Botanical Name: Adhatoda vasica, Adhatoda zeylanica, Justicia adhatoda
Other Common Names of Adhatoda: Adathodai, Adusoge, Vasaka, Adalodakam, Malabar Nut, Arusa Adulsa, Bakash, Addasaramu.
Description: Called Simha Mukhi in Sanskrit because the shape of its flowers resembles a lion’s head, Adhatoda vasica is found growing in abundance in plain areas. The bitter taste of this herb is source of its name, a goat (Adu) will not eat it (Thoda/not touch). There are distinct differences in male (Nar) and female (Mada) varieties of this plant, it can be found as either a tree with spines (male) or a small bush with spineless leaves (female). In maturity, this herb has dark green leaves with yellow undersides 10 to 16 cm in length. The fruit which holds the most potency of the herb is a small capsule usually with four seeds. The pendulant flowers of this herb are found in white, red and black, with the white flowered variety the most commonly found. Typically found throughout India, and particularly in the Himalayan mountain area, it flourishes at altitudes up to 1.000 meters above sea level.
Plant Parts Used: Leaves, roots, fruit, stem bark and flowers.
Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims of Adhatoda
In Ayurveda this herb is called Vasa and traditionally only the female (Mada) variety of Adhatoda vasica were used, with preference for potency to Mada plants with red flowers, which are almost as rare as those with black flowers. It is the white flowered Mada variety of Adhatoda vasica that is most commonly used in medicinal preparations.
Adhatoda vasica is an herb that has unique properties which support the entire respiratory system, and its bronchial function. The leaves, flowers and root of this herb have been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of chest congestion and inflammation. In addition to mucolytic action, benzylamines, a potent alkaline that is derived from Adhatoda vasica inhibit the effects of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In addition, the fruit of Adhatoda vasica’s expectorant properties are valued for treating asthma, fever, coughs, vomiting and chronic bronchitis. The leaves are dried and smoked for asthma relief.
In pharmacology, this herb provides two valuable alkaloids, vasicine and vasicinone, produced by the oxidation process of vasicine has been found to be a more potent broncho-dilator, in addition to decreasing sensitivity to airborne irritants.
Rich in vitamin C, carotene and the leaves also yield an essential oil and Adhatodic acid, an organic acid. The juice of the leaves and root are used to relieve symptoms of pyorrhea and bleeding gums and cure glandular tumor, diarrhea and dysentery. The leaves are also powdered and used a poultice for dressing wounds, relief of rheumatism and as an alterative in cases of neuralgia, epilepsy, hysteria and mental imbalance.
Expectorant action is due to the volatile oil content and the bronchodilator activity of vasicine is used in conjunction with atropine. Vasicine is also the reason for its use in stimulating the contraction of uterine muscles to accelerate or induce labor.
The leaves are boiled and combined with honey, ginger and black pepper (piper nigrum) to treat coughs and respiratory ailments. A decoction of the herb is used to expel intestinal parasites and wasting of the body (phthisis).
Fresh flowers of this plant are used to treat eye conditions such as opthalmia. The leaf has also shown significant protective qualities in conditions leading to liver damage.
Potential Side Effects of Adhatoda Vasica
The use of the leaf extract, is considered safe. However, the uterine tonic and abortifacient activity prevents its use during pregnancy, except during childbirth. Due to the potency of this herb it should be taken under medical supervision.
Therapeutic Dosages of Adhatoda Vasica
As a decoction, 1-3 grams of dried leaves. Liquid extract; 20 to 60 minims. The freshly expressed juice; 1 to 4 fluid drams. Tincture; 1/2 to 1 fluid dram.