The bitter Indian Laurel herb can do more than you might think for your daily health, energy, well-being and happiness. That sounds like a bold claim — and you do need to know the specifics for Indian Laural Benefits and more – but read on.
Unlike some widely-promoted health supplements, there is not just a wealth of history, but also a lot of modern scientific confirmation of Indian Laurel’s extraordinary antioxidant, anti-cholesterol, anti-bacterial, wound healing, and other specific benefits.
We’re talking substantial benefits for pain relief, osteoporosis, inflammatory processes, blood lipid levels, and more. In scientific studies, Indian Laurel has also proved favorable compared to Vitamin C as an antioxidant, and very helpful for diabetes, liver and kidney problems, fungal infections, and both gram-positive AND gram-negative bacterial infections.
How is Indian Laurel used?
Scientific studies have validated Indian Laurel’s beneficial effectiveness in the treatment of diabetes, liver and kidney disorders, cholesterol and other blood lipid problems, inflammatory conditions and diseases, and osteoporosis. Its antioxidant, pain-relieving, and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties have also been studied and found quite strong.
See the section below ‘What has been understood and scientifically confirmed…’ for more information and links to some of these studies.
Scientific verification of some of Indian Laurel’s other uses is still to come. But it’s also traditionally prized in eastern cultures for treatment of psoriasis, scabies, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, chicken pox, dermatitis, acne, rosacea, blemishes, rashes and burns, diarrhea, blood clotting, vaginal infections, impotence, insomnia, digestive disorders including dysentery and inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, hemorrhages, leprosy, itching, liver disease, toothache, arthritis, rheumatism, and considered beneficial to circulatory health.
A.K.A. — Indian Laurel has many aliases
Indian Laurel is also commonly known by the following names:
- Litsea Glutinosa
- Litsea Chinensis
- Adem Ati
- Ficus Microcarpa.
- Alexandrinischer Lorbeer
- Calophylle Inophyle
- Calophylle Inophylle
- Calophyllum inophyllum
- Calophyllum Tree
- Colophyllum Inophyllum
- Huile de Tamanu
- Kamani Punna
- Laurier d’Alexandrie
- Laurier Alexandrin
- Palo de Santa Maria
- Oleum Caulophyllum
- Palo Maria
- Tamanu Oil
The United States federally-funded National Center for Biotechnology Information lists the following additional names:
- Medh, Chandna
- Meda Muchaippeyetti
- Uralli, Elumburukki
- Litsea laurifolia
- Sebifera glutinosa
- Tetranthera laurifolia
(Hindi names are Maida Lakdee or Maidalakdi.)
One scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science also lists Ficus Retusa as a synonym.
However, in colloquial English, it is usually known as Indian Laurel, or sometimes Soft Bollygum.
Status of Indian Laurel throughout the World
In the western world, the health benefits of Indian Laurel are little known by the average person. Indian Laurel is little discovered even among people who are into alternative remedies and a healthy lifestyle.
Landscaping and challenges for the city manager
Outside Asia and medical /scientific communities worldwide, Indian Laurel is much better known in the world of landscaping – and for the challenges Indian Laurel roots bring cities when planted near sidewalks or streets. (On the plus side, with such aggressive root propagation and geometry, Indian Laurel could be an excellent anti-erosion remedy.)
Your local vitamin or natural foods store
Even GNC and other nutritional supplement stores in the U.S. and elsewhere have yet to capitalize on this extraordinary herb. And indeed, some web searches for Indian Laurel or Litsea Glutinosa — even within the eastern world — will lead you to formulations for “glue powder” and other decidedly non-nutritional uses!
Commercial cosmetic development – of course!
But some in the western world, even outside medical and scientific circles, have discovered the benefits for skin tone, hair vibrancy and manageability, general health, and hair-growth. These “unscientific” discoveries are not surprising or questionable – because the beneficial health effects of Indian Laurel work on such deep and fundamental human health systems. When you think about inflammation, oxidants, blood lipids, blood glucose, and our digestive and liver and kidney efficiency in utilizing the helpful and eliminating the useless or harmful – you can appreciate that these things are at the heart of not just physical vitality, but also are the powerful supports for intellectual, emotional and spiritual vitality.
A popular sports and athletics site also touts the benefits of a formula containing Indian Laurel for circulatory, urinary tract, and other liver and kidney benefits. You have to believe that it won’t be long before the anti-inflammatory properties of Indian Laurel are also discovered in the sports health world.
What is the historical record of Indian Laurel benefits?
The various Ficus varieities, including Ficus Microcarpa (a.k.a. Indian Laurel) have been employed extensively in Indian traditional medicine. Among the Ficus varieties, Ficus Microcarpa is especially known for treating diabetes, ulcers, burning sensations, hemorrhages, leprosy, itching, liver disease, and toothache.
One western scientific source notes that Indian Laurel is one of the most popular of native drugs, and is considered effective for relieving pain, arousing sexual power, beneficial to the stomach and digestion. It also notes that it is mildly astringent, and traditionally provides effective treatment of diarrhea & dysentery.
See “Eastern Tradition” above for a dozen more historical uses.
What has been understood and scientifically confirmed about Indian Laurel’s physiological benefits?
Links to some of the studies validating health benefits of Indian Laurel, along with a brief synopsis of the experimental results, are provided below.
This study concluded that experiments supported the use of Indian Laurel for inflammatory conditions.
This study found that an alcohol extract of Indian Laurel was very effective against as an anti-bacterial. It also noted Indian Laurel’s anti-bacterial powers extended effectively to both gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial infections.
The anti-bacterial study above also supported the use of Indian Laurel as an effective anti-fungal. And this additional study attributed the anti-fungal properties to the chitinase contained in Indian Laurel.
This study discovered that Indian Laurel had anti-oxidant benefits that were “pronounced” compared with vitamin-C.
This study found that Indian Laurel demonstrated glucose lowering ability in diabetic animals and showed general anti-diabetic potential.
A journal article in another scientific study concluded that Indian Laurel reduced blood glucose more than the popular anti-diabetic drug it was compared to, and that it has additional anti-diabetic benefits such as preserving pancreatic B-cells, which results in a healthy decrease in TBARS and an increase in CAT, SOD and GPx levels.
A third set of experiments credited Indian Laurel with reduced triglycerides, an increase in HDL, lowered cholesterol and hypo-lipoprotein benefits, and concluded these effects amounted to substantial anti-hyperglycemic power.
Yet another study noted that a moderate daily dose (of a typical dilute preparation of Indian Laurel) equivalent to about 1/5000th of the diabetic patient’s body weight, taken for two weeks, substantially reduced serum glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL.
There have been more controlled experiments and research reviews, but these examples are pretty representative of the results and conclusions. One last example likewise noted Indian Laurel’s substantial anti-diabetic effect.
Anti-cholesterol and beneficial effects on other blood-lipid imbalances
This study concluded that Indian Laurel proved to lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, counteracted LDL oxidation, improved HDL synthesis, and reduced peroxidation of lipids.
Liver and kidney protection
This study found that an extract of Indian Laurel leaves an improvement in the overall histopathological liver test results and resulted in liver function enzyme improvement.
Another study concluded that a water extract of Indian Laurel prevented liver damage from various toxins.
This study found that Indian Laurel offered substantial protection against osteoporosis.
This study concluded that Indian Laurel had good wound-healing effects compared to the conventional ointment Nitrofurazone.
Why is Indian Laurel so little-known despite its extraordinary health benefits? Has its time finally come?
This is somewhat of a mystery. One reason is certainly that Indian Laurel preparations and treatment methods have long been in the public domain and thus are not patentable, so pharmaceutical companies have little financial motive to promote Indian Laurel treatments.
But as to why natural health or nutritional supplement providers or even GNC-like retailers do not seem to be offering, and certainly aren’t visibly promoting, Indian Laurel formulations, one can only guess that it can be chocked up to a cultural slow-learning curve in the west when it comes to eastern traditional medicine.
What are the most important ingredients in Indian Laurel bark, leaves, and roots?
The simple answer is alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, polyphenols, and essential oil.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information lists the following “medicinally potential constituents”: tannins, flavonoids, steroids and triterpenoids, including oleanic acid, betulinic acid, lupeol, B-sisosterol, polyphenol, catechin, gallic acid and phenolic acid, each more or less significant depending on the method of preparation.
Tamanu oil from the nut of Indian Laurel is used for skin conditions such as sunburn, rashes, dermatitis and others.
For those with an aptitude for chemistry, this article lists many of the chemical constituents of the Indian Laurel leaves and twigs (which one supposes might also contain some bark — but not roots) along with molecular structure diagrams. In brief the chemicals are:
- (7’R, 8’S)-dihydro-dehydrodiconifenyl alcohol 9′-O-β-D-xylopyranoside
- pinoresinol 3-O-β-D-glucopyranoside
- (6S, 7E, 9R)-roseoside
- megastigmane diglycoside
- 7′-epoxylignan 4′-β-D-glucopyranoside
- (7’R, 8’R)- 3, 5′-dimethoxy-9
Translation (sort of):
Somewhat more comprensibly, another way of denoting the constituents (of the Indian Laurel bark) would be:
- fatty alcohol
- protocatechuic acid
Different Preparations of Indian Laurel?
- Ethanolic extract of leaves, bark, or roots
- Aqueous extract of leaves, bark, or roots
- Methanolic extract of leaves, bark, or roots
(From the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science.)
- Other sources note hexane extracts
- Simple powder from the Indian Laurel tree bark is also cited in one study as beneficial for osteoporosis.
Do other trees with similar genomes have any similar benefits?
The general answer is yes, but Indian Laurel, botanically known as Ficus Microcarpa, has shown some of the greatest promise and has been the subject of more thorough scientific study.
However, certain of Ficus Microcarpa’s benefits may also be found, in part, in a number of other Ficus sub-species such as Ficus Bengalensis, Ficus Hispida, Ficus Religiosa, Ficus Racemosa and Ficus Carica.
Because of the fairly rare use in the western world of Indian Laurel for its physiological benefits, it’s difficult to list specific products or formulations and their dosages for different situations. Some of the information available pertains to the raw root prior to preparation and extraction of the key nutrients – in general, about 5 grams of raw root, in a 140 ml aqueous solution, is often recommended as a beginning point for treatment of some of the conditions for which the Indian Laurel root, as opposed to the bark or leaves, is most effective.
Other information pertains to scientific animal studies, which might give some guidance to human use as well. For example, one study refers to 500 mg per kilogram of body weight (of aqueous bark solution) as a dosage regimen that resulted in substantial improvements in the subjects’ blood-lipid profiles.
When evaluating ethanol extract of Indian Laurel leaves for pain-relief benefits, a dosage of 300 mg per kilogram of body weight produced favorable results compared to aspirin.
In another study, 200 mg per kilogram body weight of an ethanol extract of Indian Laurel reduced blood glucose levels significantly when compared to a common diabetic control medication.
These general ranges of levels are corroborated by another study that found major beneficial effects from oral administration of ethanol extract dosages ranging from 200-400 mg per kilogram body weight – these health effects for the diabetic animal subjects included benefits on the levels of not just serum glucose, but also total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL and triglycerides on diabetic animal subjects.
Is Indian Laurel safe?
Indian Laurel is generally considered safe and beneficial. But like anything, this depends on it being used appropriately and not in excess.
Indian Laurel, under its other common name Litsea Glutinosa, is listed in the FDA’s Poisonous Plants Database. However, to put this in perspective, consider that all of the following foods and seasonings are also listed in the FDA’s poisonous plants database: tomato, kelp, chestnuts, clover, apricot, cherry, plum, fenugreek, licorice, peppermint, wild cardamom, blackberry, rhubarb, raspberry, mesquite, pomegranate, ginkgo biloba, radish, soybean, almond — and wheat!
Just be aware that although the FDA’s poisonous plants database includes an astonishingly broad array of common foods and seasonings, there are in fact reasons for each item’s inclusion. Some foods are included on the FDA list because consuming too much, or too much in proportion to the rest of an (ideally) balanced diet, can be harmful.
Or take mesquite for example: as summarized in this Wikipedia article, mesquite contains an enzyme-blocking anti-nutrition protein that prevents metabolism of amino acids, and phytohemagglutinins. This makes it important not to eat mesquite raw. Cooking, however, breaks the harmful constituents and renders mesquite perfectly safe.
Similarly with Indian Laurel – do not eat the bark, leaves, or roots indiscriminately. Each needs to be properly prepared. And maintain an overall balanced diet.
Is Indian Laurel safe for pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers?
No published results of studies specifically addressing the impact of any formulation of Indian Laurel on pregnancy or breast-feeding were found to date. The safe choice is to assume Indian Laurel should not be used while pregnant or breast-feeding until proven otherwise.
Does Indian Laurel have any side effects?
A few sources indicate occasional complaints of the following side-effects from the use of some of the formulations of Indian Laurel:
- Oily taste after use
How long will it take for the beneficial health effects of Indian Laurel?
One study refers to a 9-week period of taking 500 mg per kilogram of body weight (of aqueous bark solution) per day, at least 5 days per week as a dosage regimen that resulted in substantial improvements in the subjects’ blood-lipid profiles.
And as noted in the review of a scientific study of Indian Laurel’s anti-diabetic properties above, a moderate daily dose (of a typical dilute preparation of Indian Laurel) equivalent to about 1/5000th of the diabetic patient’s body weight, taken for two weeks, substantially reduced serum glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL.
How much does Indian Laurel cost?
Well, hard to say, because there aren’t many standard formulations in wide circulation in the western world.
Because of the limited availability and lack of standard commercial formulations, it’s hard to give a general answer. But indications are that once Indian Laurel products become more widely available, there doesn’t seem to be any reason they need to be very expensive.
From one journal article, “Ficus [species] are the potential natural source to cure a global problem, Diabetes . . . these drugs are gaining popularity both in developing and developed countries because of their natural origin, lesser side effects and low cost.”
Image Source: wikipedia.org