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Indian Trumpet Flower

Indian trumpet tree (Oroxylum indicum, Bignoniaceae), also known as Indian trumpet flower, broken bones tree, butterfly tree, tree of Damocles, midnight horror, as well as numerous Asian names, is a fast growing deciduous tree found in South and Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bhutan, China, Malaysia, and India.1 Often seen along riverbanks and hill slopes, the tree has a light to grayish brown trunk, with large pinnate leaves which, when they whither and fall, look like broken bones at the base of the trunk. The night-blooming flowers are pinkishyellow on the inside and reddish purple on the outside and appear in clusters. The individual flowers, which have a foul smell that attracts bats, look like open mouths. The long fruit pods are the reference for the sword of Damocles in the tale of Cicero. When the seed pods fall, they look like butterflies on the ground. The dangling fruit pods are the inspiration for the name midnight horror.

Traditionally, the tree has been used to treat fever, diarrhea, jaundice, arthritis, ulcers, and cancer. Roots are considered bitter, sweet, and astringent having anti-inflammatory, expectorant, carminative, aphrodisiac, digestive, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, antidiabetic, and antiarthritic properties1,2 Tonics made from the roots are utilized in the treatments of wounds, dysentery, flatulence, colic, asthma, bronchitis, gout, vomiting, rheumatoid arthritis, coughs, colds, and fever. Leaves are stomachic and carminative, with decoctions treating ulcers, enlarged spleens, coughs, increase appetite, and rheumatic pain. Leaves are applied directly to the skin to treat enlarged spleens.2 The mature fruit is considered sweet and acrid with properties being stomachic and anthelmintic (destroys parasite worms).1 Traditional applications include jaundice, smallpox, cholera, dyspepsia, cardiac issues, hemorrhoids, and bronchitis. The fruit is also good for the skin and detoxifies the blood.2 They have been used to treat heart issues as well. Seeds are considered a purgative and a remedy for constipation.1 The dried seed powder has been used to induce conception. The seed oil is used in perfumery. Ground seeds with fire soot are made into a paste and applied to the neck for tonsil pain. A seed paste can be used to treat boils and wounds.2 A decoction made from the bark has been used to treat gastric ulcers.1 A paste created with bark powder is used for scabies, skin diseases, and mouth cancer. An extract from the bark (Sabroxy®; Sabinsa Corporation; Piscataway, New Jersey) has been developed to improve cognition.3 A randomized, double-blind, two-arm, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial showed that the Indian trumpet tree extract may be beneficial for episodic and working memory in older adults.

Lori Glenn
HerbClip™ Managing Editor


1Singh HV. Choudhary AK. A review on the taxonomy, ethnobotany, chemistry and pharmacology of Oroxylum indicum Vent. Indian J Pharm Sci. September-October 2011;73(5):483–490. doi: 10.4103/0250-474X.98981.

2Chauhan M. Shyonak, Sona Patha (of Oroxylum indicum) – properties, benefits, and dosage. Planet Ayurveda website. April 21, 2019. Accessed July 6, 2022.

3Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Majeed M, Drummond PD. Effects of an Oroxylum indicum extract (Sabroxy®) on cognitive function in adults with self-reported mild cognitive impairment: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Front Aging Neuorosci. August 31, 2021;13:728360. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.728360.