The genus Plumbago belonging to the family Plumbaginaceae is a popular and medicinally very important group of medicinal plants. Three species, namely P. rosea, P. zeylanica and P. auriculata have been identified. Among these P. rosea and P. zeylanica are important ones.
Plumbago, in general is an esteemed remedy for leucoderma and other skin diseases. The synonyms of fire like agnih, vahnih, etc. are attributed to this drug to indicate the very burning action of the root, causing blisters on the skin (daranah). The drug is used only after adequate curing and purification. Root is the officinal part and it enters into the composition of preparations like Citrakasavam, Dasamularista, Gulgulutiktaka kasaya, Yogarajachurna, etc.
1. P. rosea Linn. syn. P. indica Linn.
Eng: Rosy-flowered Leadwort; San: Citrakah, Dhahanah;
Hin: Lalcitra, Raktacitra;
Mal: Kotuveli, Chettikkoduveli, Chuvannakotuveli;
Tam: Chenkotuveli, Cittiramulam;
Rosy-flowered leadwort or Fire plant is a native of Coromandel Coast. It is found throughout India, in moist situations as well as cultivated. The roots are useful in dyspepsia, colic, inflammations, cough, bronchitis, helmenthiasis, haemorrhoids, elephantiasis, chronic and intermittent fever, leprosy, leucoderma, ringworm, scabies, hepatosplenomegaly, amenorrhoea, odontalgia, vitiated conditions of vata, kapha and anaemia. It is a pretty subscandent perennial shrub with semi -woody striate stems and flexible branches. Leaves are simple, alternate oblong, short cuneate at the base passing into a very short amplexicaul, exauriculate, and reddish petiole. Flowers are bright red, arranged in long terminal spikes. The calyx ribs are covered with stipitate, bifarious and subsessile gland. Corolla tube is slender and four times as long as the calyx. The stout roots are cylindrical, irregularly bent, light yellowish brown with smooth surface having short transverse shallow fissures at the regions of the bents. A light yellowish juice excudes from the cut surface. A healthy plant may produce 18-20 stout roots (Warrier et al, 1995).
The chemical constituents include plumbagin and sitosterol glucoside. Clinical trials have demonstrated that plumbagin oil from P. indica is useful in common wart (Satyavati et al, 1987). The roots are acrid, astringent, thermogenic, anthelmintic, constipating, expectorant, antiinflammmatory, abortifacient, alterant, anti-periodic, carminative, digestive, sudorific, narcotic, gastric, nervous stimulant and rejuvenating. Root is a powerful sialogogue and vesicant.
2. P. zeylanica Linn.
Eng:White flowered Leadwort; San:Chitraka;
Hin, Ben:Chitarak, Chitra; Mal:Vellakotuveli
Tam: Sittragam, Chittiramoolam;
Kan: Vahini; Mar: Chitraka;
White flowered Leadwort or Chitarak is found wild in peninsular India and mostly in West Bengal. Root is used externally in leprosy and other skin diseases or obstinate character, aphthae, abscesses, influenza, piles and anasarca. Juice is used externally in scabies and ulcers. One of the important preparations of Chitrak is “Yograjguggal”, prescribed for arthritis, rheumatism, etc. The other well known preparations are “Chitrak Adivati” and “ Chitraka Haritaki”. In Unani system it is an ingredient of “Aqaruva-i- Kabir”, “Hab Ashkhar”, “Ma’jun Baladur”, “Ma’jun Raig Mahi”, etc. It is a branched undershrub. Roots are long and tuberous. Stem is striate. Leaves are simple, alternate, short petioled, ovate or ovate-oblong, acute with entire or wavy margin, 7×3.8cm and glabrous. Flowers are white, arranged in terminal spikes. Calyx is tubular, glandular-hairy. Corolla tube is slender; limb rotate and 5 lobbed. Stamens are 5 on a disc. Style is slender with 5 stigmatic branches. Fruit is membranous capsule enclosed within the persistent calyx.
The roots of P. zeylanica have been exhaustively studied and naphthaquinones have been isolated, namely, plumbagin, 3-chlroplumbagin, droserone (Sidhu et al, 1971; Padhye et al, 1973), 3,3’-biplumbagin(Chitranone), zeylanone and iso-zeylanone and a coumarin, elliptinone (Sankaram et al, 1976, 1979). It also contains 1,2(3)-tetrahydro-3,3’-biplumbagin and plumbazeylanone. The leaf is antirheumatic. Root is appetiser, sudorific, relieves pain, vasicant, diuretic, caustic, antidiarrhoeal and expellent of phlegmatic tumours. Root is uterine stimulant. Root and fruits have antiimplantation activity. Plumbagin induces antiimplantation, has abortifacient and antiovulatory activity and causes selective testicular lesions in dogs. It is also a mitotic inhibitor. In lower concentration it behaves like a spindle, poison but in higher concentration it exhibits radiomimetic, nucleotoxic and cyclotoxic effects. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and anticoagulant activities and shows antagonism to amphetamine hyperactivity in mice.
3. P. auriculata Lam. syn. P. capensis
Eng: Blue flowered Leadwort;
The blue flowered Leadwort is often grown in gardens throughout India (Moos, 1976; Chunekar, 1982; Sharma, 1983). It is a native of Cape Province in South Africa. It is a constituent of many Ayurvedic drugs (KAU, 1991). The plant is a subshrub growing to a height of 1-1.5m. Leaves are elliptic to obovate, 3-4 x 1.5-2cm. Inflorescence is a raceme of length 3-4cm. Corolla is blue to violet. Stamens are 5 in number. Flowers and fruits may be upto 12 in number (Matthew, 1995).
Agrotechnology: The plant is grown in tropical to subtropical ecosystems. Warm humid tropical climate is most suited. They come up well in almost all types of deep and well drained soils. It is propagated vegetatively by stem cuttings. Three stem cuttings of size 15cm long are planted in polybags of size 14x10cm. IAA and IBA treatments will improve rooting of cuttings. The land is to be ploughed well. About 4 tonnes of FYM are to be applied, mixed thoroughly and seed bed of size 50cm breadth, 1.5cm height and convenient length are to be prepared. On these beds pits are taken at a distance of 25cm and the rooted plants are transplanted from the polybags. Regular irrigation and weeding are to be carried out. In the second year with the onset of monsoon, seedbeds are again refreshed after adding about 4 tonnes of FYM. At the end of second year tubers are collected. Care should be taken to wear gloves, else the chemical plumbagin present in the roots will cause burning sensation. The collected tubers are washed, tied into bundles and marketed. Plumbago yields about 7-10t tubers/ha with good management (Prasad et al, 1997).