Medicinal use of Indian Akarkara (Spilanthes acmella)

Pellitory (Anacyclus pyrethrum) is medicinal herb native to North Africa, Algeria, and Arabic countries. In India, Pellitory is commonly referred as Akarkara, Akarkara, Aakarkarabh, Aakallak and Akarkare. This name is seemed to be derived from Arabic name Akarkarha / Aqirqarha (Akar + takrih) which means causing a sore as the topical application of roots causes redness and blisters. The roots of plant are imported to India mainly from Spain, Algeria, Morocco and other Mediterranean countries for medicinal purpose. Now this plant is cultivated in Himalayan region.

As Pellitory is African plant, it was not known to the Ayurvedic practitioners during the period of Samhitas. It was only mentioned by the later writers of Ayurveda such as Bhavprakash (during the 16th century) and Sarangadhara, in formulations which are adopted from Unani medicines.

akarkara medicinal uses

By JerryFriedman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The roots of Anacyclus pyrethrum has a slight aromatic smell, and a persistent, pungent taste, exciting a tingling sensation, and a remarkable flow of saliva. When a piece of root is chewed for few seconds, there is a feeling of heat in the mouth soon followed by pricking sensation in the tongue and lips. It has powerful stimulant properties. In ancient times, it is often given to parrots to make them talk.

In India, some other plants such as Spilanthes acmella, Spilanthes calva (Known as Desi Akarkara) belonging to same plant family are used as substitute of original Akarkara or Anacyclus pyrethrum.

Pellitory is used both internally and externally. It is given orally for improving digestion and to kill parasites, and applied topically for rheumatic joints and toothache. Traditionally, the roots are indicated in some type of headache, chronic ophthalmia, and rheumatic affections of the face. In India, it is mainly used for dental care.

General Information

Plant Description: Pellitory is a perennial herb with numerous spreading, prostrate or ascending branched stems. The stems are hollow, thickened and grow along the ground before turning upward. The plant grows to about 45 cm high. The stems are hairy in the upper portions, glabrous below.

The leaves are smooth, alternate and pinnate with deeply cut segments.

Each stem bears a flower. Flower heads are terminal, large, 2.5-3.5 cm wide with a wide disc. The disk flowers are yellow and ray flowers white, tinged with purple beneath. The fruit has transparent wings.

Roots are tough, cylindrical, 7-15 cm in length, tapering slightly at both ends, with a few hairy rootlets and occasionally topped by bristly remains of leaves, external surface rough brown, shrivelled, bark upto 3 mm thick.

Chewing causes tingling sensation in tongue and lips and causes excessive flow of saliva.

  • Appearance of roots: Internally white and of finger thickness
  • Taste: Bitter, irritant to tongue
  • Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Roots
  • Plant type / Growth Habit: Herb
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Distribution: Cultivated in India.
  • Native: Indigenous to North Africa and Algeria
  • Safety Profile Pregnancy: Unsafe

Unani Properties

Temperament (Mizaj): It is hot and dry in the 3rd degree.

  • Mumsik Mani (Avaricious) retain seminal discharge due to narcotic and dryness property, prolong the period of intercourse.
  • Muhallil-e-awram (antiinflammatory)
  • Muqawwi-e-bah (anabolic & aphrodisiac)
  • Moqawwi (tonic)
  • Moharrik-e-aasab (stimulant of nerves)
  • In Unani it is used in treatment of laqwa (facial paralysis), falij (hemiplegia), sara (epilepsy), loosening of teeth, isterkha-eluhat (flaccidity of uvula) and luknat-e-zuban (stammering).
  • Unani formulations: Majoon-e-Zabeebis, Majoon-e-Baladur

Chief Indications

Anxiety, epilepsy, depression, Allergic asthma, laryngitis, chronic catarrh, Headache, neuralgia, nerve affections, increasing salivation, dryness of mouth, Oral problems, toothache, bad breath, Paralysis of tongue or throat, relaxed uvula, Respiratory edema, Rheumatism, Seminal debility, Speech disorders

Vernacular names / Synonyms

  • Scientific name: Anacyclus pyrethrum
  • Sanskrit: Akallaka, Akallaka, Akarakarabha
  • Assamese: Kulekhara
  • Bengali: Akarakara
  • English: Pellitory, Pellitory of Spain, Pyrethre, Pyrethrum, Roman Pellitory, Spanish Camomile,
  • Gujrati: Akkalkaro, Akkalgaro
  • Hindi: Akalkara
  • Kannada: Akkallakara, Akallakara, Akalakarabha, Akkallaka Hommugulu
  • Malayalam: Akikaruka, Akravu
  • Marathi: Akkalakara, Akkalakada
  • Oriya: Akarakara
  • Punjabi: Akarakarabh, Akarakara
  • Tamil: Akkaraka, Akkarakaram
  • Telugu: Akkalakarra
  • Urdu: Aqaraqarha
  • Arabic: Aaqarqarha, Aquarqarha, Audulqarha, Udalqarha
  • Persian: Kakra, kalu, kalua, kazdam, akalawa, Beekhe Tarkhoon

Scientific Classification

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 Pellitory is Anacyclus pyrethrum. It belongs to plant family Asteraceae or compositae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Subclass: Asteridae
  • Order: Asterales
  • Family: Asteraceae – Aster family
  • Genus: Anacyclus L. – anacyclus P
  • Species: Anacyclus pyrethrum

Synonyms

  • Anacyclus officinarum Hayne, Anthemis pyrethrum L.
  • Spilanthes paniculata Synonym: Spilanthes acmella var. paniculata (DC.) Clarke, belonging to same plant family is known as Desi Akarkara. Both the species are completely different.
  • Spilanthes calva is found in India and used as a substitute for Anacyclus pyrethrum.

Constituents of Pellitory Roots

The root contains alkaloids li ke pyrethrin, anacyclin, pellitorine, and inulin. Pyrethrin is the major alkaloid responsible for its cordial, stimulant, and sialagogue actions. Resin and some inorganic compound are also present.

  • Alkamides: including deca-2, 4-dien acid-isobutylamide, anacycline, dehydroanacycline
  • Lignans: including sesamine
  • Inulin (fructosan)
  • Tannins

Important Medicinal Properties

Anacyclus pyrethrum roots are 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 the roots must not be used in pregnancy, as it has abortifacient properties. It is emmenagogue and should not be used in heavy periods.

Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  • Abortifacient: Induces abortion.
  • Anticatarrhal: Remove excess mucous from the body.
  • Anti-hyperglycemic: Counteracting high levels of glucose in the blood.
  • Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
  • Diaphoretic: Promote sweating.
  • Decongestant: Used to relieve nasal congestion.
  • Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
  • Emmenagogue: Stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
  • Insecticidal: Kills insects.
  • Molluscicidal: Kills molluscs.
  • Rubefacient: Produces redness of the skin on topical application by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation.
  • Sialagogue: Promotes the secretion of saliva.
  • Stimulant: Raises levels of physiological or nervous activity in the body.

Ayurvedic Properties and Action of Akarkara

Akarkara consists of dried roots of plant Anacyclus pyrethrum DC and used mainly in treatment of cold-cough, indigestion, asthma, paralysis, abdominal diseases, pain in body and tooth ache. It is a stimulant, sialagogue and nerve tonic and acts on nervous, excretory and reproductive organs.

Akarkara is pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is hot in effect (Virya). As Akarkara is an Ushna Virya or hot potency herb, it subdues Vata (Wind) and Kapha (Mucus). It has property of digestion, vomiting and purging, and gives feeling of lightness and considered bad for sperms and fetus.

  • Rasa (taste on tongue): Katu (Pungent)
  • Guna (Pharmacological Action): Tikshna (Sharp), Ruksha (Dry)
  • Virya (Action): Ushna (Heating)
  • Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)

Akarkara is a Katu Vipak herb. Vipak refers to post-digestive (effect after digestion / cooking of Rasa) effect of tastes after its mixing with digestive juices. It is the long term effect of herb. Katu Vipak herbs, increases dryness in body. Such foods reduce fertility and Kapha

Action / Karma

  • Deepana: Promote appetite but do not aid in digesting undigested food
  • Kaphahara: Pacifies Kapha Dosha
  • Svedana: promote the secretion of perspiration
  • Vajikarak: Aphrodisiac are medicines which increase the sexual power
  • Vatahara: Pacifies Vata Dosha

Important Ayurvedic formulations containing Akarkara:

  1. Chopchinyadi churna for syphilis
  2. Divya Jwar Nashak vati
  3. Himalaya Tentex forte
  4. Kumari Asava
  5. Karpooradi Choornam
  6. Stambhanakara Yoga

Medicinal use of Akarkara

Akarkara is a folk medicine for treating toothache, dental cavities, looseness of teeth, pyorrhea, sore throat, rheumatic pain, facial paralysis, epilepsy, neurasthenia, insanity, flaccidity of tongue, stammering and chronic cough. In Unani, the roots are used as nervine and sex tonic. Chewing of the roots, is believed to purge brain of phlegmatic humors which in turn gives relief in pain in the head and teeth. It also prevents coughs and consumption.

Here is given how to use Akarkara as home remedy for various ailments. Akarkara powder refers to dried powder of whole plant.

Aphrodisiac

  • Root piece and clove is chewed. Or
  • Boil Akarkara, Jaiphal, Javitri, Elaichi, and Kesar in milk. Add Mishri and take. Or
  • Mix root powder in milk or honey and take.

Boils, sores

Root paste is applied.

Chronic catarrh of head and nostril, as a snuff, causing free flow of mucous

The powder is snuffed up the nostril.

Delay ejaculation during sexual intercourse, premature ejaculation

Akrakaradi Vati is indicated to increase ejaculation time.

This is prepared by mixing fine powders of Akrakara + Shunthi/Dry ginger + Piper cubeba + Kesar/ saffron + Pippali/long pepper + Jaiphal/nutmeg + Lavang/clove + Chandan/sandalwood (each 1 part) + Afeem/opium 4 parts. Pills of size 125 mg each are rolled and taken daily in dose of 1 pill twice a day.

Epilepsy

  • The powder of the roots and stems of plant is taken with honey. Or
  • Mix Akarkara powder + Vach powder + Honey and take 1 teaspoon twice a day.

Facial palsy

A decoction prepared by boiling Akarkara/ Anacyclus pyrethrum 2 g, Shunthi/ dry ginger 1 g, Mulethi/ Liquorice 2 g in water, 100 ml. This is filtered and given daily for 1-2 months.

Fever

The root power is cooked in olive oil and massaged externally to cause sweating and thus helps in high temperature.

Headache, Migraine

Make paste of Akarkara plant and apply on forehead or extract juice and put few drops in each nostril to get relief from migraine.

Increasing saliva in dryness of the mouth and throat, as masticatory, relaxing mouth muscles, in partial paralysis of the tongue

Root has reflex action on the salivary glands and this helps to increase salivation. Chewing of roots is helpful.

Liver diseases

The root powder is taken in the morning.

Paralysis

Traditionally the fine root powder of plant is mixed in Mahua tail and massaged externally. Internally, 500 mg of root powder is licked with honey.

Rheumatism, neuralgic affections of the head or face, palsy of the tongue, to purge the brain / cerebral stimulant, epilepsy, gout, sciatica, lethargy (fibromyalgia)

Root piece is chewed daily for 3-4 weeks.

Stammering

For stammering (Tutlana in Hindi) in kids, prepare powder of Akkalkada roots. This powder is mixed with honey and black pepper. This mix is rubbed on tongue. This causes salivation and cures dryness of tongue. This should be used for 1-2 months.

Tonsils

Gargling from roots decoction is helpful.

Tooth ache, mouth problem

  • Pellitory root is a well-known for relieving toothache and in promoting a free flow of saliva.
  • Chew Akarkara flower to get relief in tooth ache. Or
  • Put the powder in a piece of cotton and apply on gum. Or
  • Root decoction is used as gargle for toothache, sore throat and tonsillitis. Or
  • Prepare Homemade Tooth Powder for dental care by mixing fine powder of, Haldi + Phitkari + Neem Leaf + Babool Bark (each 100 grams) + Tambru seeds + Akarkara + Baheda Pericarp (each 50 grams) + Laung 20 grams.

Dosage of Anacyclus pyrethrum

  • The root powder can be taken in dose of 500 mg-1 gram.
  • The tincture is taken in dose of 20-30 drops.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Anacyclus pyrethrum

  1. Plant can cause dermatitis on contact.
  2. Do not use in high dose or for longer periods of time.
  3. It is hot in nature, so should be used with caution in summer and by hot temperament individuals and menstruating women.
  4. It should be taken only in recommended doses.
  5. When taken in excess, it irritates mucous membrane of intestine causing bloody stools, tetanus-like spasms and profound stupor.
  6. It should not be used if tissues are inflamed.
  7. Do not use in bleeding disorders, acidity, ulcers, and other Pitta Roga.
  8. Do not use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  9. Topical application can cause redness and itching.
  10. Gond Katira, Mulethi or Gond Babul is used to reduce the side effects of Akarkara roots.

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