India, the land where the holistic science of Ayurveda originated is intrinsically sanctified with Mother Nature’s goodness. Therapeutic herbs and spices are found growing in every nook and corner, whether we recognize them or not. In the present times, with most people following a sedentary lifestyle, getting diagnosed with some problem or other is quite a common factor. However, be it stress, anxiety, digestive issues, pain and inflammation, heart problems, liver anomalies or skin diseases, these ayurvedic herbs provide an absolute remedy for most health anomalies. While some herbs, roots or leaves are already identified and are actively used for medicinal purposes, there are still a huge number of therapeutic plants, that are yet to be discovered or not yet employed for their traditional healing properties. One such rare ayurvedic herb, found in the heart of the Himalayas that most of us are unaware of or at least not well acquainted with its therapeutic benefits is Kutki.
What Is Kutki?
Kutki or Katuka is a traditional hepatoprotective herb that has immense healing properties. In fact, over the past few years, with more and more knowledge about this incredible herb, and forever increasing demand in the national and international market, various medicinal companies have extracted potent hepatoprotective drugs and compounds from the roots of Kutki and formulated them into powerful medications. Known by the botanical name Picorrhiza kurroa, Kutki comes from the Scrophulariaceae family. The name Picorrhiza comes from the Greek word ‘Picroz’ which means ‘bitter’ and ‘rhiza’ meaning ‘root’, referring to the bitter taste of the herb.
Touted for its intense bitter taste, this eastern root is said to be cooling, cleansing, and anti-bacterial by nature. These properties make Kutki a great option as a powerful herbal antibiotic, Pitta pacifier component, anti-inflammatory agent, detoxifier, and an antimicrobial powerhouse. Kutki can also be used as a main herbal component for any weight-loss regimen or diet as this bitter agent is great for increasing the digestive fire, promoting healthy elimination of excess fat and cholesterol, and boosting overall metabolism.
Kutki is a small perennial herb, that usually grows to a height of about 20-30 cm. The plant has roots that are elongated, tubular, straight or slightly curved with a few longitudinal and dotted scars, mostly attached with rhizomes. The useful rhizome part of the plant is normally thick, sub-cylindrical, straight or curved, with a greyish-brown tinge, marked externally with longitudinal furrows and spherical scars of roots. The plant has creeping stem which is small, weak, leafy and slightly hairy. Leaves are 5-15 cm long, oblanceolate, toothed, narrowed to a winged stalk, and are alternately arranged on the stem. Flowers are small, pale or purplish blue, borne in cylindric spikes, and are 5 lobed. Flowering period lasts long and usually takes place from June to August. The fertilized flowers are followed by a two-celled, small spherical capsule, tapered at the top, divided into 4 valves, and enclosing several white, oblong seeds.
Kutki is chiefly found growing in higher mountain elevations, of the Himalayan range. It is found thriving in moist rocks, from timberline to alpines, moist rocky crevices, and sandy-clayey textured soil. It is native to the Himalayan region across India, Pakistan, Southeast Tibet, Nepal, North Burma and West China. Within India, it is found growing in the alpine Himalayas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
Common Names Of Kutki
Kutki is known by different names in different parts of the world. Few of the common names include Yellow gentian, Picroliv, Katuka, Katuki, Kurri, Kuru, Hellbore, Kutki, Katuko, Picrorhiza, Katukarogani, Hu Huang Lian, Kadu, and Kutka.
In the Indian sub-continent, it is known as Karoi, Karu, Karwi, Kutki, Kardi, Katuka in Hindi, Katuki, Katki in Bengali, Akutarokini, Amakkini, Acokarokini, Akutam, Katukarogini, Kadugurohini in Tamil, Kadukrohini, Katukhurohani, in Malayalam, Katukarogani, Katuka-rogani, Katukkurohini in Telugu, Katukarohini, Katukarohini in Kannada, Kadu, Katu in Gujarati, Karru, Kaur, Kaundd, Kaud, in Punjabi.
Ayurveda knows this incredible plant through the Sanskrit names Anjani, Kavi, Sutiktaka, Kauka, Arishta, Katumbhara, Tikta, Tiktarohini, Kaurohini, Matsyapitta, Krishnabheda, Ashoka, Katambhra, Matshyashakla, Chakrangi, Shakuladini, Kandruha, and Rohini whereas the Unani medicinal world knows it by Kutki.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Kutki
Time and again, Kutki has been mentioned in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include Jvara (useful in fever), Yakrit Vikara (prevents liver infections), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Kamala (prevents jaundice), Kasahara (Relieves cough), Amahara (treats indigestion), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Kupachan (prevents bloating, indigestion), Anulomana (improves breathing), Vayasthapana (prevents ageing), Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Pandu (treats skin disorders), Raktadoshahara (blood purifying), Vran Ropana (heals wounds), Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders), Prameha (manages diabetes), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Pandu (treats anaemia), Balya (improves muscle strength), Hikkanigrahana (controls hiccups), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation), and Vamanopaga (treats emesis), Varnya (improves complexion), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), and Hridaya (treats heart problems).
Phyto-chemical Components Of Kutki
This incredible herb shows the presence of iridoid glucosides such as picroside I, picroside II, picroside III, picroside IV, kutkoside, pikuroside, d-mannitol, kutkiol, kutki sterol and flavonoids like apocynin and vanillic acid.
Imbued with potent hepatoprotective, cholagogue, anti-splenomegaly, anti-hepatomegaly, spleno-protective, detoxifying, febrifuge, digestive, anti-inflammatory, broncho-dilatory, pain-relieving, anti-microbial properties, Kutki is extensively used for providing relief from jaundice, liver infections, fever, allergy, asthma, skin conditions including eczema and vitiligo, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, various infections, scorpion stings, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Formulation Containing Kutki
Due to the intense bitterness and powerful healing properties of Kutki, it has been used in many traditional Ayurvedic formulations such as Tikta Ghrita (Bitter Ghee), Pancha Tikta Ghrita, Kalmeghasava, Arogyavardhini Gutika, Punarnavadi Kvatha, Triphala Ghrita and Maha Yogaraj Guggulu. Some herbalists also use Kutki as a replacement for its Western counterpart, Gentian.
Imbued with the powerful therapeutic indications of the twelve herbal components, Kalmeghasava confers ultimate management and prevention of different types of liver anomalies. This potent herbal concoction not only helps in boosting immunity but also helps in providing relief from hepatomegaly (liver enlargement), splenomegaly (spleen enlargement), chronic fever and constipation. Powered by the cholagogue action, Kalmeghasava facilitates the discharge of bile from the liver and gall bladder, thereby boosting appetite and promoting overall body metabolism.
12 parts Kalmegh (Bhunimba or Nilavembu) – Andrographis Paniculata
1 Part Kutki – Picrorhiza Kurroa
1 Part Neem – Azadirachta Indica inner bark
1 Part Sonth (Ginger Rhizome) – Zingiber Officinale
1 Part Haritaki – Terminalia Chebula
1 Part Chirayata – Swertia Chirata
1 Part Dhamasa (Duralabha) – Fagonia Cretica
1 Part Patol (Pointed gourd leaves) – Trichosanthes Dioica
1 Part Lal Chandan (Red Sandalwood) – Pterocarpus Santalinus
1 Part Ushira (Khas) – Vetiveria Zizanioides
1 Part Dhataki Flower- Woodfordia Fruticosa
100 Parts Warm Water
40 parts Gur – Jaggery
Powder all the herbal components and dry them under direct sunlight.
Keep it aside for later use.
Pour purified warm water in the Asava Vessel.
Add Kalmegh powder and jaggery to it and blend well.
Then add all the other herbal and aromatic ingredients in to the jaggery mixture with continuous stirring.
Close the mouth of the Asava vessel with a cotton cloth and leave it undisturbed for a month.
On completion of the fermentation process, decant the liquid.
Preserve it in food-grade glass bottles for future use.
Adults: 10 – 15 ml, twice or thrice a day infused in equal quantities of water preferably after meals or as suggested by your health care provider or ayurvedic doctor.
Health Benefits Of Kutki
Remedies Liver Anomalies
Deemed as ‘sarva roga niramani’, just like the bitter kalmegh leaves, kutki possesses potent hepatoprotective and hepatostimulative properties which makes it a magical remedy during jaundice, in which the liver gets mostly effected. The plant 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.
Also Read: Top 8 Foods for healthy liver
Take ½ tsp Kutki along with 1 tbsp aloe vera juice and 1 tsp honey, 3 times daily with meals for enhancing liver health.
Aids In Weight Loss:
The abundance of flavonoids in kutki root helps the body shed excess weight faster. Being loaded with fibre and essential nutrients, when taken regularly, the formulations of the bitter herb satiates 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.
Promotes Heart Functions
Being a potent cardio-protective herb, Kutki is quintessential for treating a host of heart ailments. Owing to its strong antioxidative nature, it strengthens the heart muscles, prevents lipid build up within them, and hence reduces the risk of heart attacks, heart blocks, blood clots, atherosclerosis etc. It not only plays a crucial role in lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood but also dilates blood vessels and normalises blood flow, hence managing high blood pressure.
Fights Respiratory Issues
Blessed with powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and anti-asthmatic properties, Kutki is considered to be a well-known traditional remedy for all sorts of respiratory troubles. It holds high significance in treating the common cold, sore throat, cough and flu symptoms. It also thins and loosens rheum particles within the chest and nasal cavities and hence eases breathing and helps the body to get rid of mucus. It is also beneficial in treating bronchitis and asthmatic conditions.
Consume a mixture of ½ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp ginger and ¼ tsp of Kutki, and 1 tsp of raw honey by infusing it in ¼ cup of warm water, thrice a day after meals to gradually get rid of asthma and allergies.
The anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer properties of the kutki root and rhizome plays a chief role in treating different types of ulcers like ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcer, canker sores or mouth ulcers, etc. The bioactive components help in healing mouth and gastric ulcers. It also helps to speed up the healing process in the inflamed mucosal layer and reduce the risk of ulceration.
Shields Against Infections
The biochemical compounds present in this bitter herb has been used since the ancient times to combat germs and shield the body against various infections. Thanks to its strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties, kutki is not only used for removing bacteria and germs from the body but also used for recurring fever conditions. It also helps in reducing general debility, weakness, and fatigue and improves the vitality of the body.
Imbued with excellent carminative and digestive properties, kutki makes for a one-stop solution for all digestive woes. The anti-flatulent property reduces the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus reducing flatulence, bloating, constipation, 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.
Thanks to the exceptional hypoglycaemic property, kutki holds high significance in pacifying the blood sugar levels in the body. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active in taking kutki or its formulations. It helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels and thus helps in managing diabetes.
Take ½ tsp of kutki along with ½ tsp of turmeric mixed in ¼ cup of warm water thrice a day to keep blood sugar levels under control.
The wealth of anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties of the Kutki root is extensively used for providing relief from pain and inflammation due to arthritis. It is also extremely effective against Rheumatoid arthritis which is known as Amavata in Ayurveda, an ailment that stems due to the vitiation of Vata doshas and accumulation of Ama in the joints.
Make a concoction of ¼ tsp Kutki, ½ tsp Ginger and 1 tsp Castor Oil. Mix this together with warm water and consume it before going to bed every night for getting relief from arthritic pain.
Augments Skin Health
Sanctified with antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, kutki offers blood purifying properties which helps in removing toxins from the blood and hence helps to manage skin diseases. It not only helps in shielding the skin from oxidative radical damage due to the harmful UVA and UVB rays, to reduce the risk of the various signs of aging like wrinkles, blemishes, spots, fine lines, and dark circles, but also treats allergic conditions like acne, pimples, zits, psoriasis, scabies and various other skin infections.
Take a mixture of 1 tsp of Tikta Ghrita melted in ½ cup hot water along with ¼ tsp kutki powder and ¼ tsp turmeric, on an empty stomach early morning to get crystal-clear, radiant skin.
Effect On Doshas:
This magical hepato-protective herb showcases Katu (i.e. pungent) and Tikta (i.e. bitter) Rasa. It is blessed with Rukhsha (dry) and Laghu (i.e. light) gunas. It has Sheeto Virya (cold potency) and Katu Vipaka (pungent metabolic property). The bioactive ingredients in this bitter herb balances the Pitta (fire and air) doshas and Kapha (earth and water) doshas and often an excess of it can aggravate the Vata (air) doshas.
Owing to the dry and light qualities, the herb helps to cut through the thick rheum matter caused due to increased kapha doshas, and it also reduces pitta and kapha doshas in the head and chest, thus helping to uphold a normal body temperature. Additionally, being a Pitta pacifier, it detoxifies the liver and blood, while simultaneously fortifying the vital organ and enhancing cellular growth and tissue regeneration. Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, Kutki portrays a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e. body tissues) which are Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e. Blood), Mamsa (i.e. Muscles), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids).
The ayurvedic properties that help in portraying the following main prabhabs on the body are, Asrajit (coolant), Dahajit (relieves burning sensation), Vishamajvara(treats chronic fever), Arochaka (treats anorexia), Bhedani (causes purgation) and Hridya (protects the heart).
Kutki is widely available in the form of churnas and gutikas and even as dried root or rhizome. Since, it is not readily dissolvable in water, kutki is mostly marketed in the form of alcoholic preparations. Owing to its pungent-bitter taste, one can consume it alongside honey to mask the taste.
The precise therapeutic dosage of the kutki 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.
Adults: 500 mg – 1gm preferably with water, twice a day after meals or as suggested by the ayurvedic doctor.
Kutki Side Effects:
Imbued with potent bioactive components, this traditional bitter herb exhibits no recorded side effects when used in the correct proportion. It is extremely effective in normalizing the aggravated levels of Sama Pitta doshas and Kapha doshas in the body. That being said, an overdosage of Kutki can lead to vomiting, rash, anorexia, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, and itching. Additionally, due to its anti-hyperglycemic effect, one should avoid taking this herb if he or she is already on diabetic medication. Moreover, since there is no reliable information on the effects of kutki during pregnancy or lactation period, it is suggested that pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers should avoid using this bitter herb without medical supervision.
Kutki is one such bitter herb that is blessed with a quarry of health benefits. Thanks to the goodness of the essential bio-active ingredients, and host of therapeutic properties, it is widely used for treating flu and feverish conditions, relieving liver problems, managing cough and cold, sore throat, treating respiratory diseases, preventing viral infections, promoting digestion and many more.