Madhuca longifolia, commonly known as mahwa or mahua, is an Indian
tropical tree found largely in the central and north Indian plains
and forests. It is a fast-growing tree that grows to approximately
20 meters in height, possesses evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage,
and belongs to the family Sapotaceae. It is adapted to arid
environoments, being a prominent tree in tropical mixed deciduous
forests in India in the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar,
Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Orissa.
It is cultivated in warm and humid regions for its oleaginous
seeds (producing between 20 and 200 kg of seeds annually per tree,
depending on maturity), flowers and wood. The fat (solid at ambient
temperature) is used for the care of the skin, to manufacture soap
or detergents, and as a vegetable butter. It can also be used as a
fuel oil. The product is often used in sweets and chocolates under
the name "illipe". The seed cakes obtained after extraction of oil
constitute very good fertilizer. The flowers are used to produce an
alcoholic drink in tropical India. Several parts of the tree,
including the bark, are used for their medicinal properties. It is
considered holy by many tribal communitites because of its
M. longifolia in Hyderabad, India
The tree is considered a boon by the tribals who are forest
dwellers and keenly conserve this tree. However, conservation of
this tree has been marginalized, as it is not favoured by nontribals.
The leaves of Madhuca indica (= M. longifolia) are fed on by the
moth Antheraea paphia, which produces tassar silk (tussah), a form
of wild silk of commercial importance in India.
The Tamils have several uses for M. longifolia (iluppai in
Tamil). The saying "aalai illaa oorukku iluppaip poo charkkarai"
indicates when there is no cane sugar available, the flower of M.
longifolia can be used, as it is very sweet. However, Tamil
tradition cautions that excessive use of this flower will result in
imbalance of thinking and may even lead to lunacy.
The mahuwa flower is edible and is a food item for tribals. They
are used to make syrup for medicinal purposes. They are also
fermented to produce the alcoholic drink mahuwa, a country liquor.
Tribals of Bastar in Chattisgarh and Orissa, Santhals of Santhal
Paraganas (Jharkhand) and tribals of North Maharashtra consider the
tree and the mahuwa drink as part of their cultural heritage. Mahuwa
is an essential drink for tribal men and women during
celebrations.The main ingredients used for making it are chhowa gud
(granular mollasses) and dried mahuwa flowers.
Refractive index: 1.452
Fatty acid composition (acid, %) : palmitic (c16:0) : 24.5, stearic
(c18:0) : 22.7, oleic (c18:1) : 37.0, linoleic (c18:2) : 14.3
Trifed, a web site of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government
of India reports: "Mahuwa oil has emollient properties and is used
in skin disease, rheumatism and headache. It is also a laxative and
considered useful in habitual constipation, piles and haemorrhoids
and as an emetic. Tribals also used it as an illuminant and hair
English: honey tree, butter tree
French: illipe, arbre à beurre, bassie, madhuca
India: moha, mohua, madhuca, illuppai, kuligam, madurgam, mavagam,
nattiluppai, tittinam, mahwa, mahua, mowa, moa, mowrah
Sri Lanka: mi, illuppai, kulilgam, maduragam, mavagam, nattiluppai,