Scientific name: Abrus precatorius
Other names: Rosary pea, Jequirity bean, Indian liquorice, Crab’s eye, Preacher’s weed, Gunja
Habitat: Abrus precatorius is native to tropical regions including Africa, Asia, and Australia. It grows well in a variety of habitats, including rainforests, open woodlands, and disturbed areas.
Abrus precatorius is a perennial climbing vine that can reach a height of up to 10 meters. It has slender stems with compound leaves that are composed of numerous small leaflets. The plant produces bright red and black seeds that are encased in a hard outer coat. These seeds are the most well-known part of the plant and are often used for medicinal purposes.
The seeds are the main medicinal part of Abrus precatorius. However, the leaves and roots of the plant also have some traditional uses.
The seeds of Abrus precatorius are known to possess various properties, including antimicrobial, antipyretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and immunomodulatory activities. They contain several bioactive compounds, including abrin and abric acid, which contribute to their medicinal properties.
Abrus precatorius has a long history of traditional use in different cultures around the world. In Ayurvedic medicine, the seeds are used to treat various ailments, including fever, cough, asthma, digestive disorders, skin diseases, and menstrual disorders. They are also believed to have aphrodisiac properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the seeds are used to tonify the kidneys, promote diuresis, and relieve edema. Additionally, the leaves and roots of the plant are used in traditional medicine to treat snakebites, diarrhea, and dysentery.
Principal or main uses: The principal use of Abrus precatorius is as a traditional remedy for fever. The seeds are often powdered and used to make a decoction or infusion that is consumed to reduce fever symptoms. The seeds are also employed for their analgesic properties to alleviate pain and for their anti-inflammatory effects to reduce inflammation. In some cultures, the seeds are used as a natural contraceptive and to induce abortion, although these uses are highly controversial and potentially dangerous.
Other uses: Apart from its medicinal uses, Abrus precatorius has other applications as well. The seeds have been used for making jewelry, particularly rosaries and necklaces, due to their attractive red and black coloration.
Uses in different countries or parts of the world: Abrus precatorius is widely used in traditional medicine systems across various countries. In India, it is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine and is known as “Gundumani” or “Ratti.” In Sri Lanka, it is referred to as “Kaluwara” and is used to treat fever and respiratory conditions. In Malaysia, the plant is called “Kacang Bugis” and is used for its diuretic properties.
Preparation and dosage
The seeds of Abrus precatorius are usually ground into a fine powder and used in the preparation of various herbal formulations. The dosage and method of administration can vary depending on the specific condition being treated and the traditional system of medicine being followed.
Herbal formulas or recipes: Abrus precatorius is often used in combination with other herbs to enhance its medicinal properties. Some traditional formulas or recipes that include Abrus precatorius may include:
Fever-reducing decoction: Take 1-2 grams of powdered Abrus precatorius seeds and boil them in 200 ml of water until the volume reduces to half. Strain the decoction and consume it twice daily to alleviate fever symptoms.
Analgesic paste: Mix powdered Abrus precatorius seeds with a small amount of water or a carrier oil to make a thick paste. Apply the paste topically to the affected area to relieve pain and inflammation.
Respiratory tonic infusion: Combine powdered Abrus precatorius seeds with other respiratory herbs such as ginger, licorice root, and holy basil. Infuse the mixture in hot water for 10-15 minutes and drink it as a tea to promote respiratory health and alleviate cough and congestion.
Abrus precatorius has been the subject of scientific studies to explore its medicinal properties. Research has shown that the seeds possess antimicrobial activity against various pathogens, including bacteria and fungi. They also exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which can be attributed to their ability to inhibit inflammatory enzymes and modulate pain pathways. Moreover, studies have indicated the potential anticancer properties of Abrus precatorius seeds, particularly against certain types of tumours.
It is important to note that the seeds of Abrus precatorius contain a toxic substance called abrin, which can be fatal if ingested in sufficient quantities. The seeds should never be consumed or handled without proper precautions. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with known allergies or hypersensitivity to Fabaceae family plants should avoid using products containing Abrus precatorius.
Side-effects and Contraindications
Due to the toxic nature of the seeds, ingestion or exposure to the seeds of Abrus precatorius can cause severe poisoning symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, and respiratory distress. Caution should be exercised when handling or using this plant. It is strongly recommended to seek immediate medical attention if accidental ingestion or exposure occurs.
- Choudhary S, et al. Abrus precatorius (L.): A review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2016;6(2):148-154.
- Nida Zahra, et al. Abrus precatorius L.: A comprehensive review on traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacological activities. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020;261:113012.
- Bhakta S etal. The medicinal values of Abrus precatorius: a review study. DOI:10.5455/jabet.2020.d111
- Arora R. Phytopharmacological Evaluation of Ethanolic Extract of the Seeds of Abrus precatorius Linn
- Qian H., et al. Traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of Abrus precatorius L.: A review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2019;244:112115.
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