A fable from the pre-Buddhist era says that a Burmese king who was affected by leprosy had exiled himself voluntarily into the forest. While he stayed in the jungle, the king decided to live in a hollow tree and cure himself by consuming the fruits and leaves of the tree Tarak-togenos kurzii, also known as the 'Kalaw' tree. It was much later that chaulmoogra was identified as the foundation of chaulmoogra oil, which is considered to be an ancient remedy for leprosy. According to the report of one medical practitioner, chaulmoogra oil was also used by the ancient Egyptians. In fact, the writings of the Sushrata Samhitas are one more early reference to the chaulmoogra oil which was made in India way back in 600 B.C. As discussed earlier here, chaulmoogra oil has been extensively used as a remedy for leprosy in China and India for long. The Americans also searched for chaulmoogra in the initial days of the 20th century and used this herbal oil to treat leprosy till they developed a synthesized medication for treating leprosy in 1941. Wandering botanist Joseph Francis Rock was the person responsible for bringing chaulmoogra to the United States after he returned from a mission in the hinterlands of the East and Far East, which was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, the effectiveness of chaulmoogra oil in curing leprosy has been challenged by many during the contemporary times. It may be noted that chaulmoogra oil is obtained by compressing the seeds of the Chaulmoogra trees. This oil is thought to possess antibacterial properties and has been used for ages for treating various health conditions, including eczema, skin inflammations, sprains, arthritis and bruises. Several researches undertaken with chaulmoogra oil have demonstrated that this magical oil has the potential to be an effectual remedy for leprosy. In addition, chaulmoogra oil may be included as an active ingredient in several lotions, creams, balms, ointment, massage oil, lip balm as well as balm formulations for wound care. As mentioned earlier, chaulmoogra is a magical herb that is an effectual remedy for one of the most horrifying diseases - leprosy. In effect, chaulmoogra oil is marketed in the form of topical oil for external use only. Chaulmoogra oil has rich contents of palmitic acid, hydnocarpic acid and oleic acid. The bark of the chaulmoogra tree encloses tannins that are useful for reducing fever. In addition, the oil extracted from the seeds of chaulmoogra tree is used to cure a number of skin complaints, including different chronic conditions and scaly eruptions. A liniment or ointment is prepared by blending equal parts of lime water and chaulmoogra oil and applied topically to alleviate rheumatic pains, cure leprous ulcerations, burnt heads as well as scruff on the head. The crushed seeds are applied in the form of a paste to heal skin diseases like eczema, scabies and ringworm, as well as to cure wounds.
Chaulmoogra is indigenous to the tropical climatic regions in Malaysia and it also has its origin in the Indian sub-continent.
People using chaulmoogra or its preparations ought to be aware of the side effects this herb may cause. For instance, one may experience stomach irritation following the administration of chaulmoogra oil in the form of an injection into the skin. In fact, taking subcutaneous injections may also result in accumulation of calcium. Here is a word of caution - women should not take this herb during pregnancy or while they are breast feeding. In addition, people enduring leprosy should never self inject chaulmoogra oil, but always take the help of a professional and expert practitioner.