Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) is an oil tree whose seeds yield between 35 and 47% oil. Mahua is a medium-sized deciduous tree, which grows to a height of 16-20 m. It has a short, stout trunk, 80 cm in diameter. The crown is rounded with multiple branches.
Flowers are borne on green or pink, furry bunches, each bunch consisting of 12 fragrant cream-coloured flowers. The flowers live for only one night and then fall to the ground.
Pollinated flowers develop into a fleshy, greenish ovoid fruit containing 1-4 shiny, oily brown seeds. The seeds are 3-5 cm long, elliptical and flattened on one side.
Mahua flowers, fruits and leaves are edible and used as vegetables in India and other Southern Asian countries. The sweet, fleshy flowers are eaten fresh or dried, powdered and cooked with flour, used as a sweetener or fermented to make alcohol.
Mahua oil is used to make soaps and candles and is also used as a seed preservative against pests.
Mahua oil is reported to have potential use in biodiesel production. In India, potential mahua oil production could be up to 60 million t/year (CJP, 2007).
The oil cake resulting from oil extraction is used as a fertilizer, and could be used to control root-knot nematode and fungal infections because the high saponin content reduces nematodes and phytopathogenic fungi.
Mahua seeds are highly rich in healthy fats, which adds a great value to its economic importance as it is commercially used to produce butter.
It is used as a substitute for cocoa butter in cosmetics and pharmacies, as cooking oil, for making chocolates and in adulteration of ghee.
Flour obtained from mahua seeds works as a seasonal substitute of cereal grains to make roti and poori.
Mahua is reported to have many applications in traditional medicine, and to provide several environmental benefits.
Mahua seeds, with their multiple pharmacological actions, not only help promote heart health but also are favourable for maintaining the overall health of the body.
Clinical studies have shown that the predominant presence of monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly oleic acid in mahua seeds help to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol), which otherwise poses a high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).
The seeds fat has emuluscent property, used in skin disease, rheumatism, headache, laxative, piles and sometimes as galactagogue.
It is also used as laxative in habitual constipation and piles, gummy juice applied in rheumatism and skin affection, oil used in skin disease.
Since it is rich in nutritional compounds, you can also consume mahua seeds to promote quick recovery from fever.
In fact, mahua oil is considered as one of the best cooking oils, even better than palm oil or kokum butter.
The oil obtained from the seeds of mahua is used as a topical application to get relief from the inflammation and pain caused due to rheumatoid arthritis.