Winter marks a significant rise in different types of flu and feverish conditions accompanied with cough, cold, sore throat, headache etc. According to Ayurveda, the holistic science of healing, the Vata Doshas pertain to regulating the overall immunity of the body. Due to the varying levels of ojas (i.e. immunity) in every individual, people having a poor balance of ojas easily falls prey to the common cold virus. Although people go for modern medications, there are many who prefer the natural way and believe it or not a good boost to the immune system using herbs can really alleviate all sorts of infections and feverish symptoms and promote overall health and wellness. Well, one such incredible herb known for its bitter taste that mimics the properties and therapeutic efficacies of neem and kalmegh is chirata.
What Is Chirata?
Chirata is a popular ayurvedic herb that is chiefly found growing in the sub-temperate regions of the Himalayas ranging from India to Bhutan. Known for its characteristic bitter taste, it goes by the scientific name Swertia chirata. It usually has a height of 3-4 feet and has greenish-yellow flowers with a purplish tinge. Imbued with powerful antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, vermicidal, hepatoprotective, laxative, hypoglycaemic, digestive, and cholagogue properties, chirata is extensively used for combatting against various infections, promoting liver functions, enhancing appetite, boosting digestion, improving metabolism, treating skin diseases, facilitating weight loss and more.
Common Names Of Chirata
This bitter-tasting herb is known by different names in different parts of the world including Bitter stick, East Indian Balmony, Genciana de la India, Gentiana chirata, Chirette des Indes, Indian Bolonong, Indian Gentian, Swertia chirata, Swertia chirayita.
In the Indian subcontinent, this herb goes by the names Kirataka, Kiratatiktaka, Chirta, Chirata, Chireta, Kariyatu, Kaddi, Chirayat, Chiraita, Nelaveppu, Nelavemu, Kariyatun, Nalebevu, Bhunimba, Chirata, Kirayathu, Nilamakanjiram, Kiraita, Kaduchiraita, Chireita, Chiretta, Kirata.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Chirata
The holistic science of Ayurveda acknowledges this incredible herb in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include Jvara (useful in fever), Kustha (treats skin disorders), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Anulomana (improves breathing), Prameha (manages diabetes), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties), Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Amahara (treats indigestion), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation), and Vamanopaga (treats emesis), Kasahara (Relieves cough), Pandu (treats anaemia), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Kamala (prevents jaundice), Varnya (improves complexion), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms).
Biochemical Constituents Of Chirata
Chirata is power-packed with a number of ingredients that portrays its incredible health benefits. This bitter herb is imbued with antioxidants, alkaloids and glycosides like palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, chiratanin, chiratol, gentiopicrin, xanthones, swertiamarin, amarogentin, swertanone, swerchirin and certain other compounds.
Therapeutic Benefits Of Chirata
Thanks to the powerful anti-parasitic action, chirata leaves hinder the growth of the malarial parasite right at the ring stage and hence prevents aggravation of the infection. Apart from malaria, chirata is also extremely beneficial for treating and managing different types of fever, hysteria and convulsions. It also reduces body pain, headache and other underlying symptoms of fever.
Cures Liver Disorders
Just like the bitter Kalmegh and Neem leaves, chirata also possesses potent hepatoprotective and hepatostimulative properties which makes it a magical remedy during jaundice, in which the liver gets mostly effected. The potent herb offers support to the liver functioning by secreting bile which in turn helps the liver enzymes to come down to normal levels. It also cleanses and detoxifies the liver and improves liver functioning.
Facilitates Weight Loss
The abundance of flavonoids in dried chirata leaves help the body shed excess weight faster. Being loaded with fiber and essential nutrients, when taken regularly, the formulations of this bitter herb satiate sudden hunger pangs and prevents overeating and hence can play a pivotal role in one’s weight loss regimen. The herb also reduces the accumulation of LDL (i.e. Low-Density Lipoproteins or bad cholesterol) in the body, thereby improving metabolism and helping the body to maintain a proper weight.
Shields Against Infections
Imbued with powerful biochemical compounds, this bitter herb has been used since ancient times to battle germs and shield the body against various infections. Thanks to its strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties, chirata is not only used for removing bacteria or germs from the body but also used for treating and healing wounds. Boosted with anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and anti-asthmatic properties, the leaves of this herb play a pivotal role in treating the common cold, cough and flu symptoms. It also thins and loosens rheum deposits within the chest and nasal cavities and hence eases breathing and helps the body to get rid of mucus faster.
The excellent carminative and digestive properties of chirata make it an absolute solution for all digestive woes. The anti-flatulent property reduces the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus reducing flatulence, constipation, bloating and abdominal distension. The antacid property of the herb prevents the formation of excessive acids in the stomach thereby treating indigestion, ulcer, gastritis and promoting better absorption of nutrients in the body.
The exceptional hypoglycaemic property of chirata plays a pivotal role in pacifying the blood sugar levels in the body. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active in taking chirata formulations. It helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels and eventually helps in managing diabetes.
Remedies Skin Disorders
Powered with antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, chirata offers blood purifying activity. Owing to the Tikta (bitter) taste and Pitta balancing property, it removes toxins from the blood and hence helps to manage skin diseases. It is also extremely useful in managing rashes, inflammation, redness, itching, burning sensation and thus helps in the treatment of skin eruptions, acne, pimples, eczema, boils, and scabies.
Effect On Doshas
The humble chirata is sanctified with Tikta (i.e. bitter taste) Rasa and Laghu (i.e. light) and Rukshna Guna (i.e. dry quality). It intrinsically portrays Shita Virya (i.e. cold potency) and Katu Vipaka (i.e. pungent metabolic taste). It readily pacifies the Pitta (fire and air) doshas and Kapha (earth and water) doshas whereas an excess of it can aggravate the Vata (air) doshas. Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, Chirata has a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e. body tissues) of the body including Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e. Blood), Mamsa (i.e. Muscles), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids).
The precise healing dosage of chirata may vary from person to person depending upon the age, severity, and condition of the patient. One must consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, as he or she will thoroughly examine the indications and prescribe the effective dosage for a specific period of time.
Chirata Powder - 1-3 gm infused in luke warm water twice a day or as directed by the ayurvedic doctor or physician.
Chirata Tablet/Capsule - 1 tab/cap twice a day or as directed by the ayurvedic doctor.
Chirata Side Effects
Imbued with potent bioactive components, this bitter herb exhibits no recorded side effects when used in the correct proportion. But an excess of it can induce vomiting effect, cause hypoglycemia or conditions like dizziness, numbness of hand and feet etc.
Chirata is one such bitter herb that is blessed with a quarry of health benefits. From being used for treating flu and feverish conditions, aiding in weight loss, preventing infections, promoting digestion, and relieving liver anomalies, it does it all.