The Black myrobalan (Terminalia chebula Retz.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Combretaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
T. chebula species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Buceras chebula (Retz.) Lyons;
– Combretum argyrophyllum K.Schum.;
– Myrobalanifera citrina Houtt.;
– Myrobalanus chebula (Retz.) Gaertn.;
– Myrobalanus gangetica Kostel.;
– Myrobalanus tomentella Kuntze
– Terminalia acutae Walp.;
– Terminalia argyrophylla King & Prain
– Terminalia aruta Buch.-Ham.;
– Terminalia aruta Buch.-Ham. ex G.Don;
– Terminalia chebula var. chebula;
– Terminalia gangetica Roxb.;
– Terminalia glandulipetiolata De Wild.;
– Terminalia glandulipetiolata DeWild.;
– Terminalia parviflora Thwaites
– Terminalia reticulata Roth.
– Terminalia tomentella Kurz;
– Terminalia zeylanica Van Heurck & Müll. Arg..
Within this species, the following varieties are recognized:
– Terminalia chebula var. chebula – characterized by hairless leaves and shoots, or hairy only when very young;
– Terminalia chebula var. tomentella – with silvery to orange hairy leaves and shoots.
The term Terminalia comes from terminalis terminal: in reference to the leaves grouped at the ends of the branches.
The specific epithet chebula comes from the Pashto language, spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pashto halīla-ī-kābulī, from Kabul, a city in Afghanistan.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Terminalia chebula is a plant native to southern Asia, in an area between India and Nepal from east to south-west China (Yunnan) and south to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The plant is found throughout South and Southeast Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand. In China, it is native to western Yunnan and grown in Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi (Nanning) and Taiwan (Nantou).
Its habitat includes dry slopes up to 900 m of altitude; in India, it is found in the sub-Himalayan region from Ravi eastwards to West Bengal and Assam, rising to an altitude of 1,500 m and even further in the Himalayas. This tree is wild in the forests of northern India, central provinces and Bengal, common in Madras, Mysore and in the southern part of the Bombay presidency.
Terminalia chebula is a medium-large deciduous tree that grows up to 30 m in height.
The trunk grows up to 1m in diameter.
The leaves are arranged alternating with opposite sub, oval, 7-8 cm long and 4.5-10 cm broad, with a 1-3 cm petiole; they have a sharp tip, corded at the base, with entire margins, hairless at the top with a yellowish pubescence at the bottom.
The flowers are dull white to yellow in color and are monoecious with a strong, unpleasant odor. They are carried in terminal tips or short panicles.
The fruits are smooth ellipsoid to ovoid drupes, yellow to brown-orange in color, with a single angled stone. They are 2 – 4.5 cm long and 1.2 – 2.5 cm wide, with five longitudinal ridges.
Black myrobalan is an evergreen tree that is particularly appreciated as an excellent source of tannins, although it also provides good quality wood, it also has a wide range of medicinal and edible uses. It is also often cultivated commercially for the tannin content of the fruits and also for its medicinal properties, especially in India.
As for the cultivation technique, it is a plant that grows in nature in tropical and subtropical areas up to an altitude of 1,500 meters, exceptionally up to 2,000 meters, where the average maximum and minimum annual temperatures, preferably, are between 22 and 35 ° C, although it can tolerate between 5 and 47 ° C.
The plants are quite tolerant to frost, but are killed by temperatures below -5 ° C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall in the range of 1,000 – 1,700 mm, although it can tolerate from 750 – 3,300 mm.
In the plant, it prefers a sunny position, but younger plants tolerate a little shade.
From a pedological point of view it grows in any moderately fertile and well-drained sandy to clayey soil but prefers a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, although it tolerates between 5 and 7.5.
Established plants are quite drought tolerant and the growth rate of seedlings and young trees is quite slow.
This plant grows well after a fire and also after coppice, producing new shoots 2 – 3 meters long after 5 years.
As for the regeneration of natural strains from seed, it is generally poor, perhaps because people harvest the fruit, but also because of predation by animals.
From trees that grow spontaneously, yields of up to 10 kg of fruit per tree per year can be obtained.
As far as the propagation technique is concerned, we proceed by collecting the fallen fruits which are first collected and carefully dried. The hardened pulp is then removed. The best germination results are obtained with the fermentation of the pits, but also the cutting of the broad end of the pit without damaging the embryo, followed by soaking in cold water for 36 hours gives good results.
The seed is usually sown in seedbeds or in containers, direct sowing is not recommended, both due to the risk of predation and because the seeds germinate badly.
The seed germination rate is up to 50%.
Seedlings reach 10 – 20 cm by the end of the first season and 25 – 50 cm by the end of the second season.
Propagation by cuttings can also be used.
Customs and Traditions –
Terminalia chebula is known in India as “Harad” in Hindi and Urdu, “Kadukkai” in Tamil, “Hirada” in Marathi, “Hilikha” in Assamese and “Horitoky” in Bengali.
This species was described by the Swedish naturalist Anders Jahan Retzius.
This tree produces small, ribbed, nut-like fruits that are harvested while still green and then pickled, boiled with some sugar added in their own syrup or used in preserves. The seed of the fruit, which has an elliptical shape, is an abrasive seed wrapped in a fleshy and firm pulp. Seven types of fruit are recognized (vijaya, rohini, putana, amrita, abhaya, jivanti and chetaki), based on the region in which it is harvested, as well as its color and shape. In general, the vijaya variety is preferred, which is traditionally grown in the Vindhya mountain range of west-central India, and has a rounded shape compared to a more angular one. The fruit also provides material for tanning leather and dyeing fabrics.
Terminalia chebula is a main ingredient in the Ayurvedic formulation Triphala which is used for kidney and liver dysfunction.
Dried fruit is also used in Ayurveda medicine as a purported antitussive, cardiotonic, homeostatic, diuretic and laxative.
Among the edible uses, the seed is also consumed, as a snack, and has a flavor reminiscent of almonds or hazelnuts.
An edible oil is also obtained from the seed.
Sour fruits are eaten in salads, preserved in brine or fried and are used in the manufacture of black salt. It has a distinctive smoky flavor and is a main ingredient in the spice blend known as chat masala.
As far as medicinal uses are concerned, Terminalia chebula is of fundamental importance for Ayurvedic medicine. It has long been considered an excellent remedy for all kinds of digestive problems and is sacred to Shiva.
Medicinal properties have been tested in numerous experiments.
Fruit extracts showed significant inhibitory activity on oxidative stress and age-dependent shortening of telomeric DNA length, and thus an inhibitory effect on cellular aging. They also showed a cardioprotective effect.
A raw extract of the fruit inhibited the growth of cancer cells, due to the presence of chebulinic acid, tannic acid and ellagic acid.
The antidiabetic effects of fruit extract have been demonstrated.
The fruits showed antiviral activities. Gallic acid and 3 galloyl glucose have been isolated as integrase inhibitors of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1).
The extracts inhibited human cytomegalovirus (CMV) replication and may be useful for CMV disease prophylaxis in immune compromised patients. They also showed activity against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
Antibacterial activities have been demonstrated and an extract of the fruit inhibited the glycolysis of salivary bacteria and can act as an anticaries agent.
Topical administration of a leaf extract accelerated the wound healing process, in part by possessing antimicrobial activity.
Terminalia chebula is a sweet, astringent, warming herb with an unpleasant taste and has numerous medicinal properties: laxative, stomachic, expectorant, hemostatic, tonic and alterative. It exhibits antibacterial and antifungal activity and is used to treat inflamed gums and as a relief in asthma.
The fruits are used internally in the treatment of constipation, digestive and nervous disorders, diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal worms, hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, abnormal uterine bleeding and inflammation, vaginal discharge, involuntary ejaculation, cough and asthma.
Externally they are used to heal ulcers, wounds, inflammation of the mouth and gum disease.
The cortex is diuretic.
From a biochemical point of view, the fruits contain many medically active constituents including: anthraquinones, tannins, chebulic acid, resin and a fixed oil.
In detail, numerous glycosides have been isolated, including the triterpenes arjunglucoside I, arjungenin and chebulosides I and II. Other constituents are a coumarin conjugated with gallic acids called chebulin, as well as other phenolic compounds including ellagic acid, 2,4-chebulil-β-D-glucopyranose, chebulinic acid, gallic acid, ethyl gallate, punicalagin, terflavin A, terchebin, luteolin and tannic acid. Chebulic acid is a phenolic acid compound isolated from ripe fruit. Lutic acid can be isolated from the cortex.
Terminalia chebula also contains terflavin B, a type of tannin, while chebulinic acid is found in fruits.
The fruits, which are rich in tannin, and are used on a large scale in India, usually in combination with syntans and other vegetable tanning materials such as black wattle (Acacia mearnsii), avaram (Cassia auriculata) and Ceriops tagal.
The fruits are also used in the dyeing and printing of calico, both as auxiliaries and as dyes; their tannins act as mordants to fix the dyes on the cotton canvas and the greasy texture of the pulp makes the surface of the canvas suitably smooth to receive fine printed or painted designs.
A yellow dye can be prepared from the fruits plus alum; a black dye and ink can be prepared from fruits plus iron. The fruits are also used as a mordant for aniline-based dyes.
The pulp of dried fruit has an average tannin content of 30 – 32%, but the content varies considerably with the place of origin. The poorest samples can register less than 20% of tannin, the best ones over 40%. Other parts of the plant such as roots, bark, wood and leaves also contain tannin, but less than the fruits.
Astringent galls often form on young twigs. These are rich in tannins and are used to make dyes and inks.
The flowers give a yellow tint, which is used to paint yellow and green details on the calicos.
As mentioned, a transparent oil is obtained from the seed.
The heartwood is generally quite small, ranging from dark brown to reddish brown; it is clearly differentiated from sapwood. The consistency is medium to fine; the intertwined and sometimes curly grain. The wood is very hard; heavy to very heavy; strong and tenacious; not durable unless indoors. It is very difficult to saw, season and work with. It is used as construction timber and for furniture, carts and tools.
Preparation Method –
Terminalia chebula is a plant from which practically everything is used and used both for food, medicine and as a dye or others.
The fruit is harvested when ripe and dried in the sun for later use.
Acid fruits are instead an important ingredient of ‘triphala’, a rejuvenating and laxative tonic based on this species plus the fruits of Phyllanthus emblica and Terminalia belerica. They are also an ingredient in ‘amrit kalash’, another popular Ayurvedic tonic formula.
In food use, as mentioned, both the fruit and the seed are used in various ways.
In medicinal use, both the leaves, the fruits and the bark are used through various preparations and also according to the locations where the plant grows or is cultivated.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.