Prized as the ‘Queen Of The Night’, Nishagandhi is quite a unique and exotic flower that has secured its place in both modern medications and herbal remedies. The plant is well known for its rare and incredibly beautiful white blossom has sweet fragrance. Be it the stem or the aromatic flowers, nishagandhi inherently showcases extensive therapeutic qualities and is widely used for the treatment and management of rheumatism, diabetes, heart anomalies, respiratory woes, sleep disturbances, digestive troubles, skin issues and many more.
Going by the botanical name Epiphyllum oxypetalum, it belongs to the Cactaceae family. The name ‘Nishagandhi’ comes from two Sanskrit words, where ‘Nisha’ means ‘night’ and ‘Gandhi’ refers to the ‘pleasant sweet fragrance of the flower’. But unlike other flowering plants, Nishagandhi blooms rarely, that too only at night and wilts before dawn, thus the name.
Nishagandhi Plant Description
Nishagandhi is a species of cactus that is of tropical origin. Nishagandhi is chiefly a functional epiphytic plant, i.e., it can either thrive as a normal terrestrial plant or it can grow on another plant for mechanical structure but not for nutrients. It is a climbing cactus with vining, cylindrical stems that are green to bluish-green, becoming purplish along the ribs and having small radiating spines. The stems are succulent and are composed of a gel-like water-filled tissue. Being a cactus, the leaves of this plant are reduced to spines to reduce loss of water due to transpiration. Flowers are quite large with outer petals that are brown, orange or lemon yellow and the inner ones being white, oblanceolate, with an acute apex. The flowers only bloom for only about six hours in the evening and wilt before dawn. The fruits of Nishagandhi look something like a gooseberry, ovoid in shape, with a pink to orange-red hue that gradually turns into whitish color, with numerous hair-like spines. Nishagandhi is chiefly native to desert and semi-desert regions of Southern Mexico and extensive areas of South America. Nowadays it is also widely cultivated and even grown as exotic plants in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia including India and China.
Nishagandhi Common Names
The plant is known By different names in different parts of the world. Some of its common names include Sweet-scented cactus, Large-flowered torch thistle, Large-flowered cactus, Vanilla cactus, Large blooming cereus, Lunar flower, and Organillo.
Nishagandhi Chemical Constituents
Phytochemical analysis of Nishagandhi showed the presence of saponins, phenolic compounds, steroids, glycosides, tannins, terpenoids, sterols, fatty acids, mucilage, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Several scientific research indicates that the plant possesses powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidaemic, antibacterial, anti-ulcerogenic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, diuretic and wound healing properties.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Nishagandhi
The holistic science of Ayurveda mentioned this exotic plant in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include Hridaya (treats heart problems), Prameha (manages diabetes), Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Anulomana (improves breathing), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Jvara (useful in fever), Kasahara (Relieves cough), Amahara (treats indigestion), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders), Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation), Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Kustha (treats skin disorders), Raktadoshahara (blood purifying), Vran Ropana (heals wounds), Varnya (improves complexion), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), and Krichra (treats painful micturition).
Health Benefits Of Nishagandhi
Enhances Cardiac Functioning
Nishagandhi has been found to have a positive effect on the heart. Being a natural antioxidant and a cardio-protective herb, it plays a pivotal role in treating a host of heart ailments. It relaxes the cardiac system, by calming the mind, which is extremely beneficial for patients suffering from arrhythmias and palpitations. It is also useful in strengthening the heart muscles, lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing lipid build-up, which in turn reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, heart blocks, heart attacks, blood clots, etc.
Diabetes, also known as Madhumeha in Ayurveda is an aggravation of the Kapha doshas which usually occurs due to the lowering of the functioning of Agni (i.e. digestive fire) causing a spike in the blood sugar levels within the body. The excellent hypoglycaemic property of Nishagandhi flowers play a significant role in alleviating blood sugar levels. The production of insulin from the β-pancreatic cells becomes active in taking this flower extract. It helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels.
Remedies Respiratory Anomalies
Nishagandhi is an effective herbal remedy for all sorts of Kapha aggravating disorders. The bulk of active constituents in the aromatic flower and the succulent stem offers an ultimate remedy for treating respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis, COPD, cough and cold symptoms. It also helps in removing mucus deposits from the respiratory tract and provides relief from sore throat, cough and congestion.
Apart from being a potent cardiotonic herb, Nishagandhi characterize excellent digestive qualities. The anti-flatulent property of the flower extract reduces the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus reducing bloating, flatulence, and abdominal distension. The abundance of fiber in the herb helps in stimulating peristaltic motion by expelling wastes out of the body and thus make for a powerful remedy for constipation. Additionally, 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.
Reduces Pain And Inflammation
Thanks to the presence of strong pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, Nishagandhi is extensively used to provide relief in case of painful conditions like arthritis, muscle spasms, etc. The pain due to Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as Amavata which generally occurs due to accumulation of toxins in the joints and vitiation of Vata Doshas, can be alleviated on using formulations containing this aromatic flower extract.
The effective therapeutic dosage of Nishagandhi may vary from person to person depending upon the age, body strength, effects on appetite, severity, and condition of the patient. It is strictly recommended to consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner as he or she would evaluate the patient’s indications and prescribe an effective dose for a specific period.
Nishagandhi Side Effects
Although, Nishagandhi has innumerable health benefits, sometimes consuming it in excess quantities can cause gastric irritation, a rapid and erratic heartbeat, cardio spasm or a feeling of constriction in the chest. It may also cause slight delirium, hallucinations, and general mental confusion.
Since there is not enough information regarding the use of this herb during pregnancy and lactation period, pregnant women and breastfeeding mom’s are strictly advised not to consume Nishagandhi formulations without prior approval from the treating doctor.