San: Anantamulah, Sariba;
Hin: Anantamul, Magrabu;
Mal: Nannari, Naruninti, Narunanti;
Tam: Nannari, Saribam;
Importance: Indian Sarasaparilla or Country Sarasaparilla is a climbing slender plant with twining woody stems and a rust-coloured bark. The roots are useful in vitiated conditions of pitta, burning sensation, leucoderma, leprosy, skin diseases, pruritus, asthma, bronchitis, hyperdipsia, opthalmopathy, hemicrania, epileptic fits, dyspepsia, helminthiasis, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhoids, strangury, leucorrhoea, syphilis, abcess, arthralgia, fever and general debility. The leaves are useful in vomiting, wounds and leucoderma. The stems are bitter, diaphoretic and laxative and are useful in inflammations, cerebropathy, hepatopathy, nephropathy, syphilis, metropathy, leucoderma, odontalgia, cough and asthma. The latex is good for conjunctivitis (Warrier et al, 1995). The important formulations using the drug are Saribadyasava, Pindataila, Vidaryadi lehya, Draksadi kasaya, Jatyadi ghrita, etc. (Sivarajan et al, 1994). The Hemidesmus root powdered and mixed with cow’s milk is given with much benefit in the case of strangury. In the form of syrup, it has demulcent and diuretic proportions. The root, roasted in plantain leaves, then beaten into a mass with cumin and sugar and mixed with ghee is a household remedy in genito-urinary diseases. The hot infusion of the root-bark with milk and sugar is a good alterative tonic especially for children in cases of chronic cough and diarrhoea (Nadkarni, 1998). It has been successfully used in the cure of venereal diseases where American Sarasaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis Linn.) has failed. Native doctors utilize it in nephritic complaints and for sore mouths of children (Grieve and Leyel, 1992).
Distribution: Hemidesmus is distributed throughout India, the Moluccas and Sri Lanka.
Botany: Hemidesmus indicus (Linn.) R. Br. syn. Periploca indica Linn. belongs to the family Asclepiadaceae. It is a perennial, slender, laticiferous, twining or prostrate, wiry shrub with woody rootstock and numerous slender, terete stems having thickened nodes. Leaves are simple, opposite, very variable from elliptic-oblong to linear-lanceolate, variegated with white above and silvery white and pubescent beneath. Flowers are greenish purple crowded in sub-sessile cymes in the opposite leaf-axils. Fruits are slender follicles, cylindrical, 10cm long, tapering to a point at the apex. Seeds are flattened, black, ovate-oblong and coma silvery white. The tuberous root is dark-brown, coma silvery white, tortuous with transversely cracked and longitudinally fissured bark. It has a strong central vasculature and a pleasant smell and taste (Warrier et al, 1995).
The Ayurvedic texts mention two varieties, viz. a krsna or black variety and a sveta or white variety (Aiyer, 1951) which together constitute the pair, Saribadvayam. The drug is known as Sariba. Svetasariba is H. indicus. Two plants, namely, Ichnocarpus fructescens (Apocynaceae) known as pal-valli in vernacular and Cryptolepis buchanani (Asclepidaceae) known as Katupalvalli (Rheeds, 1689) are equated with black variety or Krsnasariba (Chunekar, 1982; Sharma, 1983).
Agrotechnology: Hemidesmus is propagated through root cuttings. The root cuttings of length 3-5cm can be planted in polybags or in the field. They can be planted in flat beds or on ridges. Planting is done usually at a spacing of 50x20cm. Heavy application of organic manure is essential for good growth and root yield. Inorganic fertilizers are not usually applied. Frequent weeding and earthing up are required, as the plant is only slow growing. Provision of standards for twining will further improve the growth and yield of the plant.
Properties and activity: The twigs of the plant give a pregnane ester diglycoside named desinine. Roots give -sitosterol, 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy benzaldehyde, -amyrin, -amyrin and its acetate, hexatriacontane, lupeol octacosonate, lupeol and its acetate. Leaves, stem and root cultures give cholesterol, campesterol, -sitosterol and 16-dehydro-pregnenolone. Leaves and flowers also give flavonoid glycosides rutin, hyperoside and iso-quercitin (Husain et al,1992). “Hemidesmine”- a crystallizible principle is found in the volatile oil extracted from roots. Some suggest that it is only a stearoptene. It also contains some starch, saponin and in the suberous layer, tannic acid (Grieve and Leyel, 1992). The root is alterative, febrifuge, antileucorrhoeic, antisyphilitic, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, galactogenic, antidote for scorpion-sting and snake-bite, antidiarrhoeal, blood purifier, antirheumatic and aperitive. Essential oil from root is anti-bacterial and the plant is antiviral (Husain et al, 1992).