Shirisha Powder


Eczema is a term that denotes different types of allergic skin inflammation usually of chronic origin. The symptoms of eczema commonly include itching, reddened and dry skin. Since the skin is itchy, prolonged scratching leads to a leathery thickening of the skin. Cracking and weeping of the skin may also occur and open sores may become infected.

Causes of eczema

Though the causes of eczema have not been fully determined, the following list provides some insight as to the triggers for eczema:

  • (1) Family history: there is a genetic component to this disease.
  • (2) Irritants: exposure to industrial solvents, chemicals, vehicle lubricants, soaps, cement, detergents, cleaning products, rubber gloves and even cosmetic lotions and creams, etc.
  • (3) Allergy: strong reactions to some allergens can cause violent skin eruptions.
  • (4) Chronic dry skin: dry skin that is left un-moisturized can develop into eczema especially in cold weather.
  • (5) Poor circulation: more common in the elderly and affecting lower limbs.
  • (6) Obsessive compulsive disorder: habitually rubbing or scratching skin.
  • (7) Reaction to an infection: some fungal, parasitic, bacterial and viral infections can cause localized eczema.
  • (8) Stress: stress causes the immune system to be compromised causing increased susceptibility to skin conditions.
  • (9) Diet: some have found modification to diet extremely useful in maintaining remission periods.
  • (10) Unknown factors: some forms of eczema are triggered by unknown reactions of the immune system.

Though eczema is very difficult to control, allergic component of eczema can be controlled to an extent by regular internal and external use of Shirisha, which is widely mentioned in Ayurvedic classics and used in clinical practice at large by traditional practitioners. Some do’s and don’ts include:

  • (1) Excessive intake of sour, salty and pungent foods and drinks, curd, milk, jaggery, sesame seeds, black gram and alcoholic beverages should be avoided.
  • (2) If there is oozing from the eczema site, efforts should be made to keep the site clean and dry. Whereas in dry eczema it is always advisable to keep the affected area moist and smooth with vaseline or an oily preparation.
  • (3) Avoidance of aggravating factors of eczema, and eating simple, soft, easily digestible food helps. Edible items of bitter taste; regular use of honey and peace of mind help in management of eczema.

Shirisha (Albizzia lebbeck Benth.)

Shirisha consists of the powder of the bark of Albizzia lebbeck, a large, deciduous tree, which is found all over India up to 900 meters in the Himalayas. It grows wild especially in the moist and dry deciduous forests. The bark of the tree is thick and dark or brownish grey with numerous short irregular cracks. The seeds are oval or oblong, pale brown, smooth with a hard testa. Shirisha is described as one of the best Vishaghna (anti-toxin) drugs in Ayurvedic texts1. Clinical studies show that Shirisha acts as an antidote to animal poisons which are histaminic in nature and are also responsible for the production of allergic dermatitis, urticaria and anaphylactic shock.


Shirisha powder is prepared from its bark for oral use and decoction for washing the affected skin.

English name Siris tree, East Indian walnut, Kokko
Latin name Albizzia lebbeck Benth.
Family Fabaceae
Plant part used Stem bark

Main chemical constituents

Condensed tannins and d-catechin, lebbecacidin, isomers of leucocyanidin, friedelin-3-one.

Quality standards

The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India provides quality standards of Shirisha which are based on the following physical constants:

Foreign matter Not more than 1%
Total ash Not more than 8%
Acid insoluble ash Not more than 1%
Acid-soluble extractive Not less than 12%
Water-soluble extractive Not less than 6%

Method of preparation

  • (1) The powder of the bark is prepared by grinding dried bark in a grinder or pulverizer and then filtering it through mesh size 85.
  • (2) The powder should be kept in a dry container and stored in a moisture-free area. Properly kept powder holds its potency for 4-6 months.
  • (3) For making decoction, coarse powder is used.
  • (4) It is good to use the powder within four months of its preparation.

Dose and mode of administration

  • (1) Shirisha bark powder is given orally to adults in a dose of 3 to 6 g and to children in a dose of 1 to 2 g twice daily after meals with lukewarm water.
  • (2) The decoction is prepared by adding 16 times water to 10 g coarse powder of bark of Shirisha and then boiling on slow fire till about one fourth of water remains. The dose of the freshly prepared decoction is 40 ml twice a day after meals. For better relief add 5 g of turmeric powder in the decoction of Shirisha just before taking it. To mask the taste sugar may be added to the decoction. Fresh decoction is to be prepared for every dose.
  • (3) The lesions may be washed with the decoction prepared from the bark of Shirisha.
  • (4) The treatment may be continued for 3 to 4 weeks or till cure is achieved, if relief of the symptoms is sustained.
  • (5) If the condition gets worse, seek doctor’s advice and check for allergic reactions.

Dosage form

Grayish-brown powder or warm dark brown liquid having bitter taste.

Therapeutic properties

Shirisha bark is anti-protozoal, anti-histaminic, anti-allergic, antifungal, analgesic, anti-anaphylactic, anti-bacterial, central nervous system depressant and bronchodilator.

Indications and uses

The bark is useful in allergic and chronic skin diseases including various kinds of eczema.

Precaution and safety aspects

  • (1) Clinical and experimental studies have indicated the absence of any serious toxicity if normal dose of Shirisha is used.
  • (2) Its safety in pregnancy is not proven. Therefore, it must be used cautiously. However, it is safe for the baby if a nursing mother is taking this medication.
  • (3) As it has mild spermicidal activity, its use in oligospermic persons should be avoided.
  • (4) prevent and treat eczema
    • (a) Moisturize your skin regularly.
    • (b) Protect skin from strong winds.
    • (c) Protect skin from temperature extremes (hot or cold).
    • (d) Keep the area clean especially if skin cracks.
    • (e) Keep bathing and shower times short.
    • (f) Keep your diet healthy and add vitamins.
    • (g) Use medications strictly as directed.
    • (h) Try to reduce stress.
    • (i) Do not vigorously scratch or irritate skin.
    • (j) Do not bathe with hot water.
    • (k) Do not expose skin to harsh chemicals, solvents, vehicle lubricants, etc.
    • (l) Do not wear woolen clothing.
    • (m) Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing especially made of synthetic fibers.
    • (n) Do not apply hydrocortisone creams without medical advice for long periods.


  • (1) Shastri KN et al. Charaka samhita commentary. Sootrasthana 25, 40. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, 2005. p. 468.
  • (2) Sharma PC, Yelne MB, Dennis TJ. Database on medicinal plants used in Ayurveda. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. 2002. p. 447.
  • (3) India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India. Part I. Vol. III. New Delhi: Department of Indian Systems of Medicine & Homeopathy. 2001. p. 202.

Further reading

  • (1) Chatterjee A, Prakashi SC. The treatise on Indian medicinal plants. Vol. 2. New Delhi: Publications and Information Directorate, Council of Science and Industrial Research, 1992.
  • (2) Chopra RN et al. Glossary of Indian medicinal plants. New Delhi: Publications and Information Directorate, Council of Science and Industrial Research, 1956.
  • (3) Chunekar KC. Bhavaprakasha nighantu. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, 1982.
  • (4) Ganguli NB, Bhatt EM. Mode of action of active principles from stem bark of Albizzia lebbeck (L.) Benth. Indian Journal of Exptl. Biol. 31(2), 1993.
  • (5) Warrier, PK et al. Eds. Indian medicinal plants. Vol. 1. Madras: Orient Longman Ltd., 1994.
  • (6) Indian Council of Medical Research. Medicinal plants of India. Vol. I. New Delhi: ICMR, 1976.
  • (7) Mitra Roma. Bibliography on pharmcognosy of medicinal plants. Lucknow: National Botanical Research Institute, 1985.
  • (8) India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Pharmacological investigations of certain medicinal plants and compound formulations used in Ayurveda and Siddha New Delhi: Central Council of Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, 1996.
  • (9) India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Phytochemical investigations of certain medicinal plants used in Ayurveda. New Delhi: Central Council of Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, 1990.
  • (10) Sharma AD. Bhaishajyaratnavali, chaukhambha. Varanasi: Sanskrit Sansthana, 1981.
  • (11) Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The Wealth of India: raw materials. Vol. I, A (Rev.). New Delhi: CSIR, 1985.
  • (12) Tripathi P. Steriodgenic effect of Albizzia lebbeck Benth. in Guinea pigs. Ancient Science of Life. 2(3), 1983.
  • (13) Tripathi RM, Sen PC, Das PK. Studies on mechanism of action of Albizzia lebbeck, an Indian indigenous drug in the treatment of atopic allergy. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. I(4), 1979.
  • (14) Tripathi RM, Sen PC, Das PK. Further studies on the mechanism of anti-anaphylactic action of Albizzia lebbeck, an Indian indigenous drug. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. I(4), 1979.

Source: Traditional Herbal Remedies for Primary Health Care - WHO