KARANJA (Pongamia glabra)
Karanja is one of the herbs mentioned in all ancient scriptures of Ayurveda. In various Samhitas two varieties are mentioned as Karanja dvaya, which include putika that is cirabilva and naktamala means karanja. Nighantus have cited four varieties viz. karanja, putikaranja, cirabilva and karanji of which karanji is a small plant. There is no much difference in their properties. Karanja has various synonyms describing its peculiarities like naktamala – which blooms at night, ghrtapura – the seeds yield ghee like thick oil, puspagucchaka – flowers re in bunches, snigdhapatra – the leaves are oily etc. The great sage Caraka has categorized it as bhedaniya – an accumulation breaking herb, kandughna anti – pruritic, recana – a purgative herb and lekhaniya – a reducing herb.
The plant is found throughout India up to 1300 meters altitude, along the streams and river, mainly in Andhra and Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. It is an evergreen, medium-sized glabrous tree. It reaches 15-18 meters in height, with a short bole and spreading crown. The leaves are compound, 20-40 cm long and leaflets 5-10 cm in length, 5 to 7 in number. The flowers, pinkish white or lilac colored, stamen 17, fragrant and are axillary racemes. The pods are thick, oval or reniform, 1.7-2 cm long and 1.2-1.8 cm broad, with reddish, oily, single seed within.
The botanical name of karanja is Pongamia glabra (synonym – P. pinnata) and it belongs to family Leguminosae. The seeds contain 27% bitter, dark colored, non-volatile oil which contains glabrin, four furanoflavones viz. karanjin, pongapin, karanjone and pongaglabrone. It contains diketonepongamol and also fatty acids. The stems contain karnajin, pongapin, pongamol and a new chromeno-chromene designated as pongaflavone. The flowers contain kaempferol, pongamin, sitosterol glucoside, quercetin, neoglabrin and glabrosaponin. Isolation of a new furonoflavone – pongone – from the flowers and its structure determined
Karanja is bitter and pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata dosas, but aggravates the pitta doshas. It possesses light and sharp attributes. Chiefly, the plant is the best remedy for various dermatoses. It is used in the diseases like piles, worms, wounds, vaginal diseases, tumours etc.
The bark skin leaves, flowers, seeds and seed oil are used for medicinal purpose, Karanja is useful both, internally, as well as externally. Externally, the roots are god for cleansing foul ulcers, cleaning teeth and for strengthening the gums. The seed oil being antiseptic, antipruritic and analgesic in properties, is used with great benefit. The poultice or the paste of its leaves is applied on the wounds and swellings for relief. The seed powder is effective as nasal therapy to relieve the phlegm in chronic sinusitis and kapha diseases. In alopecia areata, the pulp of mashed flowers is applied topically. The bath of its leaves boiled in water, is benevolent for the patients of arthritis. The paste of its seeds alleviates the glandular and scrotal swellings.
Internally, karanja is a valuable remedy for a vast range of diseases. The bark skin juice is a keen stimulant for digestive system and is beneficial in anorexia, piles, worm infestations, and flatulence and liver diseases. The seed oil is preferred in treating the worm infestations. In hepatosplenomegaly, the decoction of bark skin works well with pippali and rock salt. In children, the seed powder is given in whooping cough for quick relief. Karanja is a good blood purifier and also destroys ama, hence is salutary is blood disorders as an adjunct. The ghrta prepared from its bark skin is salubrious in venereal diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea. Karanja is one of the best herbs in various skin affections, with other herbs like nimba, nirgundi and aristaka.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Karanja taila
- Karanjadya ghrta
- Karanjadi curna etc.