Herbs & Plants

Indian Liquorice (Crab’s Eye)

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Botanical Name : Abrus precatorius
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Abrus
Species: A. precatorius
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Synonyms : Abrus minor and A. pauciflorus Desv.

Common name: Rosary pea, crab’s eye, jequerite, precatory bean, weesboontje, paternoster bean, deadly crab’s eye, wild liquorice, ruti, jequirity bean, coral bean, prayerbead, Ma Liao Tou, Tento Muido, Indian liquorice, Gunja.

English names: Indian liquorice, Crab’s eye.

Sanskrit name: Krishna gunja.

Vernacular names: Asm : Latuwani; Ben: Rati, Kunch; Guj: Gumchi; Hin and Pun: Rati; Kan : Gurgunn, Gulaganji; Ori : Kaincha, Gunja; Mal: Kunnikkura; Tam: Kunthamani; Tel: Gumginja.

Trade names: Rati, Kunch.

Family:Fabaceae / Leguminosae.

Habitat : Occurring throughout greater parts of India, ascending the outer Himalaya up to 1200 m, occasionally planted in gardens.

Ecology and cultivation: Naturalised in tropical countries.

A small climbing tropical vine with alternately compound leaves, indigenous to Indonesia but also growing in Surinam.
The flowers are small, pale, violet to pink and arranged in clusters.


The fruit (a pod) is flat and truncate – shaped (1½ – 2″ long).
This seedpod curls back when it opens to reveal the seeds.

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Copiously branched climber with slender branches; leaves alternate, pinnately compound with numerous deciduous leaflets; flowers small, in dense racemes on axillary peduncles or short branches; pods 2.5-3.7 by 1.0-1.25 cm; seeds bright scarlet and black or whitish or black or mixed black and white, large like pea.

The small, hard, brilliant red seeds with a black spot are very toxic due to the phytochemical abrin (consisting of 5 glyco-proteins); a single seed if broken, can cause blindness or even death if ingested.
Abrin is a ribosome – inactivating protein (it blocks protein synthesis) and is one of the most deadly plant toxins known.
Fortunately, the toxin is only released if the seeds are broken (and swallowed) but this is unlikely since they have a hard seed coat!

Phenology: Flowering: August and September; Fruiting : January to March (even up to May).

USDA zone 9 – 11.
Can be planted in the spring up to zone 7 as an annual.

These seeds germinate more consistantly if scarified; soak overnight in hot water or until they swell. Sow swollen seeds immediately in seeding mix. Don’t overwater or allow to dry out.

Full sun / partial shade, well – drained moist soil.
Plant in frost free spots.

Chemical contents: Root and Leaf: glycyrrhizin, isoflavanquinones, abrusquinone A, B & C; leaves taste sweet and roots less so; roots also contain precol, abrol, abrasine and precasine. Seed: poisonous, principal constituents being ‘abrin’; a fat-splitting enzyme, haemaagglutinin, urease; alkaloid (abrin), a glucoside (abralin) and a small quantity of fatty oil have also been isolated from seed. Pharmacologically,abrin is considered to be intensely poisonous. Besides abrin, a seed contains hypaphorine, two steroids­one oily and the other crystalline- β-sitosterol, stigmasterol, 5 B-cholanic acid, abricin, abridin, cholesterol, lectins and toxic proteins.

Medicinal Aplication & Uses:

In Traditional medicinal applications :Leaves, roots and seeds are used.
The seeds are used as a contraceptive, to treat diabetes and chronic nephritis.
The root is used to induce abortion against abdominal discomfort, gonorrhoea, jaundice and haemoglobinuric bile.Also traditionally used to treat tetanus and to prevent rabies.

Jequirity seeds have been used medicinally in the past as a contraceptive, abortifacient, and as a treatment for chronic conjunctivitis.  However, they are so poisonous that even external application is no longer justifiable.  Even small amounts brought into contact with an open wound can prove fatal.  The leaves and roots contain glycyrrhizin and can be substituted for licorice. The leaves have been used in the Ayurvedic tradition in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, sore throats, dry coughs and other chest conditions.  They have been used in Chinese medicine to treat fever.  Externally the leaves are used for sciatica, hair loss, skin disease, leprosy, nervous debility and the seeds for paralysis.

Medicinal – not recommended due to extreme toxicity (Abortifacient, Ache(Head), Anodyne, Antidote, Aphrodisiac, Bilious, Bite(Snake,) Bladder, Blennorrhagia, Boil, Cancer, Chest, CNS-Sedative, Cold, Colic, Collyrium, Conjunctivitis, Consumption, Contraceptive, Convulsion, Cough, Diarrhea, Diuretic, Dysuria, Emetic, Emollient, Enteritis, Epithelioma, Expectorant, Expectorant, Eye Fatal, Fatality, Febrifuge, Fever, Fracture(Veterinary), Freckle, Gastritis, Gingivitis, Gonorrhea, Gravel, Heart, Hemostat, Hoarseness, Homicide, Hookworms, Insomnia, Jaundice, Kidney, Laxative, Loin, Malaria, Masticatory, Myalgia, Night-Blindness, Ophthalmia, Ordeal, Pectoral, Poison, Puerperium, Purgative, Refrigerant, Rheumatism, Sedative, Skin, Sprue, Stomach, Styptic, Throat, Trachoma, Urogenital, Venereal, Vermifuge), Sweetener, (like Liquorice),

Traditional use: SANTAL(Indian Tribals): (i) grind the roots, make small pills, encase the pills in molasses and eat the same to treat night-blindedness; (ii) make a plaster by grinding the roots of white-fruited variety and apply the plaster on the painful part of inflammated sections of the gum; (iii) to treat white-coloured urine they drink a mixture made by grinding roots of the following: (a) white-fruited A. precatorius, (b) Indigofera pulchella, (c) Panicum repens and (d) Spatholobus roxburghii; (iv) to treat gravel they drink a mixture made of the following: (a) roots of A. precatorius, (b) the refuse of molasses, (c) exudation from a sapling of Diospyros tomentosa, (d) exudation from Acacia catechu, (e) little saltpeter, and (f) pinch of sulphur; (v) to treat the variety of childbed complaints (usually caused by anaemia) characterized by profuse diarrhoea, roots of A. precatorius are used in preparing two different varieties of mixtures; the ingredients of the mixtures are given below: (a) first variety: roots of A. precatorius, Elaeodendron roxburghii, Coix lachryma-jobi, Piper longum, Ruellia suffruticosa, white onion, rhizome of Zingiber officinale; (b) second variety: roots of A. precatorius, Coix lachryma-jobi, Embelia robusta, Piper longum, bark of Casearea tomentosa, Elaeodendron roxburghii, Gmelina arborea, Emblica officinalis, white onion, leaves of Ocimum sanctum, rhizome of Curcuma angustifolia and Zingiber officinale – all these are ground together, boiled and mixed with the refuse of molasses; (vi)roots as abortifacient and in paralysis; (vii) apply leaf-paste with lime-water (2:1) on swelling of glands; (viii) grind the leaves of white-flowered A. precatorius, warm slightly and plaster on the loins to kill pain there; (ix) grind leaves of A. precatorius along with leaves of Lawsonia alba and Tamarindus indica (1:1:1), add a little salt, boil a little and apply the plaster on the whole body to get relief from muscular pain caused by over­exhaustion; (x) make a paste of leaves of A. precatorius along with roots of Carissa carandas and Gossypium arboreum, warm the paste slightly and plaster the same over the whole body of the patient suffering from stealth convulsions; (xi) leaf-paste in leucoderma; (xii) seed-paste in skin diseases; (xiii) seeds after some processing as contraceptive. MUNDA: Root-paste in gonorrhoea. ORAON: dried root-powder as mild purgative.

AGNI PURANA: (i) husks of A. precatorius along with the same of Vitis vinifera and the decoction of Polyalthia longifolia, Moringa pterigosperma, payomuca and tripha/a (fruits of Terminalia belerica, Terminalia chebula and Emblica officinalis) destroys all intestinal worms; (ii) the mixture of powder of A. precatorius, marine salt and pathya in warm water removes all fevers; (iii) consumption of the seeds of A. precatorius along with the fruits of Melia azadiracta, Holarrhena antidysenterica (leaves). Acorus calamus (young leaves) and Glycyrrhiza glabra (powder of stem) causes vomiting; (iv) regular drinking of A. precatorius along with Acorus calamus, G/oriosa superba, vasa, nisagada, Zingiber officinalis, Glycyrrhiza glabra and marine salt daily in the morning enhances memory of young boys; (v) A. precatorius can enhance the span of a man’s life, if it is eaten with marine salt and some other plants (Tinospora cordifolia, pathya, citraka, dried rhizome of Zingiber officinalis).

Modern use: Roots: emetic and alexiteric; Decoction of roots and leaves: for cough, cold and colic; Seeds: purgative, emetic, tonic, aphrodisiac, used in nervous disorder and cattle poisoning; Poultice of seeds: as suppository to bring about abortion; Paste of seeds: applied locally in sciatica, stiffness of shoulder joints and in paralysis.

In certain parts of India, the boiled seeds are eaten; cooking seems to destroys the poison.The small seeds are used in jewelry (necklaces) and have a uniform weight of 1/10th of a gram.

Click to learn more about->Indian Liquorice  and Some Medical Plants of India

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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