The Apamarga advantage
A medicine, which has anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being an analgesic, an antiseptic, a nasal decongestant, an antidote for scorpion stings, and a remedy for earaches, should surely be a household name. However, the herb Apamarga or Achyranthes aspera or Nayurivi as it is locally called in Tamil is hardly known to many except those in the ayurvedic community. Charaka, the greatest vaidyar, has named a chapter after this wonderful herb.
The appearance of the herb belies its multifaceted uses. It is a very unpretentious plant with velvety leaves and a thorny spike which is greenish-white. I have seen this herb grow all over and other than learning the name academically, I didn’t think it is an important herb. Only after reading Charaka, I learnt about its wonders. You normally get quite irritated with this plant and end up spending time, extricating yourself from its thorns. It really lives up to its common name prickly chaff flower.
The seeds from this prickly spike are powdered and used for pradhaman nasya, where this fine powder is blown through a small tube into the nose. This reduces the kapha in the head region. The kshara or salts of this plant are also used to cure moles, fistula and bleeding piles. The herb is a good appetiser and can be used instead of our usual antacids. It is a blood purifier and is used for oedema and inflammation. The plant also reduces the acidity of urine and is used to tackle renal calculi. Like Aerva lanata (of which I have written about earlier) this herb is also a stone breaker. The plant contains alkaloids achyranthin and betaine which account for its usefulness. Here are a few home remedies which can be tried out. The juice of fresh leaves called swarasa can ease ear pain, and can also be used to wash wounds and help it heal. A few fresh leaves can be chewed in case of mouth ulcers. For migraine, one can smell its ground seeds. In case of kidney stones, the whole plant, including the roots, can be ground and about 5g can be added to 200 ml water, reduced to one-fourth the volume, strained and drunk. Most of the above home remedies are quite effective, and one can try them as the plant is safe and efficacious.
In traditional areas, the Apamarga roots are tied on the arms. The formulations, which include Apamarga in classical formulations, are Apamarga kshara taila, Sikhari ghrita, gorochnadi gulika etc. Gorochnadi gulika is an excellent medicine for cough, cold, bronchitis. Apamarga kshara is used in minor surgical conditions. Since Achyranthes aspera has a chedi or a scraping effect, it is useful in fat reduction. So next time you are out walking and your dress gets caught by the thorns of this herb, stop and study the usefulness of this multifaceted herb.
The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at sheelarani.arogyamantra@gmail. com/arogyamantra.blogspot.com