Chitrak is one of the powerful digestive and carminative herbs of Ayurveda. It is used in most of the Ayurvedic medicines for indigestion. Its botanical name is Plumbago zeylanica. It is called Leadwort in English.
Botanical Name– Plumbago zeylanica Linn.
Family – Plumbaginaceae
Hindi Name –Cheeta
Telugu Name – Chitramulamu
English Name – Leadwort
Bengali Name – Chita
Marathi Name – Chitramul
Gujarati Name – Chitro
Tamil Name – Chittiri, chittira
Arabian name – Sheetaraj
Farsi name – Sheetar
Anala, Dahana, Pithi, Vahnisajnaka, Agni, Agnika, Jyothi, Nirdahana, Vahni, Sikhi, Vyala, Hutasana – all these synonyms suggest towards fire. It is because it helps to improve digestion strength. While collecting this herb, usually it is found that the palms get burning sensation due to the hotness of this herb. Hence the synonyms like Dahana (burning).
Agnika – “ agnitulyha ushna sparshe veeryam cha, – Having fire quality
Deepaneeya – Group of herbs that improve appetite and digestion strength
Shoola prashamana – group of herbs that relieve abdominal colic pain
Arshoghna – group of herbs used in treating piles
Lekhaneeya – Group of herbs having scraping property.
Susrutha– Pippalyadi, Mustadi, Amalakyadi, Varunadi, Aragvadadi group of herbs.
Vagbhata- Pippalyadi, Mustadi, Varunadi, Aragvadadi group of herbs.
Vagbhata quoted three varieties namely Shweta (white), Peeta (yellow) & Asita (black) Citraka.
Usually the following varieties are found
P. zeylanica- White;
P . rosea L. –Red and
P. capensis Thunk- Blue.
For all therapeutic purposes, Plumbago zeylanica or the white variety is used.
Found throughout India. It is also cultivated at some places.
Major chemical constituents
Chitranone, Plumbagin, 3- Chloroplumbagin, droserone, Elliptinone, Zeylanone and Zeylinone, Maritone, Plumbagicacid, Dihydrosterone, B- Sitosterol etc.
(Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent)
Guna (qualities) – Laghu (lightness), Rooksha (dryness) Teekshna (piercing, strong)
Veerya– Ushna (hot potency)
Vipaka– Katu – undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion.
Effect on Tridosha
Because of its hotness, it balances Vata and Kapha Doshas.
Part used, dosage
Part used- Root Bark
Dosage– Powder 1-2 grams in divided dose per day, is the maximum prescribed dose.
Therapeutic qualities of Plumbago zeylanica –
Of all the herbs that are carminative, digestive, useful in hemorrhoids, anti inflammatory, and anti colic, leadwort is the best.
It is used for anti aging purpose. For this, the herb is administered along with milk / ghee and honey or with ghee alone for one month.
For balancing Vata, it is administered along with sesame oil.
It is administered along with cow urine for the treatment of leucoderma.
We have learnt that it is administered along with buttermilk as a home remedy for hemorrhoids.
Vahnikrut – Improves digestion strength
Pachana – digestive
Laghu – light to digest
Grahanihara – relieves sprue, malabsorption syndrome,
Kushtahara – useful in skin diseases
Shothahara – anti inflammatory
Kruminut – useful in intestinal worm infestation
Kasanut – useful in cough, cold
Grahi – absorbent, absorbs excess moisture from intestines
Vatarsha – useful in hemorrhoids of Vata origin (with pain)
It is used in the treatment of amenorrhoea.
It is used in the treatment of hepatomegaly and splenomegaly.
Red variety of Chitraka is Sthula Kayakara – because it improves appetite, it helps to gain weight.
It is not safe to take during pregnancy.
It may cause or worsen heavy periods
In higher dose, it causes excessive burning sensation, worsening of gastritis and may cause neuropathy.
Ayurveda uses Chitraka in various forms such as herbal powder, paste for external and internal use, herbal tea, decoction, hot and cold infusion, linctus, fermented liquid, herbal ghee and oils.
Chitraka Shodhana – purification method –
Usually purification procedure is not followed. But some authors have mentioned about Shodhana for red variety of Chitraka (Rakta Chitraka) –
Chitraka roots are cut into small pieces. They are kept immersed in 3 – 4 % of lime water for 3 hours. Then it is taken out, and again immersed in fresh lime water for another 3 hours. The process is repeated for three times.
Some have mentioned to keep it immersed for three days, each day, changing the lime water.
Chitraka as rejuvenator
Chitraka as anti ageing and rejuvenation medicine:
Ashtanga Hrudaya explains Chitraka as anti ageing and rejuvenating medicine.
Chitrak root powder when consumed along with ghee and sesame oil for 1 year, makes the person live for 100 years.
Chitraka root with buttermilk – oral intake is explained as a remedy for hemorrhoids.
Chitraka root with sesame oil is advised as a remedy for all Vata disorders (neurological disorders)
Chitrak with cow urine is advised as a remedy for leucoderma. (Ashtanga Hrudaya Uttaratantra Rasayana chapter).
Plumbago zeylanica is a perennial herb with glabrous, climbing, erect stem. The leaves are petiolate or sessile. The leaves are thin, ovate, entire, glabrous with length up to 4 cm. Petiole is narrow. Flowers have white corollas 17–33 mm in diameter, have elongated spikes. Capsules are 7.5–8 mm long with reddish brown seeds. Stems are woody, spreading and striate. Capsules are long, narrowly tubular.
Sub varieties of Chitraka
Raktha Chitraka – red variety
Botanical Name- Plumbago rosea Linn.
Family – PLUMBAGINACEAE
Hindi Name – Lal cheetha
Bengali Name- lal chithaa
Marathi Name – laal chitraka
Kannada Name– kempu chitramoola
Malyalam Name- chekikotuveri
English – Rose coloured lead wort
It is found in Sikkim.
It is stronger when compared to Plumbago zeylanica. It is a well known digestive and carminative herb.
It is used for rasayana – Anti aging and rejuvenation therapies.
In a small dose of 500 mg to 1 gram it acts as stimulant. In higher doses it may exhibit toxic effects.
Neela chitraka – Blue variety
Botanical name – Plumbago capensis Thumb
Its flowers are whitish blue in color.
This plant is generally found in South Africa.