To Linneus the person who coined the latin name for this plant he probably saw this plant as being in a state of sorrow every morning when he woke up. This is due to the fact that these plants blooms at night and by sunrine the flowers would fall off to the ground as though the tree was in tears. Thus Nyctanthes means Night flower while arbor-tristis tree in tears. Two Hindu myths are related to this tree:
1. This plant apparently is a heavenly tree brought down to earth by Krishna. A quarrel ensure between Satyabhama and Rukmini, the two wives of Krishna, over the tree. In order to quieten them down, Krishna planted it in the courtyard of Satyabhama in such a way that when the flower falls it will fall into the courtyard of Rukmini. This has resulted in their reconcilation. Thus in a way it is a tree of joy. Thus it is believed in the Hindu community that having this plant in the garden will help ally any tension in the family. (This is of course an abridged version of the story told many times before with many versions)
2. A romantic story about a princess Parijataka who fell in love with the sun. However, the sun deserted her which resulted in her commiting suicide. Where her ashes fell to the ground this tree had sprung up. Disappointed with her lover she only blooms at night and in the morning sheds her flower off like tears falling to the ground upon the appearance of the sun.
The flowers are fragrant and has a mild sandalwood smell (bau chendana) and can be detected in late evening when the flowers begin to bloom and remains until early hours of the morning when it falls to the ground. Even when it has fallen the fragrance still lingers on when one walks over the flower covered path. Young ladies used to sting up the flowers and wear them as necklace or dressing for their hair. The bright orange colour of the tube of the flower is used as a dye to colour silk in the past. A bath with the flower is refreshing especially in the morning and it will impart the fragrance of the flower on the body of the bather. It is also believed that the flowers in a bath will smoothen the skin and it of pathological lesions. It also promotes good hair growth when applied on the hair. The flower again is believed to have the power to purify water a tradition still practiced in far reaches of India to this day i.e dropping a few flowers in a water body on full moon nights to bring good fortune and prosperity.
It is indeed interesting to note that this flower as written by one over the net and I quote here again:
"The flower itself conveys a very special message to those who know how to read its language. If one closely observes its delicate beauty one will observe that it has a vibrant orange center. This color is a symbol of fire in the Hindu tradition. Fire, in turn, is considered that power which purifies a persons heart and mind so that all desires for the world are consumed. leaving only a pure consciousness which directly communes with the Hidden Power within that has been and is called by many names. The white petals which surround the orange center symbolic of that pure consciousness. In the ancient times Buddhist monks and Hindu ascetics dyed their robes a rich fiery color to show that they had renounced the world. This dye was produced from the very same orange centers of the parijat. When the flowers would fall to the ground, people would collect them and separte the orange tube from the white petals and dry them. Once they were dried they could be used for making this saffron-colored dye. " I feel enlightened learning the language of plants.
Enough on mythology now to a more down to earth matters. The medicinal significance of this beautiful and sentimantal flower.
The Flower: Is bitter and astringent. Because of the pure white and orange colour of the flower, it is being used to by the Hindu to puriy water as noted above. And when used in bath it not only refreshes one but also help cleanse one's skin of all skin complains. When taken orally in a decoction it helps ward off wind in the stomach, stimulate gastric secretions and improves expectorantion from the lungs. It is also astringent thus helps in clearing out mouth ulcers. It is also being advocated for use in the treatment of gout.
The leaves are bitter and acrid. It is being used to treat fever, fungal skin infection and also dry cough. It can also be used to expell intestinal worms and is a safe purgative for children. The shoots on the other hand together with black pepper is a female tonic.
The tree bark: It is used in treatment of bronchitis and also as an antidote to snakebite.
The seeds: Main use of the seeds is in the treatment of haemorrhoids. Decoction of it is also used as hair tonic.