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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WHITE OR CEYLON LEADWORT - LONG VALUED IN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF WHITE LEADWORT


WHITE OR CEYLON LEADWORT, PLUMBAGO ZEYLANICA, SHEETRAJ IN URDU 
This plant is native to southern Asia including the Indian subcontinent where it grows wild. The flowers are reminiscent of those of jasmine, but the plant is valued for its medicinal properties, both in Asia and Africa. It has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine systems for more than 3,000 years and is also used by traditional African healers. It is a member of Plumbaginaceae family of plants.
  The roots are the main part used but the leaves and seeds are also employed in medicines. In Zimbabwe, the root is cooked with meat in soup for aphrodisiac purposes. In Ethiopia the powdered bark, root or leaves are used as a remedy for STDs, and TB, as well as rheumatic pains, swellings and wounds, while the root bark is used in obesity. In Nigeria the Yoruba healers use the roots of the plant to treat various infections and diseases.
  It has been found that extracts of this plant are potent killers of mosquito larvae as are extracts from the Indian mallow, Abutilon indicum.
  The fresh juice from the roots is mixed with double the amount of cow’s urine and this mixture is taken twice a day internally for 2 to 3 weeks to relieve painful piles. Another remedy calls for dried pigeon’s excrement. An external application of the roots ground to a paste having been steeped in cow’s urine for twenty-four hours is used for scabies and mixed with water the root paste is used  in the legs and to relieve rheumatic pains. The root paste is also said to be arbortifacient if inserted into the vaginal tract.
  Mixed with Indian mallow and taken in milk the root powder is said to be good for anaemia although this has to be taken daily for three months. A decoction of the powdered root bark is given for stomach problems including peptic ulcers, piles and to improve the appetite. A mixture of equal parts of the powdered root, black peppercorns, long pepper and dried ginger mixed with honey is used to treat leucoderma and psoriasis. This has to be taken twice a day again for three months. The powdered root can also be put in baths for skin problems including acne and for piles.
  Taken in excess the plant will cause vomiting, burning sensations when urinating, stomach irritation and possibly ulcers, and also induce a miscarriage, so it is best left in the hands of expert healers.
  In medical studies it has been found to have antioxidant, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti atherosclerotic properties. It seems that it may also be neuro-protective and protect the liver and be a cardio tonic.
  In the Indian subcontinent the plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea, inflammation, fevers, Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS) with the roots believed to have antifungal and anti-tumour properties. The root is used as a laxative, expectorant and for liver problems, body pains including those of rheumatism, headaches and a variety of other ailments.
  In December 2011 in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Vol 5 (25) pp.2738-2747, Y.D. Mandavar and S.S. Jalalpure published “A comprehensive review on Plumbago zeylanica Linn.” In this article they say that other studies have found the extracts from the plant (mainly the root) to have antioxidant and cholesterol lowering properties as well as to have shown to inhibit human prostate cancer cells. They also mention that it has been seen to stimulate the central nervous system of some lab animals, to be anti-atherosclerotic and to have some anti-fertility properties. They conclude that it is a plant which may be “a very good anticancer drug” in the future, but of course, further studies are needed particularly on plumbagin which is an active principle in the plant.

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