Chirchita/Prickly Chaff or Apamarga(Achyranthes aspera) is a very common weed that is distributed throughout India, tropical Asia and other parts of the world. It is used in preparation of Ayurvedic medicines and also as traditional medicine in Asia and Africa to treat various diseases such as leprosy, asthma, fistula, piles, arthritis, wound, insect and snake bite, renal and cardiac dropsy, kidney stone, diabetes, skin disorders, gynaecological disorders, gonorrhoea, malaria, pneumonia, fever, cough, pyorrhoea, dysentery, rabies, hysteria, toothache etc.
Different name of Prickly chaff
|Latin name: Achyranthes aspera Linn. |
Sanskrit: Mayura, Mayuraka, Pratyakpushpa, Kharamanjar, Shikhari
English: Prickly Chaff Flower
Hindi: Chirchita, Latjira
|Malayalam: Katalati |
Folk: Chirchitta, Chichidaa, Latjeeraa
In India Prickly Chaff Flower, is available throughout the tropical and subtropical regions, under altitude of 4100 meters. This plant grows throughout the tropical and warmer regions of the world. It is also found in many other countries of Asia as well as Africa, America, Europe and Australia. It was reported as an invasive alien species in northern Bangladesh. It was found to be the most prevalent herb in Shivbari sacred grove of Himachal Pradesh and an exotic medicinal plant of district Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Root - Cylindrical tap root, slightly ribbed, 0.1-1.0 cm in thickness, gradually tapering, rough due to presence of some root scars, secondary and tertiary roots present, yellowish-brown;odour, not distinct.
Stem - 0.3 - 0.5 cm in cut pieces, yellowish-brown, erect, branched, cylindrical, hairy, solid, hollow when dry.
Leaf - Simple, subsessile, exstipulate, opposite, decussate, wavy margin, obovate, slightly acuminate and pubescent due to the presence of thick coat of long simple hairs.
Flower - Arranged in inflorescence of long spikes, greenish-white, numerous, sessile, bracteate with two bracteoles, one spine lipped, bisexual, actinomorphic, hypogynous;perianth segments 5, free, membranous, contorted or quincuncial, stamens 5, opposite, the perianth lobes, connate forming a membranous tube-like structure, alternating with truncate and fimbriate staminodes, filament short;anther, two celled, dorsifixed;single;stigma, capitate.
Fruit - An indehiscent dry utricle enclosed within persistent, perianth and bracteoles,
Seed - Sub-cylindric, truncate at the apex, round at the base, endospermic, brown.
Part Used In Ayurvedic and Folk Medicine
Herb, leaves, seeds, root flower (whole plant)
Energetics: Pungent, bitter-cold-pungent, decreases vaat and kapha, increases pitta
Acts on body Tissues: Plasma, blood, fat, nerves
Acts on body Systems: Circulation, digestion, nervous
Action on Body: Diuretic, expectorant, anti-bilious
Apamarga or Chichidaa plant is used in form of decoction and leaves paste. Its leaves decoction has diuretic activities and useful in dropsy, renal edema and urine retention. The decoction also cures stomach ache, haemorrhoids, boils, skin eruptions.
Its leaves paste is used in treatments of fevers, cough, insect bites, and bee stings. Its leaves juice is useful in skin problems. The seeds are used as expectorant, or mixed with rice water for bleeding hemorrhoids.
Kheer or Payasam is prepared using its seeds in milk for brain diseases. Seeds soaked in water overnight and ground into an emulsion, next morning heals excessive bile secretion.
Plant is used as decoction, powder, paste, oil, infusion for medicinal purpose.
Clinically proven properties of Prickly Chaff Flower
- Antibacterial and antifungal
- Larvicidal, kils larve of Boophilus microplus (cattle tick) and mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus).
- Antifertility and Spermicidal activity, whole plant has shown abortifacient effect (causing abortion) in mice. The aerial parts of the plant were reported to prevent pregnancy in adult female rats. The extracts of leaves, roots, and seeds of the plant have been used forcontrol of fertility, in placental retention, and inpostpartum bleeding. Root of A. aspera was found to contain a protein showing spermatotoxicity when administered orally to Swiss male albino mice.
- Immuno-stimulant, increase immunity by increasing phagocytic function.
- Hypoglycaemic and Hypolipidemic activity. The alcoholic extract of A. aspera was found to lower serum cholesterol (TC), phospholipid (PL), triglyceride (TG) and total lipids (TL) in triton induced hyperlipidemic rats.
- Anti-inflamatory, Anti-asthmatic and Antioxidant, Anti-spasmodic activity.
- Diuretic, Saponins from the plant have shown diuretic activity. The active compound responsible for the Apamarga diuretic property is achyranthine, marketed as Cystone, a polyherbal formulation from Himalaya.
- Anti-snake venom activity has proven experimentally.
- Cardiac activity, Apamarga contains Achyranthine, the water soluble alkaloid which showed lowering of blood pressure, depression of heart and increase in rate and amplitude of respiration in anaesthetized dogs.
Precaution when using Prickly chaff
Do not use Apamarga in pregnancy. It can cause abortion. In Orissa, tribal women use its root juice to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In Bastar, the root is inserted through vagina for inducing abortion.
Apamarga also shows sperm killing properties in experiments when taken orally. So use it cautiously.