The Indian Himalayan region is an abode to varied rare and endemic bio-resources. The therapeutic potentials of the medicinal plants have been tapped by the local communities in traditional medicines since time immemorial. These plants have provided people living in remote localities of mountains with an effective antidote. Since the past two decades, the global demand for Indian medicinal herbs has grown manifold. Picrorhizakurroa Royle ex Benth is one such medicinal Himalayan herb belonging to the family Plantaginaceae. It is a small, perennial herb and most popularly called as Kutki. It is found growing in the wild at an altitude of 3000-5000 m in the western Himalayan in the regions of India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. In India, it is found from Kashmir to Sikkim at an altitude of 2700-4500 m. The drug is prepared from wild plants is used in traditional medicine systems to cure various disorders. It is propagated by seeds and rhizomatous stolen.
Pharmacologically, Picrorhiza has antioxidant, cardio protective, anti-inflammatory, anti cancerous, anti-allergic, hepato-protective, anti-microbial, choleretic, anti-asthmatic, and nephro-protective properties. It is a well known ayurvedic and UNANI medicine for the treatment of liver and upper respiratory tract disorders. The herb is used in traditional Ayurvedic formulations such as TiktaGhrita, Kalmeghasava, TriphalaGhrita and Arogyavardhini Gutika.
The root and rhizome of the plant are considered as purgative, laxative, appetite stimulant and anthelmintic. The herb is an effective antidote against ailments like asthma, dysentery, fever, allergy and respiratory disorders. It strengthens stomach functions in case of indigestion, reduces general debility, weakness and fatigue. Kutki is known to contain chemicals that stimulate immune system and kill cancer cells. It provides relief from pain and inflammation due to arthritis. It is also used against dog bite, scorpion sting and paralysis. The most active constituentof the herb are picroliv and kutkin. Its constituent picroliv is reported to possess choleretic effect.Picrosides from Picrorhiza is known as an effective anti-carcinogenic agent. The abundance of flavinoids in Kutki aids weight loss. It also reduces the accumulation of Low-density lipoproteins. It plays a crucial role in lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood and strengthening the heart muscles. It holds high significance in pacifying the blood sugar level in the body. The wonder herb has properties to soothe the skin from wounds and rashes. It also aids in the prevention of vitilago.
P. kurroa has been traditionally used in treating liver disorders and is a major ingredient of many indigenous medicines. The herb is known to protect the liver against damage from cirrhosis, jaundice and hepatitis C virus. It promotes bile secretion. It effectively decreases the level of serum bilirubin to a normal range in a short period of time. Picroliv present in roots and rhizomes of the herb is reported to be the hepatoprotective agent. In addition, it also shows anti-oxidant, cardio-protective, anti-cancerous, anti-diabetic and anti-viral effects.
A tonic is prepared from air dried rhizome of the plant by the locals of Himalayan regions. The rhizomes are chopped and immersed in water and left overnight. The next morning the mixture is sieved and the extract is taken out. A bitter tonic is prepared by mixing the extract with water. It is consumed to cure liver detoxification, gastrointestinal troubles and ulcers. It can be diluted with water and used for three days.
The data of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that people with a strong immunity have a higher recovery rate. In order to boost the immune system, the alternative system of medicine and plant based herbal formulations have not only provided the healthy environment to the body but also helped to boost the immune system without causing any side effects.
Due to its immense potential to shield the body against infections, Picrorhizakurroa has been included in the Ministry of AYUSH’s released “20 medicinal plant of 21 for COVID-19 care” e-book. The bitter herb not only removes viruses, bacteria and fungus from the body but also combat recurring fever.
(Author is Research scholar in Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)