Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 670-676. 2008.

 

 

Achyranthes aspera Linn. (Chirchira): A Magic Herb in Folk Medicine

 

Dwivedi, Sumeet1*, Dubey, Raghvendra1 and Mehta, Kushagra2

 

1Chordia Institute of Pharmacy, Indore, M.P., India

2School of Pharmacy, DAVV, Indore, M.P., India

*For Correspondence: Sumeet Dwivedi, AG-184, Sch. No. 54,

Vijay Nagar, Indore, M.P., India, Mob. No. 9893478497

E-mail: sumeet_dwivedi2002@yahoo.com, raghuji22@rediffmail.com

 

Issued 12 September 2008

 

 

ABSTRACT

            Herbs are vital source of drugs from the ancient time holding the scenario of the Indian system of medicine. Achyrantes aspera Linn., known as Chirchira in Hindi, is an indigenous herb found in India. Chirchira is the basic composition of many traditional remedies. The present paper enumerates the ethnopharmacognostic, ethnopharmacologic, traditional value and folk remedies of this herb, which may help the researchers to set their minds for approaching the utility, efficacy and potency of herb.

 

Key Words: Achyrantes aspera, chirchira, traditional and folk remedies, ailments.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

            The ethnic and rural people of India have preserved a large bulk of traditional knowledge of medicinal uses of plants growing around them. This knowledge is handed down to generations through word of mouth and is extensively used for the treatment of common diseases and conditions. Chirchira has occupied a pivotal position in Indian culture and folk medicine. It has been used in all most all the traditional system of medicine viz., ayurveda, unani and sidha. From the ancient time the tribal, rural and aboriginal people of our country commonly use this herb in various disorders. Chirchira, botanically known as Achyranthes aspera Linn. (A. canescens R Br., A. argentea Decne, A. grandifolia Moz, A. obovata Peter and A. repea L.) belongs to family Amaranthaceae. In the country it is known by different names such as chirchita (Hindi), apamarga (Sanskrit), aghedi (Gujarati), apang (Bengali), nayurivi (Tamil) and kalalat (Malyalam). It grows as wasteland herb every where. Since time immemorial, it is in use as folk medicine. It holds a reputed position as medicinal herb in different systems of medicine in India. According to Ayurveda, it is bitter, pungent, heating, laxative, stomachic, carminative and useful for the treatment of vomiting, bronchitis, heart disease, piles, itching abdominal pains, ascites, dyspepsia, dysentery, blood diseases etc. (Bhandari, 1990; Dwivedi et. al., 2007). The plant has been mentioned in manuscripts of Ayurveda and Chinese medicines. In Ayurveda, two varieties, red and white are mentioned. In Sanskrit, synonyms describe this as a rough flowered stalk. It is described in 'Nighantas' as purgative, pungent, digestive, a remedy for inflammation of the internal organs, piles, itch, abdominal enlargements and enlarged cervical glands. Hindus used ashes for preparing caustic alkaline preparations. The diuretic properties of the plant are well known to the natives of India and European physicians. Different parts of the plant form ingredients in many native prescriptions in combination with more active remedies (Agharkar, 1991).

 

PHARMACOGNOSY

            Chirchira is an erect herb, 0.3-1meter high with stiff branches terete or absolutely quadrangular, striate, pubescent, leaves few, usually thick, elliptic-obovate, petiolate, acute and entire. Flowers are greenish white, numerous in small dense auxiliary heads or spikes, bracts and bracteoles persisting ending in a spine. Main root is long cylindrical thick; secondary and tertiary roots present slightly ribbed, yellowish brown in color; odor is slight, taste is slightly sweet and mucilaginous; stem is yellow brownish, erect branched, cylindrical hairy about 60 cm high. Seeds are sub cylindrical, truncats at apex, rounded at base, black and shining. The plant is distributed through out India up to an altitude of 3000ft.

 

            Prasad and Bhatacharya (1961) studied the plant pharmacognostically and observed an average stomata index of 6.6, average palisade ratio of 9.2, average vein islet no 9 and average epidermal cell count 360. Paliwal et. al. (1960) worked on the structure and development of stomata and reported the leaves to be amphistomatic. Joshi (1931) and Dastur (1935) worked on trichmoes, and Karnick et. al. (1976) studied the effect of different lunar phases on the growth of plant.

Part used: Whole plant, leaves, seeds, roots, flowers and fruits.

 

PHYTOCHEMISTRY

            The plant contains triterpenoid saponins possessing oleanolic acid as aglycone, viz. A, B, C and D as major chemical constituents. Other constituents of the plant are ecdysterone, long chain alcohol, viz. 17-penta triacontanol, 27-cyclohexyl heptaeosan-7-ol, 16-hydroxyl 26-methyl heptacosan-2one and 36, 47-dihydroxy hen-pentacontan-4one. It also contains a water soluble base, betaine. The chemical constituents of A. aspera are shown in Table 1.

 

Table 1: Chemical constituents of Achyranthes aspera Linn.

 

S. No.

Constituents

References

1.        

Saponins from alcoholic extract of defatted seeds

Gopalanchari and Dhar (1958)

2.        

Oleanic acid from seeds

Khastgir et. al. (1950)

3.        

Saponins A and B

Hariharan and Rangaswami (1970)

4.        

Saponins C and D from unripe fruits

Sheshadri et al. (1981)

5.        

AA, CHO, protein, Fe, Ca, phosphorous

Satyanaryana et. al. (1964)

6.        

Achyranthine, N-methyl pyrrolidine –3 carboxylic acid

Basu (1957)

7.        

Water soluble base, betaine

Kappor and Singh (1966)

8.        

Vitamin C

Hasan (1962)

9.        

Ecdysterone

Banerjee and Chandha (1970)

10.    

Inokosterone ecdysterone in callus and tissue culture

Hiroshi et. al. (1971)

11.    

Enzyme level

Purohit et. al. (1980)

 

 

PHARMACOLOGY

            From the point of view of pharmacological activity of A. aspera, a number of works have been done. Some of the reported pharmacological activities of A. aspera are mentioned in Table 2.

Table 2: Pharmacological activities of Achyranthes aspera Linn.

 

S. No.

Pharmacological Activity

References

1.

Abortifacient

Basu et al. (1957), Bhattacharya (1977), Kapoor and Singh (1967), Pakrashi et al. (1975)

2.

Cardiovascular

Basu et al. (1957), Kapoor and Singh (1966), Neogi et al. (1970), Ram et al. (1971 & !972)

3.

Effect on urinary tract

Ghosh et al. (1980), Kapoor and Singh (1967), Ram and Tripathi (1972)

4.

Antibacterial and antifungal

Dhar et al. (1968), George et al. (1947), Neogi and Shrivastava (1957), Ikram and Haq (1980), Khurana et al. (1970)

5.

Juvenile

Banerjee et al. (1971), Masatoshi et al. (1967), Otaka et al. (1980), Rajendran and Gopalan (1970), Robins et al. (1968), Sekeris et al. (1961), Takemoto et al. (1967)

6.

Antidiabetic

Dhar et al. (1968), El-Kheir and Salik (1980)

7.

Spasmolytic

Neogi et al. (1970), Singh (1967)

8.

Antiasthmatic

Chayaralu (1982), Mahaskar and Caius (1931)

9.

Antiallergic

Saha and Kalyansundaram (1962)

10.

Astringent

Chopra et al. (1958)

11.

Emetic

Chopra et al. (1958)

12.

Abdominal tumor

Hartwell (1976)

13.

Chemoprotective

Chakaborty et al (2002)

14.

Diuretic

Nadkarni (2005)

15.

Antiperiodic     

Nadkarni (2005)

16.

Purgative

Nadkarni (2005)

 

Safety Aspects:

            This plant is known to possess abortifacient and contraceptive properties, and hence should be avoided during pregnancy. However, the drug is devoid of any side effect up to the dose of 8 g/kg, orally in rabbits (Akhitar et al., 1991).

 

FOLK REMEDIES AND TRADITIONAL USES

            The herb is widely used to treat various kinds of ailments. Various traditional uses of the herb are mentioned in Table 3, given below:

 

Table 3: Folk remedies and traditional uses of Achyranthes aspera Linn.

 

S. No.

Part used

Preparation

Use

References

1.

Whole plant

Decoction boiled with water for 20-30 min. taken at night

Diuretic in renal dropsies and general anasarca

Nadkarni (2005)

2.

Whole plant

Decoction taken two tablespoon three times a day

Beriberi

Dwivedi (2004)

3.

Whole plant

Decoction boiled with water and taken twice a day

Pneumonia

Rangari (2006)

4.

Whole plant

Infusion in water taken thrice a day

Bronchial infection

Gopalachari & Dhar (1958)

5.

Whole plant

Powder with lukewarm water or milk taken twice a day

Blindness in cattle and rheumatism

Shankar (1979), Jain & Tarafdar (1970)

6.

Whole plant

Ash of plant with honey twice a day

Cough

Chopra (1933)

7.

Whole plant

Juice taken thrice a day

Toothache

Rangari (2006)

8.

Roots

Decoction boiled with water and taken twice a day

Pneumonia

Haerdi &

Eingeborenosis (1964)

9.

Roots

Two teaspoonful powder taken once at night

Astringent and bowel complaints

Quisumbing (1951)

10.

Roots

Two teaspoonful powder taken once at night

Stomachic and digestive

Chopra (1933)

11.

Roots

Extraction of roots taken at night

Menstrual disorders

Singh & Singh (1981)

12.

Roots

Powder taken with water daily

Leprosy

Rao (1981)

13.

Roots

Paste taken with water daily

Antifertility

Malhi & Trivedi (1972)

14.

Roots

Infusion in water taken thrice a day

Mild astringent

Nadkari (2005)

15.

Roots

Ashes mixed with water

Cough, ascites and anasarca

Nadkarni (2005)

16.

Roots

Powder taken  twice a daily

Bleeding in delivery

Dwivedi (2003)

17.

Leaves

Juice mixed with opium taken twice with water

Syphilitic sores

Nadkarni (2005)

18.

Leaves

Juice mixed with opium taken twice with water

Gonorrhoea

Rangari (2006)

19.

Leaves

Juice taken with water ay bed time

Bowel complaint, pile, boil, stomache, skin eruption

Nadkari (2005)

20.

Leaves

Decoction of powdered leaves taken twice day

Early stages of diarrhoea and dysentery

Nadarni (2005)

21.

Leaves

Fresh leaves mixed with jaggery or black peppery and garlic and made pills taken twice a day

Antiperiodic

Nadkarni (2005)

22.

Seeds

Raw seeds taken with water daily

Expectorants

Nadkarni (2005)

23.

Seeds

Raw seeds taken thrice a day

Brain Tonic

Mishra (1969)

24.

Seeds

Raw seeds taken twice a day

Bleeding piles

Mishra (1969)

25.

Flowers

Crushed flowers paste taken daily

Menorrhagia

Rangari (2006)

26.

Flowers

Grounded into paste as external use

Snakes and reptiles bites

Nadkarni (2005)

27.

Fruits

Unripe fruits taken thrice daily

Respiratory disease

Rangari (2006)

 

CONCLUSION

            Herbs are the natural drugs used to regain the alterations made in normal physiological system by foreign organisms or by any malfunctioning of the body. In every ethnic group there exists a traditional health care system, which is culturally patterned. In rural communities, health care seems to be the first and foremost line of defense. The WHO has already recognized the contribution of traditional health care in tribal communities. It is very essential to have a proper documentation of medicinal plants and to know their potential for the improvement of health and hygiene through an eco friendly system. Thus importance should be given to the potentiality of ethnomedicinal studies as these can provide a very effective strategy for the discovery of useful medicinally active identity. A detailed and systematic study is required for identification, cataloguing and documentation of plants, which may provide a meaningful way for the promotion of the traditional knowledge of the herbal medicinal plants. The present review reveals that the herb chirchira is used in treating various ailments. It elicits on all the aspects of the herb and throws the attention to set the mind of the researchers to carry out the work for developing its various formulations, which can ultimately be beneficial for the human beings as well as animals.

 

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