Herb: Bead Tree

Latin name: Melia azederach

Synonyms: Melia azedarach, Melia japonica

Family: Meliaceae (Mahogany Family)

Medicinal use of Bead Tree:

Used externally in the treatment of rheumatism. An aqueous extract reduces the intensity of asthmatic attacks. (This report does not specify the part of the plant that is used.) The leaf juice is anthelmintic, antilithic, diuretic and emmenagogue. A decoction is astringent and stomachic. The leaves are harvested during the growing season and can be used fresh or dried. The flowers and leaves are applied as a poultice in the treatment of neuralgia and nervous headache. The stem bark is anthelmintic, astringent and bitter tonic. It is used as a tonic in India. It can be harvested at any time of the year and is used fresh or dried. The fruit is antiseptic and febrifuge. The pulp is used as a vermifuge. The fruit is harvested in the autumn when it is fully ripe and can be used fresh or dried. The seed is antirheumatic. It is used externally. The root bark is emetic, emmenagogue, purgative and vermifuge. It is highly effective against ringworm and other parasitic skin diseases. It can be harvested at any time of the year and is used fresh or dried. A gum that exudes from the tree is considered by some to have aphrodisiac properties. This plant should be used with caution, preferably under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Excess causes diarrhoea, vomiting and symptoms of narcotic poisoning.

Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Moist sunny locations to 2700 metres in the Himalayas.

Edible parts of Bead Tree:

Leaves - cooked. A bitter flavour, they are used as a pot-herb, in curries, soups etc. Fruit. A sweetish flavour, it is eaten by children though some people believe it to be poisonous. The fruit is between 1 and 5cm in diameter and contains a single seed. Both these reports, of edible leaves and fruits, should be treated with some caution. The fruit is poisonous according to one report where it says that the ripe fruit is more poisonous than the green fruit and that they have sometimes caused human fatalities. A cooling drink is made from the sap - it is actually a gum. This gum is tasteless, clear to dark amber and of good solubility. The sap is obtained from incisions that are made near the base of the trunk in the spring.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed contains up to 40% of a drying oil. It is used for lighting, varnish etc. The musk-scented seeds are used as beads in rosaries. The fruits are a source of a flea powder and an insecticide. The whole fruit is ground up and used. The fruit pulp is also used as an insect repellent. The leaves repel mosquitoes and other insects. Wood - tough, durable, moderately heavy, somewhat brittle, handsomely marked, takes an excellent polish. It has a musk-like aroma. It is used for making furniture, packing cases etc. Because it is fast-growing, it is often used as a fuel.

Propagation of Bead Tree:

Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. The seed usually germinates well. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Root cuttings.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist sunny locations to 2700 metres in the Himalayas.

Known hazards of Melia azederach:

The fruit is somewhat poisonous. Ripe fruits are more toxic than green ones. As little as six fruits have caused fatalities in children. All parts of the plant contain toxins that can cause gastric tract irritation and degeneration of the liver and kidneys.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.