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Friday, August 6, 2010

Cassia tora: a neglected weed with immense nutritional and medicinal values

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Chakwad as it is called in Hindi is an annual herb and weed having immense nutritional and medicinal values. It grows up to a height of about 30 to 90 cm. It is found all over India especially in the states of  Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar etc. along roadsides, in wastelands and in gardens as under shrub.

Local names
It is popularly known as Foetid cassia, tora, sickle pod, coffee pod, ringworm plant, and sickle senna. The cassia tora is also known as Charota an Chakvad in Hindi, Chakunda in Bengali & Oriya, Kawaria in Gujarati, Chakramandrakam in Malayalam, Takala in Marathi, Chakramarda & Dadmari in Sanskrit, Tagarai in Tamil and Chinnakasinda in Telugu. 

Habitat
Cassia tora plants grow in warm moist soil mostly in tropical parts of India. A single plant is capable of producing numerous sickle shaped fruits, each  containing many seeds. Since there is no any specific mode of dispersal of its seeds numerous plants are seen growing densely in any area. In waste lands sometimes a vast jungle of these plants can bee seen dotted with Madar (Calotropis sp.) shrubs.However, these plants ca not grow well in polluted conditions. As such these plants can be regarded as Indicators of air pollution.



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Taxonomy
The Plant is taxonomically known as Cassia tora belonging to family Caesalpiniaceae. It has pinnate leaves, which are about 10 cm long. Each leaf has three pairs of leaflets that are opposite, ovate, oblong and oblique at the base. The yellow-colored flowers are bearded in the axel of the leaves. The flowers comprises of five petals, each about half inch in diameter.

 The seeds of Cassia Tora are rhombohedral and brown in color, about 30 to 50 in number. The plant bears flowers in the rainy season and fruits in the winter.

Chemical composition of the extract of Cassia tora
A number of chemicals have been isolated by researchers from the Cassia tora plant  and most of them are - (+)- rhein, aloe-emodin, chrysophanol, 7% resins, cathatrine, calcium, iron, phosphorus, 1,3,5-trihydroxy-6-7-dimethoxy-2-methylanthroquinone, beta-sitosterol, naptho-alpha-pyrone-toralactune, chrysophanol, physcion, emodin, rubrofusarin, cchrysophonic acid-9-anthrone, tricontan-1-0l, stigmasterol, b-sitosteral-b-D-glucoside, freindlen, palmitic, stearic, succinic and d-tartaric acids uridine, quercitrin, isoquercitrin.

Traditional, ethnoherbological, medicinal properties of Cassia tora -
1.      It is very useful in treating skin diseases like ringworm and itching or body scratch and psoriasis.
2.      The leaves ad seeds of Cassia tora are useful in leprosy, flatulence, colic, dyspepsia, constipation, cough, bronchitis and cardiac disorders.
3.      Decoction of the fruit of Cassia Tora is used in the treatment of fever.
4.      Cassia tora acts as a liver stimulant, mild laxative and heart tonic.
5.      The consumption of cooked leaves, or use of extract of leaves of this plant helps the body in maintaining the normal level of cholesterol.
6.      The alcoholic or vinegar maceration of pounded fresh leaves is used externally to treat eczema and dermatomycosis.
7.      The extract of leaves of Cassia tora acts as a nerve tonic.
8.      Its powder proves useful in combating indigestion, toning up heart muscles and purifying blood.
9.      It is also used as an antidote in case of various poisonings.
10.  The plant extract has been reported to possess hyperglyceimic actions.

Food values
The plant Cassia tora can be regarded as a poor man’s food. It contains proteins, a small amount of fat, many minerals and natural fibers. As such it is not only useful in solving food problems of the poor, it is also useful as a digestion and metabolism corrective substance and as a tonic.

Being leguminous plants Cassia tora improve soil quality and soil fertility by adding additional nitrogen to the soil. Its leaves that remain numerous fall down a the plant grows old and decompose to add nutrients in the soil. Due to this merit these plants can be employed for soil improvement of the waste lands.

References

Anonymous 1986 The Useful Plants of India. Publications and Information Directorate, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi, India.

Cummings J H 1978 Nutritional implications of dietary fiber. American Journal of Nutrition 31: 521-529.

FAO/WHO 1977 Dietary Fats and Oils in Human Nutrition. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

FAO/WHO 1991 Protein quality evaluation. Reports of a joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, Rome, Food and Nutrition Paper # 51, 1-66.

FAO/WHO/UNU 1985 Energy and protein requirements. WHO Tech Rep Ser # 724, Geneva.

Hellendoorn E W 1979 Beneficial physiological activity of leguminous seeds. Plant Foods Human Nutrition 29: 227- 244.

Purseglove J W 1974 Tropical crops: Dicotyledons. Longman, London, pp 242-246.

USDA/HEW 1980 Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Washington DC.

Jang DS, Lee GY, Kim YS, Lee YM, Kim CS, Yoo JL, Kim JS. Anthraquinones from the seeds ofCassia tora with inhibitory activity on protein glycation and aldose reductase. Biol Pharm Bull.2007;30:2207–2210.

Kim JM, Kim HT, Hwang SM. Instant tea preparation from Cassia tora Seeds. Korean Journal of Food Science and Technology. 1990;22:241–247.

Kim SH, Choi JS, Moon YH. Antioxidative activity and anticlastogenicity of Cassia tora L. seeds extract and its major component, nor-rubrofusarin-6-β-D-glucoside. Journal of Food Hygiene and Safety. 1998;13:394–399.



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