Chirata (Kalmegh): Health Benefits, Uses

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chirayta (Kalmegh) according to ayurveda

At one time many Swertia spp. (Indian name chirayta) were well esteemed as bitter tonics. These herbs grew in the temperate Himalayas, but because of over-exploitation these plants became scarce and hence expensive. Andrographis which has widespread distribution in India, was found to be a good substitute for Swertia, and it became popular as Hara (green) chirayta. It is well known as kalmegh in Ayurveda and sometimes as kirayta. It is sold as such in dry form; sometimes the leaves get separated, exposing the black twigs

chirayta (Kalmegh) uses

As a febrifuge
The herb is a bitter tonic and a febrifuge. It was included in the earlier editions of Indian pharmacopoeia. In Bengal (an Indian State), a preparation called Alui is prepared by taking powder of cumin and the seed of Amomum subulatum in the juice of this herb. Alui is prescribed for malaria.

For the digestive system
It encourages appetite and aids digestion. It is also used in dysentery, as an anthelmintic, stomachic, a liver stimulant, choleretic, cholagaogue, for jaundice, hepatotoxicity, etc. Decoction of the herb has been used for sluggish liver and in a certain form ofdyspepsia, associated with gaseous distension. For children suffering from liver torpidity a dose of 5 g of the herb twice daily is adequate until cured

Anti-ulcerogenic activity
The compound apigenin, isolated from the herb, exhibited dose-dependent anti-ulcer activity in Shay rats, histamine-induced ulcers in guinea pigs and aspirin-induced ulcers in rats

In cardiac diseases
The herb was found to be an effective anti-thrombogenic agent in treating arterial thrombotic diseases. An anti-platelet aggregation effect on blood samples of volunteers was seen . The flavone extract from the root prevented the formation of thrombi, as well as the development of myocardial infraction in dogs . Andrographis prevented the atherosclerotic arterial stenosis and restenosis after angioplasty. Hypotensive properties in various fractions have been observed

In leukaemia
The methanol extract of A. paniculata is reported to cause cell differentiation in mouse myeloid leukaemia cells. To confirm this Matsuda et al. (1994) isolated various compounds from this herb. Out of three diterpenoids isolated, two new compounds and andrographolides were found to be active.

Anti-inflammatory activity
In induced oedema, the herb gave a mean inhibition percentage of 65.35 per cent, compared with 76.50 per cent by butazone . Madav et al. (1995) found analgesic, anti-pyretic and anti-ulcerogenic activity in andrographolides. Madav et al. (1996), Shukla et al. (1992) noted that the herb had a good effect against all types of inflammatory agents. It also inhibited acetic acid-induced vascular permeability.

Anti-allergic activity
The bitter principles andrographolide and neoandrographolide showed significant antiPCA (passive cutaneous anaphylaxis) and mast cell stabilizing activities. These activities were comparable to that of cromoglycate (Gupta et al. 1998). Madav et al. (1998) confirmed the anti-allergic activity of andrographolide. This compound significantly decreased degranulation of rat mast cells and reduced its liberation.

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