Botanical name: Cassia alata Linn. (C. herpetica Jacq) Family: Caesalpiniaceae Sanskrit: Synonyms Dadrughna, Dvipagasti Ayurvedic Medicinal Properties Rasa:Tikta, Amla Guna:Lakhu, Rooksha Virya:Seeta Name of the herb in other languages English:Ringworm shrub Hindi:Dadmurdan Malayalam:Aanattakara, Malamtakara, Puzhukkadittakara Sanskrit:edagaja, prapunal, urabhrh, uranakshaka Useful parts of the herb:Leaves, Flowers, Roots.
Its big leaves and beautiful yellow flowers will definitely catch anyone’s eye. Ring worm shrub, or Cassia alata, is called as candle stick or Christmas candle, due to its shape. The attractive shrub is named so for its flower buds which grow in a column and look like fat yellow candles each complete with a flame. The leaves fold together at night. It may be seen in your courtyard, but are you sure that you are giving due importance to this plant, which can be a strong protector of your skin?
Yes, as its name indicates, ring worm shrub is a good antidote to skin problems: it can kill bacteria, fungi and candida; it relieves pain and inflammation and is a strong laxative.
Cassia alata grows aggressively in areas where the water table is high. It prefers open areas and sunlight and often forms thickets and grown as ornamental too.
An annual shrub, ring worm shrub grows up to 2.5 meters in height. It is seen distributed mainly in tropics and subtropics. It has compound, paripinnate leaves and beautifully decorated with yellow and showy flowers seen in long terminal spikes. Its fruits, green angulated dehiscent pods, contain numerous compressed brown colored ovate seeds. Propagation is by seeds rather than by cuttings. The seeds should be soaked in water for at least 24 hours before sowing. Germination can take 3 to 4 days. The plant prefers moist well drained soil. Planting can be done the year round.
" Scientific investigation has validated the use of ring worm shrub as an anti-fungal, antibacterial and laxative agent "
It flowers from November to April, and the flowers are visited by large black bees which presumably pollinate them. The leaves are harvested without pruning the branches and terminal buds to allow the plants to recover. The first harvest is done in 5 months after planting, and the second some 6 months later. The productive cycle can last two or three years. The leaves are harvested when needed; and the active constituents are probably most abundant prior to flowering, which is why the leaves are preferably collected at that time.
Scientific investigation has validated the use of this herb as an antifungal, anti-bacterial and laxative agent. Dr S. Damodaran from Tamil Nadu, who has done research on ‘curing fungal infections of the skin with Cassia alata leaves, writes thus: “The existing medicines in the treatment of superficial fungal infections have limited therapeutic spectrum and cause several side-effects besides the cost factor. Many medicinal plants have a potential role in the treatment of fungal infections. Cassia alata is one such plant and can be used in the treatment of superficial mycoses.”
Pityriasis versicolor is a fungal infection caused by a fungus Malassezia furfur. The complete removal of it is very difficult but it is easy to make it invisible. The topmost layer of the skin gets infected, and it is characterized by spots that may be more pigmented (hyper pigmented) or less pigmented (hypo pigmented). Treatments for this result in the gradual disappearance of maculae’s, and restoration of a healthy skin which may be very slow.
Dr Damodaran describes the shrub’s amazing medicinal quality thus: “one-time application of Cassia alata leaf extract over the infected regions will be enough to get rid of pityriasis versicolor for nine months. This establishes the therapeutic supremacy of Cassia alata leaf extract over the existing medicines. It is to be noted that permanent cure of the pityriasis versicolor infection is a very difficult and time consuming process”.
Leaves or sap of this shrub are used to treat fungal infections such as ringworm. They contain chrysophanic acid, a fungicide. Because of its anti-fungal properties, it is a common ingredient in soaps, shampoos and lotions in the Philippines. The effectiveness of this plant against skin diseases is confirmed by modern scientific studies.
Other chemicals contained in the plant includes saponin which acts as a laxative and expels intestinal parasites. In Africa, the boiled leaves are used to treat high-blood pressure. In South America, besides skin diseases, it is also used to treat a wide range of ailments from stomach problems, fever, asthma to snake bite and venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea.
This powerful plant is used in the Indian systems of medicine namely Ayurveda, siddha and unani. According to Ayurveda, this plant pacifies vitiated Kapha and Pitha. It was used in medicaments against inflammation, ringworm, cough, bronchitis and asthma. It was also used against other skin diseases, intestinal worms, poison, constipation, hemorrhoids, alopecia and sexual weakness.
In treatment for ringworm, usually, the leaves are crushed and made into paste and applied on the affected parts. For treatment of eczema, the infected part is washed repeatedly with strong decoction of the leaves and flowers.
In cases of bronchitis and asthma, in herpetic constitutions, decoction of the leaves and flowers is administered repeatedly during the day, relieving dyspnoeal oppression and promoting expectoration. The medicine also acts on the bowels slightly and increases the secretion of urine.
In snakebite, the fresh leaves are given internally. For scorpion’s sting, any part of the plant is made into paste and applied to the sting. However, the leaves are not an antidote to snake-venom and the scorpion sting.
Several traditional uses of Cassia alata have been discovered in several places. In India, China and the Philippines, the leaves are considered most effective against herpes and the wood in decoction is used as a mild purgative. In Guinea, the pounded fresh leaves are applied or rubbed on to all kind of skin afflictions. In the Gold Coast, the leaves are applied to dhobey itch, craw-craw and ringworm on the forehead or on the skin. This is one of the most effective amongst native medicine. Women drink water boiled with the leaves to hasten delivery.
This plant is used in different ways and for different purposes. The bioactivity of this plant includes antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, diuretic, laxative, analgesic and choleretic. Studies for the clinical use of this plant are still under development for its maximum effectiveness.
" The herb contains chrysophanic acid, a fungicide. Because of its anti-fungal properties, it is a common ingredient in soaps, shampoos and lotions in the Philippines "