Water caltrop, Water chestnut or Singhara is a fruit of a freshwater aquatic plant. It is native of Asia but has spread to many parts of the world in both temperate and tropical areas. In India, it is cultivated in tanks, lakes, ponds, river etc. for its edible fruits.
In India, Singhara is eaten fresh, boiled and also in dried form. As it is a fruit, so it can be eaten in Vrata (fasting) when intake of Anna (grains) is prohibited. The dried and ground Singhara is used as a flour to make various dishes.Water caltrop is very nutritive and offers numerous health benefits. It is indigenous to India and used in Ayurveda to cure various diseases. In Ayurveda, use of Singhara is mentioned in ancient classical texts. Charak gave it for infertility, impotency, painful urination, excessive urination, cough, consumption and as a tonic to cure weakness and fatigue. As it is cooling, reduces excessive pitta it helps in bleeding disorders, hemorrhages, and abnormal bleeding from uterus.
Singhara is very beneficial for women. Due to its nutritive, strengthening, and cooling properties it increases fertility and chances of conception. It is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamin B, C, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine and helps to stabilize pregnancy and prevent abortion. Singhara is also used for treating diarrhea, dysentery, thyroid problem, swelling and bronchitis. It is natural antioxidant, prevents wrinkles, protects from UV rays and helps to cure weakness.
Plant Description: Trapa natans is an aquatic herb occurring throughout the greater part of the India in lakes, tanks and ponds. It is also extensively grown for its fruits.
The plant often grows in water around 60 cm deep. It roots in the mud and has finely divided submersed leaves.
The submersed leaves are alternate, finely divided, and can grow up to 15 cm long.
The floating leaves are arranged in a rosette, much larger and coarsely toothed. They are rhomboid in shape, 2–6.5 cm in diameter, dark green above and reddish purple beneath, broader than long, denticulate, dentate, serrate or incised with entire base, apex acute red, and densely pubescent or villous beneath. The reddish green leaves are villous on the dorsal side, are about 5 to 8 cm long, and have hairy petioles from 10 to 15cm in length. The submerged leaves are laterally dissected into capillary segments.
- Flowers are few, auxiliary, solitary, pure white with four 8 mm-long petals and four green sepals.
- Fruits are obovoid, angular, 2.2–5 cm long, and broad, with a spreading flattened very sharp spinous horn at either side. The fruits develops underwater.
- Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Shelled fruit, dried kernel flour
- Plant type / Growth Habit: Aquatic plant
- Duration: Perennial
- Distribution: Tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zone of Asia, Africa and Southern Europe.
- Habitat: Floating herb, found in swamps and slow rivers in full sun and low-energy, nutrient-rich fresh waters.
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Scientific name: Trapa natans
- Sanskrit: Shringata, Jalaphala, Paaniphal, Trikonaphala
- Bengali: Paniphal, Singade, Jalfal
- English: Water Chestnut
- Gujrati: Shingoda, Singoda
- Hindi: Singhara, Singhada
- Kannada: Singade, Gara, Simgara, Simgoda
- Malayalam: Karimpolam, Vankotta, Jalaphalam, Karimpola
- Marathi: Shingoda
- Oriya: Paniphala, Singada
- Punjabi: Singhade, Gaunaree
- Tamil: Singhara
- Telugu: Kubyakam, Singada
- Urdu: Singhara
Scientific Classification of Trapa natans
All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of same plant.
The botanical name of Water Chestnut is Trapa natans (form Latin trapa= thistle and natare=to swim. It belongs to plant family Trapaceae.
Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
- Subclass: Rosidae
- Order: Myrtales
- Family: Trapaceae – Water Chestnut family
- Genus: Trapa L. – water chestnut
- Species: Trapa natans L. – water chestnut
- Trapa bispinosa Roxb.
- Trapa natans L. var. bispinosa (Roxb.) Makino (Singhara nut)
- Trapa bispinosa Roxb.
- Trapa quadrispinosa Wall.
- Trapa natans L. var. natans (Caltrop, bears hard spines and resemble military caltrops)
Ayurvedic Properties and Action
Trapa natans is known as Shringataka, Jalphal and Trikon Phal in Ayurveda. It is astringent and sweet in taste, heavy to digest and sweet after digestion. It is cool in potency and subdues Pitta (Bile) and increases Kapha (Mucus). It nourishes and improves vital fluids of body. Due to cooling action it gives relief in burning sensation and excess heat in body.
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Kashaya (Astringent), Madhura (Sweet)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Guru (Heavy)
- Virya (Action): Shita (Cooling)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Madhura (Sweet)
- Singhara is Madhur Vipak (digests into sweet) and has building, moistening and nourishing effect on body. It is heavy to digest and reduces metabolism. Such herbs are cooling and reduce swelling, decreases Pitta and have Anabolic effect on body.
- Karma/Principle Action
- Pittahara: Pacifies Pitta Dosha
- Vrishya: Increases the quantity of semen
- Shram har: Gives relief in fatigue.
- Shukrakar: Increases Shukra Dhatu.
- Grahi: Inspissants; stomachic, digestive and heating qualities dry the fluids of the body
- Stanyajana: promote the secretion of milk
- Garbhasthapana: Improves fertility in women, conception and chances of healthy implantation of embryo
- Rakta stambhak: Reduces flow of blood in case of bleeding.
Important Ayurvedic Formulations
- Puga Khanda
- Saubhagya Sunthi
- Amritprasha Ghrita
- Abnormal bleeding from womb, threatened abortion
- Bleeding disorders
- Burning sensation
- Diseases of nervous system
- Diarrhea, dysentery
- Excessive thirst
- External edema
- Painful urination
- Preventing abortion
- Urinary disorders, Prameha
- Weakness, low fat on body
Important Medicinal Properties
- Water chestnut is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb.
- Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Anti-diarrheal: Relieving or preventing diarrhea.
- Aphrodisiac: Stimulates sexual desire.
- Astringent: Causing the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues.
- Appetizer: Improves appetite.
- Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
- Constipating: Causes constipation.
- Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
- Hemostatic: Checking blood flow.
- Refrigerant: Cooling
- Nutritive and tonic
Health Benefits of Singhara
Water Chestnut or Singhara offerns numerous health benefits as it contains high quantity of minerals, minerals, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, sodium and potassium, vitamin B-complex (thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, nicotinic acid), vitamin-C, vitamin-A, saponins, phenols, alkaloids, flavonoids, protein, carbohydrates etc.
1- Good for pregnant woman
Singhara is highly beneficial in pregnancy. It not only gives nutrition to growing fetus but also protects pregnancy and decreases risk of threatened abortion. It makes developing baby healthy and strong.
2- Good source of energy
Singhara is very rich in carbohydrate and 100 gm of it gives 115 calories.
3- Good for overall health
It is rich in protein, carbohydrate and minerals. Ayurveda says it contain 22 percent more mineral compared to buffalo milk.
4- Good for skin
Singhara contains antioxidants and vitamins which makes skin healthy and prevents wrinkles. It aslo reduces skin dryness.
5- Gives relief in pain and swelling
Singhara peel can be grind and applied on swelling to get relief.
6- Gives relief in diarrhea, dysentery
Singhara is constipating and gives relief in loose motions.
7- Helpful in thyroid
It contains iodine, manganese and other minerals which help in proper functioning of thyroid.
8- Cures sexual debility
Singhara flour helps to cure sexual debility in males.
9- Helps to heal cracked heel
Singhara contains minerals and vitamins which are helpful in curing cracked heels.
10- Helps to gain weight
Regular eating of its flour helps to gain weight.
Medicinal Uses of Trapa natans or Singhara
Singhara is cooling, antibilous and nourishing. It reduces excessive pitta and gives relief in burning sensation. It is very beneficial for pregnant women as it nourishes the developing baby and cures fatigue in mom-to-be. Singhara flour contains protein, fiber, carbohydrate, minerals (copper, manganese, magnesium, sodium and potassium, Iodine) and vitamins (thiamine 0.05%, riboflavin 0.07 %, nicotinic acid 0.6%, vitamin C 9 mg/100g, and vitamin A 20 IU/100g).
1- As a tonic, debility, emaciation
- Daily eat Amritprasha Ghrita. Or
- Prepare Halwa of Singhara flour and eat.
Mix 1 spoon Singhara flour in water and eat daily.
3- Cracked heels
Many times heals are cracked due to deficiency of manganese. Singhara is good source of manganese and hence it helps in cracked heals.
4- Diarrhea, dysentery, bilious affections, piles, leucorrhoea, menorrhagia
Prepare Halwa of 10-30 grams of Singhara flour (Singhare ke Atte ka Halwa) and eat.
For eczema cure, dried singhara should be mixed with lemon juice and applied regularly on affected area.
6- Intestinal ulcer
Take 10 gm flour with one glass Cow milk twice a day for 2 weeks.
7- Low weight, Thinness
Prepare Halwa in desi ghee and eat regularly.
- Eat Singhare ka Halva. Or
- Prepare Roti of Singhara flour and eat.
9- Seminal weakness
Take Shinghara flour with milk.
10- Threatened abortion due to weak womb
Prepare halwa and eat daily.
11- Urinary problems, painful urination, dysuria
Prepare decoction and drink.
How much Singhara to eat in a day?
You may eat 20-50 gram of Singhara depending on digestive strength to get its health benefits.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Trapa natans
- It is heavy to digest. Do not eat Singhara in excess as it may cause bloating and stomach pain.
- It is constipating. Do not eat if suffering from constipation.
- It may increase phlegm.
- Regular eating increases weight.
- Do not drink water after eating Singhara.