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parushaka - Phoenix pusilla Gaertn.

parushaka :

Cultivated tree Photograph by: Rachael Moore
Phoenix pusillaGaertn. (Family Arecaceae) is commonly known as small wild date-palm / 
Ceylon date palm / Asiatic Grewia in English; in Hindi: Palavat and in Sanskrit: Parusakah. This 
species has a restricted global distribution occurring only in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) 
and India. In Sri Lanka it is commonly known as indi-gaha. It is distributed in the dry forests of 
Kerala, Karnataka and Eastern Ghats of Tamilnadu in India, at low elevations, ridges and hills. 
However, it is also found to be present inland at the margins of marshes and raised banks along 
borders of paddy fields, up to an altitude of 700 m. 


The first references to Phoenix in Sri Lanka are given by Hermann (1687, 1698). Hermann (1687, 1717) described two Phoenix species from Sri Lanka which were referred to as Indi Hinindi and Indi Mahaindi. From the brief descriptions it is clear that Hermann distinguished these palms on size. The vernacular names cited as Maha Indi and Hin Indi support this. In Sinhala, Indi means date, maha and hin mean large and small respectively.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Phoenix
Species: Phoenix pusilla

Allied species:

(=) Phoenix farinifera Roxb.
(=) Phoenix zeylanica Trimen


Sanskrit: Parusakah
English: small wild date palm
Hindi: palavat, palawat
Telugu: chiruta-ita, chitti-ita, chittiyita, churuta ita, cinna eachala, eechakoyya
Tamil: cittintu, icham, ichu, inchu, indu, inju, ithi, kalangu, kurinji, sagi, siruintu, siruyinju, sittinju
Malayalam: chittintal, cittintal, inta
Kannada: eechakeya, eechalu, henthaale, hulleechala, hullichala, ichai, ichalu, indu, kiri eechalu, sannayichalu
Chinese: Xi lan hai zao
Sinhalese: Indi-gaha, (ඉංදි ගහ).


 According to Mamun-or-Rashid et al., 2014 review report, plants of 56 families were commonly 
used in diabetes treatment and also among the different parts utilised for treatment, fruits were found to be commonly used


The name is most likely derived from


Synonyms in Ayurveda: parushaka

In Sri Lanka, the plant is known as Indi-gaha, (ඉංදි ගහ). The name is most likely derived from "indo", meaning "of Indian origin". 
Rasa: Amla Madhura
Guna: Guru
Veerya: Sheetha
Vipaka: Amla
Karma: Pittahara Vatahara

At the times of food shortage, trunk serves as the major source of edible starch.The tender part of the palm is often eaten by low income group 
people as a meal called kanji. The leaflets are used locally to be woven into ornamental baskets, brooms, pouches and sleeping mats. Fruits are attracted by birds during the fruiting seasonthat cause easy propagation of this palm


A plant of the drier, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 700 metres. Plants can tolerate some frost
Requires a sunny position in a well-drained soil
Tolerant of some salt in the soil
A dioecious species - both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required.


Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours prior to sowing
 The seed germinates best at a temperature of 21 - 27°c
Division of offsets


Flowering & Fruiting: Throughout the year


The bark of P. pusilla contains erythrodiol, taraxasterol, beta-sitosterol and its glucoside: 
beta-amylin, betulin, lupeol, lupenone and friedelin. Friuts possess pelargonidin-3, 5-diglucoside, 
quercetin, quercetin-3-O-beta –D-glucoside, naringenin-7-O-beta-glucoside and amino acids - 
proline, lysine, glutamic acid, and phenylalanine. Leaves contain quercetin, kaempferol and their glycosides


Important formulations 
1. Ashoka Ghrita
2. Drakshadi Kashayam
3. Chandanasavam

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Fruit, Gum, Leaves, Root, ,


Parushakadi lehya - 

Dose for children below 5 year – 1-2 grams, 1-2 times a day, along with a teaspoon of honey or warm water / milk.

Dose for children between 5 – 12 years – 5 grams 1-2 times a day along with a teaspoon of honey or warm water / milk.


Grewia asiatica


Grewia asiatica Linn is also equated with parushaka 

Commercial value:

In addition to medicinal use, mats, hats  and containers made from leaves.


P. pusilla is an evergreen, solitary or clustering, shrubby soloniferous palm tree with a very 
short unbranched stem up to 3-6 meters tall and 30 cm in diameter that is thickly clothed with old leaf sheaths.18The leaves are 3 meter long pinnate. Leaf sheath is fibrous and reddish brown. Rachis 
is with one or more pairs of spines. Leaflets more or less irregularly arranged (subopposite), on each 
side of the rachis, quadrifarious proximally, sword-shaped with very sharp needle-like apices, rigid, 
pale grey with an orange-red pulvinus at the junction with the rachis. Staminate flowers are ovoid, yellow-white, calyx 1-1.5 mm high; petals 4-5 x2-3 mm ovate, with rounded apices. Pistillate 
flowers are greenish mostly in the distal half of rachilla; calyx 1.2 mm high; petals 2 x 3-4 mm. 
Fruits aremoderately fleshy, sweet with a flavour of chestnut,ovoid, 11-15 x 5-8 mm, dull purple, black when ripe in the months of July and August.20,21Seeds are ovoid 8-12 x 6 mm,with round 
apices, pinkish-brown when fresh, drying glossychestnut-brown. They are cartilaginous, grooved 
longitudinally with a small elevation on the middle of the back. Endosperm is homogeneous. 
Phoenix is propagated by pre-soaking seeds for 24 hours before sowing. The optimal temperature for seed germination is 21-27 C.22 The flowering season is from November to January. The Palm produces a mat of fibrous roots that anchors it firmly to the substratum.  

Geographical distribution:

Global distribution 
South India and Sri Lanka

Indian distribution
State - Kerala, District/s: Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur


Sandy tracts by the coast in southern India
Forests in the drier regions of Sri Lanka

Plant conservation:

Not evaluated 

General Use:

for:-Bladder stones, Piles, Fevers, Dysentery , Rectal prolapses, Pies, Cough, Urinary tract infections. 

Therapeutic Uses:

Plant pacifies vitiated vata, pitta, burning sensation, fever, cardiac debility, peptic ulcer and general weakness.

Systemic Use:

Fruits - aphrodisiacs,  carminative, cooling,  laxative,  sour, sweet


Fresh sap is laxative 



Clinical trials:

1. Nucleated succession by an endemic palm Phoenix pusilla enhances diversity of woody species in the arid Coromandel Coast of India


1. D K Ved, Suma Tagadur Sureshchandra, Vijay Barve, Vijay Srinivas, Sathya Sangeetha, K. Ravikumar, Kartikeyan R., Vaibhav Kulkarni, Ajith S. Kumar, S.N. Venugopal, B. S. Somashekhar, M.V. Sumanth, Noorunissa Begum, Sugandhi Rani, Surekha K.V., and Nikhil Desale. 2016. ( / FRLHTs ENVIS Centre on Medicinal Plants, Bengaluru.

Use in other system of medicine:

A refreshing summer drink, well known as Sharbat-e-phaalsaa (Unani squash) is used as a cardiac tonic and appetizer. Leaves were found to be effective against pustular eruptions
The leaves are woven into ornamental baskets, sleeping mats and pouches
The split petioles are used for making baskets


Phoenix pusilla is an evergreen, solitary-stemmed palm tree with a short, unbranched stem up to 3 metres tall that is thickly clothed with old leaf sheath
The leaves are up to 2 metres long
An edible starch is obtained from the stems in times of food shortage. The leaves are used locally for making baskets, mats etc.

Photos of parushaka -

Phoenix pusilla

KEY WORDS: parushaka Phoenix pusilla Gaertn.

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