Karanja goes by the botanical name Millettia Pinnata is a species of tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. Primarily a native of Asia, it is largely found in Australia, Pacific Islands, Japan, and Thailand. Not only ayurvedic but modern science is using its medicinal qualities in curing several ailments including all kinds of severe skin allergies. A potent ayurvedic medicine, karanja is predominantly used in the form of leaf extracts, stems, fruits, roots, and seeds in medicinal preparation. Pungent in taste, but easy to digest, karanja is slightly hot in potency as compared to many other herbs. In fact, in ancient times, karanja twigs were used as toothbrushes as they are very beneficial for dental health. Besides various medicinal benefits, Karanja has umpteen therapeutic uses as well. It is used in a therapy called ‘bloodletting therapy’ for the treatment of skin-related anomalies. The therapy by way of an age-old practice of withdrawing blood from the patient’s veins for therapeutic reasons is done by rubbing karanja stem to initiate bleeding when skin lesions have turned numb, and no pain or itching is noticed. This therapy treatment lets off the impure blood to gush out thus curing the root cause of the infection.
How To Identify Karanja
A glabrous medium-sized deciduous tree, karanja grows up to 12 meters high, sometimes even more, and is found at an altitude of 1200 meters. The trunk is slightly crooked with a greyish brown bark. It has fine-looking flowers in lavender, pink and white colour. The fragrant flowers are a great source of pollen as well as nectar from which bees produce darkish brown coloured honey. The seeds possess a brittle coat and are not very pleasant to taste. They contain a dense oil known as pongamia oil that is loaded with umpteen benefits. Presently used for general skincare and lip care, this oil has been adored for ages in ayurvedic medicine. Karanja oil is a thick yellow-orange to brown coloured oil which in olden times was used as a fuel for cooking and lamps, as lubricants, and in the making of soaps. Generally touted as a cousin to neem oil, nowadays it is a constituent in soaps, lotions, insect repellent creams, and moisturizers. Extremely rich in flavonoids, which are known for their antioxidant and UV-blocking abilities, it provides protection for skin as well as hair from harmful effects of the sun. It also offers nourishing hydration to the skin and softens the hair conferring radiance to both. Pongamia oil is also rich in fatty acids and acts as a healing ingredient.
Common Names Of Karanja
Karanja is known by different names in different parts of the world. Some of its common English names are Millettia Pinnata, Panigrahi, Pongamia Pinnata, Cytisus Pinnatus, Pongamia glabra, Pongame Oiltree, Indian Beech, Pungai, Kanuga. In India it goes by the following common names in regional languages:
Hindi: Karanj, Kanja, Karanja
Sanskrit: Ghrtakaranja, Karanjaka, Naktahva, Naktamala
Bengali: Daharakaranja, Karanja, Natakaranja
Malayalam: Pungu, Ungu
Telugu: Ganuga, Kanuga
Chemical Composition Of Karanja
Six compounds and eight fatty acids out of which three are saturated and five are unsaturated are found in the extracts of karanja plant. The metabolites, beta-sitosterol acetate, galactoside, stigma sterol, and sucrose are also found in considerable amounts in the plant. The saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, two being monoenoic, one dienoic, and two trienoic are also present. Oleic acid in karanja occurs in the highest amount followed by a substantial amount of stearic and palmitic acid. Hiragonic and octadecatrienoic acids are also present in trace amounts in this plant. Imbibed with powerful medicinal properties, karanja oil has a high content of triglycerides and flavonoids and is used to treat all skin diseases, hemorrhoids, ulcers, liver pain, fungal skin afflictions, dyspepsia, rheumatic problems, scabies, herpes, and some cases of leprosy.
Prized as an extremely powerful and wellness benefits-laden plant, karanja has been indicated for the following ayurvedic applications:
- Yonidisharut-treats vaginal diseases and uterine disorders
- Kushtaghna- useful in skin diseases
- Udavartahara-relieves bloating
- Gulmahara-relieves abdominal pain and tumours
- Arshahara-treats piles
- Vrananahara-aids quick wound healing
- Krumihara-relieves worm infestation
- Shothahara: relieves inflammation
- Kushtajit: useful in skin diseases and psoriasis
- Mehahara: useful in diabetes
- Kaphavataghna: balances kapha and vata
Health Benefits Of Karanja
- Karanja plant is useful for hemorrhoids, dyspepsia, and leprosy
- The juice extracted from karanja roots is used as a teeth cleaner
- It is topically applied for rubbing for treating rheumatic problems
- Powder of seeds is used as an expectorant for treating bronchitis and whooping cough
- Leaves infusion is used to provide relief from many chronic and parasitic skin diseases
- It is useful in the detoxifying vagina and treating uterine disorders
- It provides relief from bloating, stomach ailments, and flatulence
- It prevents the body from worm infestation and augments wound healing
- Extract of its leaf is used to treat infection in the gastrointestinal tract or acute diarrhea
- Traditionally karanja has been used for treating fever caused by poisoning due to scorpion bites
- It is used to treat syphilis and gout diseases
Healing Health Benefits
Karanja is helpful in treating indigestion due to aggravated kapha which causes weak digestive fire. This plant helps to promote digestive fire due to its hot potency and supports proper digestion of food thus curing all digestive anomalies.
Treats Appetite Loss
Loss of appetite is caused by a weak digestive system. Due to aggravation of vata, pitta, and kapha dosha, incomplete food digestion results in insufficient secretion of gastric juice in the stomach which reduces the body’s appetite. Karanja tonic helps to promote appetite thus enhancing smooth digestion and gut function.
According to ayurvedic sciences, joint pain occurs due to the imbalance of certain energy in our body. Aggravation of vata dosha, causes swelling, pain, and difficulty in moving. Karanja oil is useful in arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory activity. Karanja possesses vata balancing property that provides relief from symptoms of various forms of arthritis and swelling in joints. Regular application of karanja infusion, ointment, or oil helps to manage chronic joint inflammation.
Clears Skin Anomalies
Owing to its potential antiseptic and healing properties, karanja oil is used for treating skin disorders such as infection, abscess, boils, and eczema. Its antimicrobial property helps to heal all chronic skin problems and provides normal skin texture. The paste of its leaves can also be applied to cuts and wounds to help promote quick healing.
Improves Hair Health
Karanja oil is rich in antioxidants and essential compounds that boost overall hair health, besides preventing premature greying of hair. It also acts as an astringent and protects the scalp from infections. The anti-fungal properties of this oil can help treat scalp irritation, dryness, and dandruff.
The antioxidant properties of karanja have the power to prevent cell damage and heal ulcers. Karanja juice is used to treat internal gastrointestinal ulcers. External ulcers can also be reduced by the application of this oil. The topical application of a few drops of karanja oil mixed with coconut oil is an effective home remedy to soothe ulcers.
Oil made from the seeds of karanja plant has anthelmintic properties which makes it extremely beneficial in leprosy. Karanja oil consists bactericidal properties, which is not very easily found in many plants. This is very effective to treat diseases like leprosy- a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, and mucosa of the body’s upper respiratory tract.
Effect On Doshas
As per ayurvedic sciences, karanja is advised to treat imbalance caused by vata and kapha doshas. Due to it sushnavirya property, it decreases vata and due to katuvipaka property, it decreases kapha, thus aiding management of this condition due to potent vata and kapha balancing properties.
The precise therapeutic dosage of karanja varies from individual to individual and is dependent on the age, health, gender besides severity of the disease. One must consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner before consuming karanja, however, the potential safe dose is:
- Karanja powder: 1 to 3 gm per day
- Karanja capsule: 1-2 capsules twice a day
- Karanja Juice: 10 to 20 ml twice a day
- Ointment: Externally as required
Side Effects Of Karanja
While no side effects are noticed by using karanja plant extracts, sometimes when taken in pure form, it can be a bit dense on the body, skin, and hair. Karanja can also cause rashes on the body due to its hot potency, therefore, it is recommended that instead of using raw and pure karanja extract, products formulated with the ingredient are safer to use.
Although the plant extract is suggested safer to use, avoid using this bitter herb without the medical supervision of the treating doctor. Pregnant ladies and lactating women should completely avoid using karanja plant.