Lagerstroemia speciosa is a larger form of the more commonly grown Lagerstroemia indica (Crepe myrtle).It has got its name Crepe myrtle because of the flowers which look as if made from frilly and delicate crepe paper. It is also called Cuddle Tree, Banabá and also Pride of India, Queen’s Flower, Queen Crepe Myrtle, and Giant Crepe myrtle. It is called Jarul and Arjuna in Hindi, Bandhara and Taman in Marathi, Ajhar in Assamese, Jarol in Manipuri, Kadalai and Pumaruttu in Tamil, Challdhole-dasa, Holematti, Nirbendeka in Kannada, Nirventeak in Malayalam, Varagogu in Telugu and Syandana, Tinisa and Kramuka In Sanskrit. In Oriya we call it patali.
It’s a genus of around 50 species of evergreen trees and shrubs native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. This tropical flowering tree is known for its colorful and long-lasting flowers. it is a large ,erect, bulky tree with rigidly twiggy, broom-like branches and a dense, sinewy trunk with pale bark which can grow up to 50' feet. Its bark is spotted and often peels. This bark is valued as a quality timber and some species has been used to make bridges, boats, furniture and railway sleepers. The leaves are opposite, simple, with shape of elliptical-ovate to rectangular with entire margins, and vary from 5-20 cm. They turn vivid red right before they drop in the winter. Flowers bloom in summer and autumn in panicles of crinkled petals with a crepe-like texture ranging from white through pink, lavender and near red. The fruit is a capsule, green and succulent at first, then ripening to dark brown or black dryness. It splits along six or seven lines, producing teeth and releases numerous small winged seeds.
Indian Postal Department has issued a postal stamp to commemorate this flower which is rightly called the pride of India both for its beauty and invaluable ayurvedic property.
In India, Crepe Myrtle has been used to cure diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. Its seeds are narcotic; bark and leaves are purgative; roots are astringent, stimulant and febrifuge (fever removing). Decoction of dried leaves is used in diabetes. Various researches on it has proved true the belief that this plant contains high levels of corosilic or colosilic acid, a substance known as one of the many treatments for diabetes mellitus. Recent studies and laboratory test showed that it’s active ingredient, corosolic acid is a potent compound that has insulin like effect to lower glucose in the body; it can delay absorption of carbohydrates and is effective in treating diabetes. Crepe Myrtle is rapidly becoming known as natural herbal insulin, and what makes it ideal is that, the herbal preparation may also be taken orally without any need of injection or anything painful, without any risk of adverse side effects. Decoction of bark is orally taken in a dose of 200 ml to 300 ml per day for diabetes and altered bowel habit. However, caution is advised against taking it by self medication. Always consult with a qualified doctor before taking any medication and replacing insulin injection.
It has many other potential medicinal benefits also which include antibacterial functions of its seed extracts mixed with a water extract of the same which manifest anti-oxidative functions. Another is the significant protection that Crepe Myrtle seems to exhibit to treat HIV-infected cells. This has ellagic acid constituents which is also an important preventive for treatment of HIV-AIDS. Besides the treatment of these two major diseases it helps regulate blood pressure, fights obesity, aids the digestive system; it is good for the kidneys and helps ease urination. The leaves contain a high concentration of dietary fiber and minerals like of zinc and magnesium, both important for daily dietary needs. Cooked, they provide plenty of fiber, a major requirement in maintaining good health and helpful in weight loss. The roots are useful for astringent purposes. Oily skin if treated with a concoction of crepe myrtle can become clean and dry. The roots provide a diuretic effect, also it is detoxifying in the process. The stem bark serves as a febrifuge (fever reducer) by means of infusion or decoction. The stem bark l also works to stimulate the body and stop bleeding of minor cuts. The petals being externally applied on wounds heal it. Its seeds also can be used for an antibacterial preparation, containing powerful anti-oxidants.
The leaves can be boiled and taken daily as tea and in fact is used to make an herbal tea in the Philippines and Japan.
Wash the leaves in water. Cut them into smaller pieces for convenience. Boil the leaves with cup of water) for 30 minutes. Drink like tea. In the Philippines--where the tree is called known by the Tagalog name of banaba; it is drunk daily as a tea. There banaba is considered as a traditional herbal substitute for insulin and a cure for diabetes since hundreds of years.
It is an anti-inflammatory agent for ulcers and sore, altered bowel habit and motion, antiseptic and cleaning agent in case of piles, fistula. Slurry of fruit is externally use for fistula - in - ano. Powder of roasted fruit is used to brush teeth which is an agent for dental health meant to obtain white and strong teeth. In the Andamans, the fruit is used as a local application for aphthae of the mouth.
Crepe Myrtle Fruit
The tree in its full bloom