Ayurveda believes Chitraka or Chira to possess laxative, expectorant, astringent and abortifacient properties. These properties are used to cure disorders and diseases such as constipation, body pains, headaches, fever, inflammation, haemorrhoids, etc. The plant is also believed to possess contraceptive properties and has been traditionally used in abortion.
Quick facts about Chitraka or Plumbago zeylanica
- Sanskrit name: Chitraka
- English name: Lead war
- Hindi or common name: Chira, Chitra
- Scientific name: Plumbago zeylanica
- Rasa: Katu
- Guna: Laghu, Ruksha, Tikshana
- Virya: Ushna
- Vipaka: Katu
- Dosha: Pacifies Kapha and Vata
- Karma: Shothahara, Dipana, Grahi, Pachana, Arshohara, Shulahara
The plant, Chitraka belongs to the family of Plumbaginaceae. Chitraka is believed to be a native of Southeast Asia. The plant is now grown in many parts of the world. The plant grows up to a height of about 1 meter with dark green leaves which are ovate, and are about 7 cm long and 3 cm wide, pointed at the tip. The flowers are white in colour with 5 petals. The plant grows and flowers all year long.
The bio-chemicals present in Chitraka plant include plumbagin, 3- chloroplumbagin, 2,3-biplumbagin, 6,6- biplumbagin, zeylinone, isozeylinone, chitranone (3, 3′-biplumbagin), droserone, plumbagic acid, plumbazeylanone, glucose, fructose, enzymes as protease and invertase. The leaves and stem contain little or no plumbagin. The aerial parts of the plant contain naphthoquinones, sitosterol, lupeol, lupenylacetate, hentriacontane, and amino acids. The plant also contains naphthaquinones, plumbagin, chloroplumbagin, droserone, zeylinone, isozeylinone, plumbagic acid, plumba-zeylanone, naphthelenone, isonaphthelenone, isoshinanolone, Aspartic acid, tryptophan, tyrosine, threonine, alanine, histidine, glycine, methionine, hydroxyproline.
- Anti-microbial activities: The plant extracts of Chitraka possess anti-microbial properties which include anti-bacterial, anti-viral and larvicidal properties. The plant extracts were tested against 9 species of bacteria, 3 species of virus and against the larvae of Aedes aegypti, which is a dengue spreading mosquito. Chitraka extracts were successfully tested against bacteria, viral and mosquitoes.
- Strengthens the immunity: The extracts of Chitraka possess an enzyme named plumbagin which has been linked with immunomodulation. Several studies have shown that this particular enzyme plays a vital role in improving the immune system of the person who consumes the plant extract.
- Antioxidant properties: Antioxidants are those bio-chemicals which are needed by our bodies in order to fight chemical toxins which are produced every day in the process of metabolism. The chemicals or toxins thus produced cause a lot of damage to our body in the form of DNA damage. This can be avoided by antioxidants which are present in our diet. The presence of antioxidants in Chitraka can provide us with ample amount of antioxidants to counter the effects of toxins and free radicals.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Chitraka also contains anti-inflammatory properties which are very much useful in conditions of rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Studies on Chitraka extracts show that their anti-inflammatory properties can significantly control inflammation which is comparable to commercial and standard drugs being used today.
- Liver protection: Liver is responsible for metabolism, blood glucose level control, lipid level control, etc. Liver also takes a lot of abuse and can even regenerate. But, this is only possible to a threshold point. Beyond this, liver might not be able to repair itself. So, it is required to protect our liver. One of the easiest and cheapest ways is to take Chitraka plant extracts. Chitraka plant powder can be taken regularly to strengthen the liver.
- Lowers cholesterol: The extracts of Chitraka possess cholesterol lowering properties. The extracts when administered to lab animals showed significant lowering of LDL or bad cholesterol apart from the total cholesterol levels. Chitraka extracts can also increase the HDL or good cholesterol levels.
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- Citraka, The Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India, Part 1, Vol 1, pp 39.
- Yuvaraj D. Mandavkar and Sunil S. Jalalpure, A comprehensive review on Plumbago zeylanica Linn. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Vol. 5(25), pp. 2738-2747, 30 December, 2011.