Welcome to the third in our series on the plants and herbs found growing in Sambhavna’s diverse community gardens. Dhathaki, botanical name Woodfordia fruticose, commonly known as the Fire-flame bush due to its striking reddish-orange flowers, can be found growing throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is also native to Nepal, much of South-East Asia and tropical Africa. It is a large shrub with vertically descending branches, growing up to seven metres in height. It has a reddish-brown bark that peels off in strips, with clusters of reddish-orange flowers and bears small fruits containing smooth brown seeds.
Dhathaki has a long history of medicinal use, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine. The flowers are particularly versatile, having traditionally been used as a source of food, in the preparation of a cooling drink, and as a dye, in addition to their medicinal applications. The wood of the plant can also be used for fuel and the leaves are occasionally harvested for their tannins.
At Sambhavna, Dhathaki flowers are used in the preparation of several Ayurvedic medicines by the medicine-making department, including Nyagrodhadi Choornam and Pushyanuga Churna. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, they are used to treat doshas (bodily humours) of the Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water and earth) disorders.
In modern medicinal terms, the astringency of the flowers means they are ideal for treatment of bleeding disorders such as menorrhagia and metrorrhagia. Pushyanuga Churna is prescribed to patients with these conditions, as well as for those suffering from diarrhoea and IBS. Nyagrodhadi Choornam, meanwhile, has anti-inflammatory properties and is prescribed for treatment of urinary disorders, including urinary incontinence and nocturia. It is also an effective treatment for complications of diabetes such as diabetic neuropathy and diabetic dermopathy.
Both of these medicines are particularly important for the treatment of gas survivors at Sambhavna, in whom conditions affecting the reproductive and urinary systems are common, and they have proved effective in the treatment of multiple chronic conditions. With its beautiful reddish-orange flowers, dhathaki also makes a wonderful addition to the atmosphere of the community gardens and is truly deserving of the name Fire-flame bush.
Our thanks go to Sambhavna staff Vishwamohan, pharmacist, and Dr. Rupa, expert in Ayurvedic medicine, for sharing the information, and to our trustee Sathyu for the photographs.