KATUKA (Picrorrhiza kurroa)
Katuka heads the list of valuable herbal bitter tonics. It has been used in India, as a household remedy for jaundice, indigestion and common fever, since centuries. It has several synonyms like tikta – bitter, mahausadhi – the great medicine, amaghni – destroyer of ama the toxins etc. One of its names dhanvantarigrasta – means the plant was self administered by Dhanvantari God of Indian medicine. Maharsi Caraka describes the plant as lekhaniya reducing fasts and other accumulations, bhedaniya accumulation breaking herb, stanya sodhana lactodepurant. It is also described by Susruta as jvaraghna antipyretic and visaghna detoxifying. Attention of modern research workers has been drawn to the merit of the hepato protective properties of katuka.
The plant grows in North – western Himalayan region, at the height of 2700 – 4500 meters. It is also reported in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. It is a perennial herb with woody root stalk, normally 15-25 cm in length. The leaves are brownish green, 5-10 cm long with a rounded tip and are serrate. The flowers are dark violet in dense terminal spikes. The fruits, 1.25 cm long, ovoid capsules. The roots are 15-25 cm long and 1-1.5 cm thick, cylindrical. They are deep grayish brown in color and wrinkled with annulations at the tip. The plant flowers in June and July, and bears fruits in August and September.
Botanically katuka is known as Picrorhiza kurroa and belongs to family Scrophulariaceae. From the rhizomes kutkin, a bitter glycosidal principal and apocynin, alkanol and alkane have been isolated. Picrorhizin, a bitter substance is found in its chemical composition along with 9% cathartic acid, glucose, wax etc. Few steroids, vanillic acid D-mannitol have been also isolated. Katuka resembles digitalis in its actions,. Structure of kutkin isolated from roots, a new iridoid glucoside picroside I-isolated and characterized. A new cucurbitacin glycoside isolated from roots and characterized Picroside I and picroside II also isolated.
Katuka is bitter in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and cold in potency. It alleviates kapha and pitta dosas, but aggravates vata dosa. It possesses light and dry attributes. It is commonly used in asthma, fevers, skin diseases, worms and liver disorders.
The plant is seldom used externally in cleansing the wounds worth its decoction. The roots of Katuka are used in medicines, usually, orally. Katuka works very well in fevers associated with burning sensation of the body. It is as effective as quinine in malarial fever. One gram of root powder is added to 30 ml hot water and the water is drunk after cooling. The patient gets his bowels opened and within three to four days, get cured. Katuka causes, sometimes, spasmodic pains in abdomen, hence are given along with sunthi. It also improves appetite when given with honey, in small dosage viz. 0.5 gm twice a day. In relapsing fever, it works well in slightly higher doses. As katuka alleviates kapha and pitta dosas and destroys ama, it is very beneficial in fevers due to vitiation of these dosas.
Katuka combines well with yastimadhu with equal quantity of sugar as a therapy for heart diseases. It alleviates the edema in ascites and enlargement of liver. It has a marked effect of hepatobilliary system as a hapato-protective and its cholegouge action. The distinguished activity of katuka is extremely useful in the treatment of jaundice. Its decoction, in jaundice, is given with honey or its dry powder with sugar. Numerous market preparations in the treatment of jaundice are incorporated, chiefly, with katuka as the main ingredient. The most popular preparation designed by Nagarjuna, Arogyavardhini, contains more than 50% katuka. Ancient scriptures have recommended this divine formulation in number of diseases like hepatosplenomegaly, ascites, skin diseases, obesity, anaemia, hepatitis, fever, sinusitis, anorexia, alcoholism, chronic constipation etc. Aptly it is known as Arogyavardhini (health promoter).
A double blind placebo controlled clinical trial was conducted in the patients of acute viral Hepatitis on 57 patients. Out of which 30 patients received Arogyavardhini and 27 received placebo. Within two weeks, the patients receiving Arogyavardhini produced rapid clinical as well as biochemical recovery.
The same workers, during last ten years , have done and reported a number of clinical and experimental proofs. According to them arogyavardhini is highly promising in various liver disorders.
Katuka, in small dosage acts as a rasayana – a rejuvenator and in large dosage as lekhana-means a catabolic agent, helping in reducing body fats. With these duel action, katuka, is really a boon to Ayurvedic practitioners. It works well in hiccup and vomiting, when given with honey. It is a good anthelmintic also. It can be given as an adjuvant in diabetes mellitus. It also wards off impurities of milk in nursing mothers who breastfeed their babies.
- Tiktadi ghrta
- Tiktadi kvatha
- Sarivadyasava etc.