Babchi: The rare medicinal herb
Babchi is a rare medicinal plant taxonomically called as Psoralia corylifolia belonging to family Fabaceae. The Linnaean Herbarium, the Department of Phenerogamic Botany, Swedish Museum of Natural history has a record of five species of genus Psoralia namely P.aculeata, P. Americana, P. bituminosa, P. dalea, P. grandulosa, and P. tenuifolia. It is variously known in different languages. It is known as Bakuchi, Putiphali, Krishnaphala, and Kushtanashini in Sanskrit; Bavachi and Bakuchi in Hindi; Warachi in Marathi; Bhawanchi in Telugu; Tukhma raha in Arabic;; Karpokarishi in Tamil; Hakuch, Somaraj, and Bakachidana in Bengali, Bu Gu Chi in Chinese, and Psoralia corylifolia in Latin. In ancient scriptures of Ayurveda it has a number of synonyms formed with the addition of synonyms of moon as pre-fixes like Chandra prabha, Chandralekha, Somraja, and Somarekha etc.
Habit and Habitat
It is an erect, herbaceous, and annual weed growing up to a height of one meter. Leaves are green, hairy, simple and broadly elliptic. Each leaf contains five main nerves that come from the base. The inflorescence is axillary raceme having flowers blue in colour comprising 10 to 30 flowers. Fruits are usually black in colour containing compressed, non-endospermic, smooth, and oily and starch free seeds. A single fruit usually contains a single seed. Flowering occurs from August to December. Babchi plant grows in the plains of central and eastern India, China, and in some parts of Arab under semi arid conditions.
Principal constituents of the plant
Psoralen, Isopsoralen, and flavonoids like bavachinin, bavachalcone, bavachin, and isobavachin are specifically found in Babchi plant. The flavanone Bavachinin which has been isolated from the fruits of Babchi has been reported to have remarkable anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic properties. The chief active principle of Babchi seeds is an essential oil and a resin which is alkaloidal in nature.
Though Babchi is bitter and pungent in taste and has a hot potency, it reportedly alleviates kaph and vata dosas while it aggravates pitta dosas. According to Raja Nighantu it possesses light and dry attributes. It is mild laxative and is considered to cure various skin diseases.
In Ayurveda it has been called as Kushtanashini and has been recommended as one of the best known herbs for the treatment of skin diseases. Properties of Babchi fruits have also been mentioned in the Susruta Samhita.
It’s Chinese name Bu Gu Chi means – tonify bone resins. It is known as libido stimulator and is used to treat impotence and to improve vitality in Chinese system of medicines. Seeds of Babchi in Chinese system of medicines are considered to be aphrodisiac and a powerful tonic to the genital organs.
Through various researches the extract of the Babchi plant has been proved to be anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic, diaphoretic, laxative and stimulant. It is considered to be an important medicine to cure leprosy, leucoderma, and psoriasis. Seeds are used in the preparation of some perfumed oils also.
The extract of the Babchi plant has been reported to cure cancer by destroying mitochondria and decreasing the energy supply to the cancer cells, and also by inhibiting the synthesis of certain proteins and nucleic acids. The active ingredients Psoralen and isopsoralen are reported to be responsible for anti-cancer activity. The extract of seeds of the plant is reported to be cytotoxic, deobstuent, and diaphoretic. The seed extract is also used in the treatment of premature ejaculation, impotence, lower back pains, bed-wetting etc.
The extract of the roots of the plant has been reported to treat kidney disorders, dental caries, lumbago, and hair loss. It has also been reported that the anti bacterial action of the fruit extract of Babchi can inhibit the growth and multiplication of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Thus it can also be used in the treatment of tuberculosis also.