The following points highlight the top nine economic uses of Cycas. The economic uses are: 1. As Food Plants 2. As Medicinal Plants 3. As Source of Gum 4. As Source of Fiber 5. 4. As Source of Oil 6. As Decorative Material 7. As Nitrogen Fixers 8. Some Other Uses.
Economic Use # 1. As Food Plants:
Cycadales are of definite importance as food plants and used variously as the source of food materials such as ‘sago’ and ‘seed starch’ vegetables, cakes, kaffir bread and poultry feed.
Of Macrozamia dyeri, M. reidlei, M. spiralis, Dioon edue and D. Spinulosum.
3. The young leaves of Cycas circinalis, C. pectinata, C. revolute, C. rumphii and C. Siamensis are cooked and used as vegetables in several parts of the world including India, Malayasia, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan. Extensive use of leaves, however is reported to cause rheumatism.
4. Cakes are prepared from the seed kernels of several cycads in Sri Lanka, Fiji, Japan and India. The seeds are cut into pieces, dried and ground into a meal. The dough made from this meal is baked into cakes.
5. The interior part of the stem of several cycads (e.g. Macrozamina) is ground boiled in water and used as feed of cattles, pigs and poultry.
6. ‘Kaffir bread’, used as food in some African Countries, is prepared from the stem pith of Encephalartos.
Economic Use # 2. As Medicinal Plants:
Cycads are not used for medicinal purpose on a large scale.
Some of their medicinal applications are undermentioned:
1. A decoction of the seeds of Dioon edule is used in Mexico for neuralgia.
2. Young seeds of various species of Cycas are used in Sri Lanka, Fiji, India and some other countries as a remedy in bowel complaints and also as emetic and stomach purifiers.
3. Cycas gum is used to cure malignant ulcers in some African Countries.
4. The pounded stem of Cycas pectinata is used as a hair wash for diseased hair roots in Assam.
5. Ulcerated wounds and swollen glands are treated in Cambodia from the mucilaginous terminal buds of Cycas circinalis.
6. Because of the strongly narcotic nature of the pollen grains of Cycas circinalis and C. rumohii, the male cone scales of these species are sold in the market as an anodyne (a substance which relieves pain or diminishes distress).
7. In Indonesia, Philippines and some other Asian countries, the seeds of Cycas are made into a paste in coconut oil and used for wounds, swellings, sores, boils and various skin complaints.
8. The juice obtained from the young leaves of Cycas revolute is used for curing blood vomiting and flatulence (affected by generated in the alimentary canal).
Economic Use # 3. As Source of Gum:
The gum, exuded from the injured petioles, stems or megasporophylls of Cycas circinalis, C. revoluta, C. rumphii. C. siamensis and some other Cycads (Dioon edule, Encephalartos lemarinelianus and Macrozamia spiralis) is used variously as an (i) adhesive, (ii) antidote for snake bites and insect bites, and (iii) on the malignant ulcers.
Economic Use # 4. As Source of Fiber:
The surface fibers, obtained from the leaves of various species of Cycas (e.g. C. circinalis, C. revolute) and Macrozamia are used for stuffing pillows, making mattresses and also for making cloth to some extent.
As Source of Hats, Mats, Baskets and Paper
Hats, mats, baskets, fences, brooms, cordage and twines are prepared from the leaves of various cycads, including Cycas, Encephalartos and Macrozamia. Paper is made from the fibers obtained from the stem of Macrozamia spiralis.
Economic Use # 5. As Source of Oil:
An orange yellow oil is obtained from the seeds of Cycas revoluta and a bright orange oil from the seeds of Macrozamia reidlei. In some parts of the world, these oils are used as those of palm oil. The fleshy layer of the seeds of Macrozamia reidlei contain as much as 28% oil.
Economic Use # 6. As Decorative Material:
The leaves of several cycads are cut, dried with special methods and used as decorative pieces in Japan, Ryukyu Islands and some other countries. It is developing as a good exporting business in Ryukyu Islands and some other countries from where these leaves are exported to Germany, Switzerland and U.S.A.
Economic Use # 7. As Nitrogen Fixers:
Although the definite importance of Cycads as the nitrogen fixers has not been fully studied, the coralloid roots of Cycas and some other Cycads (e.g. Encephalartos) contain some nitrogen fixing algae (Anabaena) and bacteria (Azotobacter, Pseudomonas radicicola). Some earlier workers, including Life, Schneider and Yoshimura, have worked on this aspect. Detailed study on this aspect is still needed.
Economic Use # 8. Some Other Uses:
1. Cycas revoluta wood is used in Japan for making boxes, bottle stands and decorative pieces.
2. Fresh or dried leaves of Cycads are used in religious ceremonies in Goa, Andamans, Philippines and Australia.
3. Empty seeds of Cycas circinalis are used as snuff boxes in India and Australia.
4. Stem of Cycas rumphii is used to build small houses.