Simaruba, aka the Paradise tree, a native of South and Central America and now grown widely in Karnataka, is fast becoming a tree of solace for many cancer patients in the state. The decoction of leaves is being used as a complement to chemotherapy, with patients vouching that it drastically improves the quality of life and even cure the cancer.
The tree was reportedly originally brought to India to tide over the edible oil crisis. They noticed the plant was anti-bacterial, anti-tumorous and was good for gynaecological problems.
It was effective for cancer patients as it was found to bring down side-effects of chemotherapy, minimise appetite loss and ensure fast recovery.
Scientifically, validations are yet to come but isolated studies have shown that several compounds such as the quassinoids in Simaruba has anti-tumour and anti-leukemic (against blood cancer) action. Glaucarubinone, one such compound, has been found to have activity against drug-resistant mammary tumours in mice and anti-leukemic activity, again in mice. It has also been found to improve mitochondrial metabolism and extend lifespan in the nematode, Caenohabditis elegans.
Most patients who were willing to let chemotherapy or surgery take credit for their recovery, but in their hearts, believed that it was the Simaruba leaves that made them better. Simaruba glauca is the scientific name of the tree, the local name being ‘Lakshmitaru’ which was named by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The leaves are considered to be very effective in curing cancer of first and second stages, whereas in later stages, improvement in quality of life is what is expected.