The use of medicinal plants is based on the traditional system of medicine as well as experience of physicians. Based on this, medicinal plants have been used to cure many ailments. Ayurveda (ancient system of medicine) is playing a vital role in control and management of various health disorders and Ayurveda depends upon the plant resources. This is the time to analyse and enlist the phytochemicals which have therapeutic uses found in medicinal plants. Punarnava plant has drawn a lot of attention due to its uses in Indian system of medicine since ages. The various parts of this plant are used in the treatment of cancer, dyspepsia, inflammation, abdominal pain, as an anti-stress agent and many more.
Punarnava is one of the most important anti-inflammatory herb. In Ayurvedic system of medicine, it is known for swelling reducing activities and diuretic.
“Punar” means again and “Nava” means new. The plant dies in a year and in the next year, with the same root it regrows. It is also an excellent anti-aging herb. It makes the body new again. Hence the name.
This herb is found in many places of Africa, South America, North America, China, Myanmar and India.
Punarnava is a perennial creeping weed, ascending herb upto 1 metre long or more having spreading branches. The plant grows profusely in the rainy season and mature seeds are formed in October – November. Due to the sticky nature of Punarnava plant, it gets stuck on the clothes of human beings and on the feet and legs of animals which is helpful in the dispersal of seeds from one place to another.
The shape of the leaves may be ovate, oblong, sub-cordate or round at the base and smooth above. Margins of the leaves are smooth, undulate or wavy. The seeds germinate before the onset of monsoon season.
Flowers are minute, pink, white or blue and about 1.5 mm long.
The tap roots of Punarnava are tuberous, cylindrical to narrowly fusiform to conical or tapering, light yellow, brownish grey or brown. It is thick, fleshy and very bitter in taste.
In a research, it has been found that Punarnava contains a quinolone alkaloid lunamarine which has shown some in vitroanti-cancer activity.
In a research, it was also found that leaves of Punarnava exhibited strong anti-microbial activity against various Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria which might be due to phytochemicals present in the leaves. Ethanol extract showed anti-bacterial activity against Gram positive bacteria like- S.aureus, B.subtilis, M.luteus, S.feacilis and against all Gram positive bacteria.
Botanical name: Boerhaavia diffusa
Common name: Hog weed, Pig weed etc.
Sanskrit name: Punarnava
- Taste – Sweet, bitter and astringent
- Qualities – Light and dry.
- Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
- Potency – hot
- Effect on Tridosha – Balances Kapha and Vata dosha
- Part used – Whole plant, leaf and root.
According to Bhava prakasha, Rakt Punarnava is very coolant in nature.
As per Ayurvedic texts, two types of Punarnava are explained.
- Shweta (based on the colour of stem and flower) – White variety (Trianthema portulacastrum)
- Rakta (based on the colour of stem and flower) – Red variety (Boerhaaviadiffusa)
- In Raj Nighantu, Nila Punarnava i.e. blue variety is also described.
Classical categorisation of Punarnava
By Charaka – anti-aging group of herbs, group of herbs useful against cough, useful in sweating treatment and among the group of herbs useful in oil enema.
Chemical Constituents of Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa)
- Anti-inflammatory/ reduces swelling
- Useful in cardiac disorders
- Useful in cough and cold
- It is an excellent diuretic, in cases of high blood pressure where diuretic action is required Punarnava is used.
- Useful in relieving abdominal colic.
- Useful in anaemia as well as in early stages of liver disorders.
- Relieves sputum.
- useful in chest injury
- Helps in improving digestion strength.
- useful in haemorrhoids.
- Slightly alkaline in nature hence has scraping and cutting qualities.
- Improves taste hence useful in anorexia.
- Useful in ascites.
- Useful in chronic toxic conditions
- Speeds up wound healing
- Its most of the qualities are similar to the red variety Punarnava.
- It is hot, bitter and relieves sputum.
Raj Nighantu has explained blue variant (Neel Punarnava) which has almost similar qualities and usage.
1. Relief from Water Retention
It has diuretic action hence used in relieving urinary retention. It is also useful in relieving water retention in case of adverse effects of long term use of steroids.
2. As an Aphrodisiac treatment
Punarnava seeds are used for the purpose of aphrodisiac treatment.
3. Snake bites
Punarnava root decoction is used in treating snake bites, rat bites etc.
4. In Anaemia
Punarnava is widely used in the treatment of anaemia, piles, fever, splenomegaly especially in children.
5. For ophthalmic disorders
Sharangadhara samhita has mentioned its usage for itching by mixing the powder of Punarnava with milk, mixed with honey to treat ophthalmic discharges, with ghee for corneal wounds and with rice water for night blindness. Leaves of Punarnava cure ulcers of cornea and night blindness. Its leaves are used as a vegetable in many parts of India.
6. For liver disorders
B.diffusa roots are widely used for jaundice, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, enlargement of spleen etc. The worldwide use of B.diffusa to treat liver disorders was validated when researches in 1990 and 1991 demonstrated that its root extract has anti-hepatotoxic properties.
7. As an anti-stress agent
Punarnava root is used an anti-stress agent since ages.
Punarnava mandoor, Punarnava diguggul, Narayan tail, Amritprash ghrita, Sukumar Ghrit, Punarnava sav etc.
It acts as a diuretic, patients suffering from kidney disorders as well as high blood pressure must use it undermedical supervision.
It is safe to use during lactation period and in children but medical supervision is required during pregnancy.