Botanical names: Boerhavia repens, B. diffusa, Nyctaginaceae
Other names: Śvetapunarnavā, Raktapunarnavā, (S), Sant, Gadahpurna (H), Mukkurattai (T), Red Spiderling, Spreading Hogweed (E)
Botany: Punarnavā is a herbaceous perennial with a large root and highly branched stems that are prostrate or ascending to a height of up to a meter. The leaves are simple, ovate-oblong, acute or obtuse at the tip and rounded or sub-cordate at the base, glabrous above, white with minute scales below. The small rose or white colored flowers are borne in small umbels arranged in corymbone, axillary and terminal panicles, giving way to a detachable indehiscent seed with a thin pericarp. Punarnavā is found throughout the subcontinent of India as a weed of wastelands and roadsides, and is also found in similar tropical and subtropical environs in Africa and the Americas. The Sanskrit name Śvetapunarnavā refers to B. repens (with white flowers), whereas Raktapunarnavā refers to B. diffusa (with red flowers) (Kirtikar & Basu 1935, Warrier et al 1994).
Part used: Roots, aerial parts.
Dravyaguṇa: The various nighaṇṭus typically differentiate between Śvetapunarnavā and Raktapunarnavā, and based on this, provide differing and sometimes contradictory accounts of the dravyaguṇa.
• Rasa: tikta, madhura, kaṭu, kaṣāya (Śvetapunarnavā); tikta (Raktapunarnavā)
• Vipāka: madhura (Śvetapunarnavā); kaṭu (Raktapunarnavā)
• Vīrya: uṣṇa, rūkṣa (Śvetapunarnavā); śīta, laghu (Raktapunarnavā)
• Karma: dīpana, bhedana (Svetapunarnavā), stambhana (Raktapunarnavā), sulapraśamana, kṛmighna, chedana, svāsahara, mūtravirecana, mūtraviśodhana, śotahara, hṛdaya, viṣaghna, ārtavajanana, rasāyana, tridoṣahara; the Bhāvaprakāśa states that Raktapunarnavā increases vāta, and thus Śvetapunarnavā is preferred in • vātaja conditions (Dash 1991, Kirtikar & Basu 1935, Srikanthamurthy 2001, Warrier et al 1994).
Constituents: Among the first constituents isolated from Punarnavā was the sulfate of an alkaloid named punarnavine, and since then a variety of constituents have been described, including rotenoid analogues (boeravinone A-F, punarnavoside), lignans (liriodendrin, syringaresinol mon-B-D-glucoside), xanthones (boerhavine, dihydroisofuranoxanthone), C-methylflavone, hentriacontane, b-sitosterol, ursolic acid, potassium nitrate, and amino acids (Kapoor 1990, Williamson 2002, Yoganarasimhan 2000).
• In vitro: immunomodulant (Mehrotra et al 2002)
• In vivo: hepatoprotective (Chandan et al 1991); antibacterial (Singh et al 1986); adaptogenic (Sharma et al 1990); hypoglycemic (Chude et al 2001); anti-amoebic, immunomodulant (Sohni and Bhatt 1996)
Toxicity: The LD50 for an ethanolic extract of the root and whole plant is 1000mg/kg in adult albino rates (Williamson 2002).
Indications: Dyspepsia, gastritis, ulcer, constipation (Śvetapunarnavā), diarrhea and dysentery (Raktapunarnavā), intestinal parasites, fistula, jaundice, cirrhosis, splenomegaly, fever, cough, bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy, urinary tenesmus, renal diseases, gonorrhea, edema, ascites, scrotal enlargement, hemorrhage, scabies, lumbago, myalgia, leucorrhea, dysmenorrhea, heart disorders, heart valve stenosis, anemia, epilepsy, debility and fatigue, ophthalmia
Contraindications: Pregnancy; the Bhāvaprakāśa states the Raktapunarnavā is contraindicated in vātakopa conditions. Due to its potential GABA-nergic activity Punarnavā may be contraindicated with concurrent use of tranquilizers, antidepressant and antiseizure drugs. Nadkarni states that in high doses Punarnavā may act as an emetic (1954).
Medicinal uses: Punarnavā is an important rasāyana dravyāṇi in Āyurveda, indicated by the translation of its Sanskrit name, ‘once again new.’ For this purpose Punaranava can be taken as a milk decoction, 10-24 grams of the root taken twice daily. The potent rejuvenating properties of Punaranava root are also made use of in a variety of rejuvenating formulae, including the famous medicinal confection Cyavanaprāśa. Punarnavā,, however, also has a number of more mudane uses, especially for its ability to correct diseases of the urinary tract and treat edema. As a simple remedy for cystitis the svarasa or cūrṇa of Punarnavā can be taken, 10-15 mL of the juice, or 3-5 grams of the powder, thrice daily until symptoms are gone. In the treatment of edema 10-15 mL of the fresh juice of the leaves can be mixed with a small amount of Marica or Śūṇṭhī, taken twice daily for several weeks. The fresh juice is also taken in jaundice and in menstrual disorders. Lt. Col. Chopra found that Punarnavā was efficacious in the treatment of edema and ascites due to early cirrhosis and peritonitis, using a liquid extract prepared from either the dry or fresh plant material of Svetapunarnavā (Nadkarni 1954). Nadkarni adds that Punarnavā is equally effective in edema secondary to heart disease from stenosis of the valves, in pleurisy and in other edematous conditions (1954). In most cases Punarnavā is used in polyherbal formulations to treat edema and other conditions. In the treatment of edema as well as colic, bloating, flatulence, constipation, hemorrhoids, intestinal parasites, and anemia, the Cakradatta recommends Punarnavāmaṇḍśra, comprised of equal parts Punarnavā, Trivṛt, Śūṇṭhī, Pippalī, Marica, Viḍaṅga, Devadāru, Citraka, Puṣkaramūla, Haridrā, Dañtī, Cavya, Indrayava, Kaṭuka, Pippalīmūla and Mustaka, decocted in cow’s urine (Sharma 2002). Another formula called Punarnavādi taila is mentioned by the Bhāvaprakāśa in the treatment of urinary calculi, muscle pains and hernia associated with the aggravation of kapha and vāta, used in vasti (enemata) and internally (Srikanthamurthy 2000). A decoction of Punarnavā, Devadāru, Harītakī and Guḍūcī combined with Guggulu is stated to be effective in abdominal enlargement (udararoga), as well as intestinal parasites, obesity, anemia, edema and skin diseases (Sharma 2002). Similarly, a combination of Punarnavā, Devadāru, Guḍūcī, Pāṭhā, Bilva, Gokṣura, Bṛhatī, Kaṇṭakāri, Haridrā, Dāruharidrā, Pippalī, Citraka and Vāsaka, reduced to a fine powder and taken with cow’s urine is used in abdominal enlargement secondary to intestinal parasites (Sharma 2002). In vāttika forms of edema a combination of Punarnavā, Śūṇṭhī, Eraṇḍa and Bṛhatī is stated by the Cakradatta to be efficacious (Sharma 2002). As a topical therapy for edema the Śāraṅgadhara saṃhitā recommends Punarnavādi lepa, prepared by combining equal parts powders of Punarnavā, Dāruharidrā, Śūṇṭhī, Siddhārtha and Śigru with rice water (Srikanthamurthy 1984). Given the ability of Punarnavā to mobilize kidney function, and the importance this is given to promote the elimination of metabolic wastes in joints and muscles, Punarnavā is also used to treat inflammatory joint disease, including gout and rheumatoid arthritis. To this extent the Cakradatta recommends a formula called Śatyādi kvātha, comprised of a decoction of Punarnavā with a paste of Śaṭī and Śūṇṭhī, taken every day for at least one week (Sharma 2002). Similarly, the Bhāvaprakāśa advocates a complex formula called Punarnavā guggulu in the treatment of gout, hernia, sciatica, muscular atrophy and inflammatory joint disease (Srikanthamurthy 2000). In the treatment of internal abscesses the Śāraṅgadhara saṃhitā recommends a decoction of Punarnavā and Varuṇa (Srikanthamurthy 1984). Punarnavā is also valued in ophthalmic disorders, the Śāraṅgadhara saṃhitā recommending a collyrium (añjana) for itching, prepared by mixing the cūrṇa with milk; mixed with honey to treatment ophthalmic discharges; with ghṛta for corneal wounds; with taila for poor vision; and with rice water (kanjika) for night blindness (Srikanthamurthy 1984). In the treatment of alcoholism the Cakradatta recommends a decoction of Punarnavā to restore ojas (Sharma 2002). In the treatment of diabetes Punarnavā can be combined with Śilājatu and Guḍūcī. Punarnavā is also consumed as a nourishing vegetable in India, rich in vitamins and minerals, and has undergone investigation for its potential in famine relief (Smith et al 1996)
• Cūrṇa: 3-5 g b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Svarasa: fresh herb, 10-15 mL b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Kvātha: dried root, 60-120 mL b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Tincture: dried root, 1:3, 45%; 2-5 mL b.i.d.-t.i.d.