also known to be stomachic, cardiotonic and anthelmintic, as well as a treatment for various teeth and gum problems.

Hot aqueous extracts of dried bullet wood flowers have many medicinal applications. It is a strong astringent for the bowels and also works as an anti-pyretic and diuretic. The extract is a natural counter against oleaginous blood diseases. Pregnant women can consume ripe fruits in order to accelerate childbirth; the fruits also double as an abortifacient. Hot aqueous extracts are also useful against menorrhagia. Loose teeth and other dental conditions can be cured with hot water extracts of either the seeds or the dried fruits.

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The bullet wood berries can be hairy or smooth and have a vivid orange or red color when they become ripe. The wood is very valuable due to the deep red color and the very strong and durable structure. There is a distinct difference between the heartwood and the sapwood. The heartwood is easy to shape and has an attractive finish.

Constituents

Quercetin and other flavonoids, as well as some saponins have been detected in the composition of bullet wood. A concentration of 1.7% quercitol was found in the ethanolic extract of the leaves, as well as glucose, hentriacontane and β-carotene. Other compounds present in the leaves are β-sitosterol- β-D-glucoside and D-mannitol.

The bullet wood bark is high in tannins, as well as wax, pigments, inorganic salts, caoutchouc and starch. Ethanolic extract of the bullet wood bark also has a content of saponin, while β-amyrin and bassic acid have been isolated after hydrolysis. Quercitol is also present in the flowers, which have also yielded a triterpene alcohol and ursolic acid. Several parts of the species have a content of glucose, including the testa, kernel and mesocarp.

Essential minerals found in bullet wood include phosphorous and calcium. However, alkaloids were not detected in the bark by phytochemical tests. Alkaloids have only been found in the flowers, except for pyrrolizidine types, but are not found in the seeds.

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