Gunja or Ratti (Abrus precatorius): Health Benefits
Botanical Name - Abrus precatorius Linn.
English Names - Indian Wild Liquorice (not to be used as a substitute for liquorice), Jequirity, Crab’s Eye, Precatory Bean.
Ayurvedic Names - Gunjaa, Gunjaka, Chirihintikaa, Raktikaa, Chirmiti, Kakanti, Kabjaka, Tiktikaa, Kaakananti, Kaakchinchi.
Common Names - Ghunghchi, Ghamchi, Kunri, Chirmiti, Ratti.
Traditional Uses of Abrus precatorius (Gunja or Chirmiti):
In India, the extract of the root of the plant is used for application to relieve eye diseases. The plant is also used in Ayurveda and is said to promote hair growth. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in Indian hair products. Abrus laevigatus (Shveta Gunjaa) is preferred to use for the same medicinal purposes as Abrus precatorius.
In Africa, the root of Abrus Precatorious is used to relieve tapeworm infestation, bilharzias, asthma and gonorrhea.
In Brazil, the water extract of dried leaves of the plant is taken orally and also applied on cuts as well as swellings.
In Siddha medicine, the white variety is used to prepare oil that is claimed to be an aphrodisiac. A tea is made from the leaves and used for fevers, coughs and colds. Seeds are poisonous and therefore are used after mitigation.
Medicinal Properties of Gunja or Chirmiti (Abrus precatorius):
Uterine stimulant, abortifacient, toxic. Seeds—teratogenic. A paste of seeds is applied on vitiligo patches.
· Seeds contain abrin, a toxalbumin, indole derivatives, anthocyanins, sterols, terpenes. Abrin causes agglutination of erythrocytes, haemolysis and enlargement of lymph glands. A nontoxic dose of abrin, isolated from the seeds of red var., exhibited a noticeable increase in antibody-forming cells, bone marrow cellularity and alpha-esterase-positive bone marrow cells.
· Oral administration of agglutinins, isolated from the seeds, is useful in the treatment of hepatitis and AIDS.
· Theseed extract exhibited antischistosomal activity in male hamsters.
· The methanolic extract of seeds inhibited themotility of human spermatozoa.
· The roots contain precol, abrol, glycyrrhizin and alkaloids—abrasine and precasine. The roots also contain triterpenoids—abruslactone A, methyl abrusgenate and abrusgenic acid.
· Alkaloids/bases present in the roots are also present in leaves and stems.
The seed of Abrus Precatorius is known to be extremely poisonous when taken without proper prescription. Its high toxic levels can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, tachycardia, coma, cold sweats and nausea. Prolonged use of Abrus can lead to anemia and can increase the white blood cell count tremendously. It is therefore best taken under professional guidance and avoided by pregnant women and infants.