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Pilang bast

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Vachellia leucophloea (Hindi: रेवंजा), or Acacia leucophloea also called Reonja and Pilang bast, is a moderate sized tree found in the South and Southeast Asia, where it is in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia (Java, Timor, Sumbawa).

Its Indonesian names include: pilang (Javanese, Sudanese) opilan (Madura), Pelangi (Madura, Bali). Burma: TA-Nong. Thailand: chalaep Daeng (CV), phayaa May (Kanchanaburi). Vietnam: a buffer, a Kawa (Thuan Hai).

 Although the bark is used to prepare a spirit from sugar and palm-juice [Arak], and in times of scarcity it is ground and mixed with flour, the tree is principally known for its medicinal value.  The bark contains 11-20% tannins, with an average of 15%, tannin is the highest in old trees. 


The presence of tannin meant the tannin-containing bark was also used in the leather industry in Indonesia, and to a lesser extent, India, until around 1950. Until then, the tree was grown in commercial plantations in Indonesia for this purpose.

Not only does the tree have tannin - which itself has medicinal value, but the stem and roots produce a gum that is used for medicinal purposes.


Vachellia leucophloea is a deciduous tree or shrub about 10-35 ft high, with deep taproot, few lateral roots, pale bark and a wide crown umbel. It attains a girth of 2 to 3 ft. Young trees are often full of dense thorny suckers, the lower branches are armed with straight or slightly curved paired stipular spines, usually dark brown or black, less often white, 2.5 cm long.

Leaves are bipinnate. New leaves appear in April, and yellowish white flowers appear from August to October. Flowers are yellowish-white with subglobose heads, about 1 cm in diameter, in large terminal panicles dense 30-cm long, 0.4 to 1.3 cm long stalks. Flowers are sessile.

Fruits are thin, flat, curved tomentose pods (difference from Prosopis cineraria to which it has a resemblance).  The pod is woody, glabrescent, and dark brown. Seeds vary greatly, the sphincters, ellipsoid or trapezoid, from 5.5 to 6.5 mm x 4.5 mm, compressed, grey-brown.  The pods ripe by April and the seeds germinate readily if moisture is available.



The range of ecological leucophloea Acacia is wide: it occurs in different areas with a monsoon, semi-arid (rainfall of 600 mm / year) to humid (2000 mm) conditions, at an altitude ranging from sea level to 550 m sand-marl calcareous heavy clay. The tree is very hardy and stands drought well. It is frost hardy except in young age.

Plants need a lot of light and space to grow into mature trees. In nature, the tree is found individually and sometimes in groups in mixed hardwood forests on soils with medium to low fertility. It is never found in persistent, dense forests on fertile soils.

Acacia Leucophloea tolerate soils that are periodically very dry soils with compaction characteristics, due to the adaptability of the root system to low oxygen availability. It does not survive on poorly drained sites.


In Tamil Nadu (India), farmers grow leucophloea Acacia for soil improvement.  The roots bear nodules containing nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.

Medicinal Uses

The bark of Vachellia leucophloea is used in Pakistan traditional medicine as:

Imran Imran, Liaqat Hussain, M. Zia-Ul-Haq, Khalid Hussain Janbaz, Anwar H. Gilani, Vincenzo De Feo, "Gastrointestial and respiratory activities of Acacia leucophloea." Journal of Ethnopharmacology Volume 138, Issue 3

 “an astringent, a bitter, a thermogenic, a styptic, a preventive of infections, an anthelmintic, a vulnery, a demulcent, an expectorant, an antipyretic, an antidote for snake bites and in the treatment of bronchitis, cough, vomiting, wounds, ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery, internal and external hemorrhages, dental caries, stomatitis, and intermittent fevers and skin diseases”

The observations provide more details.

Related observations