Gunja – Abrus precatorius uses, purification, side effects

Gunja – Abrus precatorius is a poisonous herb used in Ayurvedic medicines after detoxifying process. Its seeds and roots are used in treating hair fall, arthritis pain, as an aphrodisiac and more. 

Division – Magnoliophyta
Order – Fabales
Family – Fabaceae
Subfamily – Faboideae
Tribe – Abreae
Genus – Abrus
Species – Botanical name – Abrus precatorius

Names in different languages:
English name- Abrus or Indian Licorice root, Crabs eye, John Crow Bead, Abrus seed
Hindi name- Gamanchi,  Gunchi, Gunja, Gaunchi, Rati
Kannada name – Gulaganji, Gulgunji
Teugu name- Guruvinda ????????, Guruginia
Marathi name – Gunj, Gunja
Bengali name – Kunch, Koonch, Chunhali
Gujarathi name – Chanoti, Gumchi, Chanothi
Tamil name- Gundumani
Malayalam name- Kunni, Gundumani
Farsi name – Chasmekharosh
Punjabi name – Mulati
Urdu name – Ghunchi
Kasmiri name – Shangir
Persian name – Gunchi, Chashami, Khurosa

Abrus precatoriusSanskrit Synonyms-
Chudamani,  Kakanantika, Kakasahvaya, Bhillibhushani
Shikhandika, Sheetapaki, Ghughanta, Rati,
Krushnala – Seeds have black spot
Raktika, Tamra, Tamrika – coppery red colored seeds

Shweta Gunja – white variety synonyms:
Shweta paki, Chudala, Kakapeelika, Durmaayaa, Chakripa, Chuda, Chakrashalya, Chirantika, Shweta Kambhoji, Bhiratika, Kakadani, Kakapeelu

Crabs eyeClassical categorization:
Sushruta – Moola Visha 
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Oshadhi Varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Karaveeradi Varga
Bhavaprakasha – Guduchyadi Varga, Upavisha
Rajanighantu – Guduchyadi Varga

rosary peaTypes:
There are two types mentioned –
Sweta Gunjia – White variety
Rajta Gunja – Red variety

Abrus precatorius chemical constituents:
Root- Precol, Abrol and two alkaloids(abrasine&precasine), abrasine, precasine and precol, protein, abraline, abricin, abrusgenic-acid, abrusgenic-acid-methyl-ester, abruslactone, abrussic-acid, anthocyanins, calcium.
Seeds- Abrine, Hypaphorine, Trigonelline, Precatorine, Abridin, amino acids like serine, Abrusin, Abrusin-2?-0-apioside, hederagenin, kaikasaponin III, sophoradiol, sophoradiol-22-0-acetate, tryptophan,
poisonous protein, a fat-splitting enzyme, aglucoside abrussic acid, haemagglutinin, albuminous substance named abrin.
Leaves – abrine, trigonelline, abruslactone A, hemiphloin, abrusoside A, B, C and D, xylose, choline, hypaphorine, precatorine, glycyrrhizin

Indian Licorice medicinal qualities:
Rasa (taste) – Tikta – bitter, Kashaya- astringent
Guna- Laghu, Ruksa
Vipaka- Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Effect on Tridosha – Balances Kapha and Vata Dosha.
Part used- Root, leaf, seed
Dosage- Root& leaf powder 1-3 g , seed powder  – half to one and half Gunja – 60-180 mg in divided doses per day.

Gunja uses copyAdverse effects of abrus seeds:
Gunjabeej if used without proper purification or in higher doses may cause –
Vantikara – vomiting
Teevra Virechanakrut – severe purgation

Gunja Shodhana – Purification method:
The Gunja seeds are tied in a two layered cloth, kept suspended in cow milk taken in a pot. The milk is boiled with the Gunja seed pack suspended for 1 Yama – 3 hours. This procedure is called Swedana.
After this, the seeds are taken out, washed in hot water, dried and preserved.
The pot used for this purpose is called Dola Yantra.
Even Kanji – fermented liquid can also be used in place of milk.

Explanation regarding purification
The toxin abrin is in the Indian Licorice (Gunja) consists of two protein sub-units, A and B. The proteins are denatured when subjected to high temperatures which removes its toxicity.

Abrus precatorius uses:
Both red and white varieties of Gunja are attributed with below qualities: 
Kamoddeepana – Aprhodisiac, increases sexual strength
Shukrajanana – promotes sperm production
Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
Vishahara – anti toxic
Vrushya – aphrodisiac
Vranahara – speeds up wound healing
Chakshushya – useful in improving eye sight
Keshya – improves quality of hair
Tvachya – improves skin quality, useful in skin diseases
Ruchya – improves taste, useful in anorexia
Balaprada – improves strength and immunity

Indicated in –
Urusthambha – thigh stiffness
Amavata – Rheumatoid arthritis
Kasa – cold, cough
Indralupta – alopecia areata
Graharoga – psychological disorders
Kandu – itching
Kushta – skin diseases
Vrana – ulcers, wounds
Krumi – worm infestation (in wounds and in intestines)
Shosha – emaciation, loss of tissue
Bhrama – dizziness
Shwasa – asthma, respiratory disorders involving difficulty in breathing
Trushna – Excessive thirst
Mada – intoxication

Gunjamoola – root
Shoolaghna – relieves abdominal colic
Vishahara – anti toxic

External application:
Purified Gunja seed powder is made paste with water, applied externally to relieve joint pains, swelling, sciatica pain, cervical spondylosis related pain.
This paste is applied over hairless patches of alopecia areata  to regrow hair.

Abrus precatorius usesAbrus seed used as simile: 
The color of red gunja is used as standard to explain normal color of blood and also normal menstrual flow. – Charaka Sutrasthana 24/22

The color of skin lesions in  Kakana Kushta – one among seven major types of skin disorders turns to red like abrus seeds. Reference: Charaka Chikitsa 7

Gunja – usage in weights
Gunja seeds are used as an important unit of measurement. 
1 Gunja seed is considered as 125 mg of weight.

Ayurvedic medicines with Gunja as ingredient:
Neelibhrungadi tailam –
Herbal oil used for improving quality of hair, to treat split hairs, premature graying and baldness.
Sarivadi Vati – an Ayurvedic tablet used in treating  hearing problems such as tinnitus, ear infection etc.

Side effects:
As per Drugs and Cosmetics ACt, Gunja is a Schedule E1 classified herb. This means, the oral Ayurvedic medicines containing Gunja can only be taken under strict medical supervision.
If not purified properly or if used in excess dosage than prescribed, it can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Unpurified seed powder used over wounds or direct contact with blood can also produce toxic effects.
Roots – if used in excess dose can cause vomiting
It is best to avoid Gunja or medicines containing it during pregnancy, lactation and in children below 5 years of age.

Antidote: There is no specific antidote for abrin poisoning, and treatment is mainly supportive with intravenous fluids and correction of electrolyte abnormalities.

Anticataractic and anti oxidant effects
  – The ethanolic seeds extract of Abrus precatorius protected the lens against calcium-induced oxidative damage which might be helpful in delaying the progression of cataract.

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  1. my name is Rakesh Sankhla and good page and article i’m interested.

  2. Priya Gupta says:

    Gunga la Chirantika he naaw aahe ka kiwa gunja aani chirantika wegle aahe ka.



  4. Ujwalaa says:

    Shangir is used for voice also? How to use

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Because it has some toxic effects, its usage needs direct consultation with an Ayurveda doctor.

  5. application of paste of gunja on head is beneficial in hair loss?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      It is applied in cases of alopecia areata. It is not used for general hair loss treatment.

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