Chitrak, a.k.a Plumbago zeylanica is a classical ayurvedic herb that has been used for the treatment of various health woes since the time of the Sage Charaka. Classified as a powerful ‘Rasayana Dravya’ or rejuvenative herb, the medicinal uses of Chitrak encompass far beyond just gastrointestinal disturbances. With more and more knowledge about the medicinal properties of the herb, Chitrak is successfully used for the management and treatment of constipation, indigestion, piles, muscular pain, diarrhoea, diabetes, compromised immunity, common cold, cough, bronchitis, asthma, obesity, rheumatism, skin infections, pain and inflammation, hypercholesterolemia, and many more.
How To Identify Chitrak?
Chitrak is a herbaceous shrub coming from the Plumbaginaceae family. The roots of chitrak are light yellow coloured when fresh, reddish-brown when dry, and are usually straight unbranched, or slightly branched with or without secondary rootlets. It has globous, woody stems with spreading green branches. The leaves of this plant are arranged alternately and are ovate or oblong with a narrow petiole at the base. Flowers of Chitrak are primarily white in hue, bisexual with axillary and terminal elongated spikes. Fruits are small and have 5 distinct furrows and contain a single seed that is oblong in shape with a colour hue ranging from reddish-brown to dark brown.
Geographical Distribution Of Chitrak
Chitrak is mainly native to the old tropical regions of the Pacific and Hawaiian Islands. But owing to its huge array of therapeutic properties and medicinal and commercial uses, it is densely cultivated in Srilanka and India. In the Indian subcontinent, it is widely found growing in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Common Names Of Chitrak
Chitrak goes by different names in different languages. Some of its common names include:
English: White Leadwort, Ceylon leadwort, Doctor Bush, Plumbago
Sanskrit: Chitrak, Anala, Dahana, Pithi, Vahnisajnaka, Agni, Agnika, Jyothi, Nirdahana, Vahni, Sikhi, Vyala, Hutasana
Hindi: Chira, Chitrak
Malayalam: Vellakeduveli, Thumpokkoduveli
Tamil: Chitramoolam, Kodiveli
Oriya: Chitamula, Chitoparu
Assamese: Agiyachit, Agnachit
Kannada: Chitramula, Vahni, Bilichitramoola
Kashmiri: Chitra, Shatranja
Phytochemical Constituents Of Chitrak
Chitrak intrinsically possesses a vast array of chemical components including flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides, steroids, triterpenoids, saponins, tannins, coumarins, phenolic compounds, naphthoquinones, carbohydrates, fixed oil and fats and proteins. Among them, the most important chemical constituent is Plumbagin which is chiefly present in the roots of Chitrak and bestows the plant with incredible curative qualities.
Laden with powerful carminative, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, libido-stimulant, expectorant, diuretic, androgenic, analgesic, spermatogenic, anti-convulsant, anti-amnesiac, adaptogenic, anti-pyretic, muscle-relaxant properties, Chitrak is extensively used for the treatment and management of digestive disorders, piles, indigestion, constipation, obesity, sexual problems, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, fever, asthma, rheumatic arthritis, bleeding, stress, anxiety, etc.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Chitrak
Ayurveda, the holistic science of herbal remedies has extensively mentioned Chitrak time and again in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include:
- Deepana (enhances stomach fire)
- Pachana (helps in digestion)
- Rochana (stimulates appetite)
- Vajikaran (improves libido)
- Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body)
- Balya (improves muscle strength)
- Vayasthapana (prevents ageing)
- Jvara (useful in fever)
- Kasahara (Relieves cough)
- Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties)
- Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst)
- Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders)
- Gulmajit (useful in abdominal tumours)
- Hikkanigrahana (controls hiccups)
- Amahara (treats indigestion)
- Anulomana (improves breathing)
- Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting)
- Dahahara (relieves burning sensation)
- Prameha (manages diabetes)
- Kantya (relieves sore throat)
- Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation)
- Hridaya (treats heart problems)
- Vamanopaga (treats emesis)
- Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding)
- Pandu (treats anaemia)
- Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea)
- Pushtida (good for nutrition)
- Kustha (treats skin disorders)
- Varnya (improves complexion)
- Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms)
- Kanthya (improves voice)
How To Purify Chitrak Roots?
The roots of the Chitrak plant are mainly used for therapeutic purposes and for manufacturing herbal formulations. However, care should be taken that they are purified before being used. For purification, follow the process:
Wash the roots under running water thoroughly
Cut them into small pieces
Immerse the roots in lime water for three hours
Take out and repeat it three times to get purified Chitrak roots
Health Benefits Of Chitrak
Combats From Intestinal Troubles
Chitrak is a traditional remedy for improving gut health and treating a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhoea, flatulence, peptic ulcer, esophagitis, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, indigestion, and stomach pain. Being a herb of carminative nature, it helps break down the food particles in the stomach and intestine, improves the secretion of the digestive juices and thereby boosts the absorption of essential nutrients through the intestines. It also helps to eradicate abdominal gas and in turn, curtails bloating, abdominal distension and gaseous cramps. The laxative quality of the herb also helps in the free passage of faecal matter out of the anus thus preventing constipation.
Also Read: 5 Herbs For A Healthy Digestive System
Fights Respiratory Issues
Sanctified with dominant anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and anti-asthmatic traits, Chitrak plays a key role in treating a host of respiratory troubles. It is greatly used for dealing with a sore throat, common cold, cough and flu symptoms. Being a herb with Kapha pacifying quality and imbued with Lekhaniya or scraping factors, it also thins and loosens the phlegm deposits within the chest and nasal cavities and hence facilitates smooth breathing. It is also highly effective in attending to bronchitis and asthmatic conditions.
Prepare a tincture using the root extract of the plant, black pepper and long pepper and drink it twice a day, to treat the common cold and cough effectively.
Being a powerful laxative, this herb is extensively used for preventing and treating piles or haemorrhoids. The potent Rechana (laxative) property of Chitrak softens the stools and facilitates effortless passage of the stool from the intestines and the anus. It decreases the pressure on the lower portion of the intestines and thereby staves off anal fissure, bleeding and protrusion of a mass from the anus. It also enhances the strength of the intestines and helps in cleansing the colon.
Take 1-2 gms of pulverized Chitrak root powder with buttermilk thrice a day for treating piles.
Promotes Weight Loss
The abundance of flavonoids in Chitrak root extract, helps the body shed excess weight faster. Being loaded with fibre and essential nutrients, when taken regularly, Chitrak satiates the sudden hunger pangs and prevents overeating and hence plays a pivotal role in one’s weight loss regime. The powder also lessens the accumulation of LDL (i.e., Low-Density Lipoproteins or bad cholesterol) in the body, while boosting metabolism and helping the body to retain a proper weight.
Take 1-2 gms of pulverized Chitrak root powder with honey for reducing weight.
Also Read: Belly Fat Burners From Your Kitchen Shelf
The Chitrak root powder contains a potent, naphthoquinone compound called Plumbagin which not only imparts the pungent taste to the root but also plays a crucial role in assuaging the blood sugar levels of the body. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active in the consumption of the root powder of Chitrak. Adequate dosage of this herb also helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose and hence manage diabetes.
Effect On Doshas
Chitrak is hallowed with Rasa which is Katu (i.e., pungent taste), and Gunas which are Laghu (i.e., light), Tikshno (i.e., sharp) and Rukhsha (i.e., dry quality). It innately characterizes Virya which is Ushna (i.e., hot potency) and Vipaka which is Katu (i.e., pungent metabolic taste). The dry and sharp quality of the herb pacifies vitiated Kapha (earth and water) and Vata doshas (i.e., air) whereas having a bitter metabolic taste and hot potency, Chitrak detoxifies the Pitta (fire and air) doshas. In accordance with these crucial properties and doshas, the herb has an optimistic effect on the various Dhatus or bodily tissues which are Rasa (i.e., Plasma), Rakta (i.e., Blood), Mamsa (i.e., Muscles), Majja (i.e., cartilage), Asthi (i.e., Bones) and Shukra (i.e., Reproductive Fluids).
The helpful medicinal dosage of Chitrak varies depending upon the age, body strength, effects on appetite, the severity of the disease, and condition of the patient. It is necessary to consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner to know the exact dose for the exact period. It can be taken alongside honey, buttermilk or milk twice a day, to mask its pungent taste or as suggested by the health care provider.
Chitrak Churna/ Powder: 2-3 gm a day or as recommended by the ayurvedic doctor physician.
Chitrak Gutika/ Tablet: 1-2 gm in divided doses a day or as recommended by the ayurvedic doctor physician.
Chitrak Kashyam/ Syrup: 5-10 ml in divided doses a day or as recommended by the ayurvedic doctor physician.
Chitrak is extremely useful in treating umpteen health constraints when taken in prescribed doses but an excess of it may lead to certain side effects including abdominal pain, redness and itching of the skin, irritation, dilated pupils, myotonia, hypotonia, irregular pulse and respiratory failure. Even with topical application of impure roots of Chitrak, people may also experience skin redness and blisters.
Chitrak has antifertility and antiovulatory effects and can induce uterine contractions and stimulate menstrual flow or uterine bleeding. It can also diminish the flow of milk during the breastfeeding period in new moms. Hence, it is urged to evade having Chitrak in any form during the entire pregnancy and lactation. Additionally, while taking Chitrak formulation, one should refrain from consuming too many oily foods, spices, condiments and toot vegetables like potatoes and tubers to ensure good absorption of Chitrak.