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Senna alata, the candle bush, is an important medicinal tree, as well as an ornamental flowering plant in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. It also known as a candelabra bush, empress candle plant, ringworm tree, or candletree. A remarkable species of Senna, it was sometimes separated in its own genus, Herpetica.
S. alata is native to Mexico, and can be found in diverse habitats. In the tropics, it grows up to an altitude of 1,200 m. It is an invasive species in Austronesia. In Sri Lanka, it is used as an ingredient in Sinhala traditional medicine.
The shrub stands 3–4 m tall, with leaves 50–80 cm long. The inflorescence looks like a yellow candle. The fruit, shaped like a straight pod, is up to 25 cm long. Its seeds are distributed by water or animals. The leaves close in the dark.
The seed pods are nearly straight, dark brown or nearly black, about 15 cm long, and 15 mm wide. On both sides of the pods is a wing that runs the length of the pod. Pods contain 50 to 60 flattened, triangular seeds.
This species is easy to grow from the seed. They may either be sown directly or started in a nursery.
S. alata is often called the ringworm bush because of its very effective fungicidal properties, for treating ringworm and other fungal infections of the skin. The leaves are ground in a mortar to obtain a kind of "green cotton wool". This is mixed with the same amount of vegetable oil and rubbed on the affected area two or three times a day. A fresh preparation is made every day. Its active ingredients include the yellow chrysophanic acid.
Its laxative effect, due to its anthraquinone content, is also well proven.
S. alata in Malaysia
Inflorescences and foliage
Peetambar (S. alata) flower found in Kasta (Mitauli) of Kheri District
S. alata in South Vietnam
- HIRT, Dr Hans Martin, & Bindanda M'Pia (2008) Natural Medicine in the Tropics I: Foundation text. anamed, Winnenden, Germany
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