Research Note - Pankaj Oudhia
© 2003 Pankaj Oudhia - All Rights Reserved
Tendu is one of the most important non-wood forest produces of Chhattisgarh and every year, it provides good income to both Tendu leaves collectors and the government. The valuable leaves are used for wrapping bidis, popular smoke of Indians. Every year, the collection of Tendu leaves starts from first week of May and continue upto one to one and half months. The collectors collect the leaves directly from the trees and prepare a bundle of 50 leaves. These bundles are dried in sun light. They mix up the leaves during this process in order to ensure uniform drying. Before storing it in gunny bags, they sprinkle water of dried leaves and keep it as such upto 4-8 hours. This sprinkling makes the leaves soft. Tendu tree is common tree and present in all corners of Chhattisgarh. During collection of leaves, the collectors prefer fresh and disease free leaves. The traders at national and international levels are well aware of Tendu leaves collection operation in Chhattisgarh. They purchase it only for making Bidis. Bidi is a popular smoke specially among poor natives. In ancient literatures related to different systems of medicine in India, the harmful effects of Bidis are well mentioned. According to these literatures, the regular use of Bidis weakens the heart, make the heart yellow, increase cough, produces disturbances in throat and over smoking can cause the loss of vision, memory and vital force. The traditional healers of Chhattisgarh are also aware of these bad effects. They have developed many herbal Bidis and Cigarettes but failed to stop this bad habit. The fruits of Tendu are edible and one of the popular wild fruits. The natives use the fruits in different religious ceremonies and offer it to the God and Goddess. The half ripe and matured fruits are used for tanning. It contains 23 and15% tannin, respectively. Bark is also a good source of tannin (19%). Although Tendu is an important non-wood forest produce but its utilization and sell are limited to Bidis industries. The natives and traditional healers have traditional medicinal knowledge about different parts of Tendu but Tendu is not known as medicinal tree among national and international buyers. This is fact that Tendu leaves possess unrivalled qualities of flavour, colour, flexible and leathery texture, decay resistance and easy workability, which mark them admirably suitable for wrapping Bidis but these leaves also possess valuable medicinal properties. Unfortunately, not much work has been in Chhattisgarh to document the traditional medicinal knowledge about this herb. The village names based on this herb, like Tendu kona, Tendua, Tenduvan clearly indicates that this herb is present in Chhattisgarh since generations. During my ethnobotanical surveys in different parts of Chhattisgarh I got opportunities to visit these Tendu tree rich villages and collect the information on various aspects.
In present article, I am describing these uses. This is really shocking that very less traditional knowledge is present with the present generation and due to lack of documentation and poor interest of new generation in age old knowledge, the valuable knowledge is ending with the experts. At first, I am describing its botany and reported medicinal uses. According to reference literatures, Tendu is a small or moderate sized tree (in Chhattisgarh it is mostly occurs as stunted bush), usually not exceeding 12 meter height. It is deciduous, leafless for a short period in the hot season but in moist areas, it is never quite leafless. Bark dark grey or black, exfoliating in rectangular scales, branchlets and inflorescences clothed with soft grey or ferruginous tomentosum. Leaves opposite, coriaceous, elliptic or ovate, very variable in size and shape, tomentose on both sides when young, upper surfaces become glabrescent when older. Flowers are inconspicuous, small cymes, appear in April- May. Fruits globose, yellow, glabrous, 2-4 cm dia, 3-8 seeded. Seeds brown, oblong, flattened, wrinkled. The black heart wood of Tendu is used for carving, razor and knife handles, butts of billiard cues, brush backs, picture frames, combs, toys and cabinet work. Another close species of Tendu, D. exsculpta, locally known as Kendu, is also common in Chhattisgarh. According to Ayurveda, bark is good for dysentery whereas wood cures bilious-ness. Flowers and fruits are used in hiccup of children. Fruits are oleaginous, heating, astringent to bowels, cures ulcers, diseases of blood, urinary losses and stone in urinary tract. According to Unani system of medicine, flowers are aphrodisiac, and useful in lumbago, biliousness, blood diseases etc. The fruits are aphrodisiac and tonic.
The traditional healers of Chhattisgarh specialised in treatment of rheumatism, use the Belan (roller) prepared from Tendu pith. For collection of pith, 20-25 years old trees are selected. The Belan is rolled externally on affected parts after application of herbal oils. In general, the healers do not disclose that how Belan is prepared but it is not difficult for any herb lover to identify the Tendu pith. During my ethnobotanical surveys in different parts of Chhattisgarh, I have seen 65 Belans (rollers) with 65 healers. The healers prepare their own Belans by visiting nearby forest and after performing specific worship, collect the pith. The natives are not aware of this use. There is no unit engaged in commercial production of this Belan. The healers have deep faith in Belan and the patients also feel that without Belan, herbal oils are not enough to treat the problem completely. I have experienced the miracle effects of Belan. In reference literatures related to different systems of medicine in India nothing has been written on these Belans. I am proud to write that the traditional healers of Chhattisgarh are aware of its use and they are still using it in regular practice. I also feel that under supervision of the specialised traditional healers, the use of Belan should be promoted so that the world community can take advantage of this traditional knowledge. With the consent and guidance of these healers, the government can establish Belan production units in Tendu rich areas. This step will provide good employment opportunities to unemployed rural youths and also generate revenue for the government. The major part of revenue must be used in promotion of traditional healer forum.
These are my views and I am not sure who is going to help me in this great work. The Tendu trees raised under plantation schemes are not used by the healers. They have many reasons for it. The use of chemical inputs is one of these reasons. The commercial plantation is necessary to reduce the pressure on natural population of Tendu in Chhattisgarh. During my survey in Gandai region, I got information on use of Tendu bark as hair growth promoter. The method of use is very simple. The natives simply mix the bark in cow urine and prepare a solution. This solution is applied externally on hairs just before bath and wash the solution during bath. According to the natives, this solution is capable of removing lice and dandruff and also promote new hair growth. The traditional healers of Narharpur region, collect the rind of Tendu fruits and burn it. The patients suffering from respiratory troubles specially from asthma are advised to inhale the fumes. They also use it in form of herbal cigarette in combination with other herbs. This is really interesting to note that smoking of leaves causes respiratory troubles and the fruit rind of same herb cures the trouble. The herb collectors of Kondagaon region informed me that fresh fruit juice of Tendu fruit possess styptic properties and during forest visits when they yet injured, they use its juice to stop bleeding. Tendu seeds are used by these collectors in treatment of diarrhoea. The senior natives informed me that in early days the use of soft and new leaves as curry or potherb was popular in Chhattisgarh but now very few natives are aware of this use. They are unable to explain the medicinal benefits of this use. To dress the wound, healers use powdered bark (dried). But this use is also becoming obsolete as other promising alternatives are available. The senior natives also informed about the special oil prepared from Tendu seeds. According to them this oil is capable of curing skin troubles. As mentioned early, the fruits are edible. The natives consider this fruit as medicinal fruit and it is common belief among them that its regular use during season, develops resistance in body.