Gloriosa superba is a medicinal plant native of Indian forests. In Ayurveda, Kalihari or Agnishikha is kept in the Upvish varg category. It is one of the seven minor poison. The seven minor poisonous plants of Upvisha Varga are Aak (Madar), Sehund (Thuhar), Kaner, Gunja (Ratti), Afeem (Opium), Dhatura, and Kalihari / Langli. Flame lily, Kalihari, Langlika, Langli, Agnishikha, Kalikari, Vishalya are few common names of Gloriosa superba. Gloriosa superba is the state flower of Tamil Nadu, and the national flower of Zimbabwe.
The rhizomes are capable of causing abortion, and therefore they are also called Garbhaghatini (destroyer of Garbha / Pregnancy). Traditionally, Langli is used in the treatment of piles, swollen joints, parasitical affections of the skin, and for stimulating labor pains. In some parts of country, the roots are administered to cattle affected by worms.
The tubers are used both internally, and externally. Externally, it is safe to use.
How the Kalihari tubers are used?
In Ayurveda, two varieties of Gloriosa superba are considered. In one variety, root branches, and this type is called male plant. But in other variety, the root does not divide at all, and it is considered female plant.
For internal use, the male roots are collected during the flowering season. They are cut in thin slices, and soaked in butter-milk added with little salt. It is soaked by night, and dried by the day, for four or five days. It is eventually dried well, and preserved. By this process, the poisonous properties are said to be removed. For cobra poison, thus Shodhit / purified roots are administered as antidote.
Kalihari (Gloriosa superba) is an herbaceous tall glabrous branching climber. This is a rainy season plant, and sprouts well in warm, humid, and tropical conditions.
Rootstock is thick, arched, solid, fleshy-white, almost cylindrical or slightly laterally flattened, occurringin pieces of 15-30 cm long, and 2.5 – 3.8 cm thick, often bifurcated with tapering ends, resembling a plough-share, one arm generally more than double the length of the other, brownish externally, and yellowish internally, fracture, short, taste, acrid, and bitter.
Leaves are alternate, opposite or trinately whorled, lanceolate, strongly nerved, with a long spiral tendril like apex. Flowers are large, showy, axillary, solitary, pedicels reflexed at the tip. Perianth petaloid, persistent. Segments 6, subequal, spreading or reflexed, the margins often undulate. Stamens 6, hypogynous, filaments filiform, anthers linear, dorsinxed, versatile, dehiscing extrorsely.
Ovary 3-celled, ovules numerous in each cell, style filiform, deflexed, with 3 subulate arms stigmatose within. Fruit a large coriaceous septicidal capsule. Seeds subglobose, testa spongy, wing like.
Gloriosa superba is distributed throughout tropical India, and in Andaman islands. It is often cultivated in tropical, and South Africa, Madagascar, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar.
The botanical name of Flame lily is Gloriosa superba. It belongs to plant family Liliaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of the plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
- Subclass: Liliidae
- Order: Liliales
- Family: Liliaceae – Lily family
- Genus: Gloriosa L. – flame lily
- Species: Gloriosa superba L. – flame lily
- Gloriosa abyssinica A. Rich.
- Gloriosa rothschildiana O’Brien.
- Gloriosa homblei De Wild.
- Clinostylis speciosa Hochst.
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Rhizomes, leaves, and seeds (for extraction of Thiocolchicoside, and Colchicine)
- Distribution: Tropical Asia, and Africa
- Habitat: Throughout tropical India, up to 2350 m on the hills.
- Type: Climber herb
- Duration: Perennial
- Group: Monocot
- Status: Endangered
- Toxicity: Poisonous plant
- Latin name: Gloriosa superba
- Ayurvedic: Langali, Langaliki, Langalaki, Langlahva, Indrapushpi, Agnishikha, Ananta, Vishalya, Visalya, Halini, Sirikrama, Shukrapushpika, Vahnimukhi, Garbhapatani, Kalihari, Kalikari, Shakrapushpi, Garbhaghatini
- Siddha: Kalappaik Kizhangu
- English: Glory Lily, Super Lily, Tiger’s Claws, Climbing Lily
- Bengali: Bisalanguli, Bishalanguli
- Gujarati: Khadiyanag, Dudhiya vachnag
- Hindi: Kalihari
- Kannada: Kolikutumana Gade, Nangulika
- Malayalam: Mathonni, Menthonni
- Marathi: Karianag
- Oriya: Dangogahana
- Punjabi: Kariyari, Kariari
- Tamil: Kalappoi Kizhangu, Akkinichilam
- Telugu: Potthidumpa, Adavinabhi
- Myanmar: Si – mee – dauk
In Ayurveda, Costus specious is also used as Kalihari.
Constituents of Gloriosa superba
Flowers, leaves, and tubers contain colchicine, superbin, N-formyl deacetyl colchicine, demethyl colochicine, and lumicolchicine. Tubers also contain gloriosine.
Leaves also contain chelidonic acid, 2-hydroxy 6-methoxy benzoic acid, and b-sitosterol glucoside.
Uses in Allopathy
In Allopathy, Thiocolchicoside (THC) is used clinically as muscle relaxant, anti–inflammatory, analgesic, and Colchicine as anti–gout. THC is used for the treatment of painful muscle spasms, neurologic disorders, orthopedic, traumatic, and rheumatologic disorders. Both are extracted from the seeds of Gloriosa superba.
Thiocolchicoside is a semi-synthetic sulfur derivative of colchicoside, a naturally occurring glucoside present in the plant Gloriosa superb seeds in the process of producing Colchicine. It is a pale Yellow Powder.
THC has a selective affinity for g-amino-butyric acid (GABA) receptors, and acts on the muscular contracture by activating the GABA-nergic inhibitory pathways thereby acting as a potent muscle relaxant. It is less sedating compared to other centrally acting muscle relaxants.
Oral, parenteral, and topical formulations of thiocolchicoside are available in India. Many medicines such as Myoril Sanofi-Aventis, and TDP (Thiocolchicoside, and Diclofenac) Aamorb contain THC. The Dosage of Thiocolchicoside for adult is 8-16 mg. The maximum recommended oral dose is 8 mg every 12 hours for no more than 7 consecutive days. The maximum intramuscular dose should be 4 mg every 12 hours, for up to 5 days. Topical application can be used many times a day.
Ayurvedic Properties, and Action
The Kalihari rhizome is pungent, bitter, acrid, heating, anthelmintic, laxative, alexiteric, and abortifacient. It is astringent, bitter, and pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is hot in effect (Virya). It aggravates pitta, and alleviates aggravated Vata / Vayu, and Kapha.
- Rasa (taste on the tongue): Kashaya (Astringent), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Tikshna (Sharp), Sara (Unstable)
- Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
- Garbhapatan: Causes abortion
- Kaphahhar: Balances Kapha
- Vatahar: Balances Vata
Important Ayurvedic Formulations
- Mahavishgarbh taila
- Nirundi taila
- Rumalaya cream
- Langali Gutika
- Chitrakadi Taila
Important Medicinal Properties
Gloriosa superba is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it. For example, it has abortifacient action, and must not be used in pregnancy.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Abortifacient: induces abortion.
- Anti–inflammatory: reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Anthelmintic: expel parasitic worms (helminths), and other internal parasites from the body.
- Alexeteric: Counteracts an infection or toxin.
- Laxative: tending to stimulate or facilitate the evacuation of the bowels.
- Pustulant: Causing the formation of pustules.
- Rubefacient: produces redness of the skin on topical application by causing dilation of the capillaries, and an increase in blood circulation.
Medicinal Uses of Kalihari / Langali / Agnishikha (Gloriosa superba)
In Ayurveda, Agnishikha tubers are useful in chronic ulcers, leprosy, inflammation, scrofula, hemorrhoids, pruritus, piles, abdominal pain, itching, thirst, bowel complaints, dyspepsia, helminthiasis, flatulence, intermittent fevers, and to remove the placenta from the uterus.
The flowers are used for fever, and thirst. The root is given internally as an effective antidote against cobra poison. A paste of the root is also used as an anodyne applications in bites of poisonous insects, snake bites, scorpion sting, parasitic skin diseases, and leprosy.
1. Asthma, arthritis
Tuber powder, and roasted common salt in the ratio of 1:2 is orally taken in a dose of 2 gm for asthma, and arthritis.
2. Foreign object in the skin (like nail, glass), splinter
Make a paste of tuber by rubbing on stone, and apply on the affected place.
The juice of the ground leaves is used for topical application.
4. Poisonous snake bite, scorpion sting, parasitical affections of the skin
The paste of tuber is applied on the affected place.
For snake bite, Shodhit (treated as above) tuber slice is chewed thrice a day.
5. Promoting labor pains
The root, powdered, and reduced to a paste is applied to the navel, supra-pubicregion, and vagina with the object.
Shodhit / purified tuber slice is chewed thrice a day. This is done for 15 days.
7. Retained placenta
Paste of the root is applied to the palms, and soles, and powdered nigella seeds, and long pepper are given internally.
Shodhit (treated as above) tuber slice is taken twice a day for 15 days.
The paste of tuber is applied on the affected place.
The Dosage of Gloriosa superba
125-250 mg. of purified drug.
Always remember, this is a toxic plant. So please do not take internally as a self-medication. It can be lethal.
Inform the children about the poisonous nature of the plant.
Caution, Warning, Side effects
This plant has poisonous effect to environment, and livestock. The toxic properties are due to the presence of alkaloids chiefly colchicine.
- Colchicine can kill.
- Flowers, and tuber can cause abortion.
- It is bad for sperms (anti-spermatogenic).
- It must not be used in pregnancy, breastfeeding, ulcer, and kidney disease.
- The roots are never used without purification.
- It is a gastrointestinal irritant, and may cause vomiting, and purging when taken internally.
- Symptoms of poisoning include tingling, and numbness of the lips, mucous membrane irritation, severe vomiting, diarrhea, colic, hypotension, convulsions, and respiratory failure.