Chirayata is a robust annual herb that grows up to about 1.5 meters in height. It has leaves in opposite pairs about 10 cm long, without stalks, pointed at the tip. The plant has numerous flowers, pale green in color, tinged with purple, with long white or pink hairs and minute sharp pointed fruits. The whole plant, collected in its flowering stages and dried, constitutes the drug.
The plant contains a bitter glycoside chiratin, which yields on hydrolysis, two bitter principles, ophelic acid and chiratin. The ophelic acid is a brown hydroscopic substance which is soluble in water and alcohol. It also contains resin, tannin and 4 to 8 percent of ash.
Botanical Name: Swertia chirata
Indian Name: Chirayata
Below are some of the medicinal properties of chirayata:
- It is an effective herb for reducing fevers. It is especially beneficial in the treatment of malarial fevers. It is also effective in hysteria and convulsions.
- Chirayata is an excellent remedy for strengthening the stomach and promoting its action. It is used in the treatment of dyspepsia and diarrhea.
- The root of the plant is useful in checking hiccups and vomiting. It is taken in doses of 0.5 to 2 grams with honey.
- It possesses anthelmintic that is, worms destroying properties and is used in killing intestinal worms. An infusion of the herb is taken for this purpose.
- Chirayata serves as a valuable tonic in case of general weakness and during convalescence. The infusion of the plant can be taken in doses of 60 ml or 4 tablespoons twice a day, before meals.