Ativisa (Aconitum beterophyllum)
Ativisa is mentioned in ancient scriptures of Ayurveda and has been used since centuries. Aconite is one of the oldest known drugs identified by Susruta. Poisonous aconite is called as Vatsa nabha – Aconitum ferox, which is one of the thirteen poisonous bulbs. In Ayurvedic pharmacy, aconite is used after mitigation by boiling the roots in cow’s urine. It is believed that by this process not only detoxification is achieved, but the visa (poison) present in the roots changes to nectar Ativisa has numerous synonyms delineating its peculiarities viz. Mahausadhi – a divine drug, sisu bhaisjya – medicament for paediatric diseases, bhangura – fragile , kasmira – gruws in Kashmir etc. Maharsi Caraka has categorized the plant as lekhaniya – a reducing herb and arsoghna – anti – haemorrhoidal.. Susruta has cited it as stanya sodhana – lactodepurant. The other few properties like atisaraghna – antidiarrhoeal, amapacaka – digests ama or toxins and visaghna – anti – toxin, of ativisa have been mentioned in various tests of Ayurveda.
Ativisa is a native of the Western Himalayas, and is found in Gurhwal, Kumaon and Kashmir, in the temperate zone of about 2500-3900 metres. It is a handsome plant, erect, sometimes branched and grows in moist places near the borders of forests. The stem erect, smooth and somewhat angled below, cylindrical and pubescent above. The leaves numerous, variable , the lower ones on long petioles, reniform and the upper ones very shortly stalked, amplexicaul, all quite glabrous, thick, bright green , paler beneath. The flowers are blue or violet coloured, in slender raceme. The fruit of 5 follicles, pericarp papery, slightly veined, minutely downy. The seeds are large, irregularly angled, bright brown, smooth or somewhat wrinkled. The roots are tuberous, biennial, paired and are very friable (hence called, bhangura) and taste very bitter. The roots vary in colour white, yellow, red and black out of which, the white variant is the best.
The botanical name of ativisa is Aconitum heterophyllum and it belongs to family Ranunculaceae. The roots contain nontoxic amorphous alkaloids and are one of the best bitter tonics for children. From the root, the alkaloid atisine which is non – toxic, aconitic acid, tannic acid, pectous substance, abdundant starch, fat, a mixture of palmitic, stearic glycerides, vegetable mucilage, cane – sugar and ash 2% is obtained. A new alkaloid, atesinol is ilolated from the roots also hetisine, heteratisine, heterphyllin, heterophyllisine, hetidine – a new atidine and hetisinone are isolated from the roots.
Ativisa is bitter and pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency . It alleviates all the three dosas, especially kapha dosa the most . It possesses light and dry attributes. It is an appetizer, digestant and astringent in properties and is used in diseases like diarrhea, vomiting, worm infestations, cough and diseases due to ama. (Bhavaprakasa Nighantu)
The roots of ativisa have great medicinal value and are used for medicinal purpose. The root is exhibited as white, yellow, red or black varieties (Madana Vinoda) and except yellow, the rest three varieties are mentioned in Raja Nighantu. In day to day practice, only the white variety is available and is said to be the best, which is Aconitum heterophyllum. The plant is seldom used externally.
Internally, ativisa is highly recommended for dieases in children. It is a keen stimulant to digestive system as an appetizer, digestant, astringent and digests the ama also. It works well in digestive disorders like anorexia, dyspepsia, piles, diarrhea, worms, vomiting and diarrhea associated with fever. Diarrhoea is well controlled with the mixture of ativisa, kutaja (Holorrhena antidysenterica) – bark skin and its seeds (indrayava), given with honey. The combination of ativisa, sunthi (Zingiber officinale) and guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) is the best panacea for colitis. In worm infestation, the powders of ativisa and vidanga (Embelia ribes) , is an effective remedy . Ativisa powder with honey, alleviates the cough and asthma. The fever is ameliorated when ativisa is given along with kasisa bhashma (Green vitriol). In children, ativisa by itself or in combination with pippali (Piper longum ) and karkatasrngi (Rhus succedanea) is a valuable medicament for cough, vomiting, fever due to kapha and ama.
Ativisa helps to revitalize the sexual desire. It awards the best results, to reduce the excessive accumulations of fats in obesity, due to its lekhana property. It renders lactodepurant activity and purifies the breast milk, in lactating mothers, especially in kapha – pitta vitiation. It mitigates (sodhana) the breast milk and eases the problem. Ativisa is also beneficial in rat poisoning and dracunculiasis. Though ativisa is not poisonous in higher doses (more than 5-6 gms) it produces symptoms like dryness of throat and tremors.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Ativisadi curna
- Balasanjivani curna
- Srngyadi curna etc.