Illupai Oil (Mahua Oil) – Details and Medicinal Uses

Illupai Oil, also known as Mahua Oil or Butter Tree Oil, is extracted from the Madhuca indica tree. This large, multipurpose forest tree is found throughout the mixed deciduous forests of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian countries. Illupai Oil has significant economic importance, used for food, medicine, and various commercial applications like soap and detergent manufacturing, oil extraction, and skin care.

Both Mahua flowers and seeds are edible. The tree’s fruits are consumed as vegetables, and the seeds contain about 40% pale yellow oil. This oil is used as a cooking oil by tribes in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra. The residual cake left after oil extraction is utilized as fish poison and for repelling snakes. Other uses of Illupai Oil include hair oil, skin care, vegetable butter, and soap making. Mahua flowers contain high sugar content, making them an energy-rich food source, especially consumed by tribal women during breastfeeding. Additionally, Mahua flowers are used in the fermentation of alcoholic drinks and as a medicinal ingredient in various traditional remedies.

Medicinal Use

The Mahua tree is an essential medicinal tree. Its flowers are stimulant, demulcent, laxative, anthelmintic, and cough relieving. The flowers are cooling and used to treat colds, coughs, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders. Illupai Oil is galactogenic, pain-relieving, and vomiting-inducing, used in treating pneumonia, skin diseases, and piles. The tree bark is astringent and emollient, used for tonsillitis, gum troubles, diabetes, and ulcers. Leaves of the tree contain beneficial compounds and are traditionally used for treating bronchitis, rheumatism, headaches, and hemorrhoids. In Ayurveda, Mahua flowers are used as fermenting agents in alcoholic medicinal preparations.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Mahua is Madhuca indica, belonging to the family Sapotaceae. Synonyms include M. latifolia (Roxb.) Macbride and Bassia latifolia Roxb.

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliaphyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Order: Ericolos
  • Family: Sapotaceae
  • Genus: Madhuca
  • Species: Indica (syn. Bassia latifolia)

Morphological Characteristics

The Mahua tree is large with grey to dark brown scaly bark. Leaves are linear-lanceolate, clustered near branch ends. Flowers are glabrous, aromatic, pale yellow, and small, forming dense clusters. Berries are ovoid and yellow when ripe. Seeds are typically one to two, compressed, and shiny.

Vernacular Names

  • Hindi: Mahuwa
  • Kannada: Hippegida, Halippe, Hippe, Hippenara, Madhuka, Ippa, Eppimara
  • Malayalam: Irippa, Ilippa, Iluppa, Eluppa
  • Marathi: Mohda
  • Oriya: Mahula
  • Punjabi: Maua, Mahua
  • Tamil: Katiluppai, Kattu Iluppai, Iluppi
  • Telugu: Ippa Puvvu
  • Urdu: Mahuva
  • Siddha: Ieluppai
  • Sinhalese: Mipup
  • Persian: Gul-e-chakan


The Mahua tree is native to dry regions of India. It is a multipurpose tree found mainly in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly in the forests of North and Central India. Common in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh, the tree thrives in plains and lower hills up to 1200m elevation.

Ayurvedic Description

In Ayurveda, the flowers of the Mahua tree are used medicinally. The Ayurvedic properties and actions of the flowers are:

  • Rasa (Taste): Madhura/Sweet
  • Guna (Characteristics): Guru/Heavy
  • Virya (Potency): Sheet/Cool
  • Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Madhura/Sweet

Action and Uses

The flowers are sukrala (semen augmentator), balya (restoratives), pittakara (increases pitta), vatahara (reduces vata), and ahridya (harmful for heart).

Chemical Constituents

  • Bark: Ethylcinnamate, sesquiterene alcohol, a-terpeneol, 3ß-monocaprylic ester of eythrodiol, 3ß-capryloxy oleanolic acid, a- and ß- amyrin acetates.
  • Fruits: a- and ß- amyrin acetates.
  • Seeds: Arachidic, linolelic, oleic, myrisic, palmitic and stearic acids, a-alanine, aspartic acid, cystine, glycine, isoleucine and leucine, lysine, methionine, proline, serine, threonine, myricetin, quercetin, Mi-saponin A & B.
  • Leaves: ß-carotene, xanthophylls, erthrodiol, palmitic acid, myricetin and its 3-O-arabinoside and 3-O-L-rhamnoside, quercetin and its 3-galactoside, 3ß-caproxy and 3ß-palmitoxy-olean-12-en-28-ol, oleanolic acid, ß-sitosterol and its 3-O-ß-D-glucoside, stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol-ß-D-glucoside, n-hexacosanol, 3ß-caproxyolcan-12-en-28-ol, ß-carotene, n-octacosanol, sitosterol, quercetin.

Nutritional Value of Mahua Flowers

Mahua flowers contain moisture (20%), protein (6.4%), reducing sugar (51%), total sugar (54%), calcium (8%), phosphorus (2%), and fat (0.5%).

Traditional Medicinal Uses of Illupai Oil

Various parts of the Mahua tree are used to treat a variety of diseases. In Ayurvedic preparations, the flowers serve as fermenting agents. Important Ayurvedic formulations containing Mahua include Madhukasava, Drakashdi Kvatha churna, and Eladi Modaka. Traditional uses of Illupai Oil and Mahua flowers as food and medicine are time-tested and passed down through generations.

The bark of the tree is used to treat rheumatism, chronic bronchitis, diabetes mellitus, bleeding and spongy gums. The edible flowers are nutritive and used as tonic, analgesic, and diuretic. Traditionally, flowers serve as cooling agents, tonics, aphrodisiacs, astringents, demulcents, and treatments for helminths, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis.

Home Remedies

  • For rheumatism, a decoction of bark prepared by boiling in water is taken internally, and Illupai Oil is applied externally to affected areas.
  • The bark decoction is administered to manage diabetes.
  • Mahua leaves are used