San: Bhunimbah, Kiratatiktah
Hin: Kakamegh, Kalpanath
Mal: Nilaveppu, Kiriyattu Tam: Nilavempu Kan: Kreata
Importance: Kalmegh, the Great or Green Chiretta is a branched annual herb. It is useful in hyperdipsia, burning sensation, wounds, ulcers, chronic fever, malarial and intermittent fevers, inflammations, cough, bronchitis, skin diseases, leprosy, pruritis, intestinal worms, dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhoids and vitiated conditions of pitta (Warrier et al, 1993). It is used to overcome sannipata type of fever, difficulty in breathing, hemopathy due to the morbidity of kapha and pitta, burning sensation, cough, oedema, thirst, skin diseases, fever, ulcer and worms. It is also useful in acidity and liver complaints (Aiyer and Kolammal, 1962). The important preparations using the drug are Tiktakagheta, Gorocandi gulika, Candanasava, Panchatiktam kasaya, etc. (Sivarajan et al, 1994). A preparation called “Alui” is prepared by mixing powdered cumin (Cuminium cyminum) and large cardamom (Amomum subulatum) in the juice of this plant and administered for the treatment of malaria (Thakur et al, 1989). It is also a rich source of minerals.
Distribution: The plant is distributed throughout the tropics. It is found in the plains of India from U.P to Assam, M.P., A.P, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, also cultivated in gardens.
Botany: Andrographis paniculata (Burm.f.) Wall ex.
Nees belongs to the family Acanthaceae. It is an erect branched annual herb, 0.3-0.9m in height with quadrangular branches. Leaves are simple, lanceolate, acute at both ends, glabrous, with 4-6 pairs of main nerves. Flowers are small, pale but blotched and spotted with brown and purple distant in lax spreading axillary and terminal racemes or panicles. Calyx-lobes are glandular pubescent with anthers bearded at the base. Fruits are linear capsules and acute at both ends. Seeds are numerous, yellowish brown and sub-quadrate (Warrier et al,1993).
Another species of Andrographis is A. echioides (Linn.) Nees. It is found in the warmer parts of India. The plant is a febrifuge and diuretic. It contains flavone-echiodinin and its glucoside-echioidin (Husain et al, 1992).
Agrotechnology: The best season of planting Andrographis is May-June. The field is to be ploughed well, mixed with compost or dried cowdung and seedbeds of length 3m, breadth 1/2m and 15cm height are to be taken at a distance of 3m. The plant is seed propagated. Seeds are to be soaked in water for 6 hours before sowing. Sowing is to be done at a spacing of 20cm. Seeds may germinate within 15-20 days. Two weedings, first at one month after planting and the second at 2 month after planting are to be carried out. Irrigation during summer months is beneficial. The plant is not attacked by any serious pests or diseases. Flowering commences from third month onwards. At this stage, plant are to be collected, tied into small bundles and sun-dried for 4-5 days. Whole plant is the economic part and the yield is about 1.25t dried plants/ha (Prasad et al, 1997).
Properties and activity: Leaves contain two bitter substances lactone “andrographolid” and “kalmeghin”. The ash contains sodium chloride and potassium salts. Plant is very rich in chlorophyte. Kalmeghin is the active principle that contains 0.6% alkaloid of the crude plant. The plant contains diterpenoids, andrographolide, 14-deoxy-11-oxo-andrographolide, 14-deoxy-11,12-dihydroandrographolide, 14-deoxy andrographolide and neoandrographolide (Allison et al, 1968). The roots give flavones-apigenin-7,4-dio-O-methyl ether, 5-hydroxy-7,8,2’,3’- tetramethoxyflavone, andrographin and panicolin and -sitosterol (Ali et al, 1972; Govindachari et al, 1969). Leaves contain homoandrographolide, andrographosterol and andrographone.
The plant is vulnerary, antipyretic, antiperiodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, depurative, sudorific, anthelmintic, digestive, stomachic, tonic, febrifuge and cholagogue. The plant is antifungal, antityphoid, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic and cholinergic. Shoot is antibacterial and leaf is hypotensive(Garcia et al, 1980). This is used for the inflammation of the respiratory tract. In China, researchers have isolated the andrographolide from which soluble derivative such as 14-deoxy-11, 12-dehydro-andrographolide which forms the subject of current pharmacological and clinical studies. Apigenin 7,4’-O-dimethyl ether isolated from A. paniculata exhibits dose dependent, antiulcer activity in shay rat, histamine induced ulcer in guinea pigs and aspirin induced ulcers in rats. A crude substance isolated from methanolic extract of leaves has shown hypotensive activity. Pre-treatment of rats with leaf (500mg/kg) or andrographolide (5mg/kg) orally prevented the carbon tetrachloride induced increase of blood serum levels of glutamate-oxaloacetate transaminase in liver and prevented hepatocellular membrane.