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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kukrondha, the dandelion

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Kukrondha is known to me since my childhood. It was when I grew old enough to study plant taxonomy that I came to know its English name – the Dandelion. What made me know this plant at such an early age is not a mystery. I used to see this plant wherever I played with my friends. It does not mean that the plant in those days had some affinity with play grounds. The fact was that, we used to select such places for us that remained very uncommon as we feared from our parents who always seemed to remain in search of us and whenever any one of us could see his father coming that way he used to fly away in opposite direction to escape from being caught hold by him and thus from being punished severely. Our parents it seemed hated games and sports and liked to see us on study all the time. In their opinion, games and sports were useless practices and had anyone of them been the Prime Minister of India he might had banned all the games and sports. They used to talk that all the players and sports persons together might constitute a great man power in the country, and the same was being wasted. My friend’s father used to say, “Our government should offer pieces of land to all the players and sports persons and should ask each one of them to dig the same and to grow some crop. Only this way we can make our country great and healthy.” Now that they are old and communication systems have been revolutionized, some of them stick to the idiot box and see cricket right from opening till the end of the review.

The Second reason of my familiarity with Kukrondha was its peculiar shape formed by its all the nicely toothed and deep green leaves spread on the earth surface forming a flat rosette. The third reason behind my familiarity with kukrondha was its peculiarly good smell though the same was unpleasant to some of my friends. The fourth reason was a traditional medicinal application of the plant extract. That traditional medicinal application was that the lactating mothers used to apply the plant extract to kill pin worms troubling their children.

Kukrondha is a weed. But what is a weed? In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson – (weed) is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

Kukrondha is a hardy perennial herb taxonomically known as Taraxacum officinale belonging to the family Asteraceae or Compositiae. It is known as Kukurmutta in Bengali, Vadiokelar in Gujrati, Tamrachood in Sanskrit, and Blumea Aurita in Latin. The English name dandelion is produced by corrupting the French dent de lion meaning “lion’s tooth”. This name refers to leaves that are coarsely toothed. The names of this plant in many other European languages bear the same meaning –

Welsh – dant y llew, Italian – dente di leone, Catalan – dent de lleo, Spanish – diente de leon, Portugese – dente-de-ledo, Norwegian- Lovetann, Danish – Lovtand, German – Lowenzahn plant generally grows from an unbranched tap root with leaves forming a flat rosette on the ground. Leaves are simple, short peteolate, whorled and deep green in colour.These have nicely toothed margins and hairy surfaces. When leaves become successful in preparing sufficient food for some time and store the same in the root, an erect, hollow and purplish stem starts emerging up leaving the rosette of leaves far behind on the ground. The stem grows up to 70 cm and bears a head at the tip.

Image : 1

Image : 2

Image : 3 The Childrens, watch
Head of T. officinale (a closer view)

The number of florets is 40 to above 100 per head with corolla orange yellow in colour. The fruits are cypselae are oblanceoloid in shape and 2 to 3 cm long with slender beaks. Each fruit has 4 to 12 ribs having sharp edges, and silky pappi forming parachutes. The plant blooms from March to October. Flowers are yellow to orange in colour. They open during day and close at night. Floral heads are born singly on a hollow stem called as scape. The scape rises from 4 to 75 cm in height above the level of leaves. It exudates milky sap when it is broken. A number of flowering stems can be produced by the rosette of leaves which spreads close to the ground. Floral heads 2 to 5 cm in diameter. They consist of ray florets. They mature into spherical clocks which contain many single seeded fruits called as achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus of fine hairs which form parachute and parachutes help in wind aided dispersal of seeds over long distances. Each parachute looses its feathered structure and takes on fuzzy cotton like appearance called as dandelion snow. Many dandelion species produce seeds through apomixix, the asexual process of reproduction. It means seeds are produced without pollination in this process. Thus offspring genetically identical to the parent plant are produced.

Dandelion is found growing in waste land, on borders of streets, on road sides, in lawns and pastures and even in the cracks in the cracks in plastered floors. It is widely distributed across the world. Dandelion is a perennial herb thought to be introduced from Europe and Asia. It is now naturalized throughout the Northern Hemisphere. No one is sure exactly how the dandelion has spread so widely, and there is some debate on the origin of the plant.

Chemical constituents of extract of Kukrondha plant
The chief constituents of the extract of Kukrondha plant are Taraxacin, a crystalline bitter substance of which the yield varies in roots collected during different seasons, and Taraxacerin which is an acrid resin, with inulin, gluten, gum and potash.Some of the important phytochemicals fond in the plant are sesquiterpene, lactones, taraxacin, and taraxasterol.

Traditional, ethnoherbological and Medicinal uses
Dandelions have been purposely cultivated and widely used in history. The Celts have been reported to have introduced the plant to the Roman legions when Caesar invaded the north. The Anglo- Saxons and the Normans used it to prevent the deficiency of vitamin C (Scurvy), and in Middle Ages the monastery gardens have been reported to use it in food and medicines. The Puritans have been reported to use it as vegetable. However, dandelions could never acquire an important place among food items due to their bitter taste.

Traditionally, the plant as a whole is used as blood purifier and as a tonic for liver. It is also used for the treatment of constipation and inflammatory skin disorders. Its extract is given internally for the treatment of joint pain, eczema, liver dysfunction like hepatitis and jaundice.

The plant extract has been approved to be useful for the treatment of dyspepsia, complaints of liver and gall bladder, infection of urinary tract, and loss of appetite. The plant is also used in the treatment of rheumatic disorders, and congestion in the portal system. Dandelions are also thought to be effective in helping to ease the ailments of many other conditions including herpes, genital warts, and even obesity. Studies on both rats and humans that involved injecting them with dandelion have resulted in them losing up to 30% of their body weight.

The dandelion is considered to be very safe and sometimes carries the slang term,”pee in bed” referring to its diuretic ability in increasing water and waste products in the urine. Dandelion has a high potassium content and replaces potassium lost in normal urine secretion, leading to a net gain in potassium levels; this fact is worthy of note because that is not the case with the use of over-the-counter diuretics.

The fresh juice of dandelion is applied by horologists for healing up of wounds.In Germany an over the counter drug named Hepaticol which is primarily prepared from dandelion is available for liver and gall bladder problems. The plant extract has long been used in the treatment of cancer. It is rich in beta carotene and flavonoides. It is a good blood purifier. Japanese and Chinese use leaf of the plant internally for the treatment of styes and conjunctivitis. This herb is reported to be beneficial for the treatment of enlargement of prostrate gland.

The fresh juice of Dandelion is applied externally to fight bacteria and help heal wounds. The plant has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphococcus aureus, pneumococci, meningococci, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, C. diphtheriae, proteus. The latex contained in the plant sap can be used to remove corns and warts. Research is revealing that the many constituents of Dandelion including Taraxacin, Taraxacoside, Inulin, Phenolic acids, Sesquiterpene lactones, Triterpenes, Coumarins, Catortenoids and Minerals, mainly Potassium and calcium, are very valuable in curing a number of disorders and illnesses.

When placed in a paper bag with unripe fruit, the flowers and leaves of Dandelion release ethylene gas ripening the fruit quickly. A liquid plant food is made from the root and leaves. A dark red dye is obtained from Dandelion root. A cosmetic skin lotion made from the appendages at the base of the leaf blades distilled in water, is used to clear the skin and is effective in fading freckles.

Dandelion pollen is a common allergen and is a common component in Be- pollen. It may commonly be responsible for asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals.

Key Words: Kukrondha, Taraxacum officinale,Ralph Waldo Emersion, childrens’ watch, rosette,Ralph Waldo Emerson, taraxacin, Taraxacoside, Inulin, Phenolic acid, sesquiterpene, lactones, triterpenes, carotenoids, dye, lotion, bacteria, cancer. ethylene gas, rhinitis,conjunctivitis,contact dermatitis

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