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Thursday, March 11, 2010

A medicinal creeper of the wild that rejuvenates

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Boerhavia diffusa is a delicate but rejuvenating plant that grows creeping attached to the ground. In Sanskrit language it is known as Punarnava meaning – one that renews or one that rejuvenates. Once while walking along the streets of my residential colony I chanced to see Punarnava growing out side the boundary wall of a house and adjacent to the road I was walking along. The plant was well branched and it covered a good area, covering the whole ground not allowing a single grass to grow and peep out of the green and dense leaves of the plant. The next day I was shocked to see that the plant was completely uprooted by labourers employed by the house owner perhaps as a drive to clean the surrounding and the place looked as clean as if no grass could ever grow on that place. I was sad, though I like clean surrounding but I did never like killing of Punarnava. For about a month or so, I did not look towards the place where my dear Punarnava once grew luxuriantly, but one day I became very happy when I sadly glanced at the place. A number of Punarnava shoots had started emerging out of the same area. Now the entire place is again covered by the plant. Thus Punarnava certified its name. 

Image: Boerhavia diffusa, the rejuvenating herb

Boerhavia diffusa is a good looking plant with great medicinal properties. It is known to Ayurveda since centuries. A number of traditional, ethno-herbological, Unani and other healthcare systems know it well for its immense healing and curative properties. Some common names of Boerhavia diffusa are Erva tostão, erva toustao, pega-pinto, hog weed, pig weed, atikamaamidi, biskhapra, djambo, etiponia, fowl’s lice, ganda’dar, ghetuli, katkatud, mahenshi, mamauri, ndandalida, oulouni niabo, paanbalibis, patal-jarh, pitasudu-pala, punar-nava, punerva, punarnava, purnoi, samdelma, san sant, santh, santi, satadi thikedi, satodi, spreading hog weed, tellaaku, thazhuthama, thikri, touri-touri, tshrana.Different synonyms of the plant are Boerhavia adscendens, B. caribaea, B. coccinea, B. erecta, B. paniculata, B. repens, B.viscosa .Boerhavia diffusa is native to India though it is well represented in a number of countries of the world.
However, a list of Indian names of Punarnava or Boerhavia diffusa is given below –

The Indian names of Punarnava
1) Bengal
2) Gujarati
Vakhakhaparo, Dholia-saturdo
3) Marathi
Tambadivasu, Ghetuli
4) Tamil
5) Hindi, Sanskrit & Telugu
Punernava, Raktakunda, Shothaghni, Varshabhu
6) Kanarese
7) English

Boerhavia in Ayurvedic healthcare system
 The Charak Samhita and the Susruta Samhita- two old and most respected books of Ayurveda tell us that various Ayurvedic preparations can be made from Punarnava like – Punarnavastak kwath, Punarnava ksar, and Punarnava tail and these preparations can be and have been used for treating various types of ailments. Ayurvedic energetic reveal that Punarnava has bitter, sweet Rasa or taste; cooling virya or action; pungent vipaka or post digestive effects; and balancing for all doshas especially kaph, may aggravate vata if used in excess – as dosas.

Chopra, 1969 is of the opinion that the whole plant of Boerhavia diffusa as documented in Indian Pharmacopoeia is diuretic when taken internally in any form. Punarnavine is the active principle contained in the plant extract. It is an alkaloid. According to a report of CSIR (19880, roots, leaves and flowers of Boerhavia diffusa are highly potent. In Ayurveda different parts of this plant have been reported to possess different medicinal properties. Anand, 1995 has reported that it has been in use as a medicine to cure renal problems. On the other hand, Gaitonde et al.(1974), have reported that the plant have been in use as a medicine to treat seminal weakness and blood pressure since long. Chopra et al. have reported that the extract of different parts of the plant have been in use for treating cough, stomach ache, anemia and cold since long. It has also been in use diaphoretic, laxative, expectorant and potent antidote for snake bite etc., whereas Singh and Udupa (1972) have reported about its applications in the treatment of nephritic syndrome. Mudgal(1975), and Cruz(19950 have reported about its use as a medicine in the treatment of hepatitis, gall bladder abnormalities and urinary diseases.Chopra et al. have studied about the roles of its flowers and seeds as contraceptive.

Various Ayurvedic texts reveal that the extract of this plant is very useful in the treatment of skin diseases for example scabies. It is also considered as an excellent remedy for guinea worms. When combined with certain other ingredients in the treatment of anaemia and renal diseases like kidney stone, and nephritis. The extract of the root of Boerhavia is widely used in the treatment of liver disorders like jaundice and hepatitis. In Brazilian herbal health care system, it is used as an stimulant for emptying gall bladder and for most of the liver disorders. It is also used as an active agent for menorrhagia.It has been reported to rejuvenate the whole body. Besides normalizing dosas it is reported to boost up the immune system of the human body.

Clinical and Pharmacological properties of Boerhavia diffusa
It is reported that Boerhavia diffusa contains an alkaloid known as Punarnavine which shows a wide range of clinical properties. It is reported to be diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antifibrinolytic, anticonvulsant, and anti bacterial. Mishra (1980), and Chandan et al.(1991) have reported that the extract of Boerhavia is anti-stress and anti-hepatotoxic.It is also reported to be anthelmintic febrifuge, anti-leprosy, anti-asthmatic, anti-scabies, and anti-arthritis.

The extract of Boerhavia diffusa when mixed with water exhibits marked protection against different enzymes like serum glutanicoxalo acetic transminase, serum glutanic—pyruvic transminase, and bilirubin in serum against hepatic injury.It contains diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. Awasthi (2003) have studied Punarnava and found that these activities are exhibited up to maximum levels when samples were collected during rainy season. It is due to combination of these two activities that it is highly efficacious for treating inflammatory renal diseases and common clinical problems like nephritic syndrome, edema and ascites that are caused due to early cirrhosis of liver etc. Important studies on Boerhavia diffusa report that it is efficacious in the tumors of abdomen, and abdominal cancers. Its extract is found to be haematinic and growth promoter in children. The powder of the plant is found to be useful in the treatment of nephrotic syndrome. The intake of powdered leaves and stems of the plant is reported to decrease the albumin urea resulting to the lowering of the blood cholesterol level. Drugs made out of Boerhavia diffusa is reported to be helpful in treating hypertension, angina, cardiac failure, respiratory tract infections, leucorrhea, spermatorrhea etc.Awasthi and Menzel (1986) through an important study proved that purified glycoprotein from Boerhavia diffusa exhibited strong anti-microbial activity against RNA bacteriophases.Verma and Awasthi (1979), have reported that Boerhavia has important anti-viral properties and maximum anti-viral activities are shown by dried root powder when applied before virus inoculation.

Anand, R.K. 1995. Biodiversity and tribal association of Boerhaavia diffusa in India-Nepal Himalayan Terai Region. Flora & Fauna VI(2):167–170.
Awasthi, L.P. and Menzel, G. 1986. Effect of root extract from Boerhaavia  diffusa containing an antiviral principle upon plaque formation of RNA bacteriophages. Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie 141:415–419.
Awasthi, L.P. and Kumar, P. 2003. Protection of some cucurbitaceous crops against natural infection of viruses through Boerhaavia diffusa plants. Indian Phytopathology 56(3):318.
Chandan, B.K., Sharma, A.K., and Anand, K.K. 1991. Boerhaavia diffusa: A study of its hepatoprotective activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 31(3):299–307.
Chopra, G.L. 1969. Angiosperms. Systematics and Life Cycle. S. Nagin & Co., Jalandhar, Punjab, India. pp. 361–365.
Cruz, G.L. 1995. Dicionario Das Plantas Uteis Do Brasil. 5th Edition. Bertrand, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
CSIR. 1988. The Wealth of India: Raw Materials Vol. VII B. CSIR, New Delhi, India. p. 174.
Chopra, R.N., Ghosh, S., Dey, P., and Ghosh, B.N. 1923. Pharmacology and therapeutics ofBoerhaavia diffusa (punarnava). Indian Medical Gazette 68:203–208.
Gaitonde, B.B., Kulkarni, H.J., and Nabar, S.D. 1974. Diuretic activity of punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa).Bulletins of the Haffkine Institute (Bombay, India) 2:24.
Mudgal, V. 1975. Studies on medicinal properties of Convolvulus pluricaulis and Boerhaavia diffusa.Planta Medica 28:62–68.
Verma, H.N. and Awasthi, L.P. 1979. Antiviral activity of Boerhaavia diffusa root extract and physical properties of virus inhibitor. Canadian Journal of Botany 57:926–932.

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