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Monday, November 10, 2014

Kalmegh: The king of bitters #MedicinalPlant

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Kalmegh or Chiraita as it is popularly known in different parts of India is a plant with immense medicinal importance. In Jharkhand it is believed by tribal people that intake of extract of this plant can cure any disease if taken internally for some days.In botany it is called as Andrographis paniculata. It is an annual herbaceous plant in the family Acanthaceae. It is native to India.

Kalmegh is variously known in different languages. In English it is called as Creat, Green Chirayta, and King of bitters. Some common Indian names are -Hindi: Kalmegh, Kiryat, Mahatit, Gujrati: Kiriyata, Olikiriyat Marathi: Olen Kirayat, Canarese: Nelabevu Ida; Sanskrit: Bhuinimb, Kirata, Mahateet Malyalam: Nilaveppu, Kiriyatta, Telugu: Nela Vemu: Tamil: NilavempuiFamily: Acanthaceae

Kalmegh or Andrographis paniculata is an erect annual herb extremely bitter in taste in all parts of the plant body. The plant is known in north-eastern India as Maha-tita, literally "king of bitters", and known by various vernacular names (see the table below). As an Ayurveda herb it is known as Kalmegh or Kalmegh, meaning "dark cloud". It is also known as Bhui-neem, meaning "neem of the ground", since the plant, though being a small annual herb, has a similar strong bitter taste as that of the large Neem tree (Azadirachta indica). In Malaysia, it is known as Hempedu Bumi, which literally means 'bile of earth' since it is one of the bitterest plants that are used in traditional medicine. The genus Andrographis consists of 28 species of small annual shrubs essentially distributed in tropical Asia. Only a few species are medicinal, of which A. paniculata is the most popular.

Andrographis paniculata grows erect to a height of 30–110 cm in moist, shady places. The slender stem is dark green, squared in cross-section with longitudinal furrows and wings along the angles. The lance-shaped leaves have hairless blades measuring up to 8 centimeters long by 2.5 wide. The small flowers are borne in spreading racemes. The fruit is a capsule around 2 centimeters long and a few millimeters wide. It contains many yellow-brown seeds.

Distribution of Kalmegh

A. paniculata is distributed in tropical Asian countries, often in isolated patches. It can be found in a variety of habitats, such as plains, hillsides, coastlines, and disturbed and cultivated areas such as roadsides, farms, and wastelands. Native populations of A. paniculata are spread throughout south India and Sri Lanka which perhaps represent the center of origin and diversity of the species. The herb is an introduced species in northern parts of India, Java, Malaysia, Indonesia, the West Indies, and elsewhere in the Americas. The species also occurs in Hong Kong, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, and other parts of Asia where it may or may not be native. The plant is cultivated in many areas, as well.
Unlike other species of the genus, A. paniculata is of common occurrence in most places in India, including the plains and hilly areas up to 500 m, which accounts for its wide use.

Medicinal Properties

 According to Ayurveda the plant is bitter, acrid, cooling, laxative, vulnerary, antipyretic, antiperiodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, depurative, soporific, anthelmintic, digestive and useful in hyperdispsia, buring sensation, wounds, ulcers, chronic fever, malarial and intermittent fevers, inflammations, cough, bronchitis, skin diseases, leprosy, colic, flatulence, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhoids etc. Kalmegh is also a reputed Homoeopathic drug. In Bengal (India), household medicine known as "Alui" is prepared from fresh leaves and is given to children suffering from stomach complaints. Recent experimental finding indicated that Kalmegh is having antityphoid and antibiotic properties. It has been proved to be hepatopratective drug.

Chemical Constituents

Chemical Constituents of Kalmegh contains bitter principles - andrographolide, a bicyclic diterpenoid lactone and Kalmeghin. The leaves contain the maximum active principle content while in the stem it is in lesser amount.

Key Words: Kalmegh, andrographolide

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