KUNKUMA (Crocus sativus)
Kunkuma is also known as ghusrna, as it is sacred to ghrsnesvara, that is, Siva. It has various synonyms in Ayurvedic scriptures portraying its peculiarities like varnya – improves the complexion, sourabha – fragrant, caru flower looks like lotus, rudhira – blood – red in color, sonata – colored like that of blood etc. Caraka has mentioned its usage as also Bhavamisra and other Nighantus. In India, it has been used in folk medicine for numerous ailments, since centuries.
The plant is probably native in Greece, Asia Minor, Southern Italy and Persia. In India, it is cultivated in Kashmir and Jammu at 1600 meters altitude. It is a small perennial, 15-25 cm in height. The leaves produced from the new bud, very closely placed, sessile, forming an erect tuft. The flowers, solitary or 2 together, narrowly sessile and scented. The stamens 3 eared, style very long and slender, stigmas dilated, 25-30 mm long, dark orange colored.
The saffron, available commercially in the market, is the dried stigma and tops of the styles of the flowers. They are marketed in a loosely matted mass of dark reddish brown flattened stigmas with characteristic aroma and bitter taste.
The botanical name of kunkuma is Crocus sativus and it belongs to Iridaceae family. The saffron contains the glycosides crocin, picrocrocin, lycopene, and carotene and zeaxanthin. The chief colouring principle is crocin and on hydrolysis yields digentiobiose and the carotenoid pigment crocetin. The aroma is due to the volatile oil, safranol, present in the stigma. The colourless bitter glycoside, picrocrocin, gives on gydrolysis, glucose and the aldehydes safranal. The essential oil of saffron which contains pinene safranal and cineole deposits on standing, stearoptene, a tertiary alcohol. Crocin 1, 2, 3 and 4 are reported which are the carotenoid glycosides. Synthesis of picrocrocin, campesterol, stigmasterol, sitosterol, ursolic, oleanolic, palmitic, palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids identified in bulbs.
Kunkuma is pungent and bitter in taste pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates all the three doshas. It possesses light and oily attributes. It is a stimulant, fragrant, improves the complexion of the skin, and appetizer and digestant in properties. It is used in the diseases of the skin and head, worms, wounds etc.
The dried stigma and tops of the styles of the flowers have great medicinal value. Externally, kunkama as a facial cream is very specific for discoloration of the skin. In the headache, the paste of it with karpura and candana is applied on forehead for relief. Kunkuma is a valuable remedy for dispigmentation of the skin, acne and freckles. The nasal drops of kunkuma mashed with ghee, effectively reduce the headache in migraine. In dimness of vision, the rose water and kunkuma are instilled in the eyes.
Internally, kunkuma is used n vast range of diseases, many a times as a catalyst, with other herbs or preparations. In children, it is given along with milk to alleviate common colds. It works well with karpura and honey in the treatment of worms. In scanty menstruation, the combination of kunkuma and karpura (0.5 gm each) is given two days prior to the menses. When given along with honey, it augments the hemoglobin percentage in anemia. The decoction of kunkuma, yastimadhu, pippali and nisottara is commonly recommended in anemia. Kukuma is also used with great benefit in dysuria. It is salutary in blood disorders, heart diseases, diseases of liver also. It is used as an aphrodisiac in sexual debility, especially in erectile failure. It is useful as a nervine and in diseases of vata like migraine, rheumatoid arthritis etc. Kunkuma is rewarding as a refuvenative and is used since ages, for the same purpose.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Kunkumadi taila
- Kunkumadi ghrta
- Badamapaka etc.