Herbs & Plants

Chirayta(Swertia chirayita .)

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Botanical Name:  Swertia chirata
Family:    Gentianaceae
Genus:    Swertia
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Gentianales
Synonyms:Chirata. Indian Gentian. Indian Balmony.

Habitat :This plant grows in Northern India, Nepal.

Parts Used: Whole plant

Other Names:Chirayata, Kirata-tikta, Kiryat-charayatahBhunimba, Bhuchiretta, Charayatah, Chiraita, Indian Gentian, Jwaran- thakah, Kirata, kiraita, Kiriath, Kiriyattu, Kiryat-charayatah, Mahatita, Nila-vemu, Nila-vembu, Qasabuz-Zarirah

Habitat: Occur in hilly regions of India. Cultivation recommended in higher regions in the Himalayas, in Kashmir,Himachal Pradesh,Punjab,UP & Assam.
Harvesting time :  Flowering    Fruiting

Description: An annual herb upto about 1.5 m high, leaves in opposite pairs, flowers pale black, tinged with purp.Other Species—In Indian bazaars where Chiretta is much more used than in England, the name Chirata is given to manykinds of Gentian-like plants. The one that is most in use among them is Ophelia augustifolia, the hill Chirata. It can easily be recognized by the stem being hollow, without pith and lower part of stem square. Another adulterant is Andrographis paniculata, also a native of India, one of the Acanthaceae; this in the dried state looks more like a bundle of broomtops, but is used a great deal in India as it has two valuable bitter tonic principles, Andrographolide and Halmeghin.

This herb is indigenous to temperate Himalayas at altitudes above 4000 feet from Kashmir, Nepal and Bhutan. It is sometimes found in other parts or India. Tinnevelly ‘nilavembu’ is the best form of the herb.

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When the flowering is well advanced the entire plant is collected, dried, and packed into bundles, which are sometimes compressed before exportation. The drug consists chiefly of the stem, which is of a dark purplish-brown colour, quite glabrous, and contains a large continuous pith. In the upper part it branches freely, bearing numerous fruits and flowers, together with a few opposite leaves with prominent curving lateral veins. The fruits are bicarpellary but unilocular, and contain numerous minute brownish seeds. The root is short, stout, and oblique. All parts of the herb have an intensely bitter taste. Various other species of Swertia (e.g., S. angustifolia, Buch.-Ham. S. alata, Royle ; S. trichotoma, Wall. have been found mixed with or substituted for chiretta. From these the genuine drug may be distinguished by its dark colour, intensely bitter taste, and continuous pith. Andrographis Paniculata, Nees , which has been offered as chiretta, has dark green stems with numerous slender erect opposite branches, few lanceolate green leaves, and a fibrous root. The roots of Rubia cordifolia, Linn. are also occasionally mixed with chiretta; they are readily distinguished by their purple colour.

Constituents.  The plant contains the two bitter principles, ophelic acid and chiratin. The latter occurs in the larger proportion, and yields, by boiling with hydrochloric acid, chiratogenin and ophelic acid, but no sugar. Neither ophelic acid nor chiratin has been obtained in crystals.

Other constituents are:

*carbonates and phosphates of potash
*lime and magnesia
*ash 4 to 6 p.c.

It contain no tannin.

Medical Uses:Bitter tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and anthelmintic, appetizer, laxative,
alterative, antidiarrhoeic and antiperiodic.

Whole plant-its used in fever (malarial), diarrhea and weakness

It is an excellent medicine for strengthening the stomach and promoting its action thus used in treating stomach disorders like dyspepsia and diarrhoea. its anthelmintic properties help in destroying intestinal worms. An infusion of the herb is taken for this purpose. The root of the plant is useful in curing hiccups and vomiting. The herb can also be used for range of other diseases and conditions including leprosy, leucoderma, scabies, neuro-muscular disorders, menorrhagia, menstrual irregularity, urinary disease, heart disease, asthma, cough , dyscrasia, Ulcer, jaundice and anaemia.

Action and Uses in Ayurveda and Siddha:
Tikta-rasam, metha veeryam, lagu, ruksham. In sannipatham, swasam, kasam, raktadosham, trishna sodham, kushtam, jwaram, krimi
Chiretta owes its action to its bitterness; it is used in dyspepsia to improve the appetite. At one time it was believed to exert a specific action upon the liver, but there is no evidence to confirm this. It is usually administered in the form of infusion. The preparations of chiretta are without tannin, and may, therefore, be prescribed with iron. Chiretta and kreat (Andrographis) are active ingredients of many advertised bitters. Chiratin has been used in powder form, diluted with milk sugar, but the liquid preparations of chiretta are usually preferred.

Action and Uses in Unani: Tonic to heart, liver and eyes, resolvent, drying, astringent, liquifying, balgham, cough, scanty urine, melancholia, dropsy, sciatia, skin diseases.
According to G. K. Nair and M. Mohanan, authors of “Medicinal Plants of India,” this herb is an excellent drug for:

*intermittent fevers

*skin diseases

*intestinal worms

*bronchial asthma

*burning of the body

regulating the bowels

An infusion of the herb made in hot water with aromatics like cloves, cinnamon etc. is given in doses of half to one fluid ounce. Ayurvedic practitioners often prescribe this infusion in doses of two ounces twice a day before meals as a tonic to check hiccup and vomiting.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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