KANTAKARI (Solanum xanthocarpum)
Kantakari enjoys an important place among medicinal herbs, (especially, for the treatment of cough).in India since ancient times. This prickly herb has various synonyms in Ayurvedic texts portraying the peculiarities of its prickles viz.duhsparsa – difficult to touch, bahu kanta of many prickles, ksudrakanta having small prickles etc. Caraka and Susruta, the great sages, have mentioned the plant to have multiple medicinal properties, in Caraka Samhita and Susruta Samhita respectively. Bhavamisra specially mentions the plant as useful in facilitating conception. Acarya Vagbhata has adored it as a drug of choice for cough. Maharsi Caraka has categorized it as kasahara anti tussive, kanthya beneficial for the throat, hikka nigrahana – alleviates hiccup, sitaprasamana relieves cold sensation, sotha hara relieves edema and sita pitta prasamana anti urticaria. Kantakari is one of the herbs from the group laghu pancamulas – five minor roots, viz. salaparni, prsniparni, brhati, kantakari and goksura.
The plant occurs throughout India, often in waste places, on roadsides and in open scrublands. It is a prickly, usually spreading or diffused perennial, woody at base. The young branches are densely covered with minute star-shaped hairs. The branches zigzag, spread close to the ground are covered with yellow, sharp, shining prickles, about 1.5 cm long. The leaves are up to 10 cm in length, their midribs and other nerves with sharp yellow prickles. The flowers are purple, about 2 cm long, few together in small bunch opposite the leaves. The fruits are glabrous, globular drooping berries, 1.5-2 cm, yellow or pale with green veins.
The botanical name of kantakari is Solanum xanthocarpum, synonym Solanum surattense and it belongs to family Solanaceae. A glucoalkaloid termed solanocarpine is found in the fruits. A sterol known as carpesterol and solanocarpidine are also present. Potassium nitrate, a fatty acid, a resinous and phenolic substance, diosgenin and sitosterol are present. Dry fruits contain traces of isochlorogenic, neochronogenic, chronogenic and caffeic acids. Solasodine, solasonine, solamargine and solamargine are present in fruits of Nepalese plant. Quercetin isolated together with apigenin and sitosterol.
Ayurvedic texts mention three varieties of the plant viz. violet flowered (described above), yellow flowered and white flowered called as laksmana , which is rare. Kantakari is bitter and pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata doshas. It possesses light and dry attributes. It is useful in the diseases like bronchial asthma, cough, worms etc. The fruits facilitate the seminal ejaculation, alleviate worms, itching, and fever and reduce fats.
The roots, fruits and the whole plant are used for medicinal purpose. Externally, the instillation of vyaghri taila into nostrils is effective in chronic sinusitis. Also, nasal administration of kantakari is beneficial in migraine, asthma and headache. The dried fruits are smoked in the form of cigarette and the smoke held up in the mouth cavity for some time ameliorates the dental infections. The fumigation of kantakari is helpful in piles. The paste applied on swollen and painful joints in arthritis, reduces the pain and swelling effectively.
Internally, kantakari is useful in vast range of diseases. In respiratory ailments like colds, asthma, sore throat, hoarseness of voice etc, it is a valuable drug. The decoction of the roots works well in cough, when given with honey. In colds and cough associated with bronchospasm, the decoction of kantakari, sunthi, guduci and pippali is used with great benefit. In fever kiratatikta, sunthi and kantakari roots decoction is salutary. The combination of kantakari, jiraka and amalaki powders given along with honey effectively alleviates the acute bronco spasm. The fruit is useful as an aphrodisiac in males and the seeds, in women for irregular menstruation and dysmenorrheal. The white flowered variety of kantakari (Laksmana) helps to promote conception in females. As the herb is a stimulant to the heart and is a blood purifier, it is extremely beneficial in the treatment of cardiac diseases associated with edema.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Kantakari ghrta
- Kantakari avaleha
- Kantakari kalpa
- Vyaghri taila
- Kvatha etc.