Gunja, Ratti, Chirmiti, Chirmi, Chanothi, Kuch, Kundumani, Wild licorice, Crab's eye, Rosary pea, Precatory pea, John Crow Bead, Jequirity are few common names of plant Abrus precatorius. It is a medicinal plant that is used in Ayurveda for centuries.
Abrus precatorius has small egg-shaped seeds. These seeds constitute the Ratti weight used in Ayurveda. They were also used for weighing the jewelry in ancient time. The scarlet seeds are also used to make Necklaces and other ornaments.
By Manoj K (Own work)[CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
There are two varieties of Gunja mentioned in Ayurvedic text viz. white- and red-seeded. The white-Seeded variety is considered better than red ones for medicine preparation.
Gunja beej or Jequirity seeds are poisonous. Jequirity beans poisoning has cholera like symptoms. Therefore, in Ayurveda they are subjected to purification process (Shodhan) prior to use. Seeds are used internally in affections of the nervous system and externally in skin diseases, ulcers, affections of the hair etc. The seeds are not administered as a single drug but used only in combination.
Seeds are purgative, emetic, tonic, aphrodisiac in nature.
The roots of plant is used for medicinal purpose as well. In high doses, the roots are emetic (causes vomiting) and are used in poisoning.
The botanical name of Gunja/Ratti is Abrus precatorius. Its synonyms are Abrus minor and A. pauciflorus Desv. It belongs to plant family Fabaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Rosidae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae ⁄ Leguminosae – Pea family
- Genus: Abrus Adans. – abrus
- Species: Abrus precatorius L. – rosarypea
Slender, perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges. It has no special organs of attachment;Leaves glabrous with long internodes, alternate compound pari pinnate with stipules, each leaf has a midrib from 5 to 10 cm long, bears from 20 to 24 or more leaflets, each of which is about 1.2 to 1.8 cm long, oblong and obtuse, blunt at both ends, glabrous on top and slightly hairy below;Stem slender and a cylindrical wrinkled, smooth-textured brown bark;
Flowers small and pale violet in colour with a short stalk, arranged in clusters;ovary has a marginal placentation;fruit, a pod, flat, oblong and truncate shaped with a sharp deflexed beak is about 3 to 4.5 cm long, 1.2 cm wide, and silky-textured;pod curls back when opened to reveal pendulous seeds;Each fruit contains from 3 to 5 oval-shaped seeds, about 0.6 cm;seeds bright scarlet in colour with a smooth, glossy texture, and a black patch on top.
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Roots, leaves, detoxified seeds.
Plant type: Climber.
Habitat: wild plant that grows best in fairly dry regions at low elevations.
Distribution: Occurring throughout greater parts of India, ascending the outer Himalaya up to 1200 m, occasionally planted in gardens.
It is also found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippine Islands, South China, tropical Africa and the West Indies. It grows in all tropical or subtropical areas.
Poisonous parts: seeds (main toxin is abrin).
Description of seeds: Seed ovoid or sub globular, 5 to 8 mm. long, 4 to 5 mm. broad with the smooth, glossy surface and bright scarlet colour;hilum a black patch. The weight of 100 seeds is between 12 to 13 g.
- Ayurvedic: Gunjaa, Gunjaka, Chirihintikaa, Raktikaa, Chirmiti, Kakanti, Kabjaka, Tiktikaa, Kakananti, Kaakchinchi
- Unani: Ghunghchi, Ghamchi
- Siddha: Kunri
- Assamese: Rati
- Bengali: Kunch, Shonkainch
- English: Indian Wild Liquorice, Jequirity, Crab’s Eye, Precatory Bean, Rosary Pea, JohnCrow Bead, Precatory bean, Indian licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee, Jumbie Bead.
- Gujrati: Rati, Chanothee
- Hindi: Ratti, Ghungchi
- Kannada: Galuganji, Gulagunjee
- Malayalam: Kunni, Cuvanna Kunni
- Marathi: Gunja
- Oriya: Kainch
- Punjabi: Ratti
- Sanskrit: Gunja, Raktika, Kakananti
- Telugu: Guriginia, Guruvenda
- Tamil: Gundumani, Kundumani
- Urdu: Ghongcha, Ratti
Constituents of Gunja/Ratti (Abrus precatorius)
The seeds contain Abrine, hypaphorine, choline, trigonelline, precatorine, 5 β-cholanic acid, antitumour proteins - abrin A and B, globulin, arabinose, hemagglutin glucoside, abralin, stigmasterol, β- sitosterol, abrus saponin I and II.
Abrin causes agglutination of erythrocytes, haemolysis and enlargement of lymph glands.
In nontoxic dose of abrin (1.25 mcg/kg body weight), there is a noticeable increase in antibody-forming cells, bone marrow cellularity and alpha-esterase-positive bone marrow cells.
From the seeds agglutinins is isolated. The oral administration of agglutinins is useful in the treatment of hepatitis and AIDS.
The roots contain precol, abrol, glycyrrhizin and alkaloids—abrasine, precasine, triterpenoids abruslactone A, methyl abrusgenate and abrusgenic, acid.
Alkaloids present in the roots are also present in leaves and stems.
Dosage of Gunja/Ratti (Abrus precatorius)
Root powder—3-6 grams.
Seeds: The seeds must be purified/detoxified before use. 60-180 mg in powder form (The dose should not exceed the higher limits).
Raw seeds must not be used. They are poisonous.
How to use Gunja/Ratti (Abrus precatorius)
Root powder: Take root part of the plant. Clean to remove dirt and impurities. Dry and grind to make powder.
Root decoction: Take root powder in 3-4 grams. Boil in 150 ml water till initial volume reduces to one-fourth. Filter this using a strainer.
Leaves decoction: Take about 5 grams leaves, clean and pound them. Boil in 150 ml water till initial volume reduces to one-fourth. Filter this using a strainer.
Ayurvedic Properties and Action of Roots and Seeds
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Madhura (Sweet), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Shita (Cold), Ruksha (Dry),
- Virya: Sita (Cooling)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Madhura (Sweet)
- Action: Keshya (hair growth promoting), Pitthar, Vatahar.
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Kasaya (Astringent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Ruksha (Dry), Tikshna (Sharp)
- Virya: Ushna (Heating)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
- Therapeutic uses - Kushtha, Vrana, Vatavyadhi, Indralupta.
- Anti-estrogenic: blocks the production or utilization of estrogens, or inhibits their effects. Estrogens are the family of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female sex characteristics.
- Anti-inflammatory: reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- CNS-depressant: depression of the central nervous system that can result in decreased rate of breathing, decreased heart rate, and loss of consciousness.
- Demulcent: relieves irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth by forming a protective film.
- Depurative: purifying agent.
- Expectorant: promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Emetic: Causing vomiting.
- Laxative: tending to stimulate or facilitate evacuation of the bowels.
- Rubefacient: Causes dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation.
- Teratogenic: disturb the development of an embryo or fetus.
- Uterine stimulant, abortifacient: Causes abortion on internal use.
Medicinal Use of Gunja/Ratti (Abrus precatorius)
In Ayurveda, Gunja is recommended in treatment of nervous debility, obstinate cough and locally in leucoderma, alopecia, sciatica, stiff joints, leprosy (Mahakusta; Kushtani, Kustaroga) and paralysis.
The roots and leaves can be used safely in recommended dosage. But the seeds are poisonous and must be used cautiously.
Blisters in mouths, mouth sores, bad breath, hoarseness of voice, bronchial constrictions
Chew few leaves.
Bleeding disorders, excessive bleeding in menstruation, Pradar, bleeding piles, leucorrhoea
Prepare decoction of Gunja leaves. Take about 5 grams leaves, clean and pound them. Boil in 150 ml water till initial volume reduces to one-fourth. Filter and drink empty stomach regularly for few days.
Take 5 gm root powder twice in a day for three days.
Chew ten fresh leaves of Gunja.
Chew few fresh leaves of Gunja.
Excess intake of leaves may lead to purgation.
Take root powder of Gunja in 3-4 grams and prepare decoction in one glass water. Drink this decoction twice a day.
Tonic, physical weakness
Take root powder + misri, two times a day with milk.
Colitis, ulcer, infection in intestine
Prepare decoction of roots (5 grams) and drink.
Take root powder in dose of 5 grams with old Gur, twice a day for 5 days.
Scorpion sting and snakebite
Root powder is taken orally along with cow's milk.
Sciatica, stiffness of the shoulder joint, paralysis and other nervous diseases
The seeds are reduced to a paste and applied locally.
White leprosy, leucodermatic spots
The paste of Gunja seeds and Plumbago root (Chitrak) is applied as a stimulant dressing. This is done regularly for one month.
The paste of gunja seeds rubbed on the bare scalp.
- This plant has abortifacient properties. Do not use in pregnancy.
- Excess intake of leaves causes purgation.
- Leaves have emetic properties.
- Therapeutic use of its seeds is only permitted after detoxification by boiling the seeds, which denatured the toxalbumins.
- Seeds have antifertility effect for both male and female. In some parts of world, the seeds are used for contraception and abortion.
- Seeds are poisonous. They contain proteid poisons with properties similar to the toxic agents of snake venom.
- Seeds have purgative, emetic properties.
- Contact of seeds with the eyes can cause conjunctivitis and even blindness in dose dependent manner.
- Ingested seeds can affect the gastrointestinal tract, the liver, spleen, kidney, and the lymphatic system. Infusion of seed extracts can cause eye damage after contact.
- The symptoms of Jequirity beans poisoning may develop after few hours to several days. The symptoms include severe gastroenteritis, nausea, vomiting, muscular weakness, cold sweat, trembling and abnormally rapid heart rate. As a first-aid measure induce vomiting and then seek medical help. The treatment of Jequirity beans poisoning is symptomatic.
- Educate children about the poisonous effects of seeds.
- Keep seeds or ornaments made out of seeds away from children.