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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bharngi(Clerodendrum sp.)- an amazing plant

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Three months ago I chanced to see a Turk’s turban in the sal forest of Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi, a premier institute of India. I got fascinated by its appearance and beauty and wondered how alone a plant of about 3 feet in height was there. I walked here and there for a long time under the canopies of sal trees but could not see another one. I liked and loved its boldness, erectness, phyllotaxy, inflorescence and its colours – leaves deep green and inflorescence off-white and lovely with stamens looking out of graceful flowers. Since then where ever I moved in the state, I could not become fortunate enough to see another Turk’s turban, yes the great beautiful, lovely and bold under shrub of immense medicinal value. Many of you may be well aware of the plant, many might have done commendable researches on it, yet many may still be astonishing about it and its nomenclature – the Turk’s Turban.

Nomenclature of the plant
Turk’s turban is taxonomically known as Clerodendrum indicum or Clerodendrum indicum (L.) Kuntze. It belongs to family Verbenaceae. In Ayurveda it is known as a member of Nirgundi family. Its other names are Tube- flower and Skyrocket (in English), Bharangi (in Hindi), Bharngi in Sanskrit, and Bharangi in Guajarati. Its synonyms are Siphonanthus indicus, Clerodendrum sahelangii, Clerodendron indicum, - serratum and -Ovieda mitis. Glory Bower, bag flower and bleeding heart are its other names.
The Sanskrit word Bharngi literally means glorious. There is another name for the same plant and that is Bhrguja which implies a relation with the great sage Bhrigu. The peculiarities of the plant has been described by its various names like Kharasaka – plant with rough leaves, Padma – flowers looking like lotus, vatari – an enemy of vata dosha, Kasagni – which alleviates cough.
Habit and Habitat

Turk's turban or tube flower is a semi woody shrub or returning perennial, 6-9 ft (1.8-2.7 m) tall and only slightly, if at all, branched. The stem is hollow and the leaves are elliptic and 6-8 in (15-20 cm) long, borne in whorls of four on very short petioles. The inflorescence is huge, consisting of many tubular snow white flowers in a terminal cluster up to 2 ft (0.6 m) long. The tubes of the flowers are about 4 in (10 cm) long and droop downward, and the expanded corollas are about 2 in (5 cm) across. The fruits are attractive dark metallic blue drupes, about a half inch in diameter.
It is generally found in the area that is about 4000 feet in height. It is more commonly found in areas with moderate temperature. It is also found in temperate zone Tube flower is reported to be native to the Malay Archipelago. However it is reported to be native of many other parts of the world too. In India it is found in the eastern region of Himalaya like Kumaun, Assam, Bengal, Bihar and regions of Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mani Pur, Orissa, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and Uttar Pradesh etc regions. It is also found in Bhutan, Nepal, Srilanka, Indo-China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Malesia, Philippines etc. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and has become naturalized in South America, the West Indies and much of the southern U.S., where it grows in disturbed sites and especially along road shoulders.
Morphological Features of the plant
It has a perennial bushy plant that attains a height of 2-8 feet in height. Stem is hollow. Leaves are 3-6 inch in length and 2 to 3 inch in breadth. These are rough having dentate at the edges, spear shaped. Leaves are borne in whorls and have short petioles. The inflorescence is large and bears tubular flowers that bear white or bluish colored flowers and it is about 2 feet in length and one inch broad. These flowers have good odor. The tubes of the flower are about 8 centimeter in length that droops down. Fruit is circular and has a height of ¼ inch in length and 1/6 to ½ inch broad. It is pulpy and when it ripe, it changes to dark purple to black in color. The flowering and fruiting of this plant has been reported to occur during summer and rainy seasons. There are some 400 species of Clerodendrum (sometimes misspelled as Clerodendron). Several species are grown for their strikingly beautiful flowers. Flaming glorybower is a beautiful tropical vine or sprawling shrub with scarlet flowers. Scented glorybower or Cashmere bouquet (C. bungei) is an invasive weed in Florida, listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.




Images 1 - 4: Different moods of Clerodendrum

The inflorescence of the plant is terminal. Sepals are usually connate or often coloured. The tube of corolla remains five lobed and lobes often remain unequal. Each flower contains 4 to 5 stamens that remain in two pairs of unequal length. Stamens project beyond the mouth of corolla. Each ovary has four locules and number of ovules remains 4.The style remains terminal on the ovary and stigma remains bifid. Fruits of the plant are drupe with four grooves.

Clerodendrums have an unusual pollination syndrome which avoids self pollination. Yao-Wu Yuan et al (2010) have reported that this mating system combines dichogmy and herkogamy.

Chemical Constituents of the plant or Pharmacology

The bark of the root contains phenolic glycoside and sepogenin as active ingredient. Sepogenin is very helpful as an anti- histamine agent and it is very much effective in preventing the bodies or over active reaction of the body towards any external agent entering the body.  The sapogenin mixture contains three major triterpenoid constitutent’s oleonolic acid, queretaroic acid and serratagenic acid. The root bark yields a glycoside material, phenolic in natures. D – Mannitol is isolated from the bark with a yield of 10.9 %. The powdered stem contains D- mannitol, D- glucoside of sitosterol, sitosterol and acetyl alcohol. Alcoholic extract and saponin isolated from root bark caused release of histamine from lung tissue.

Ayurveda reports that this plant is kapha and vata suppressant. It is a good anti-inflammatory agent and also helps in healing of wounds. It improves circulation of blood in the body. Bhangri is also helpful in improving the digestive activities of the body. It acts on respiratory system thus expelling out the excessive mucus in the tract relieving from cough, cold and asthmatic symptoms. It opens the body pores and increases the sweating in the body. According to ayurveda, it contains Gunna (properties) - laghu (light) and ruksh (rough) Rasa (taste) - tickta (bitter), katu (pungent) Virya (potency) - ushna (hot).
Medicinal and ethno-herbological properties
Bharngi is bitter, pungent and astringent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency (Virya). It alleviates kapha and vata doshas. It possesses light and dry attributes. According to Raja Nighantu, it is useful in asthma, cough, fever, worms, burning sensation of the body and wounds.
The roots and leaves of bharngi have great medicinal value. The plant is useful, both, internally as well as externally. The leaves are useful as an external application for cephalalgia and ophthalmia. The pulp of the leaves applied externally, mitigates the glandular swellings and hastens the wound healing. The juice of its leaves is applied on the lesions in erysipelas. The root paste applied on the forehead alleviates headache.
Internally bharngi is used in vast range of diseases. It is an appetizer, lacative and digests ama, hence is beneficial in anorexia, tumours and distaste. The decoction of bharngi root is extremely effective in oedema over body, especially due to kapha. The plant works well as a blood purifier. The decoction of sesame seeds (tila), mixed with ghee, jaggery, trikatu powder (sunthi, marica and pippali) and bharngi root powder is the best medicament for amenorrhea and uterine tumours which is called as Rakta- gulma in Sanskrit.
Bharngi is the most valuable herb to take internally in respiratory ailments and for all fevers in general. In Konkan the leaves of the plant are used as vegetables in malarial fever. As bharngi effectively liquefies the mucous, it is salutary in respiratory problems like colds, bronchitis, bronchial asthma and tuberculosis. In such conditions, varied combinations of bharngi are recommended. Susruta and Bhavamisra have also described the medicinal properties of the plant particularly for respiratory complaints viz. asthma. Susruta has mentioned it as a panacea for epilepsy and also as stanyasodhaka – lactodepurant Vagbhata has cited its usefulness in cough due to kapha and vata. Caraka has categorized it as purisa sangrahaniya – gives form to faeces.
The juice of its roots and ginger relieves bronchospasms in asthma. In cough due to kapha and vata, the jam prepared of sesame oil, jaggery, bharngi and sunthi is beneficial. It works well with pippali, sunthi and jaggery to curb the spasms and bouts of cough. In hiccup, the root powder is given along with sugar, or its jam. The combination of bharngi and pippali (2: 1) with honey, is also an effective remedy for hiccup. The decoction of bharngi roots is benevolent in worm infestations.

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Key words: Clerodendrum, Bharangi, Srusrut, Bhavamisra, Phylogenetics, vata, kapha

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