Botanical name: Picrorhiza Kurrora
Common names: Kutki, Katuka
English Name: Gentian
Indian Name: Kutki
Habitat :Alpine grassland and gravelly areas at elevations of 3600 – 4400 metres in W Sichuan, S Xizang and NW Yunnan. Picrorhiza is a creeping plant native to the mountains of India, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan.
Also known as Kharbagehindi, the plant consists of long leaves and five-lobed flowers, which are pale blue or reddish-blue in color. The largest part of the plant is the rhizome, which can grow as long as 10 inches. The rhizome is used medicinally. It is small hairy perennial herb with woody rhizomes. It has small white or pale bluish purple flower in cylindrical spikes.
It is hardy to zone 0. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs).
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.
Seed – It is likely that the best way of propagating from seed is to sow it as soon as it is ripe, preferably in a cold frame or greenhouse. If this is not possible, sow the seed in late winter or early spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out in the summer. Division of the rhizome in the autumn or spring.
Picrorhiza contains a number of active ingredients, including acetophenone derivatives (which have antiasthmatic properties), iridioids and cucurbitacins (which are extremely bitter). In traditional Chinese medicine, picrorhiza has been used to treat everything from hyperemia and dysentery to jaundice, hemorrhoids, epilepsy and carbuncles. Scientific tests have found the compounds in picrorhiza to stimulate the immune system, fight bacteria and protect the liver from toxic substances.
The dried rhizomes of the plants constitute the drug.
It has a cooling effect and is used as a cardiotonic, antipyretic, anthelmintic and laxative. It is also used to alleviate stomachache, and is believed to promote appetite. Kutki is useful in â€˜Kaphaâ€™, billow fever, urinary discharge, hiccup, blood troubles, burning sensations, leucoderma, and jaundice.
Protective and therapeutic effects against liver damage have been shown by many investigators in diverse models of liver injury in animals. The crude extract as well as the active principles have been shown to protect the liver from injury due to carbon tetrachloride, paracetamol, galactosamine and alcohol. Marked bile- promoting action has been shown in dogs. The general pharmacology of the plant has been well studied. Anti-inflammatory action and reduction in mast cell degranplation have also been demonstrated.
The standard ayurvedic references describe its usefulness as a laxative, liver-stimulant, improving lactation, appetite stimulant, febrifuge and as beneficial in bronchial asthma. The plant and its formulations are widely used in therapy of epidemic jaundice. Clinical studies including double-blind trials have been carried out with the root powder of the plant in patients with viral hepatitis with significant improvement in symptoms like anorexia, nausea and vomiting. There was a concurrent improvement in liver functions. Open trials in bronchial asthma have given encouraging prophylactic response with prolonged administration.
The dried rhizome is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiperiodic, cathartic (in large doses), cholagogue, laxative (in smaller doses), stomachic and bitter tonic. The root contains a number of very bitter glucosides including kutkin and picrorhizin. It also contains apocynin, which is powerfully anti-inflammatory and reduces platelet aggregation. In trials, the rhizome was shown to boost the immune system and to have a specific action against the parasie Leishmania donovani, which causes the tropical parasitic disease called leishmaniasis. The rhizome has a very beneficial effect upon the liver and digestive system and is used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including fevers, constipation, dyspepsia and jaundice. It is also often used in the treatment of scorpion stings and snake bites There is also some evidence that the rhizome can be of help in the treatment of bronchial asthma and a number of auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis and vitiligo, whilst it has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce coagulation time. The rhizome is gathered in the autumn and dried for later use.
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)
The bitter rhizomes of picrorhiza have been used for thousands of years in India to treat people with indigestion.1 It is also used to treat people with constipation due to insufficient digestive secretion and for fever due to all manner of infections.2
The major constituents in picrorhiza are the glycosides picroside I, kutkoside, androsin, and apocynin. They have been shown in animal studies to be antiallergic, to inhibit platelet-activating factor (an important pro-inflammatory molecule), and to decrease joint inflammation. According to test tube and animal studies, picrorhiza has antioxidant actions, particularly in the liver. Picroliv (a commercial mixture containing picroside I and kutkoside) has been shown to have an immunostimulating effect in hamsters, helping to prevent infections. Picrorhiza increases bile production in the liver, according to rat studies. It has also been shown to protect animals from damage by several potent liver toxins, offering protection as good as or better than silymarin (the flavonoids found in milk thistle).However, it does not have the amount of human research as silymarin. Picrorhiza has also shown to reduce formation of liver cancer due to chemical exposures in animal studies.
Human studies on this plant are not prolific. A series of cases of acute viral hepatitis in India were reportedly treated successfully by a combination of picrorhiza with a variety of minerals. A number of similar reports have appeared in Indian literature over the years. No double-blind clinical trials have yet been published, however.
Two preliminary trials suggest that picrorhiza may improve breathing in asthma patients and reduce the severity of asthma. Although, a follow-up double-blind trial did not confirm these earlier trials.
A preliminary trial conducted in India found a small benefit for people with arthritis (primarily rheumatoid arthritis).
Picrorhiza in combination with the drug methoxsalen was found in a preliminary trial to hasten recovery in people with vitiligo faster than those receiving methoxsalen and sun exposure alone.
Cirrhosis of liver:Its root is given in powdered form for the adult patients in Ayurveda.A teaspoonful of powder ,mixed with an equal amount of honey is adminstered thrice daily.
Stomach disorders:In case of attendant constipation ,the dose should be doubled and taken with a cup of worm water three to four times daily.It stimulates the liver and produce more biles, the secretion of which relieves congestion of the liver and the tissues which starts functioning again.
Jaundice: Picrorhiza is one of the useful drugs considered beneficial in Ayurveda for treating Jaundice.One or two spoonful of powder mixed with turpeth (nisoth) and the same should be adminstered twice daily with hot water.
Ascites: It is beneficial in the treatment of Ascites, a disease characterised by the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity of the abdomen. The herb should be boiled in water and the decoction , if taken by the patient for 21 days regularl, with fresh decoction each day can induce four to five motios on an average.\
Dyspepsia: Picrorhiza is also beneficial in the treatment of dyspepsia. It strengthens the stomach and promotes its action.It improves appetite and stimulates the secretion of the gastric juices.
Constipation: The herb is particularly very useful for constipation.It induces active movement of the bowels and serves as a mild purgative too.
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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