Plumbago zeylanica is a large perennial shrub, found throughout India in wild state and occasionally cultivated in gardens. This shrub is available in three different coloured flowers (White, red and blue). White variety is used as Chitrak. It is a medicinal herb that is used in treatment of variety of diseases in Indian traditional system of medicine. It is known by many names like Chitrak (Ayurveda), Sheetraj Hindi (Unani) and Chittramoolam (Siddha). In Ayurveda, Chitrak is commonly used medicinal herb for treating digestive weakness, piles, constipation, cough, muscular pains, rheumatism etc.
Latin name: Plumbago zeylanica
Kingdom: Plantae, Division: Magnoliophyta, Class: Magnoliopsida, Order: Ranunculales, Family: Plumbaginaceae, Genus: Plumbago, Species: P. zeylanica
Sanskrit: Chitrak English: White Leadwort, Ceylon leadwort, plumbago Assamese: Agiyachit, Agnachit Bengali: Chita Gujarati: Chitrakmula Hindi: Chira, Chitrak Kannada: Chitramula, Vahni, Bilichitramoola Kashmiri: Chitra, Shatranja Malayalam: Vellakeduveli, Thumpokkoduveli Marathi: Chitraka Oriya: Chitamula, Chitoparu Punjabi: Chitra Tamil: Chitramoolam, Kodiveli Telugu: Chitramulam Urdu: Sheetraj Hindi, Cheetah
Subscandent perennial herb or under shrub with green branches, stems somewhat woody, spreading, terate, striate, glabous. Leaves alternate, ovate or oblong, petiole narrow, amplexicaul at the base and often dilated into stipule like auricles. Flowers white, in axillary and terminal elongated spikes, bisexual. Calyx densely covered with stalked, sticky glands. Corolla white, very slender, tubular. Stamen 5, free. Ovary superior, 5-gonous, one celled, ovule one, basal. Roots are light yellow coloured when fresh, reddish brown when dry, straight unbranched or slightly branched with or without secondary.
- Flowering and fruiting: September to December
- Part Used: Root, root bark, seeds
- Principal constituent: plumbagin
Ayurvedic Properties and Action on body
- Rasa (Taste): Katu (pungent)
- Guna (Characteristics): Laghu/Light, Ruksha/Dry, Tikshna/Sharp
- Virya (Potency): Ushna/Hot
- Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Katu/Pungent
- Action: Shoth-har, Dipana, Grahi, Pachana, Kapha-Vata- har, Arsh-har, Shula-har
- Important formulations: Citrakadi Vati, Citrak-haritaki, Citrakadi churna
Medicinal uses of Plumbago zeylanica or Chitrak
The roots of Plumbago zeylanica or Chitrak is used in Ayurveda for treatment of various diseases related to digestive system like impaired or weak digestion, grahni, piles, abdominal pain, skin diseases etc. The plant has anti-inflammatory, anti-plasmodial (activity against parasites of the genus Plasmodium), antimicrobial, blood sugar lowering and lipid lowering properties. The whole plant in paste form is applied topically in all kind of skin diseases.
Another Ayurvedic name of this herb is Agni, which means fire. Perhaps this is due to its extreme hot nature that can be lethal in high concentration. Some of the warning and caution are listed further. The roots are purified as per Ayurvedic text before using medicinally. The root powder works on Bones, plasma, blood and reproductive system.
In piles, the pulverised root powder is taken in dose of 1-2 grams with butter milk, thrice a day.
In diarrhoea or loose motion the root powder is given to patient three times a day in dose of 1-2 grams.
Skin diseases, kustha
In skin diseases 1-3 grams of root power is given, three times a day with cow’s urine.
In overweightness root powder is given in dose of 1-2 grams with honey.
Filarial swelling, opens abscesses, skin diseases and ulcers
The root paste is applied externally on affected body parts.
Prepare a medicated oil by boiling chitrak roots and sarpgandha in mustard oil. Apply at affected areas.
Prepare paste of roots with water and apply at affected areas.
Prepare paste of bark and leaves of Plumbago with turmeric and apply externally on affected areas.
Contraindications and Side-effects
- Plumbago zeylanica suppresses ovulation, implantation and can cause abortion.
- Plumbago zeylanica is contraindicated in pregnancy.
- Always use in recommended doses and never overdose.
- The main principal constituent, Plumbagin in low dose stimulates CNS and muscles. It also causes sweat, secretion of bile and urine. In high dose it causes paralysis and proves lethal.