Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Useful medicinal plants

Introduction to the medicinal plants


Ayurveda,the Science of life, has its foundation in a sound philosophy (Sankhaya)of origin of life on earth.Ayurvedic system defines the state of health as equilibrium of tridoshashas (Vat,Pitta,Kapha)combined with a satisfied and happy state of mind. The simple technique of healthful life, according to this system, is to follow a middle course of Ahar (balanced &optimum food intake),Vihar (exposure to nature i.e.sun,cold etc.) and Achar (living a disciplined life following yama and niyama).This wonderful treatment evolved progressed and spread to other parts of the world in pre-Christian era.It has some distinctions which still provide glory and excellence. These are use of poisons in the treatment,use of rasa (mercurial preparations)and rasayana (Rasayanam tad geyam jara vyadhi nashnam)use of bhashma (metallic ashes)and excellent surgery.Unfortunately time took turn the patronage provided by the Kings to this system disappeared and other systems (unani &Allopathic)dominated the scene.

The introduced systems of treatment could not spread to rural India where millions of people always saw ray of hope in this system However the system of Ayurveda suffered a great setback because educational institutions declined in quality and quantity.The system could not receive any reward/award for its promotion or further research.All this resulted in making the system most of the time as family heritage or few clever and incompetent persons in the field adding many wrong information in the literature.A glaring example is the information on herbal medicines where multiple synonyms were added without making an effort to provide proper identification or description. People started keeping the information on use as secret may be due to fear of losing this as sole source of income or prestige. There had been a great invention in the ancient India by the Aswani Kumars which was tested on Rishi Chayavan.This was searching for Jeevaniya (Vitality enhancing), vyasthapan (revival of youthful condition), body nourishing, antioxidant and invigorating group of 8 plants popularly known as Astavarga plants and prepared the famous “CHAYAVANPRASH ” for the cure of ailing frail old body of Chayavan Rishi who, in turn,regained youthful vitality and vigour.From that time onwards till 15th or 16th century A.D.there was no printing and much of the information

orally maintained and written records were difficult to preserve over centuries.The original

methods of goshthies (seminars)involving discussions disappeared overtime.There was loss of much valuable information.That is why today we find much confusion over the correct identity of medicinal plants.

The information on Astavarga plants of Chayavanprash has undergone the same course.There is no mention of Astavarga plants in the Atharva Veda.Paniniya Astadhayi and Vedic literature (Sharma,1981).In Dhanwantri Nighantu,there is mention of Astavarga and these plants are Rdhi,Vrdhi,Jeevak,Rishbhak,Kakoli,Kshirkakoli,Meda and Mahameda.The great Ayurvedic sages Charak and Sushrut made a mention of 5 of Astaverga plants for use in Chayavanprash.

These were Rdhi, Jeevak, Rishbhak, Meda and Kakoli (Charak samhita of Agnivesa, Chikitsa

Sthanam). In another Charak Samhita by Vidyadhar Shukla and Ravidutta Tripathi there is mention of three groups of plants –

(i) Jeevaniya which includes Jeevak, Rishbhak, Meda and Mahameda,

(ii) Brhnayiya – Kakoli and Kshirkakoli

(iii) Vayasthapna –Rdhi.

It is difficult to mention all works in their Chronological order.For reference purpose, various works are cited here below.In “Abhinav Nighantu ” compiled and translated by Pandit Duttaram Chaube on page 44 all the Astavarga plants have been listed referring Rishi Charak and others. Shaligram Nighantu also mentions all the Astaverga plants with some vague escription of these plants. Acharya Vishwnath Dwivedi had made commentary on “Raj Nighantu ” which mentions only Meda,Mahameda,Rdhi and Vrdhi with out any identifying characters.The important early literature is of Shri Vagbhatta Virachitam “Astanghridya ” with commentary of Shri Lal Chand Vaidya and includes Jeevak, Rishbhak,Meda,Kakoli and Kshirkakoli among the forty one ingredients of Chayavanprash Avaleh.The Shaligram Nighantu describes Astavarga plants in a vague manner based on old works.Thakur Balwant Singh in his “Glossary of Vegetable Drugs in Brhattrayi ” gave confusing botanical identity of four plants of Astavarga.Kirtikar and Basu did not include any of the Astavarga plants in their treatise on Indian Medicinal plants.Similarly Dr.Ram Sushil Singh prepared “Vanaushadhi Nidarshika ” with--out any mention of Astavarga.Kaidev Nighantu edited and translated by P.V.Sharma and Guru Prasad Sharma gave botanical nomenclature of four plants only. In work of Shri Chakarpani dutta (11th century)includes Rdhi,Jeevak,Rishbhak,Meda and

Kakoli in Chayavanprash but mentions 6 plants in Jeevaniya gana.In Sharangadhar Samhita Rdhi,Jeevak, Rishbhak,Kakoli, Kshirkakoli,Meda and Mahameda had been used along-with 38 other ingredients.In Bhava Prakash Nighantu with commentary of Vishwanath Dwivedi,the Astavarga has been included in Jeevaniya gana.Obviously therefore Astavarga plants have much confusion with regard to their identity.

Review of Literature on Identity of Astavarga Plants

As has been pointed out earlier, the identity of Astavarga plants suffer lot of confusion and doubts in the Ayurvedic literature till the introduction of taxonomic nomenclature. It will be of worth to cite few examples in this regard. Before proceeding to this it is also proper to know the ancient methodology of identification of medicinal plants and their implications. The Nighantus describe a plant with multi-synonyms each of which describe its one or more characters and these names ascribed to a plant were mostly related to other creations of nature. This was befitting to the time as during that period people were very close to nature. During the Vedic period the knowledge of medicinal plants was not much confusing because Gurukul education was in forests and much of it was practical and oral communication. However there was a period may be called as Samhita Kal during which large number of Samhitas were composed and orally passed on or were written.These were Atreya Samhita, Brahma Samhita, Dhanwantri Samhita,Agnivesh Samhita,Bhel Samhita,Jatukaran Samhita,Parashar Samhita,Ashwani Kumar Samhita,Atri Samhita, Ksarpani Samhita, Viswmitra Samhita,Hareet Samhita & Aupeghenava Samhita etc.Many of these in original form are not available now. Synonyms and homonyms (name used for more than one medicinal plant)were used in the post samhita period. For acquiring knowledge of medicinal plants following steps were followed

1.Identification of plants-should be done with the help of tribal people, cow herdsmen, hermits etc. living in forests and other experts.

2.The above information should be compared and confirmed in the light of standard text books i.e. Nighantus.

3.These plants should there after be subjected to study their properties (Rasa, Veerya, Vipaka and Prabhava). This method of identification of medicinal plants require good competence of a physician at physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual levels. This is further supported by Sushrut by saying that “the Physician gets confused without the knowledge of names (which vary in different regions, according to habitat, shape, colour, properties, use etc.)and is unable to identify medicinal plants even on seeing them.” By the time the Dhanwantri Nighantu was composed,,a number of medicinal plants had become controversial because of the large number of synonyms and homonyms (Sharma &Sharma 1998).In the absence of original Nighantus of Samhita Kal,the later written or composed Nighantus form the base of knowledge contained in them. Unfortunately slowly over centuries Dravyaguna teachers mostly did not have practical knowledge of medicinal plants,as a result most of the practical knowledge were restricted either to Ayurved practitioners or herbal traders only. Due to lack of competent back up here also the knowledge have further eroded and the system of using substitutes and related species have increased.The confusion and doubts went on over past many centuries of rule by Yavanas and Britishers.This is evident from the following examples particularly with reference to Astavarga plants.

(1)Dhanwantri Nighantu provides following information on Astavarga plants which were included in Guruchayaadi varga.

(a) Jeevak :Jeevak had been described by giving nine different synonyms. These are Shringak, Ksveda, Dirghayu, Kurchashirsa , Hraswang, Madhur, Swadu, Pranada, Chiranjivi. Then the medicinal qualities of Jeevak has been given such as it is sweet (madhur), sheeta (cooling), curing rakta pitta, vata,burning (dah),fever and tuberculosis (ksaya)and aggravates Kapha, increases seminal fluid.

(b) Rishbhak : various synonyms attributed to Rishbhak are Durdhar, Dheer, Matrik, Vrishabha, Vrisha, Vishani, Kakud, Indraksa, Bandhur and Gopati. It is sweet (Madhur), vitiates pitta, rakta, vata and controls Ksaya (Phthisis), Fever and is Kaphvardhak shukrajanan (aphrodisiac).

(c) Meda,Mahameda - Synonyms of meda are Manichhidra, Shalya Parni and dharaa and it is sweet, cooling, destroys consumption, burning, fever pacifies pitta dosha and increases vitatlity. Mahameda has the similar medicinal properties and its synonyms are Devamani and Vasuchhidra, and is tasty, cooling, increases kapha and shukra (seminal fluid)adn destroys burning sensation due to pitta, consumption and fever owing to vatta vitiction.

(d) Kakoli : Various synonyms of Kakoli are Madhura, Shukla, Ksheera, Dhwan ksoklika, vaysastha, swadumansi, Vayasoli and Karanika and is sweet (Madhur)refrigerant, destroys vata, pitta, fever, burning and consumptions and has aphrodisiac properties.

(e) Kshirkakoli : Kshirshukla,Payaswani,Vayastha,Kshir Madhura,veera and Kshirvishanika are synonyms of Ksirkokoli and its medicinal properties include good taste,tonic and destroys phthisis, pacifies vata pitta,disorders of blood, heart diseases and respiratory problems.

(f) Rdhi,Vrdhi : Both have been dealt together and synonyms of both are also same such as Sukh, Sidhi, Rathanga, Mangal,Vasu,Rishisrista,Yuga,Laksami and Sarvajanapriya.They have sweet taste and are refrigerant,increases kapha (tonic)and seminal fluid and pacifies vata,pitta and rakta doshas.

They are useful in phthisis and fevers. It is evident from the above description that during the period of Dhanwantri there was more emphasis on imparting practical knowledge, as plant description is not given it is implied in synonyms and their medicinal properties only. The Ayurvedic students during that period must be observing them in their natural habitats.

The same shalokas have been repeated in various Ayurvedic Nighantu texts over the period of time. In certain cases some additions have been made as pointed out below:-

(*)Shaligram Nighantu Bhushana : He wrote that Astavarga plants are even rare to kings,therefore their substitutes (having similar drug properties)should be used and he suggested that Shatavar should replace Meda-Mahameda; Vidarikand should replace Jeevak —Rishbhak;Aswagandha should substitute Kakoli-Kshirkakoli, and Rdhi —Vrdhi may be substituted by Varahikand.He has mentioned that Rdhi —Vrdhi occur in Koshal Mountain and these both are vines which bear white hairy growth and have some holes on them.Rdhi bear fruits resembling cotton boll and arranged in leftward placement on stem.

This arrangement is right moving in case of Vrdhi.

(*)Kakoli –Kshirkakoli : It is mentioned that Kakoli and Kshirkakoli are found in the same habitat where Mahameda could be found. He has added a confusion by saying that rhizome of KshirKakoli are like satavar (Asparagus roots)and they exudate a kind of scented milk and the only difference between these two is that Kakoli is blackish in colour. Further it was mentioned that Jeevak and Rishbhak both of these are found in Himalayan mountain peaks, their tubers are like garlic bulbs without any juice and have small leaves.

(*)Meda & Mahameda : Among these meda is attributed to possess under ground part (used

in medicine)which is white and a scratch by nail causes exudation of grey white coloured juice. Mahameda occur in Maurang countries its rhizome looks like white ginger and its stem is viny. The author (Shri Shaligram)says that availability of Astavarga is even rare to kings therefore these should be substituted by similar property drugs.He has further commented that except Sanskrit names their names in other Indian languages are never heard even if some body had mentioned, they are unfamiliar to local people. Bhavmishra and Abhinava Nighantu have repeated the same and there is much similarity in both authors for description of Astavarga plants and about their availability for drug use. Bhavmishra in his Bhav Prakash Nighantu (Page 61-64) has further Mentioned that none of the Astavarga drugs are true or right kind in the market in spite of large number of firms/traders claiming Astavarga drug material in the market. Among these Dehradun market has earned the reputation of Astavarga drug material sale or trade. However none of these sold drug materials satisfy the proper drug quality properties.

In “Brithatryi ” there is no mention of Astavarga plants. In fact Astavarga is included in Jeevaniya gana (Jeevak, Rishbhak, Kakoli, Kshirkakoli, Meda and Mahameda), Brihaniya (Kakoli, Kshirkakoli) and both these are also treated under vayaasthapan-age process regulators. Susrut has included all the Astavarga plants in Kakoliyaadivarga (Sharma 1993).In “Bhav Prakash of Sri Bhav Mishra” with vidyotani Hindi commentary by Shri Brahma Shankar Mishra and Shri Ruplal ji Vaidya (1984)same story has been reproduced.

Shastrokta & Taxonomic (Established) Identity of Astavarga Plant Species

P.V.Sharma and Guru Prasad Sharma (1998)in his translation of Dhanwantri —Nighantu has identified the Astavarga plant species as follows —

Jeevak - Microstylis wallichii Lindl. F.Orchidaceae
Rishbhak - Microstylis muscifera Ridley F.Orchidaceae
Meda and MahaMeda - Polygonatum verticillatum All. Family Liliaceae
Kakoli - Roscoea procera Wall. Family Zingiberaceae
Kshirkakoli - Roscoea sp. F.Zingiberaceae
Rdhi,Vrdhi - Habenaria spp. Family Orchidaceae

Acharya Priyavrata Sharma (1954)in “Dravyaguna —Vijnana Vol I (P.408)has identified —

Jeevak - Microstylis wallichii Lindl. F.Orchidaceae
Meda - Polygonatum Verticillatum All. F.Liliaceae

Family name is wrong for Microstylis wallichii which belongs to family Orchidaceae. Dr.S.D.Kamat (2002)in his book on “Studies on Medicinal Plants and Drugs in Dhanwantri — Nighantu” identified Jeevak ((Microstylis wallichii Lindl.,Rishbhak (Microstylis muscifera Ridley), Meda (Polygonatum verticillatum All.),Mahameda (Polygonatum cirrifolium Royle),Kakoli (Roscoea procera wall.)Kshirkakoli wrongly identified as Roscoea alpina Royle which is Kakoli only.Rdhi has been identified with reference to Dr.Chunekar as Habenaria intermedia. D.Don.

Thakur Balwant Singh and K. C.Chunekar (1972)in their “Glossary of Vegetable Drugs in Brhattrayi ” identified some of Astavarga plant species as Kakoli (Roscoea procera ),Jeevak (Microstylis wallichii Lindl),Rdhi (Habenaria Sp.),Vrdhi (Habenaria Sp.),Mahameda wrongly identified as Polygonatum verticilliatum Allioni.Acharya P. V.Sharma (1976)in “Introduction to Dravyaguna ” has mentioned botanical names of the plants under Mahakasyayas and ganas of charak and Susrut where he had given the identification as follows;

Jeevak - Microstylis wallichii Lindl.
Rishbhak - Microstylis,muscifera Ridley

Meda - Polygonatum Verticillatum All.
Mahameda - Polygonatum sp.

Kakoli - Roscoea procera
Kshirkakoli - Roscoea sp.

In this description Khikrkakoli has been wrongly ascribed to genus Roscoea and species of genus Polygonatum is not mentioned thus Mahameda remains unidentified species of Polygonatum.

In “Vaanaspatika Anusandhan Darshika 1966-68 ” Dr..Krishna Chandra Chunekar (1969)has given the following details of Astavarga plant species;

(1) Rdhi - Vrdhi - Habenaria intermedia D.Don

(2) Kshirkakoli - Lilium polyphyllum D.Don

(3) Jeevak-Rishbhak - Jeevak —Microstylis wallichii Ridley

(4) Meda - Polygonatum verticillatum All.

(5) Mahameda - Polygonatum cirrifolium Royle

(6) Kakoli - Roscoea alpina Royle and Roscoea procera Wall.

In “Kaiyadeva Nighantu edited and translated by P.V.Sharma and Guru Prasad Sharma (1979),” they have given the identity to Astavarga plants as below:-

(i) Kakoli - Kshirkakoli -Roscoea procera Wall.(Family :Zingiberaceae)
(ii) Meda - Mahameda -Polygonatum verticillatum All.(Family:Liliaceae)
(iii) Jeevak - Rishbhak -Microstylis wallichii Lindl.Microstylis muscifera Ridley
(iv) Rdhi —Vrdhi - Habenaria spp.

Acharya Raghvir Prasad Trivedi(1985)in his book “Sandigdha Vanaushadhi Darshika ” mentioned from the Anandakandam following resemblences of Astavarga plants;

1. Jeevak resembles the tongue.
2. Rshabhak resembes a finger.
3. Meda resembles a nail.
4. Mahameda resembles the skin.
5. Kakoli resembles an eye.
6. Ksheerkakoli resembles an ear.
7. Rddhi resembles the nose.

8. Vrddhi resembles the leg.

In a separate description of each plant,he mentions the following details-

Rshabhak or Rshabha- It is Carpopogon pruriens found in Gauradesh and Kashmir. Bhavamishra prescribes Vidareekanda as a substitiute of it.Balbant Singh &K.C.Chunekar mentions that it is Microstylis Wallichi Lindl. He says it was well known in Sushruta ’s times.

Kakoli- Ashwagandha and Kali Musali (Curculigo orchioides Gaertn .)are mentioned as substitutes. A disagreement about the use of Roscoea procera Wall .has been mentioned but no basis has been given. Kshirkakoli-Different authors have been quoted increasing confusion about its identity. Safed Musali (Chlorophytum arundinaceum )has been mentioned as its substitute. Roscoca procera Wall. has been suggested to be used for both Kakoliees.He has also cited a sanskrit verse indicating thereby that it is a latex bearing creeper and its tuberous roots are used. Jeevak-Bhavamishra had mentioned its two substitutes-Vidarikanda and Shatawari. Another author Surendra Mohan has suggested Bahamana Safed (Centaurea behen )as substitute. Even while quoting Microstylis wallichi Lindl. as Jeevak doubts persist.

Meda- Polygonatum verticillatum has been mentioned its name and two substitutes such as Shatavari, Salabmishri (Orchis latifolia Lam.=Dactylorhiza hatagirea )have been suggested in a confused end quote.

Mahameda- Its botanical name has been mentioned as Polygonatum cirricifolium Royle quoting Mayaram Uniyal.The substitutes are given as Shakaakul (Trachydium lehmanni Benth .) and Shatavari and also Polygonatum verticillatum All.

Rddhi- Different authors have given different substitutes such as Varahikanda, Shravanee, Vaidyak-shabdasindhu,Chiraikanda or Malakanda (Eulophia nuda Lindl.). He mentions the use of Habenaria.

Vrddhi- In this case also use of substitutes has been mentioned.These are Varahikanda (Tacca aspera Roxb .)Beejbanda (Seeds of Sida Cordifolia ). He mentions use of Habenaria.

In “Medicinal Flora of Garhwal Himalayas ” written by Dr..M.R.Uniyal (1989)has described the Astaverga as follows —

Taxonomic Nomenclature Hindi Name Family
1.Habenaria inter media D.Don Rdhi Orchidaceae
2.Malaxis acuminata D.Don (=Microstylis wallichii Lindl) Rshbhak Orchidaceae
3.Microstylis muscifera Lindl Jeevak Orchidaceae
4.Roscoea alpina Royle Kakoli Zingiberaceae
(Scitamineae Sensu Benth &Hook )

5.Roscoea procera Wall. Kakoli Zingiberaceae
(Scitamineae Sensu Benth &Hook )

6.Lilium polyphyllum D.Don Kshirkakoli Zingiberaceae
(Scitamineae Sensu Benth &Hook )

7.Polygonatum cirrifolium Royle Mahameda Zingiberaceae
(Scitamineae Sensu Benth &Hook )

8.Polygonatum verticillatum All. Meda Zingiberaceae
(Scitamineae Sensu Benth &Hook )

Dr Uniyal has identified M.accuminata as Rsbhak and Microstylis muscifera as Jeevak where as these should be reverse.

In recent years another important and good treatise on Indian medicinal plants is that from Vaidyaratnam P.S.Varier ’s Arya Vaidyasala Kottakal (Kerla)published in 1994 and 1995.It covers 500 medicinal plants.The diagrams or paintings of Astavarga plants does not represent true to the type specimen and moreover there is some confusion in the nomenclature also, as shown below:-

Botanical Name Sanskrit or
Hindi Name
Family Comments on
correct Identity

Fritillaria royle i H.f. Kakoli Liliaceae Roscoea alpina or R. procera from family Zingiberaceae are correct.
Habenaria edgeworthi i H.f. exCollett Rdhi Orchidaceae This is Vrdhi and not Rdhi and is Habenaria acuminata Lindl.
Habenaria intermedia D.Don Vrdhi Orchidaceae This is Rdhi and not Vrdhi
Lilium polyphyllum D.Don Kshirkakoli Liliaceae This is correct identification but figure has some defects to represent true to the type.
Malaxis acuminata D.Don
(=Microstylis wallichii Lindl.)
Jeevak Orchidaceae Correct identification but figure does not represent true to the type.
Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.)
Kuntze (=Microstylis muscifera (Lindl.)Ridley)
Rishbhak Orchidaceae Correct identification tuber shape in figure is not true to type.
Polygonatum cirrhifolium (Wall.)Royle Meda Liliaceae Correct identification is Mahameda.
Polygonatum verticillatum (Linn.)All. Mahameda Liliaceae Correct identification is Meda.

From the above,following identity of Astavarga species of plants qualifies to be placed under botanical nomenclature.

S. Scientific name Hindi/ Sanskrit
Family Prominent Character (s)
1.Habenaria intermedia D.Don Rdhi Orchidaceae intermedia, D.Don Large white flowers (2-6) in a raceme distant
2.Habenaria acuminata Lindl.(=Habenaria edgeworthii H.f.ex.Collett) Vrdhi Orchidaceae Spur upturned, petals &lip yellow
3.Malaxis acuminata D.Don (=Microstylis wallichii Lindl.) Jeevaka Orchidaceae Sides of the apical part of the lip with straight edges.
4.Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.) O.Ktze.(=Microstylis muscifera Lindl.) Rshbhak Orchidaceae Leaves two,lip-3, lobedby a notch near the center.
5.Polygonatum verticillatum All. Meda Liliaceae Leaves in whorles of 4-8 tips usually actue.
6.Polygonatum cirrifolium Royle Mahameda Liliaceae Leaves in Whorls of 3-6 tendril-like tips of the leaves.
7.Roscoea alpina Royle Roscoea procera Wall. Kakoli Zingiberaceae (Scitamineae) Anthers notched at the top
8.Lilium polyphyllum Don Kshirkakoli Liliaceae Flowers scented greenish white the inside purple dotted.

The literature review clearly brings out one fact that authors of various Nighantus or Various Commentators have relied most of the time on the information provided by the herbal traders

In "A Dictionary of the flowering Plants in India"Santapau and Henry with assistance of Bela Roy and Partha Basu (1973)has given following details about the genera belonging to Astavarga Plants.

1.Habenaria Willd,(Orchidaceae) has about 600 species in the world of which 100 species occur in India.These are terresterial leafy herbs bearing flowers in spikes of racemes. Two species (Vrdhi)H.accuminata Lindl.(=Habenaria edgeworthii H.f.ex collett)and (Rdhi) H.intermedia D.Don.are found in temperate Himalaya.

2.Malaxis Soland ex Sw.(Orchindaceac) genus contain about 300 species distributed all over the world out of which 17 species occur in India.These are mainly terrestrial,rarely epiphytic or lithophytic herbs.The colour of the plant bears a striking relation to the kind of light under which it grown.Malaxis acuminata D.Don (=Microslylis wallichii Lindl.)know as Jeevak and Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.)O.Ktze.(=Microstylis muscifera Lindl.)named as Rsbhak occurain temperate Himalaya and are included under the genus Malaxis.

3.Lilium Linn.(Liliaceae): About 80 species occur under this genus the worldover of which 10 species are found in India.These are perennial,erect,leafy steamed herbs which bear flowers in axillary orterminal racemes.A temperate Himalayan species Lilium polyphyllum belongs to Astavarga group of plants and is known as ksirkakoli.

4.Roscoea Smith (Zingiberaceae) include about 15 species found in different parts of the world.Only 4 species occur in India.These are perennial herbs with thick fleshky roots.The species under this genus are R.alpina Royle,R.purpurea Smith.,R.procera Wall.R.Capitata Smith and these are know as Kakoli.

5.Ploygonatum Mill.(Liliaceae) About 50 species occur in the world of which 15 species are found in India.These herbs have creeping root stocks and leafy stems above which bear drooping white,green or purplish flowers.Two species,P.cirrifolium (Wallich.)All.known as Mahameda and P.verticillatum (L.)All.known as Meda,are included in the Astavarga of Chayavanprash.

Himalayan Habitats of Astavarga Plants and Their Gradual Decline

The doubtful identify of Astavarga plants has been mainly because of their specific habitat conditions which are always found in small patches. It requires much travelling in the Himalayas particularly the North —Western Himalaya to collect even a small number of plants of at least four species as has been pointed out in the previous chapter.

Roscoea: Two species R.alpina and R.procera are used in Astavarga, but there are four species and the other two are R.purpurea which has dark purple stems and flowers also have deeper shade;R. capitata which has dense head of flowers borne on a leafless long stalk and plants are also taller than other species.These occur mostly in forest edges shrubberies,open slopes on altitudes ranging from 1500 to 3000 m except R.alpina which is alpine species and is found between 2500m to 4000m above MSL.The species occurrence is quite common at present.

Polygonatum:Four species are commonly found.These are P.hookeri Baker,P.multiflorum (L.) All.,P. verticillatum (L.)All.and P.Cirrifolium (Wallich.)Royle and out of these P. cirrifolium and P.Verticillatum are used in Astavarga.These grow in shrubberies open grassy slopes,and as under growth in forests on altitudes varying between 1500m to 3700m in temperate Himalaya.

Malaxis: Three species are found distributed in N-W Himalaya.These are M.acuminata ,M.musicfera ,M.cylindrostachya .These grow as undergrowth in forests over the altitudes varying from 600m to 4000m.They prefer shrubberies and grassy slopes,moist and humus rich soil and shady rocks.Another M.mackinnoni Duthie also occurrs in Uttaranchal State.

Lilium:At least 5 to 6 species occur in Himalayas.Medicinally most important among these are Lilium polyphyllum Don and Lilium wallichianu m Schult.&Schult.f.These are generally found in open slopes,grassy lands in forests.These are rare and occur between 1800m to 3800m altitudes. The other closely related plant is Fritillaria royl e and Fritillaria cirrhosa D.Don.Their bulbs are also used as tonic and are employed as substitute.

Habenaria:Occur in temperate Himalaya on grassy slopes between 1800m to 2900m altitudes. Habenaria have 4 species,but medicinally most important are H.intermedia D.Don and H.acuminata Lindl.The other species are H.griffithi H.f.,H.goodyeroides D.Don.There is scope of mixing bulbs of Eulophia compestris Wall.,and Eulophia herbacea Lindl.which are also considered as aphrodisiac and tonic.

Gradual Decline in Natural Habitats:The Rapid destruction of forests,various developmental activies such as roads,buildings,orchards etc.and climatic changes (due to human intervention) inducing ecological changes in the habitat conditions are all responsible for severe loss in plant populations and as a consequence,these species,which have specific habitat requirements, are becoming rare.This is at least true for Lilium polyphyllum D.Don which was common in Shimla forests about 100 years ago when Flora Simlensis was written by Col.Henry Collett (1902). Other Astavarga plants such as Habenaria intermedia , H.acuminata ,Malaxis muscifera have undergone the same fate and it is difficult to find spots rich in their populations.The early grazing and forest fires are the other hazardous causes.The other potent cause is grass for the domestic animals, the area under which have shrunk greatly, clear the grass lands bushes etc. by burning and also go for early grass cutting. This causes loss of under ground vegetative parts (propagating material)and early removal of above ground parts do not allow seed set or seed maturity causing severe decline in plant populations.

Medicinal Properties of Astavarga Plants

Various Ayurvedic Nighantu books composed or commented by different Vaidyas over several centuries describe the medicinal properties of all the Astavarga plants either as a group or alone are reproduced hereunder. Till date none has tried their chemical evaluation in the modern laboratories.Certainly,as is evident,they need further investigation on scientific lines to add value to their excellent text described qualities.The Astavarga plants have been described under three Ayurvedic terms that is Jeevniya,Brhneeya,Vayaasthapan. It is therefore essential to explain them before proceeding to give their medicinal properties.

Jeevaniya:are those plant drugs which strengthen the bodily Vitality (Prana Shakti) through their action on three humours (three doshas —vata,Pitta,Kapha)bringing them into equilibrium state — described in Ayurveda as a state of perfect health..Plants described as Jeevaniya,in various Nighantus are Jeevak, Rishbhak, Meda, Mahameda, Kakoli, Kshirkakoli, Mugdaparni, Mashaparni, Jeevanti and Yastimadhu. These medicines also enchance anabolic activities over the catabolism in the body.

Brhneeya :The drugs which promote the formation of mansa dhatu that is flesh formation. Such drug plants are ksirini, Dugdhika, Aswagandha, Kakoli, Kshirkakoli, Sweta Bala, Peet Bala, Van Kapas,Vidari,Vidhara.

Vaya Sthapan (Gerontologic):These plant drugs clears the body of three doshas and particularly the Vata dosha and thus does not allow progressive growth changes to occur or if they occur it is at a very slow rate.This means that the immunity system becomes strong and metabolic processes are growth promoting.The plant drugs in this category are Meda, Mahameda, Rdhi, Vrdhi, Amalaka, Guruchi, Punarnava, Shatavari, Jeevanti, Haritaki, Sweta Aprajita, Mandukaparni and Shalparni.

Jeevaka :is sweet (madhur), refrigerant, pacifies pitta, Rakta and vata doshas.It is useful in burning sensation, fever and consumption, increases kapha dosha and sukra (seminal fluid)(Gana Nighantu). Nighantu Ratnakar states that it is madhur, sheetal, shukrajanak, kaphakarak, Rakta pitta nashak, Balkarak (tonic)and is useful in treating vata,pitta, fever (jvar),Krsta (emanciation),phthisis,burning sansation and blood disorders.

Rshbhak :is sweet in taste and pacifies pitta,vata and rakta doshas.It is useful in consumption, burning sensation in the body,fever and increases kapha dosha and Shukradhatu (Nighantu Ratnakar).

Both Jeevak and Rishbhak are nutritious,tonic, refrigerant, viryavardhaka, madhur and are useful in pitta dosha, burning, blood disorder,vata dosha and consumption (Bhava Prakash).

Meda :In Nighantu Churamani it is stated that meda is sweet,sheetvirya,it pacifies pitta dosha, increases kapha and shukra.It is useful in phthisis,burning sensation in the body and fever. Nighantu Rantnakar describes its properties as sweet in taste, sheetal, guru, dhatuvardhaka, increases milk in ladies, Snigdha, kaphakarak and is useful in vata, pitta, rakta vikar, consumption, fever, burning sensation in body and cough.

Mahameda :is madhur in taste,sheetal,increases kapha and shukra.It pacifies pitta dosha,and is useful in burning sensation of the body,blood disorders,consumption and fever due to vata dosha (Dhanwantri Nighantu,Raj Nighantu).Both Meda and Mahameda increases meda dhatu in the body.

Rdhi :is paustik,tridoshnashak,Shukrajanak,madhur,guru,vitality enhancing prana

(Pranaprada). Aishwarya janak and is useful in epilepsy,rakta —pitta doshas —(Bhava Prakash). In Nighantu Ratnakar it is written that it is sweet in taste, unctous, medha janak, sheetal, kaphakarak, sukravardhaka, pranadayaka, Balkarak, Rakta shodhak, Ruchikarka, guru and is useful in leprosy, worm infestation, epilepsy, raktapitta thirst, consumption, pitta, vata, rakta dosha and fever.

Vrdhi :is cooling nutritious,causing conception,Shukra vardhaka,pacifies rakta pitta doshas, ulcers in stomach,cough and consumption (“Shaligram Nighantu ”).

Kakoli :The roots are sweet in taste,slightly bitter,refrigerant,galactagogue,fatty and is useful in phthisis,pitta,pains due to vata aggravation,blood problems,burning sensation in the body and fever.It increases kapha and shukra dhatu.(Dhanwantri Nighantu).It is vata —pittahar, Sheetal, Brhna and cures emaciation due to consumption (Madan Pal Nighantu).In Nighantu Ratnakar, it is mentioned that it is Sheetal, Vrsya, madhura, tikta, kaphakari, guru,destroys phthisis,pitta, thirst and is beneficial in rakta dosha, raktapitta, emaciation, visam jwar,and aggravated vata - pitta.

Kshirkakoli :The bulbs are sweet slightly bitter,refrigerant,expectorant,antipyretic,aphrodisiac,

galactagogue and tonic.It is useful in cough,general debility,fever,vitiated condition of pitta,

seminal weakness,burning sensation,increases vitality (Madan Vinod Nighantu,Sodhal Nighantu, Raj Nighantu,Kaidev Nighantu,Dhanwantri Nighantu).

Astavarga :is cooling,tasty,nutritious tonic,aphrodisiac,nourishes body and increases kapha.It is beneficial in seminal weakness,increases fat in the body,heals bone fracture and cures vata,pitta, and rakta doshas,abnormal thirst,burning sensation in the body,consumption,fever and diabetic condition.It is one of the excellent combination of herbal drugs which restores health immediately, strengthens immunity system and rectifies defects in anabolism or body growth processes and works as antioxidant in the body.That is why Aswani Kumars invented it for curing the frail, emaciated sick body of Chayavan Rishi who regained youthful condition it is claimed.There is need to grow these species on large scale to take up clinical trials and chemical investigations.The tissue culture programme may be advantageous to save these species and achieve fast multiplication.

Botanical Description with Characters of drug part of Astavarga Plants

Vrdhi – (Habenaria acuminata Lindl.syn./

Habenaria edgeworthii Hook.f.ex Collett):

Stem – 30 to 60 cm..high.leafy,stout

Leaves – Ovate,oblong-lanceolate,4-10 cm long acute,acuminate thick,upper leaves gradually smaller, nerves 5-7,base sheathing.

Flowering Spike – 7cm to 25cm long,, bearing many flowers.

Flowers – Yellow – green 1 to 1.5cm across with lanceolate acute bracts, the lower shorter, the upper longer, than the ovary sepals green, pubescent, the margins slightly fringed;

petals yellow thick, erect; lip yellow, longer than the sepals concave narrowing to a long strap shaped limb; Spur about twice the length of ovary, yellowish –green curving upwards with tip curved down.

Flowering &Fruiting time – July –August

Characteristics of usable drug part – Tubers are in pair the older becomes Shrivelled as the growing period proceeds. The shape of the tuber is oval to ovate and slightly tapering at the opposite end giving it a shape resembling to cotton boll. Skin dull white, flesh white and sweetish-bitter in taste.


Himachal – Summer Hills,,Shimla;Mountains near Manali,Rahla Forest, Kothi, Manali, Sarahan, Nirmand-Annu, Rwanda, Kamarunag peak,Saptasar above Rawalsar (Mandi), Chansel, Churdhar, Jangtoo, Chamba, Narkanda.

Uttaranchal -Mussoorie-Jaberkhet, Mussoorie, Kyarphulli, Company Bagh, Deoban, Tehri- Nagtibba West of Dhanolti; Uttarkashi-Jamuna Valley, Kharshali, Har-Ki-Dun; Chamoli-Valley of flowers, Gobindghat, Khirsu; Pithoragarh-Tejam Jankhola Vally, Kali Valley, Sarju Valley, Nainital-Nainital, Bhowali, Ramgarh, Fatehgarh, Above Malli Tal; Almora-Binsar, Almora, Lorakhet, Ranikhet to Chaubatia.

Ayurvedic drug properties :– It is emollient, aphrodisiac, rejuvenating and tonic and is beneficial in aggravated vata and pitta, burning sensation in the body, hyperdipsia, fever, cough, epilepsy, insanity, emanciation and general debility (Bhav Prakash, kai, Nirs, so, Ni, Ni, Ra)

Substitutes -Varahi Kand ((Tacca aspera Roxb.)salam panja (Dactylorhiza hatagirea) Mahabala (Sida acuta, seeds of Sida cordifolia).

Status -It is a rare species because grows in assocaiton with grasses and is being cut in early stages before seeds are mature.

Rdhi –(Habenaria intermedia D.Don )

Stem -Erect,25-60cm high, terete, robust, leafy.

Leaves -Scattered usually 5-nerved, ovate-lanceolate acuminate, cordate at the base.

Raceme -2-6 flowered.

Flowers -5cm across white or greenish-white few, distant. Bracts leaf like lanceolate, acuminate, equal or more than ovary. Sepals persistent, 20-25mm long, green, spreading tips reflexed, upper one white inside. Petals white,5-nerved.Lip 3-lobed, longer than sepals, green spur 5-6cm stout, longer than ovary more or less curved. Side lobes deeply fringed. Flowering time -July -August Characteristics Usable Drug Part - Tubers are round at the opposite end but tapering towards stem joint. Skin is dirty white,flesh white and is slightly bitter in taste.

Distribution -Himanchal Pradesh, Koti (Shimla)Summer Hill Indian Institute of Advance study,Kamana Hill),Rwanda and Kamarunag (Karsog),Rewalsar hills (Mandi), Shimla (Fagu),Dalhousie (Chamba), Kinnaur.

Jammu &Kashmir -Azmabad, Poonch,Pirpanjal Range.

Uttaranchal -Dehradun-Mussoorie (Jaberkhet),Camel back road, company bagh,Bhatta Fall,Kampty fall;Tehri (Nagtibba)Suakholi, Chamoli-on way to Kedarnath,Jangal chatti,way to valley of flowers, Gaurikund (Rambera);Utarrkashi- Tons Valley,Bhagirathi valley and way to Dodital.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties :- Rdhi is Sheetvirya,pacifies vata,pitta, rakta doshas. It is useful in consumption and fevers. It increases kapha dosha and shukra dhatu. It is intellect promoting, aphrodisiac, rejuvenating, tonic and cures emaciation, epilepsy, cough, skin diseases, haematemesis and general debility.

Substitutes :-Varahi Kand (Tacca aspera Roxb.)Utangan seeds (Blepharis edulis Pers.)Bala (Sida cordifolia ), Chiriya Musali (Asparagus filicinus Buch.-Ham.)

Jeevak —(Malaxis acuminata D.Don )

Syn.Microstylis wallichii Lindl .

Stem -5 to 25 cm,ribbed bearing pseudo bulbs

Leaves – Usually 3 may be more,,5-10cm ovate-lanceolate, acute with prominent veins and light green.

Flowers – Shortly stalked about 10mm in diameter, yellowish-green with purple centre.Sepals oblong,2 lateral rather shorter than the dorsal, margins recurved. Petals linear longer than sepals, margin recurved. Lip shied-like, slightly convex, tip notched or bilobulate, auricles straight and slightly over lapping.

Flowering Time -July -August

Characteristics of Usable Drug Part:-Pseudo bulbs are in pair and new formation looks like a garlic clove (hence called rasona kand vat).Colour is green white and these remain alive over long period. Flesh is bitterish in taste.

Distribution:-Himalaya, Khasihills (Meghalaya) Andaman Islands, Travencore, Mdhya Pradesh. In Himalaya 1850 m to 2300 m Himachal Pradesh to Arunachal Pradesh,Assam, Nagaland,Manipur,Mizoram,Tripura.

Himachal Pradesh:-Shimla-Glen,Boileaugunj, Elysium Hill in forests,way to Rani forest,way from Khajiar to Chmba,Chail,Hattoo,Narkanda.

Uttaranchal :-Dehradun-Camel back road, Below Mussoorie bypass road, above barlowgunj, chakrata, Jaunsar, Tehri(Magra); Pauri-Pode khal, Chamoli-Nagnath; Ukhimath, Gopeshwar, Pithoragarh-Sarju Valley, Berenag, Thal Kedar; Nainital, Bhowali, Ramagarh, Almora-Ranikhet, Between Ranikhet-Chaubatia.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties :-It is sheet virya and calms down vata, rakta and pitta doshas and is beneficial in burning sensation of the body, fever, and consumption.It increases kapha and Shukra dhatu. It is aphrodisiac and tonic.It cures haematemesis, aggravated vata and pitta doshas,seminal weakness, dipsia,emaciation,tuberculosis and general body weakness.It increases body flesh and is jeevniya.

Substitutes :-Vidari kand,Bahaman Safed (Centaurea behen Linn.),Guruchi (Tinospora cordifolia )

Rshbhak -(Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.)

Kuntze)Synonym Microstylis muscifera Lindl.

Stem – 3 to 25cm high with ovoid pseudo bulbs

Leaves -One or two (unequal)3-10 x 2-4cm sessile, ovate to ovate -lanceolate obtuse, narrowed at base to sheathing petiole.

Inflorescence -10 to 25 cm.long.

Flowers :3-4 mm long,pale-yellow-green, Bracts lanceolate shorter than ovary sepals broadly lanceolate.Petals linear Shorter than sepals.Lip ovate abruptly pointed, margins thickened.

Flowering Time -July –August

Characteristics of the usable drug Part -Tubers round, shining white bearing stem giving shape of bullock horn having a similar curvature. The taste is slightly bitter with mucilaginous substance.

Distribution -Himalaya between 1800-3500m eastward to Sikkim.

Himachal Pradesh -Shimla (Mashobra,Fagu,Hattoo forests) Rahala forest, Dhanchoo, Sangla, chamba.

Jammu &Kashmir -Gulmarg,Datni,Leh.

Uttaranchal -Pithoragarh -Tejum Haya, Bakariudiyar, Ralam Valley, Palangarh, Ralam, Almora -Dwali,Dehradun- Chakrata,Deoban Tehri-Masartal, Bokhills, Dhanolti, way to Nagtibba; Chamoli-Vasukital, Bajmora, Jumma Area, Dunagiri, Valley of flowers, Rambara, Hemkund; Uttarkashi-Jamuna Valley above village kharsil.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties -Tubers are efficacious cure for pitta, rakta, vata doshas. It is useful in phthisis, burning sensation in the body, fever and increases Kapha and shukra. It is styptic, aphrodisiac and tonic. It is an effective cure in vitiated pitta and vata, seminal weakness, dysentery, emaciation and general debility.

Substitutes:-Vidari Kanda (Pueraria tuberosa DC.) Bahaman Lal (Centaurium roxburghii (G.Don)Druce), Vansalochan.

Status:-Malaxis muscifera is also a rare species and at present its reasons are not clear.

Kakoli —(Roscoea alpina

Royle,Roscoea procera Wall.)

Stem- 6-20cm and 30-60cm,robust.

Leaves- 2-6 lanceolate,15x3 cm.

Flowers- Several lilak, purple or white, corolla tube much longer than the calyx, borne in a short stem with or without leaves, upper lobe (petal) rounded, hooded and narrower reflexed lateral petals. Lower staminode 5x3cm obscurly 3-lobed spreading, notched at the tip.

Flowering Time -July –August or June for R.alpina.

Characteristics of the usable drug part -Fingers replacing roots are thickened 3-4 and have sickle shape, white and flesh inside is also white, tastes sweet resembling shatavar.

Distribution -Western Himalaya 1000 to 2700m commonly found in these altitudes in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Uttaranchal (Joshi Math,Mussoorie) and in other all districts.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties -Root fingers are sweet sheetvirya,pacifies vata pitta,fever due to vitiated vata-pitta.It is beneficial in consumption, burning sensation in body, increases Kapha dosa and shukra. It is also an effective cure for pains due to pitta, vata, rakta dosha, thirst due to pitta, rakta pitta etc.

Substitutes -Aswagandha (Withania somnifera )Curculigo orchioides (Kali musali)

Kshirkakoli —(Lilium polyphyllum D.Don )

Stem -30 to 100cm high, erect.

Leaves - Sessile, alternate or nearly opposite or whorled, narrow lanceolate or linear 7cm-13cmx 5mm-12mm.Bracts leaf like whorled.

Flowers -Solitary,racemed or whorled stalked (3cm-10cm), Perianth 6cm-8cm long,green-white with purple dots inside. Stigma 3-lobed,capsule 2cm to 3cm.

Flowering Time -15June -15 July

Characteristics of Usable Drug Part -The bulb is a loose mass of fleshy scales white in colour and is sweetish bitter in taste.

Distribution -Himachal-Hattoo peak,Narkanda forests, Chail (Solan district),Sungari-Bahli on Rampur Road.

Jammu &Kashmir -Gulmarg,Liddar Valley.

Uttaranchal -Gangotri, Rainthal, Amardhar, Kedarnath, Madmaheshwar. It is a rare species and its populations are very small that is 10-15 plants.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties -It promotes appetite and pacifies vata, pitta, rakta dosas.It is efficacious in bleeding disorders, cardiac diseases, dyspnoea, cough, consumption and diseases of urine system and is vrsya (tonic).Bulbs are refrigerant, galactagogue, expectorant and aphrodisiac. They are useful in bronchitis, burning sensation, hyperdipsia, rheumatalgia and general weakness in the body.

Substitutes -Aswagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal),swet musali (Chlorophytum arundinaceum ), Fritillaria roylei Hook.f.,Fritillaria oxypetala Royle.

Comments on Lilum Polyphyllum Don -Sir Col.Henry Collett (1902) wrote Flora Simlensis and in frontispiece he gave a diagram of this plant species and also mentioned under the description of species in family Orchidaceae that it is common in Shimla woods. But a search of this plant species in forests in and around was futile because even a single plant specimen was not found. This is because of disturbance in natural habitat and changing ecological conditions. Similar experience was felt in some other habitats in Uttaranchal especially in Ponwali Kanta, Rainthal area. The species has become rare and need immediate action for its conservation.

Meda —(Polygonatum verticillatum Allioni )

Stem -30cm to 1.20m,erect,angled,grooved and sometimes mottled.

Leaves -in whorls of 4-8 sessile,linear,10-20cm long and 5-13mm broad or lanceolate 8cm x 18mm,tips usually acute, sometimes obtuse or slightly enrolled to the midrib.

Raceme -whorled 2-3 flowered.

Parianth -5mm white often greenish

Berry -6-7mm in diameter green and red or orange on ripening.

Flowering &Fruiting Time -July -September

Characteristics of the Usable Drug Part-Plants bear rhizomes as under ground part which resemble ginger but comparatively much less thick except in very old (7-8 years) plants. The rhizomes are white or dull white in colour but flesh inside is white and is sweet in taste when dried.

Distribution -The species is widely distributed in temperate Himalaya between 1600m and 3500m.

Himachal Pradesh – Shimla,,Narkanda,Hattoo,Churdhar,Janjelli, Sikari Tibba,Kamarunagh.

Jammu &Kashmir -Trikuta Hills,Udhampur,Doda area.

Uttaranchal- Ponwalikanta, Tali, Amardhar, Ganganani dhar, Rainthal, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Madmaheshwar.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties - Meda rhizomes are sweet in taste sheetvirya, pacify pitta dosh and increase kapha and shukra dhatu. They are beneficial in phthisis, burning sensation in the body, and fever (Dhan.Ni.).They are emollient, aphrodisiac, tonic, galactagogue, and beneficial in aggravation of pitta, cough, ulcers, skin diseases, general debility and vulnerary.

Substitutes -Asparagus racemosus Dunal (Shatavari),Salam misri (Eulophia campestris Wall).

Mahameda —(Polygonatum cirrifolium Royle )

Stem -30to 130cm tall,terete,round or grooved, climbing by means of tendril like tips of the leaves and grow generally in association with bushes.

leaves -are always in whorls of 3-6,sessile,linear, 5cm to 8cm long and 3-5mm broad, lower surface glaucus, the margins usually inrolled to the midrib.

Racemes -Whorled 2-4 flowered.

Parianth -5mm white often greenish or slightly purple.

Berry -6-7mm in diameter,green and on ripening Orange-Red.

Flowering &Fruiting Time –July-September

Characteristics of the usable Drug Part -The rhizomes generally look like ginger but less thick, white or dull white in colour and are sweet in taste on drying.

Distribution -Temperate Himalaya 1500m to 2700m

Himachal Pradesh -Shimla,Matiana,Narkanda.

Uttaranchal -Mussoorie, Chakrata, Gaurikund, Rambara, Harshal, Ganganani, Devban, Rainthal, Mandakini Ghati, Bhilangana Ghati, Ponwali, Kalimath.

Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties -According to Dhanwantri Nighantu,Mahameda is sweet in taste, sheet virya,increases Kapha and shukra dhatu and is beneficial in consumption burning sensation,and fever.Various Nighantus describe its properties as emollient aphrodisiac,galactagoue,tonic and useful invitiation of vata-pitta,strangury seminal weakness, anorexia and general body weakness.

Substitutes -Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus Willd.) Nagbala (S.Veronicaefolia Linn.)Shakaakul mishri (Polygonatum multiflorum (Linn.)All.),Paederia foetida Linn.(Prasarani).

Status -It is also a rare species because of early cutting before Seeds are mature and burning of grassy plots for removal of bushes.


Family name: Solanaceae. black colored henbane Latin name: Hyoscyamus Niger Linn
Sanskrit: Prasik Yamani, Madakarani, Turushka
Hindi: Khurasani Ajwain
Gujarati: Khurasani Ajmo Marathi: Khuasani Oba
Bengali: Khurasani Yamani
Telangi: Khurasani Vamu
Dravidi: Kurishani Vanam
Arabian: Teralbanj, Bajul
French: Tukhme Bunj, Bunj
Punjabi: Khurasani Ajwain

The plants of Henbane are found in the Garhwal regions of northern India and grow up to a height of 800 to 10,000 feet. They are cultivated in Saharanpur, Kolkata, Agra, Ajmer, Pune and government parks and fields.

The seeds have 25 to 30 per cent oil; the leaves and flowers have hiosimine and alkaline called hiosan along with atopin and scopin in little quantities. The biannual atropine plants grow in mud.

The plants are longer than the plants of thymol seeds, annual or biannual. The roots have fibers and round in shape, straight and strong. The leaves are broad and long, with sharp edges, green in color. The branches also have fibers. The flowers grow in bunches in yellowish colors with violet stripes. The fruits are small, there are two segments at a distance of half inch and each section has black coloured henbane with flat shape.


1. It is dry, bitter and pungent, hot. It has alcoholic affect and causes anxiety. It cures kapha, respiratory problems, heart pain and sexual problems.

2. It is curative hence beneficial in case of piles, pain in the stomach. early ejaculation, dreams, menses. painful discharge of menses and irregular menstrual cycle. It calms down the sexual desire as well.

3. Henbane has alcoholic tendency and causes urination. If taken in small doses it reduces the pace of heart beat at night and strengthens but excess quantity is harmful for the heart.

4. The weariness effect is seen on the brain, genital organs and intestines. Opium and thorn apple are similar medicines but opium causes constipation, whereas henbane is free from this quality. Thorn apple leads to drowsiness and illusions but this herb does not have any such effect hence henbane is considered to be a betzer medicine. It is the best medicine for sleepiness and getting rid off weariness.

5. It has an effect on the nervous system. it calms down the mind, gives good sleep.


Toothache: Grind henbane with leaves and keep it on the cavity to get rid off toothache.

Joint pain: Boil it in sesame oil. Massage the painful area to cure joint pain. sciatica pain and backache etc.

Ear pain: Boil henbane in sesame oil and our feu drops in the ear to cure ear pain.

Liver pain: Lep with this oil cures chronic liver er pain and chest pain.

Bleeding gums: Rinsing the mouth With the kwath (decoction) of henbane leaves stops bleeding from the gums.

Urinary Problems: The extract of henbane seeds is beneficial in case of stones,pain or burning sensation.It causes urination and thereby reduces the pain.

Anxiety:- Add 30 drops of henbane juice in 25ml of water and should be administered to patients at an interval of one hour. This is very effective in case of hysteria, lunacy and other vata related doshas.

Worms: The male having worms in the stomach should eat jaggery on empty stomach and then take henbane churna with stale water. The worms present in the intestines will come out through stools.

Uterus pain: Make a long stick with the henbane powder and insert it in the vagina.

Stomachache: Make a pill with jaggery and henbane and take to control stomachache. Alternatively add black salt in henbane churna and take it.
Add one gram dry ginger powder in two to four drops of henbane oil and eat it and drink hot aniseed extract over it, this controls stomachache immediately or add little amount of jaggery in its kwath and take it.

Cough, hiccups and vomiting

l. Keep henbane and sugar candy in a betel leaf and suck the juice to cure dry cough caused due to vata.
2. Keep the henbane seeds in mouth and suck the juice to stop hiccups caused after meals.
3. Grind the top portion of henbane and clove and lick with honey to cure vomiting.

Dysentery: Take equal quantities of henbane, ginger, tea and mochrasa, make a fine powder. Take 2 to 3 grams with water less curd, it stops dysentery.

Stones: Take 5 gm of henbane churna with 20 gm of radish juice to dissolve stones.

Worms: Grind the henbane or give its fumigation in the rectum of children to get rid off small white worms.

Leprosy: Take henbane churna with jaggery for seven days and maintain strict diet.

Piles: Make a poultice of henbane and give fomentation on the piles and with salt it calms down the urinary pain.

Fever due to indigestion: Swallow four henbane seeds with cold water without chewing it . It can also be taken with honey.

Wounds: Grind it with little jaggery and tie a poultice with rapeseed oil to heal the wounds quickly.

1 comment:

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