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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taxonomic and Medicinal properties of Eclipta alba- the Bhringraj

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Bhringraj- Eclipta alba : A rare medicinal herb

Eclipta alba or Eclipta prostrata L. or Yerba-de- tago is a small plant belonging to the family Asteraceae or Compositae. It is commonly known as False Daisy in English and Bhringraj in Sanskrit. The word Bhringraj literally means that which bestows hair the splendid black colour like that of a grand humming bee. Its other names are – Keshraj or Bhringraj in Hindi, Uchi-sumbal in Manipuri, Karisilanganni or Kavanthakara in Tamil, Kannunni in Malayalam, Galagara in Telugu, Ajagara in Kannada, Kesarda in Oriya, and Bhangra in Santali.


Habit and Habitat

Eclipta is a small and erect annual herb. Its stem is usually erect, flat or round, blackish green, profusely branched and pubiscent. Leaves are opposite, serrate, 3 to 5 cm long and blackish green in colour. The inflorescence is a head with 6 to 8 mm diameter. It is solitary, white, achene, compressed, and narrowly winged. Fruits are many seeded. Seeds are black and resemble cumin seeds. Flowering takes place during August- September months and fruiting occurs up to November.
Eclipta alba syn. E. prostrata is cosmopolitan in distribution. However it is abundantly found in India, China, Brazil and United States. The United State’s Department of Agriculture has declared this plant as endangered. Habitat destruction, reclamation of wetlands and changes in climate seem to cause pressure on the survival and distribution of this plant as a result of which it has become rare and endangered in many parts of the world including India.


Bhringraj - Eclipta alba showing floral heads

Major chemical compounds found in the plant

A number of chemical compounds have been isolated from and reported to exist in the plant Eclipta. Some of these chemical compounds are resins, ecliptine, nicotine, glucosides, and alkaloides. The extract of the plant contains bio-active steroidal alkaloides that have cytotoxicity against certain cells. Ecliptasaponine C is a new Triterpenoid glucoside which has been isolated along with Daucosterol and Stigmasterol-3-O- glucoside from this plant. The Ethanol extract of Eclipta alba has been reported to have a neutralizing effect on the venom of rattle snakes. A number of other chemicals that have so far identified to exist in the plant extract are Wedelolactone, demethylwedelolactone, Wedelic acid, apegenin, luteolin, b-amyrin etc. Wedelolactone and demethylwedelolactone have been reported to have trypsin inhibitory effects. Demethylwedelolactone, polypeptides, polyacetylenes, theophene- derivatives, steroides, triterpenes and flavonoids have been reported to possess estrogenic activity. Wedelolactone has been reported to have the property useful for treating hepatitis and cirrhosis (Wagner et al. 1986), as antibacterial, and antihemorrhagic (Kosuge et al. 1985). Scientific studies reveal that it contains bio-active steroidal alkaloides.

Medicinal Properties

A. Importance in Ayurvedic and Unani Healthcare Systems

The leaf extract of Eclipta alba is considered to be a powerful liver tonic. It is considered rejuvenative and good for hair. A black die is obtained from it which is used as hair dye.

The extract of this plant is bitter in taste. It is considered hot in Ayurveda and Siddha that recommend its application for recovering the imbalance of vata and kapha.

The plant extract is considered as a rasayan for longevity and rejuvenation.

In the Unani Healthcare System it is used for curing vertigo.

B. Importance in Traditional Healthcare Systems

The extract of the plant is traditionally used to cure skin problems like athlete foot, eczema, dermatitis, etc. It is also applied on the scalp to arrest hair loss. Leaves of this plant are traditionally used against snake bite in China and Brazil.

In Punjab and Gujrat its extract is used in curing ulcers and as an antiseptic for curing wounds.

The expressed juice of Eclipta leaves is applied after mixing with honey to cure catarrh in infants.

The leaf-juice of this plant is boiled with sesame or coconut oil and applied on head to render the hair black and luxuriant.

The extract of Bhringraj is mixed with the extract of amla and Brahmi and used to blacken the hair.

The extract of the plant is rubbed on gums to cure toothache. It is also applied with a little oil for relieving headache. It is applied with sesame oil in case of elephantiasis.

The root extract of Eclipta alba is considered as emetic and purgative.

The entire plant of Eclipta alba is used for the treatment of bleeding, haemoptysis, haematuria, itching, hepatitis, diphtheria, and diarrhea in Taiwan.

Plant extract is used against dysentery, anaemia, eye-diseases, asthma and liver cirrhosis.

In Suriname’s traditional medicine, it is used to treat upper respiratory congestion in children.

In China, the extract of this plant is used for cooling and restoration which supports the mind, nerves, liver, and eyes.

The extract of Eclipta alba is also used as alternative medicine as expectorant, antipyretic, antispasmodic, tonic, deobstuent in hepatic and spleen enlargement, in skin diseases and as a substitute for a liver tonic.

References

1. Chopra, R.N., Nayar, SL., Chopra, IC. 1955. Glossary of Indian Medicinal plants.C.S.I.R. New Delhi.
2. Kritikar, K.R., Basu, BD.1975.Chronica Botanica Indian Medicinal plants. New Delhi.
3. Puri, HS 2003 Rasayan: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation. Taylor Francis, London, pages 80-85
4. Wagner H. et al.Coumestans as the main active principles of the liver drugs Eclipta alba and Wedella Calendulaceae. Planta Med Oct 1986 ;( 5): 370-4.


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