When the whole world is talking about the importance of conserving existing trees and planting new one, the Indian Psychiatrists Society (IPS) has recommended that the government ban the ‘odollam’ (Cerbera odollam) tree.
Odollam which can grow to a height of over 10m is found in
It grows wild in the
Reports show that odollam fruit is responsible for 50% of plant poisoning cases and 10% of all poisoning cases in the State. In Kerala there are about 100 suicide attempts every day out of which 26 persons die. This works out to three times the national average. Tragically, almost 80% of the suicide victims are in the 15-59 age group. (See: http://www.maithrikochi.org/suicides_in_kerala.htm)
In certain areas of Kerala, odollam appears to be the preferred means of suicide. It is easily available. No money is required to be spent to buy poison. No trip to the chemist or pesticide shop. Just pull out an odollam fruit from the tree, take out the kernel and consume it. So much so, odollam has come to be known as the ‘suicide tree’.
The local names for odollam tree in different places include kattu arali; famentana, kisopo, samanta, tangena, pong-pong, buta-buta, bintaro, nyan, othalam, othalanga, pilikirbir, dog-bane, chatthankai, chiute, grey milk wood and sea mango
A team from
Odollam is also considered as a perfect murder tool. The lethal toxin called cerberin contained in the kernel of the fruit stops the heart functions. It is difficult to establish odollam poisoning pathologically. This is particularly so in the Western countries where Cerebra odollam is hardly known.
In spite of its toxic properties, odollam is used in Ayurveda, folk and Siddha systems of medicine. In Ayurveda it is considered to be effective for management of skin diseases including ringworm, vata, and rabies. Bark, leaves, fruits, and latex are used for medicinal purpose.
I came across a report saying that odollam kernels are exported from Kerala through Tamil Nadu. Allegedly it is used for the manufacture of bio-insecticides and deodorants. The highly poisonous fruit is de-husked by women with their bare hands to collect the kernel. Whether the government has looked into this operation is not clear.
What do you think? Should the Cerebra odollam tree be banned?
Images: Top, from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain. Others from Olavipe, copyright reserved.
Also see: EARTH SAVE - Abraham Tharakan's Blog