The one which renews the body or brings back the life – Punarnava or Boerhaavia diffusa. As the name suggests, the Plant of Boerhaavia diffusa enjoys an important place in Indian herbal medicine since ancient times as a reliever of all three ‘doshas’ (maladies).
Photo from Flickr
The plant grows commonly throughout India, as a weed in water lands road sides. Also known as spiderling, it is widespread and known to possess a plethora of medicinal activities ranging from pain relief to protection of eyesight and antibacterial agent to antidiuretic.
Boerhaavia diffusa in the Indian History of Medicine
Since ancient times, Punarnava or Boerhaavia diffusa has an important place in the medicinal herbs of India.
According to Maharishi Charak, it is categorized as kasahara- that which alleviates cough, vayasthapana- that which promotes longevity and maintains youth, svedopaga- that which is a part of sweating therapy, and anuvasanopaga- oleating to enemas.
In various other Ayurvedic texts, it is also described to possess properties such as litholytic, reducing alopecia, relieving edema and betterment of dysuria.
Ayurvedic texts have also described the presence of two varieties of Punarnava, the white and the red one. The white Punarnava Boerhaavia diffusa is used as medicinal herb while the red variety is often used to adulterate roots of Boerhaavia diffusa. A third blue variety is also cited in some ancient texts.
Nutritive Value of Boerhaavia diffusa
The leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa are often used as green vegetable in many parts of India, though their nutritive potential is underutilized.
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because it has not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
The leaves of Boerhaavia diffusa are potential sources of nutrients and some essential micro and macro nutrients needed by man.
Herbal Home Remedies
- Punarnava has been used for a number of medicinal uses in folklore and home remedies.
- Decoction of whole plant of Boerhaavia diffusa is used as a medication aid in relieving chronic insomnia.
- Boerhaavia diffusa is used externally for fomentation to alleviate the pain and swelling.
- Fresh juice of the roots instilled into the eye is a remedy for eye diseases such as night blindness and conjunctivitis.
- The paste of Boerhaavia diffusa applied on the wounds dries up the oozing of pus and fluids.
- The decoction of Punarnava is the best treatment for reducing the swelling.
- It is also used in intoxication caused due to serpent and rat bites.
Boerhaavia diffusa in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, roots and whole plant of Boerhaavia diffusa is used for medicinal purposes. Ayurveda has defined Boerhaavia diffusa as a bitter and possessing therapeutic efficacy in anemia, cooling, heart conditions, astringent to bowels, usefulness in biliousness, blood impurities, leucorrhea, asthma etc.
Different plant parts are utilized for various medicinal purposes:
- Leaves: Leaves are useful in dyspepsia, tumors, abdominal pains, spleen enlargement.
- Seeds: Seeds are tonic, expectorant, carminative, useful in lumbago, and scabies. They are also considered as blood purifier.
- Roots: Roots are used to treat gonorrhea, all internal inflammations and edema. Roots stimulate the emptying of urinary bladder thus acting as a diuretic, useful for all types of liver disorders (such as jaundice and hepatitis), gallbladder pain and stones, urinary tract disorders, renal disorders, kidney stones, cystitis and nephritis.
According to Ayurveda, the specific ailments for which Boerhaavia diffusa is used are:
- Arthritis: It is used to reduce inflammation and pain in joints.
- Indigestion: It acts as a carminative, increases appetite, reduces abdominal pain and also relieves constipation.
- Cough: It reduces productive cough and asthma.
- Impotence: The seeds help in the rejuvenation of male reproductive system and increase the quantity and quality of semen.
- Skin diseases: It is very helpful in skin diseases like scabies and is an excellent remedy for guinea worms.
- Anemia: It is also helpful in the treatment of anemia in combination with other herbs.
- Renal diseases: It is used in kidney stones, cystitis and nephritis. It is also used as a diuretic.
- Liver disorders: It is used in the treatment of liver diseases like jaundice and hepatitis, and also in detoxification of liver.
- Menorrhagia: It is used to control and regulate menstrual flow in women.
- It also acts as a booster to immune system.
Boerhaavia diffusa in Siddha Medicine
According to Siddha medicine, “this plant can bring rebirth in a deadly diseased condition.” According to this medicine system, Boerhaavia diffusa is classified as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, laxative, hepato-protective, anthelmintic, and expectorant.
The Siddha medicinal uses of this plant are:
- The entire plant is crushed and a decoction is prepared. 20-30 ml of this decoction taken twice daily before a meal is ideal for the treatment of urinary tract infections and dysuria.
- The roots of Boerhaavia diffusa are ground with gruel water and the paste applied over affected area to treat inflammations and swellings.
- The whole plant is made into a paste and 3 to 6 grams twice daily are administered for inflammations and toxicity.
- The leaves are cooked in the form of a curry or chutney and taken daily to avoid constipation. This daily intake as part of diet also helps in maintaining a rejuvenated and glowing skin of the body.
- The decoction of roots is a very good remedy for arthritis, bronchial asthma, jaundice and ascites.
- Powder of the root if taken daily is very good for spermatorrhoea and leucorrhoea. It is also a very good hepato-tonic and diuretic.
Boerhaavia diffusa in Modern Medicine
- The chemicals present in Boerhaavia diffusa such as sitosterol, hentriacontane, ursolic acid, ecdysone, rotenoids, and punarvavoside are known to be behind various medicinal uses of Boerhaavia diffusa.
- Research has shown that Boerhaavia diffusa is an effective herb for various medicinal properties such as
- Antibacterial activity
- Antioxidant activity
- Hepato-protective activity
- Anticancer activity
- Antiestrogenic activity
- Antiamebic activity
- Immunomodulatory activity.
Formulations of Boerhaavia diffusa
- CAP 212 Punarnava (Padmini Ayurveda): 450 mg capsules effective for alleviating cough, proper function of heart, liver and kidneys, balanced fluid levels in the body and supports optimal weight management.
- Abana tablets (Himalaya Drug Company): It is a cardio protective drug.
- Bonnisan drops, liquid (Himalaya Drug Company): Carminative and has digestive properties, it helps in adequate weight gain in children and adults.
- Evecare Syrup, capsule (Himalaya Drug Company): It has anti-inflammatory activity and regulates menstrual flow.
- Boerhaavia diffusa Punarnava- liver protective (Vasu Pharma Herbals): It is an herbal preparation for liver protective action, also useful in alcohol induced liver problems.
- Wagh S., Vidhale N.N.,”Antimicrobial efficacy of Boerhaavia diffusa against some human pathogenic bacteria and fungi” Biosciences Biotechnology Research Asia 2010 7:1 (267-272)
- Manu K.A., Kuttan G. “Punarnavine induces apoptosis in B16F-10 melanoma cells by inhibiting NF-kappa β signaling.” Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention : APJCP 2009 10:6 (1031-1037)
- Sreeja S., Sreeja S. “An in vitro study on antiproliferative and antiestrogenic effects of Boerhaavia diffusa L. extracts” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2009 126:2 (221-225)
- Sohni YR. Kaimal P. Bhatt RM.,”The antiamoebic effect of a crude drug formulation of herbal extracts against Entamoeba histolytica in vitro and in vivo”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 45(1):43-52, 1995 Jan.
- Manu K.A., Kuttan G.”Immunomodulatory activities of Punarnavine, an alkaloid from Boerhaavia diffusa” Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology 2009 31:3 (377-387)
- 6. Singh A et al., Planta Medica, 1991; 57(4): 315-316.