SANKHAPUSPI (Evolvulus alsinoides)
The Sanskrit word sankhapushpi literally means that the flowers of which are in the shape of a conch or sankha which is considered to be auspicious. In ayurvedic tests, it has numerous synonyms describing its peculiarities, viz. medhya – intellect promoting, mangalya kusuma – auspicious flower, ksira (puspi milky) shite flowered, sulaghna – alleviates abdominal pain, smrtihita – alleviates abdominal pain, smrtihita – augments memory etc. The great sage charaka has categorized the herb as Medhya – intellect promoting. He has also graded it as Medhya rasayana – a rejuvenative to nervous tissue. Maharishi Susruta has mentioned it as Medhya, rasayani, svarya-beneficial for the voice, vrsya aphrodisiac; smrti-kanti-bala-agnida- bestows memory, complexion, energy and appetite, respectively. It is also cited to alleviate cough, toxins, epilepsy and avert the evil powers.
The plant grows wildly in open grassy places throughout India, up to 1800 meters elevation. It is a small, diffuse perennial herb, much branched, hairy, with prostrate branches. The leaves are small, elliptic to oblong, lanceolate, densely clothed with silky hair and 1-2 cm long. The flowers, light blue in color, mostly solitary in upper axils. The fruits, globose, 4- valve capsules and small. The plant flowers and fruits during May to December. The roots, 15-30 cm long, 1-1.5 cm in diameter, greenish –white in color.
The botanical name of sankhapushpi is Evolvulus alsinoides and it belongs to family Convolvulaceae. The plant contains an alkaloid- shankhapushpine. Fresh plant contains volatile oil and potassium chloride. It also contains a yellow neutral fat, an organic acid and saline substances. Three alkaloids – evolvine, betaine and an unidentified compound have been isolated.
Sankhapushpi is astringent, pungent and bitter in taste , sweet in the post digestive effect and has hot potency . It alleviates all the three doshas, predominantly, vata and pitta. It has a special potency (prabhava), with which it alleviates the psycho-somatic disorders and is also said to avert the evil powers. It possesses oily (snigdha) and slimy (picchila) attributes. It has a special property as modhya, meaning it promotes dhi, dhrti and samrti i.e. intelligence, retention and memory, respectively. It is also beneficial as a rasayana – a rejuvenator. It is useful in epilepsy, as a brain tonic and also as an aphrodisiac.
The whole plant of sankhapushpi is used for medicinal purpose, externally; the medicated oil of the herb is useful as a hair tonic, to promote the hair growth. Its paste is also applied externally in skin diseases. Sankhapushpi hair oil prevents the premature graying and failing of hair.
Internally, the plant is used in vast range of diseases. The whole plant juice is traditionally used in various mental disorders. As one of the best phychotropic drugs, sankhapushpi was held in high esteem by the ancient sages of India. In minor memory disturbances, nervous debility and amentia it is widely used as a brain tonic. For this purpose, the decoction of the whole herb with cumin and milk is given. In epilepsy and hysteria, the fresh plant juice of sankhapuspi is recommended with kustha (Saussuarea lappa) powder and honey. Sarasvata choorna is one of the most popular preparations, given along with honey and followed by milk. It is useful to promote intelligence, enhance memory and retention, especially for school-going children. It also curbs the agitation and anxiety, and induces peaceful sleep. Amongst the three main herbal brain tonics – Brahmi, vaca and sankhapushpi, Maharishi Charka acclaims that sankhapushpi is the best of the three. One should note that sankhapushpi is recommended in psychosomatic disorders due to vata dosha, Brahmi in pitta and vaca is kapha. Sankhapushpi siddha purana ghrta medicated old preparation of the herb with ghee, is commonly used in epilepsy and hysteria. The fresh juice of the plant stimulates appetite, is a mild laxative and deflatulent. It also works well as mucolytic and is useful in cough and hoarseness of voice. Sankhapushpi being diuretic is useful in urinary disorders and hypertension. It promotes conception in female and is rewarding as an aphrodisiac in sexual debility in males. It is the great panacea for raktapitta, as it is styptic also. Sankhapushpi is one of the best herbs used as a general tonic and rejuvenative.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Sarasvata curna
- Sankhapuspi panaka
- Medhya kasaya
- Brahmi rasayana
- Medhya rasayana
- Indra rasayana etc.