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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nutritional and medicinal values of Chakvad or Cassia tora

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Chakvad, the post monsoon greenery of roadsides and wastelands as seen in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and many other states of India is basically a rainy season weed of great traditional, nutritional, ethnoherbological and medicinal importance. In English it is called as foetid cassia, the sickle senna and wild senna. This plant is named differently in different Indian languages for example it is known as Kuvadio, and Chakramard in Gujrati; Tarota, and Takla in Marathi; Edanchi, Chakunda, and  Chatkaataa in Bengali; Takrike in Kannada; Tagare, and Vindu in Tamil; Takar in Malayalam; Tantyamu, and Tagarish in Telugu; and Chakunda in Oriya. It grows wild in North Central, South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. In many places of the world, it is considered as a serious weed. Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992) have reported that the plant Cassia tora is native to Southeast Asia, Fiji, Northern Australia, Africa and Latin America (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992).

Systematics and Morphological Features
Chakvad is annual weed or herb taxonomically known as Cassia tora. Though native to India, this weed is also found in Myanmar, China and Central America. This weed is a member of the family Leguminoseae or Fabaceae. This is a small fetid herb growing up to an average height from 30 to 90cm.The stem is light green cylindrical or grooved and profusely branched. The leaves are paripinnate; leaflets are in 3- pairs and obovate-oblong. Leaves are arranged on a rachis which is grooved and up to 10 cm in length. Conical glands are found between each two lowest pairs of leaflets. The leaflets are usually in three pairs, opposite, obovate and oblong with oblique base. Flowers are found in pairs in axils of leaves. The flowers bloom in August to September. Corolla consists of five petals in yellow or pale colour. The pod is long and slender, 4 sided sharp and pointed. Each pod has 20-30 seeds that are rhombhedral in shape.

Image :1 - Cassia tora plant

Image :2 - Cassia tora seeds

Traditional uses
Leaves of Chakvad are traditionally used as Sag or leafy vegetable by poor people of Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh states of India during rainy season. The plant is also used as a biological tool for the reclamation of saline, alkaline and brackish soils. Dried seeds of the plant contain up to 2.4 per cent protein and can be consumed as a protein rich food for livestock and birds. This is the reason why common poor people including tribals consume it as leafy vegetable from July to November months. Some authors have reported that roasted seeds of Foetid Cassia can be used as substitute for coffee like the seeds of taprosia.Yellow, blue and red coloured dyes and tannins are obtained from seeds of the plant. The plant contains up to 7.50 per cent of a specific gum which is a good agent for suspending and binding.

A smother crop
The aqueous extract of the plant and leaves has been reported to produce inhibitory allelopathic effects on Parthenium hysterophorus an obnoxious weed and other weeds. It is due to this merit that Chakvad is recommended to grow in areas infested by Parthenium as smother crop. Some authors have reported its allelopathic effects on rice and wheat plants.

Traditionally, the leaves of Chakvad are popular as potherb. It is used as a natural pesticide in the organic farms of India. It has been reported that Cassia tora contains chrysophanic acid-9-anthrone which is an important fungicide.

Chemical composition of extract of Cassia tora
Roots of Cassia tora have been reported to contain 1, 3, 5-trihydroxy-6-7-dimethoxy-2-methyle anthroquinone and beta-sitosterol. The aqueous extract of seeds of the plant is reported to contain Naphtho-alfa-pyrone-toralactune, chrysophenol, physcion, emodin, rubrofusarine, chrysophanic acid-9-anthrone. The extract of leaves contains emodin tricontan-1-01, stigmasterol, b-sitosterol-b-d-glucoside, friendlen, palmitic, stearic, succinic and d-tarteric acid, uridine, quercitrin and isoquercitrin.

Medicinal properties of Cassia tora
The plant Cassia tora is extensively used in traditional medicine in tropical and warm subs tropical countries. The leaves of Cassia tora, as well as roots and seeds are used in folk medicine in Asia. It is believed to possess a laxative effect. Its extract is reported to be beneficial for eyes. Seeds of Cassia tora are roasted and boiled in water to produce tea as folk medicine. Seeds of this plant yield a commercially valuable gum which is used as a food additive and as a thickener and “named for the Chinese Senna’s former placement in the genus Cassia. Seeds of this plant have also been used as a substitute for coffee. These are called as gyeolmyeongja and usually prepared as tea. These are also used in traditional Japanese medicine.

Ayurveda recommends the application of different parts of this plant in the forms of pastes, powder, juice, and decoction. The paste of its leaves and roots is used for the treatment of skin ailments. It has been reported that the application of paste of leaves of this plant is effective in the treatment of chronics of diseases. As powder it is used in the treatment of indigestion. The powdered form of the plant leaves is taken internally as laxative. It tones up muscles of heart and has been reported to purify blood. It is also applied in hemorrhoids. The extract of leaves of this plant is used to treat skin rashes, and allergies. It is also used as an antidote for various poisoning. The decoction of the plant is popularly used as anti-obesity agent. Decoctions of parts of Cassia tora is used  as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, antipyretic, antifungal, anthelmintic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, purgative, treatment of glaucoma and hypertension, treatment of skin disease, ringworm and itch (Perry, 1980).It has been used to treat constipation, conjunctivitis hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, liver damage and sometimes eaten as vegetable (Kirtikar& Basu 1975).In a study, Abdul Rahim(1996) reported that in Malaysia, the plant Cassia tora is traditionally used externally to treat fungal infections. Traditionally in Malaysia, Cassia tora is used externally to treat fungal infections (Abdul Rahim 1996).

Abdul Rahman M.D., 1996. Pengenalan dan Penggunaan Herba Ubatan. Orient Press Sdn. Bhd. Malaysia. pp. 25
Kirtikar, K.R. and Basu, B.D. 1975.Indian Medical Plants, Volume II.Second Edition. Jayyed Press, New Delhi: 30-45
Parsons, W.T., Cuthbertson, E. G., 1992. Noxious weeds of Australia. Indata Press, Melbourne: 455-456.
Perry, L.M. 1980. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia: attributed properties and uses. MIT Press, Cambridge. Mass. U.S.A.

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