Wednesday 14 August 2013

This tree is a cure for AIDS

Two earlier posts have dealt at length with the Cubbon Park and its environs. The park is easily the lifeline of Bangalore and apart from facilitating traffic, it is still home to a bewildering variety of flora and fauna.
What makes the Cubbon Park a horticulturist’s delight is that it still possesses rare and exotic trees and shrubs and many of them were planted during the turn of the century. Unfortunately, almost all visitors to the park are either unaware of such trees or they give a go by as they are ignorant of  its presence.
Infact, the park is so widely spread that few venture to visit the park in its entirety. A majority skip the area around the Lawn Tennis stadium and the office of the Department of Horticulture and it is this place which has many exotic trees.
The park, in reality is an arboretum, and the place where the Department of Horticulture grows trees for study and display. This park is unique in the sense that it has flowering shrubs and trees all around the year. This is so as the exotic and native species flower at different times of the year and this is the reason why the park is always adorned with a wide spectrum of colours.
There are more than 7,000 trees in the park today and this is the only park in Bangalore where the exotic species outnumber the native variety. Some of the trees are of immense botanical and medicinal value and one of the oldest trees planted, the Australian chestnut tree and its botanical name is Castanospermum australe, has been found to be useful in developing a cure for AIDS.
This black bean tree is a rich source of Castano spermine which is used for the treatment of AIDS. However, beware. The immature seed of the asutrale is poisonous, though mature seeds are harmless. A flowering plant belonging to the Fabaceae family, the raw or immature seed is poisonous and it needs to be treated to make it edible.
It is generally found in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia and in the Pacific islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The asutrale is also called Moreton Bay Chestnut (It was at the Bay that the tree was first seen and hence the name) or Blackbean, and it can reach a height of 40 metres  or 130 feet. The seeds are poisonous, but become edible when they are prepared by grating, pounding, soaking and baking into flour, leaching with water, roasting and then eating it. The Australian aborigines are experts in this preparation.
The australe is a hardy species with glossy dark green pinnate leaves and low spreading branches when grown in the open.
The Black Bean is today extensive preparation as a food by Aborigines in Australia and research has now proved that it contains alkaloids which have anti-HIV and anti -cancer properties
It is a potent inhibitor of α- and β-glucosidases and it also inhibits HIV infectivity.
The alkaloids have been found to be highly effective to prevent cellular recognition of the host and syncytium (synctia) formation through changes in the structure of the glycoprotein coat of the AIDS virus. It can alter the HIV virus’s surface and make it non-infectious.
It can also inhibits angiogenesis, thyroglobulin secretion, antitumor activity and also inhibit protein glycosylation.
Castano spermine has also been found in the genus Alexa which is native to South America.
This is not to say that only the Australian tree has been found to be effective in the cure of AIDS. The post only wants to highlight one of the many exotic trees in Cubbon Park and also the fact that few people are aware of it.
Incidentally, Indian and Japanese scientists are working on developing herbal and Ayurvedic formulations to treat HIV/AIDS.
They have zeroed in on 60 plant species and they have so far  found 16 plant species which have inherent properties to fight AIDS.
The Government of India too is engaged in finding an Ayurvedic cure for AIDS. Ayurvedic pandits swear by Ashwagandha, which they say is effective against HIV/AIDS. India today is home to nearly three million HIV/AIDS patients including over 70,000 children below the age of 14.
In Karnataka, Bangalore City tops the list of reported HIV/AIDS. More worryingly, the number of women infected with AIDS in Bangalore has been going up every year.
Coming back to Cubbon Park and its exotic trees, the lungspace has five species of Cassias, two species of  Peltaphorum and  Tabebuias. But who can forget the fig, Silk Cotton, Gulmohars, Mahogany, Plumerias and the native Lagerstroemia reginae, which is better known as the Pride of India.

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