The Bo Tree or rather its leaves, got a mention in a post I wrote not so long ago, about the Flag of Sri Lanka. It refers to the leaves that can be found in each of the 4 corners of the flag. Having lived for a substantial part of my life in Sri Lanka, the Bo Tree was a norm of everyday life. It wasn’t until a friend of mine here in the UK said that she had no idea what Bo Leaves, or for that matter what this tree actually was (having read the above mentioned post), that I realised this deserved a blog post all of its own.
What is this tree?
1. The Bo Tree – Oldest Tree in the World
The Bo Tree is a venerated tree shrouded in history and religion and whats more, the oldest one of its kind, which is in fact the oldest tree in the world, can still be seen today in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. This city is 1 of the 8 UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Bo tree here has been historically authenticated and continually documented and is thought to have been planted somewhere between 245-288BC. This tree is now over 2000 years old and is said to have been grown from a shoot/cutting of the tree under which Buddha sat, in India.
5 Other Important things you Need to Know
2) The Bo Tree also known as a Bodhi Tree comes from the Fig family, who’s scientific name is Ficus Religiosa. It can grow up to 8m tall and produces leaves than can reach up to 17cm in length. These leaves are beautiful!! They are heart shaped with an extended tip.
3) This tree is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus. Vishnu was said to have been born under one and Buddha (known as Siddharta Gautama before enlightenment) himself sat under one when he received enlightenment (bodhi).
4) Buddhist believe that this tree possesses magical powers which no other tree in the world possesses.
“It derives its magic from its associations with the life of the Buddha. In contagious magic, an object that has any physical link with a being is as powerful as the being himself. The physical link that gives the bodhi tree its power is two-fold: firstly, the fact that the Buddha sat under this tree at the moment of his Enlightenment, and secondly the fact that he spent a whole week, the second week after his Enlightenment, gazing at this tree with motionless eyes.” (extract taken from Srimahabodhi)
5) If you ever get to see a Bo Tree up close and personal NEVER pluck a leaf from the tree or cut/break a branch from it. This is considered sacrilegious and will result in you being asked to leave that place immediately. It is however perfectly acceptable to collect and pick up leaves that have naturally fallen to the ground.
6) There is a growing body of research into the health giving properties that the Bo Tree may have. It has been discovered that this tree has high levels of serotonin (the highest of all fig trees). This chemical is thought to affect mood and social behaviours as well as digestion, sexual desires, memory, depression and sleep. It is known to act as an anti convulsant and prevents seizures, which is making it very relevant in epilepsy and similar medical conditions research. There are a further array of purported health benefits of this tree including anti ulcer, anti diabetic, anti inflammatory, as well as analgesic properties and more. The leaves are thought to be good as a source for wound healing, for anti asthmatic purposes and have also been suggested to help reduce glucose levels. There is a lot more research that needs to be done but maybe, just maybe….those magical powers this tree is thought to possess might have a little scientific truth in them!!