The ringworm shrub

THE CANDLE Cassia (scientific name Cassia alata, Tamil name; Seemaiagathi) with its bright yellow flowers attracts attention when you whiz past in a vehicle. Frequently seen near the roadside and along water courses, the plant forms part of the Indian Materia Medica.

Also known as the ringworm shrub, the plant is, as its name suggests, used in the treatment of ringworm and fungal infection of the skin.

The juice of the leaves mixed with lime juice makes an efficacious application in the case of ringworms. A decoction of the flowers and leaves is a good wash for eczema, especially for those with diabetes. The plant is also used in the treatment of snake bites.

Native to South America, the plant is naturalised in India. In and around Chennai, it grows along the Old Mahabalipuram Road, and on the Tiruchi-Kullitalai road, it grows along the banks of the Cauvery. Flowering occurs mostly between October and June. The flowers, which lack nectar, are pollinated by Carpenter bees.

For more information regarding the plant, contact The Medicinal Plant Development Area, Forest Department, Government of Tamilnadu, Pulleri, Chengalpattu or Arcottankudisai, Vellore, and the Centre for Traditional Medicine and Research, Chennai, ph: 4415993/ 4405583, e-mail


(The writer is Chairperson, Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board)

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