PUNARNAVA (Boerhaavia diffusa)
The word punarnava literally means, one which renews the body, that is, which brings back the youth. Punarnava enjoys an important place among medicinal herbs in India since ancient times. Maharsi Caraka has categorized it as kasahara – alleviates cough, vayasthapana – promotes longevity and maintains youth, svedopaga – adjunct to sucation (sweating therapy) and anuvasanopaga – adjunct to oleating enemas. It is the best rejuvenative to urinary system. In varios Ayurvedic texts, it is also cited to possess the properties like asmarighna – litholytic, indralupta nasaka – mitigates alopecia aeriata, sothaghna – relieves edema and mutrakrcichraghna alleviates dysuria.
The plant grows throughout India, as a weed in water lands and road sides. It is a perennial straggling herb; much branched, generally spreading on ground or partly ascending. The leaves two on each node, one smaller than the other, base cordate, glabrous above and whitish beneath. The flowers very small, reddish, in short clusters on long axillary stalks. The fruit with five ridges, glandular and one-seeded. The plant flowers and fruits in monsoon.
The botanical name of punarnava is Boerhaavia diffusa and it belongs to family Nyctaginaceae. From the plant, alkaloids, sterols and steroidal compounds have been isolated. The components like sitosterol, sitosterol, an unidentified alcohol, palmitic acid, ester of sitosterol, tetracosanoic, hexacosanoic, stearic, palmitic and arachidic acids have been isolated. Hentriacontane, sitosterol and ursolic acid isolated from roots. Ecdysone, triacontanol and sitosterol isolated from roots. Two new rotenoeds-boeraviones A and B-isolated from roots and their structure determined. A new antifibrinolytic agent-punarvavoside isolated from roots and characterized
In Ayurvedic tests, two varieties of punarnava white and red have been mentioned. The third blue variety is also cited in Raja Nighantu. As per commentator chunekar, on Bhava-prakasa Nighantu, the white variety is Borehaavia diffusa, which is commonly used as Punarnava and the red variety is Trianthema portulacastrum, which is often used to adulterate Punarnava roots.
The white punarnava is pungent, bitter and astringent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has cold potency. The white variety alleviates all the three doshas. The red one alleviates pitta dosha but aggravates vata dosha. Punarnava possesses light and dry attributes.
Mainly, the roots and the whole plant is used for the medicinal purpose, externally punarnava is used for fomentation to alleviate the pain and swelling. The fresh juice of its roots instilled into eyes, mitigates the ailments of the eyes like night blindness and conjunctivitis. The paste applied on the wounds, dries up the oozing.
Internally, punarnava is beneficial to treat a wide range of diseases. Punarnava is the most commonly used and the best herb to alleviate swelling, due to its potent diuretic property. It boosts up the filteration, rejuvenates the renal functions and takes out the excessive fluids and kleda by augmenting the urinary output. This action of punarnava helps in number of maladies wherein flushing of the kidneys is desired to reduce the excessive body fluids, like anasarca (general body swelling), ascites, congestive cardiac conditions, anaemia, swollen joints in rheumatic disorders etc. Punarnava works well in combination with guduci, haritaki, devadara and guggulu, the mixture of these powders given with cow’s urine, alleviates anasarca , ascites, anaemia, worm infestation and diabetes.
The sesame oil, medicated with punarnava is very useful as an adjunct to oleating enemas in the treatment of ascites of vata type and flatulence. In large doses, punarnava acts as a purgative. The herbs like bala, satavari and asvagandha rejuvenate the body by their anabolic properties, whereas punarnava cleanses the body by flushing dosas and mala from the dhatus in the body and reopen the channels and properly nourish them, thus impart an excellent rejuvenative action. In small doses, it augments the appetite and works well as a mild laxative. Anemia of kapha type, is effectively treated by punarnava ghrla(ghee). The breathlessness of cardiac origin (cardiac asthma) is effectively curbed with its popular formulation punarnavasava . In anemia, punarnava mandura is very salutary to increase the HB% and to alleviate edema, dyspnoea and cough. Punarnava effectively reduces fever, especially in malaria. The decoction of rasna, sunthi and punarnava is the best panacea for rheumatic swollen joints, as rasna alleviates the pain and vata, sunthi destroys ama and punarnava reduces the swelling. In dysuria, the plant helps by increasing the amount of urine. It also helps well in intoxication due to serpant and rat bites. Punarnava is also beneficial as a general tonic in debility.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations