Chilgoza trees are available in north west Himalayas from Garhwal to westwards (Afghanistan Baluchistan) in the upper valleys of the rivers Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej from 5500 to 9000 feet of height. It is hardy and can withstand considerable cold and drought. By nature, it is light demander and wind firm. The tree can grow on dry barren rocky hillsides with shallow soil so helps in conservation of soil in the hills it would be otherwise bare rocks. It is rarely felled as the pine yields no commercial timber. The wood is yellowish brown, hard durable and similar to Pinus roxburghii. Its Sanskrit name is Nikochak, Hindi, Marathi & Gujrati names are -Chilgoza, Neoza. Other local names are Chiri, Gunober, Prita
It is botanically known as Pinus gerardiana Wall and belongs to the Pinaceae. It is a small to medium sized tree up to height about 70 meters. Stem bark greyish in colour branches nearly ascending but not whorled (circular). Leaves 5-10 cm long needle like in a bunch of three leaves together. Leaves are stiff in nature and dark green in colour. The tree flowers in May-June and the cones ripen during September to October of the next year. Flowers -male cones 6-13mm long, female cones are oblong ovoid 15-25 cm long and 10 -15 cm broad .Fruit yield depends upon the age and size of the tree and it is highly variable i.e. 25-400 cones on a tree. Seed- cylindrical 2-3 cm long pointed at tip dark brown coloured . Generally 100 seeds weigh 30-40 grams. They are obtained from the ripe cones which are plucked green prior to open. The scales of the cones open by heating and the seeds are shaken out easily. The kernels (giri or magaj) are oleaginous and bears a delicate flavour.
Chilgoza nuts are generally analyzed as about 7.5% moisture, 16% protein, 50% fatty material which is mixture of palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic fatty acids. It also contains about 22% carbohydrate 2% fibres and about 3% minerals chiefly calcium, phosphorus and iron. The Chilgoza pine also exudes oleoresin on tapping which is a source of good quality of turpentine oil. It is pale yellow coloured and smells similar to original American turpentine oil.
According to Ayurved it is sweet in taste and digestion, hot, heavy in digestion, nutrient, tonic and aphrodisiac. It reduces Vata and elevates Pitta and Kapha humors. It is useful in chronic arthritis along with honey. Chilgoza is energetic, carminative, stimulant and expectorant.
It has great valued as a desert especially in North India and eaten raw as well as roasted. It has fairly hard shelled that can be easily broken and separated from the kernel. The kernel is about 60-70 % of the seed. It is an important food article in the hills. The seed oil is used for dressing wounds and ulcers. The cones also exude a copious white resin which is generally applied for patching cracked wooden vessels. The bark of the tree is used for making baskets and buckets.
So, enjoy the gift of the nature communicating to the next generation too.
Research Officer (Ayurved),
Regional Research Institute of Ayurveda,
Central Council for Research in Ayurved &.Siddha,
Gwalior Road, JHANSI-284 003.(UP) India.