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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adhatoda vesica: an important wild plant

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I recognize Adhatoda since my childhood or when I was in seventh standard. Someone had suggested me to take tea of its leaves when I was suffering from bronchitis like symptoms. Being a child I could not take it as a medicine as I had yet to learn to tolerate unpleasant tastes. My professor too had shown me the plant in full bloom while he was in a field trip with us and was teaching us how to identify plants. In rural settings I used to spot the plant growing here and there in uncultivable lands often under the shade of some big tree. While on field trips I happen to see the plant along road sides but always in a sheltered position, either under the shade of a tree or close to its trunk. Some insect likes the taste of its leaves and makes numerous holes in them. Now when I am grown up, rather elderly, I am bound to admit medicinal importance of this miniature tree not so liked by cattle and humans.

Adhatoda vesica: an important wild plant growing in the road side

Taxonomically the plant is known as Adhatoda vesica, Malabar Nut, Adulsa, Arusha, Vasaka, Justicia adhatoda, Adulsa Arusa, Adathodai, Bakash, Adathoda, Adalodakam, Adusoge, Addasaramu, Lion’s Muzzle, Stallion’s Tooth. It is known as Adathoda in Tamil and Adalodakam in Malayalam.It belongs to family Acanthaceae. It is a small evergreen and sub-herbaceous bush which is commonly found in the lower Himalayas- up to 1300 meters above sea level, in India, Srilanka, Burma, Malaysia etc.The average height of the plant ranges from 50cm to 90cm. Leaves are broad and lanceolate measuring 10 to 16 cm in length and 5 cm in width. The dried leaves become greenish brown in form and bitter in taste. The stem wood is soft and can be used for making charcoal for gunpowder.

Flowers are large, fragrant, and attractive with white petals. The filaments are usually free and project beyond the corolla tube. The gynoecium consists of two carpels, syncarpous.Ovary is superior, bilocular with axile placentation.

Adhatoda vesica: a flowering twig

Ovary is highly elongated and remains situated in a nectar secreting disc. It terminates above in a long narrow style which projects beyond the mouth of the flower, and ends in two small stigmas of various shapes. Fruit is usually bilocular capsule dehiscing loculicidally. Seeds are exalbuminous and usually four in number per fruit. Pollination is mostly brought about through the agency of insects.

Adhatoda vesica: a whole plant in blooms

The plant Adhatoda vesica is known to Traditional, Ayurvedic, Unani and Siddha healthcare systems for centuries. Its extract is used for treating a number of diseases like asthma, colds, uterine troubles etc.

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