scientific name: Cassia fistula
other common names: Casse, cassia, purging cassia, chacara, hojasen
growing areas: Native to South Asia, particularly India and Ceylon; cultivated widely in the tropics and as an ornamental tree in southern Florida, the West Indies, and Central and South America
physical description: Cassia fistula grows to a height of about 30 feet. Its flowers are light yellow and grow in hanging clumps. The seed pods are cylindrical and have a woody brown shell up to 24 inches long, according to Julia Morton. The spaces between the seeds within the pods are filled with a sweet pulp, she said. traditional uses: It was given the name purging cassia in Europe during the Middle Ages and was used at that time in an Italian medical school as a purgative. In Latin America, the pulpy seed partitions have been eaten as a laxative or steeped in water for the same use. A syrup made with the flowers has also been used as a laxative.
In Guatemala, the juice of canafistula is one of several remedies used to treat urinary ailments.
availability and dosage: Canafistula does not appear to be available in the United States.
contraindications: Because of its reputation as a laxative, it should not be used by pregnant women.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes.
medical research: In a 1987 study in Guatemala, canafistula was found to have a pronounced diuretic effect in rats.
In 1998 researchers in India began to focus on the use of canafistula to protect the liver. In a study, rats given an extract of canafistula leaf suffered less liver damage from a dose of carbon tetrachloride than rats that did not receive the extract. The effect of canafistula to reduce the damage was similar to what was observed in the use of commercially prepared drugs prescribed to treat liver problems, according to the study.